With Golf South Ayrshire spanning eight courses across five locations, there’s always plenty going on. We spoke with Troon Links Senior Head Greenkeeper, Greg Paterson about the updates his team have been undertaking during the month of July, and we discuss his plans for the upcoming maintenance weeks in August.
So Greg, can you tell me about some of the main projects you’ve been focusing on during July?
We have been verti-cutting the greens surfaces (which is a mild form of scarifying) that helps promote smooth/true surfaces. The organic matter or ‘thatch’ that we remove causes issues with surface drainage, firmness and sward density – especially when it dries out, it becomes waterproof so the less of it that is in the upper profile the better. This also provides a seed bed for the application of the bent seed to a depth of approximately 5mm.
We’ve also been over-seeding the greens with pure bent grass to help improve the sward density and introduce a more desirable species to the surface. We’ve then been top dressing the greens over the newly sown seed, which helps to create a micro climate and also helps the seed to germinate by retaining moisture. This also helps keep the greens running smooth and true by supporting the plant and keeping it in a more vertical position. It also dilutes the thatch layer and introduces aerobic bacteria which help to digest it – albeit slowly.
Finally, we’ve been applying a wetting agent which in dry conditions allows the water to penetrate the dry/waterproof thatch layer and get down to where it is needed, it also helps water molecules adhere to hydrophobic soils therefore re-wetting them and facilitating healthy plant growth.
I understand there are maintenance weeks coming up during August, can you tell me a bit about the purpose of these?
The main objective of the maintenance weeks at Troon is to hollow tine the greens, removing very small 12mm wide cores from the surface to a depth of approximately 63.5mm. We will then apply approximately 40-60 tonnes of top dressing per 18 holes that will be brushed into the holes to fill them completely. This will provide a crucial bypass channel past the thatch layer, which in turn will improve surface drainage.
After this is done, a solid tine machine will be passed over the green to help to reduce the size of the top of the holes and will allow the greens to return to normal sooner. The greens will then be rolled to get the smooth surface back to reasonable playability – with recovery expected to take 7-14 days.
Timing of the work is important, as the sand that fills the holes cannot be brushed into the holes when it is damp/wet, so carrying out the work while it is still warm is crucial to ensure the sand is dry.
In my 27 years’ experience, the biggest complaint I have heard from golfers about hollow coring is, “they haven’t filled the hole properly.” In the past this has happened when the sand was damp, as we carried out the work in late September/October time to try and avoid upsetting our golfers but in doing this, there hasn’t been sufficient heat to dry the surface properly.
This approach led to ineffective maintenance work and also often led to wasted grass seed, as it is too late for it to be applied and established before the first frost. At Troon, especially last year, there wasn’t really a quiet period after the playing season to do the work with the success of the ‘Winter Links’ ticket. The courses were as busy in October and November as they were in July, so it’s been hard to carry out these essential tasks without upsetting someone.
So, the benefits of the work being done in the warmer months are that the recovery time for the greens surface after the operations are completed is vastly reduced as it is still within the growing season. The grass seed gets the required time to germinate and establish before the colder weather sets in and the hollow core holes are filled properly with sand that will maintain the drainage channel.
When the periods of heavy rain arrive that would normally flood the greens and either cause closures, or force us to utilise temporary greens – this year, thanks to the measures we’ve put in place, the greens will be in a much better position to cope with the rain and therefore will maximise the chances of full greens more often.
Please keep an eye on our website for future blogs and greenkeeping updates.