The advice below is very much dependent on the weather and the course conditions. With any frost forecast, the advice is, wherever possible, keep off the surfaces. In the event of any milder conditions, the following can be considered:
Continue to brush/switch greens and tees daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.
Mowing frequencies will vary considerably at this time of year. The mowing heights are a guide, and will be subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time the better the results further on into the coming season.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 6-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Banks. Mowing height should be maintained at 22-30mm
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.
Rough, semi rough grass areas. Mow and tidy up these areas. Reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.
Aeration of greens, tees and fairways is ongoing when conditions allow. A wide range of solid, hollow or slit aerators are put to use on the playing surfaces. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange and alleviate compaction.
Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Some golf courses experience flash floods during heavy rain, leaving many bunkers in a poor state (washing out sand from bunker faces). Repair works may be necessary. Continue or undertake bunker construction works, subject to ground conditions allowing for transport of materials.
Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green.
During the current weather conditions, it is likely the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. This wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of the golfers’ feet. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three times per week during wet/frosty periods.
Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. It is during the winter months that most golf course managers/greenkeepers can evaluate the condition and performance of their drainage systems.
Inspect, check and empty all litter bins
Time to organise winter servicing of machinery
Keep stock of all materials
Tidy mess rooms and sheds
A new year heralds new opportunities. Opportunities to reflect upon the successes and failures of 2019 as we plot a refined course for 2020.
At the heart of all effective sports turf management agronomic programmes is an integrated approach. One which pays consideration to the whole as a system rather than individual factors. Underpinning the successful implementation of an integrated approach is knowledge, monitoring and recording, followed by planning.
Knowledge leads to appreciation and understanding.
Monitoring and Recording leads to the extraction of truth.
Planning leads to the refinement of ideas and processes for incremental increases in successful outcomes.
As we enter 2020 and the new decade it heralds, should you not be 100% confident and comfortable in your own ability and understanding of how to practically implement these concepts into your day to day management then I implore you to act now. Take positive advantage of these winter months to reach out and seek answers as to how you can better grasp and then implement these principles into all you do across your facilities. Fully integrated management, implemented well, is a necessity for success in 2020 and beyond.
Many people are doing well and are trying hard to adapt to changes such as revocation of products and extremes of climate. However, I do often witness a committed application of the principles to one subject area; for example, Microdocium nivale management mirrored by a lower level of engagement and application for other issues, such as weed, water and leather jacket management. Integrated by definition applies to all matters equally, as a collective.
The requirement for nutritional inputs by the plant will be low to zero depending on temperature. A soil temperature of 8-10 degrees Celsius is required for metabolic activity and plant uptake of nutrition.
Applications of calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand cold and harsh winds and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Contrary to popular opinion, iron does not directly harden a grass plant, rather it upregulates enzyme production leading to a greening of the leaf via metabolic processes. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not accumulate problematic iron deposits in soil over time, in the same way raw ferrous sulphate heptahydrate will. Increasingly, copper is being added to many iron products; copper will accumulate in soils over time and can cause toxicity issues, so be sure to researched the full ingredients list on any products rather than looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. That is not to say that copper has no place in balanced nutrition, but rather to apply it with thought and consideration to the long-term bigger picture. Some amino acids also may assist the plant in upregulating metabolic compounds which assist in cold weather survival.
Applications of calcium and silicon will also help the plant to directly bolster its defences from pathogenic attack via hardening of cell walls. Seasonally warm night-time temperatures, combined with continual periods of leaf blade wetness, will help Microdochium nivale to proliferate. The active substance Fludioxonil acts as an anti-sporulant. This fungicide controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. Using dew dispersal and penetrant surfactants will reduce leaf wetness and sward humidity. All approaches which form an integrated management approach.
Weeds development will be dormant during this month but, considering rotation of active substances and application timings for the upcoming growing season is a responsible course of action.
Insect pests will be dormant down within the soil profile, so present no immediate cause for concern. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will also be avoiding cold regions at the surface.
Servicing, repair and overhaul of mowing equipment should nearly be complete. Sharpening of reels and replacement of bottom blades are a key requirement, therefore it is important that all such replacement parts are in stock and readily available.
The start of the year is also a good time to have an early spring clean, conducting a thorough clean up of mess rooms, toilets and garages. It is good Health & Safety practice to keep garages and working areas clean and tidy.
January is also a time to reflect on the work achieved and what you want to plan for next year. Many golf clubs have their budgets set in January, so it is a good time to prioritise your spending .