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Head Greenkeeper's Blog

May 2021

I hope you have been enjoying your Spring golf, if that’s even a season anymore?

We have had BBC reporting its been the coldest Spring since 2013, it’s been the frostiest Spring for 60 years, and the driest Spring so far for the last 10 years!

Grass needs 3 things to survive and thrive – light, water and healthy soil. We have plenty of light now that we are into Springtime, but water has been non-existent so it’s been a challenge to keep the turf healthy just relying on artificial irrigation alone.

We would normally apply a grass feed at this time of the year, to help promote grass growth after the harsh winter. Unfortunately we can’t do this until it can be naturally washed into the soil profile by rain, or we risk burning the grass sward. We would also carry out spiking and seeding to help with this process, but firm dry ground has prevented this too.

Grass seed doesn’t stand a chance in less than 10°C either. The current frosts and temperatures down to 0°C have hindered every course in the country – add water via irrigation to the surfaces and you are taking the soil to minus temperatures. What’s more, we the watering of surfaces must happen to counteract the wind drying effect on greens and tees. Afternoons have shown signs of Spring, but what many won’t know is it has prevented mowing operations in the early mornings where we can’t mow in frosty conditions. Leaves on trees are behind normal growth for April, leaving many still looking like winter. Many of us would have a slight tan by now, especially if you play a lot of golf!

Due to all this, it has been and still is a challenge after a tough winter, and not how I pictured my first year. Things look likely to change and the rain stick and rain dances have begun, so fingers crossed going forward.

Once we see the change in the weather we shall be feeding the fairways. This will thicken and get some lush growth back before summer. A fairway wetting agent will also be applied to lock in some of the moisture from any rain we have. Whilst these aren’t cures and won’t stop the summer drying the surfaces out, they will buy us more time and also bounce those fairways back quicker from small showers through spring.

Tees will also be receiving the same treatment, however these have irrigation making them less of a priority and giving us a larger window to apply the products.

Weeds on fairways will also be treated this month, but again all of this depends on moisture. Weeds have to be actively growing for products to work, and are dormant without that wet change. The fairways will improve with these treatments, but are all waiting for Zeus to cast his worst on them below.

During May bunkers are being stone raked, and edged. The stones are a problem as they work their way up to the surface. We are removing shovels of them as we go, but it’s a slow process taking a day to do half a course of bunkers. The weather hasn’t helped with this either. Wind has been blowing sand around and uncovering more of them, but we are doing all we can.

You will be pleased to hear that some bunkers will also be topped up with fresh sand this month too.

May’s motto is all about hope. We hope it rains, maybe not while you’re playing but overnight at least, and we hope it happens before summer.

H – Have

O – Only

P – Positive

E – Expectations

I’m excited and looking forward to the fairway treatments, and hope to be delivering some beautiful surfaces very soon!

Michael Budd

Head Greenkeeper Richmond Park