Spring Renovation - Greens

Read about the work that is currently being carried out on the greens to make them ready for the forthcoming season.

Posted by Ben Blampied-Smyth on March 30, 2016 in Greens

This time of year turf always looks at its worst, yellow and patchy. Turf is trying to grow but hasn’t got enough temperature or daylight to begin growing consistently. Although soil temperatures are on the increase, today the soil temp of the greens hit 10 degrees during the day for the first time. At night though temperatures are dropping and are going as low as 6. We really need to see double figures for strong growth.

Spring renovation and fertilisation is really important, over-seeding has been completed on all greens. The seed will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 9 degrees so we should see germination as temperatures start to increase over the next few weeks.

Over seeding lines

Stage one of the renovation works was to overseed the greens with fescue. The picture shows the overseeding lines from the new over-seeding machine with very little disturbance left.


Stage two, aeration took place to release any compaction in the top layer aiding the seed with moisture and air.

Roll & Top dress

Stage three, the greens are rolled and 5 tons of topdressing applied which is then drag matted in. Leaving a good surface with hardly any disturbance. This process was completed in 2 days.

The final stage is to fertilise the greens which is especially important. Lawn sand will be used to slowly break the winter dormancy without supplying too much fertility as soil temperatures are still low. The iron content of the lawn sand acts as a turf hardener and will add colour to the surfaces. When lawn sand is first applied it generally has a burning effect on the thicker bladed grasses, moss and weeds such as Parsley Piert. It also has an acidifying effect to the soil which encourages the finer grasses. Another benefit is that it also discourages worms which can no longer be managed through chemical application. The downside however is that the greens can look blackened and foot prints and wheel marks from machinery can be seen as black marks although this will soon grow out and will give much more benefits in the long term.

To read more of the Head Greenkeeper's blogs and also view the above with the relevant images, scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the link to the Head Greenkeeper's blog.

Winter Program update

Winter Program: We’ve been making good progress with the winter program. Our main focus this month has been the 9th tee. The new tee will provide good variation in course setup allowing for low handicap events and bad weather conditions so that teeing position can be moved forward. It also moves the tee away from the 6th Tee and 5th green.
To reduce settlement the tee was constructed in layers until the soil reached the desired level. Constructing in layers removes air from the substructure and decreases the amount of settlement. The surface was then leveled this week in readiness for turf next week which will see the 9th tee project complete.
Irrigation 9th Tee: 8 heads in total have been fitted covering the teeing surface and walk on area to the front. A new isolation valve for the lady’s and men’s tee was also installed. The galvanized steel manifold value was made in house, something we would normally buy in already made up as it’s a high pressured component. A first for the team. No leaks so far!!.
The surrounding area was raked and seeded. Marram Grass (Ammophila) and Gorse (Ulex europaeus) will be planted next week on the Tee banks.
9th Fairway: The area has been roughly shaped up and next week a final shape up will take place in readiness for turfing.
11th Front Right Bunker: Construction is complete with just the top edge to turf and some fresh sand needed.
17th Green Side Bunkers: Construction is completed, again just the top edge to turf and some fresh sand to finish off.
Over the coming weeks we will be starting work on the 10th tee realignment and fitting new irrigation to the tee in preparation for turf arriving at the beginning of December.
On Course maintenance: once again we are seeing unseasonal high temperatures for this time of year. This brings some challenges as the grass keeps growing therefore work on winter projects is slowed as most of the team is still needed to keep the course cut up. The risk of disease is heightened due to the mild conditions, especially on the greens and can be severe as the damage will not grow out if the weather turns cold leaving scaring up until spring. But on the positive we are seeing good germination after the overseeding a few weeks ago which was carried out with our new greens over-seeding equipment.

Aeration & Topdressing

This week we will be carrying out aeration work to the greens surfaces. To correct any disturbance this may cause and help the surfaces recover we will be applying a topdressing. Below are some of the points to the reasons and benefits of why we carry out this work. We hope to complete this work in two days and will try to keep disturbance to a minimum.


Irrigation: After a prolonged wet, mild weather at the start of the year it’s great to see the course looking like a true links golf now that we have had some dryer conditions. With harder greens, they now encourage the golfer to play the “running game” which is the design of the true Links course. Having no fronting hazards the greens allow golfers to bounce the ball into them rather than hitting high approach shots with strong back spin. The rough which had become very penal due to the years early wetter weather allowing the coarse grasses to flourish has also now died back with the hotter, dryer weather leaving a more playable, acceptable rough.
This prolonged dry weather has in turn also dried out the course and irrigation is now paramount in order to keep the grass plant alive. We also use this dry weather as a tool to burn out thicker bladed grasses on the playing surfaces which are normally reliant on high moisture levels.
As you are all aware we have now got a fully functional new irrigation system so I thought I would tackle some of the questions I am frequently getting asked about it and how the irrigation on the course works as a whole.

Why is the course looking brown?
The broad leaved coarser grasses not naturally found on a Links course thrive in moist conditions, therefore we allow the course to ‘dry out’ to a safe moisture level to try to discourage these coarser grasses whilst allowing the finer, more desireable grasses such as Fescue to flourish.
The new irrigation system allows us to apply nightly the same amount of water that we have lost through evaporation during the day which allows us to keep the course in the same dry state to ensure that only the finer fescue grasses are given enough water to flourish but that we do not end up over watering therefore allowing the broad leaved varieties to take hold again.

So how do we know how much water to apply?
The irrigation system is computerised and works off the data collected from our own weather station. Data is down loaded hourly and when analised tells us how much water has fallen per hour, wind speeds, solar radiation, temperatures and evaporation rates to mention a few. We also have data from sensors positioned under the 18th green which tells us the moisture content of the root zone, soil temperature and also a salinity reading which tells us if our bore holes start to pull in salt water. All this data allows us to calculate the amount of water which needs to be replaced on the course each night.
How do we know when to water?
As well as our experience and a visual check for dry areas, we use a moisture probe that is inserted into the ground and displays the percentage of moisture in the soil. Anything below 16% moisture level in the rootzone is detrimental to the root and anything above 20% is also detrimental to the growth of the plant.
As an example, in the middle of summer we could put down 500 cubic meters per night which equates to 500,000 litres.

Do all areas of the course get the same volume of water?
No, the programming of the irrigation system is divided into Greens, Greens surrounds, Approaches, Fairways, Carries and Tees. We prioritise greens and tees and factors such as the height of cut, amount of traffic the area receives and location ( ie exposed position) all affect the volume of water calculated for each individual area. The system allows us to now isolate dry pockets and apply extra irrigation in these areas, something we could not have done with the old system. In total we have around 400 irrigation heads which allows us to really fine tune the watering. We are able to build programs for loads of different weather conditions but this takes time and we have only just started.
How efficient is the system?
The system is designed to apply the minimum amount of water required and as already mentioned this can be fine tuned down to each individual nozzle. We also occasionally apply a wetting agent which is a biodegradable product applied in conjunction with irrigating designed to reduce the surface tension of the water molecule allowing it to ‘flatten out’ and be able to penetrate a larger surface area.
Where does the water come from?
We have four bore holes on site, each one is from 50 to 70 meters deep and produces approximately 24 cubic meters an hour. These bore holes top up a storage tank which holds 180 cubic meters. Over an average watering program this allows us a maximum of about 580 cubic meters of water.
Can we use the irrigation system to soften the greens?
Links golf is about the running game therefore we apply only enough water to sustain and encourage the finer Fescue grass. This is a sustainable management plan encouraged by governing bodies such as SRTI, R & A and USGA. .

Course Maintenance

Warm and wet would be the perfect way to summarize the spring so far which has in turn created rapid growth. We have been extremely busy managing this, in particular the rough which had become very penal. We cut an intermediate rough before the Messervy as well as bail out areas into the landing areas on the fairways.

To further widen the intermediate rough another lap was cut into it a few weeks later to allow the course to be more playable to everyone.

It is unusual for this wet, mild period to have lasted so long. We would normally have only had a 4 week period of intense growth in the rough which should have started to burn off with the sun and thin out by now, yet the deep rough this spring is still active.

The bank holidays has put extra pressure on the team, where we have battled continuously to simply get everything cut in very short but also very busy weeks.

Thank you to all the members who have paid the team compliments on the course. It is really encouraging for us when sometimes it feels like a never ending battle to get the course looking the way we would want it whilst also trying not to get in the way of play. We have had some nice feedback recently, so thank you.

This spring weather also promoted growth of the Poa Annua which loves moist, warm conditions. To encourage the finer Fescue to become dominant in the sward we have been allowing the greens surfaces to slightly 'dry out' when we've had a few warm, dry days together in order to put the Poa under stress and allow the finer fescue grasses to flourish as they prefer the dryer climate.

In addition, we have also been applying only a small amount of fertiliser, again creating conditions preferable to the Fescue sward and not the thick bladed Poa Annua grass which does not provide quality playing surfaces. As a result a slight yellowing discolouration has been seen across the greens surfaces during the last few weeks which is the Poa Annua under stress. This isn't something new, rather a battle that we fight daily and it requires a fine tuned management programme to ensure conditions always favour the Fescue wherever possible.

Spring Maintenance

Masters Week

As part of our spring maintenance, fairways and tee surfaces have been sprayed for weeds and leather jackets. We had a perfect weather window and managed to complete the spraying within the week.May the weather continue!
Rough: After a wet and mild winter the rough has started to become very thick and patchy in places. We are carefully managing these thicker areas to keep the rough playing as consistent as possible throughout the whole course. Once the JW Messervy Salver is played we will cut an intermediate rough around every fairway making the playing conditions easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Masters week: To bring a touch of the Masters to the Royal Jersey we will be preparing the bottom putting green to around 12 to 13 feet to give everyone a feel of how fast the surfaces are at Augusta National golf club. We will start on Wednesday and bring the pace up each day. A sign next to the putting surfaces will show the exact pace each day.

Spring Maintenance / Irrigation Update

Soil Temperature

Greens: Ground temperatures need to be between 10-12 Celsius for germination. The screenshot shows the two soil sensors under the 18th green, the yellow line being 3 inc under the surface and the second sensor the blue line at 8 inc. This shows that the soil temp we have during the day is optimum temperature for the start of consistent growth which is really important when trying to produce consistent playing surfaces. However some nights we are still seeing the ground temp drop to 5 or 6 celsius, creating inconsistent growth. Over the next few weeks we should start to see temperatures rise enough to allow the seed to germinate. We have 3 main grass species on our greens which are Poa, Bent and Fescue. Different species start growing at different soil temperatures, which can create a bumpy playing surface early in the season.
Ground Temp Night
Temperature is also a key factor when applying fertiliser, too cold and it will not be absorbed by the plant and will simply be washed through the soil profile.
The soil sensor on 18th green gives a good benchmark as to when we can apply spring fertiliser and prevent wastage. However an increase in soil temperatures will mean more growth and therefore slow the speed of the greens. To keep pace, cutting will increase and rolling will take place when necessary.

Weeds: Have become active as temperature increase. In the coming weeks when weather conditions allow we will be spraying fairways and tees. At the same time we will also spray for Leatherjackets, the larvae of the Crane Fly or Daddy Long Legs! which eat the roots of the grass plant and cause damage to the playing surfaces.

Spring Maintenance / Irrigation Update

Spring Over Seeding

Over seeding: Commences this week. This maintenance will encourage the finer grasses to flourish and become dominate.The surfaces will take a couple of weeks to get back to normal however the warmer weather will help their recovery. The benefit of this work will be better playing surfaces for the rest of the season.  Spring fertiliser will also be applied this week, so as temperatures increase, the seed and turf will have all the nutrients it needs to develop a strong sward for the rest of the season. 
Irrigation: the irrigation project is coming to an end and we should see equipment being removed from site this week. There is still a great deal of setting up to do but this should not interfere with play. We will start to repair the area around Fort Henry and any other damage caused by the install. As a whole though I think the install has been a great success with little damage to the course. Thank you for your patience and understanding while this important work was carried out.  Winter Program: The 18th bunker and mounding is now finished and should be in play by the 1st week of April. 

18th After

Spring Maintenance

Warmer weather allows important maintenance.

At last we have seen some warmer weather over the last couple of weeks allowing important spring maintenance work to be carried out. The Greens have started to improve with the surfaces starting to grow back in after the over seeding and signs of germination can be seen. A light top dressing was applied to remove some of the unevenness left over from the over seeding and the surfaces are now becoming true again. The height of cut will now start to drop to summer levels over the next month adding more pace to the putting surfaces.

Last week we managed to flail a number of areas of rough, these areas were of predominately thick bladed species of grasses. The new machine flails and collects all the material it cuts. Collecting the cuttings is an important part of improving rough areas, by doing so it breaks the nutrients cycle. Taking away the nutrients in the form of grass clippings changes the fertility of the soil allowing finer indigenous grasses to become established. This is not only good for the golfer creating finer rough but also provides an important habitat and food source for many small animals.

The new flail can also be set up for scarifying and collecting. We managed to start tackling some weaker areas such as the 14,18,17, carries. We started by first scarifying and collecting all the thatch which prevents seed establishment. The scarifier also cuts lines into the ground as it removes the thatch. This 10mm deep cut line is perfect for seed establishment. We then spread seed on the area which will start to establish itself in around 14 days improving these areas.

This machine is also a massive labour saver, if we just took the 14th carrie this would have normally taken four team members a full day to complete. With this new equipment this was done in 4 hours with 2 team members.

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