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Head Greenkeeper's Blog

September 2021

Hello everyone,

After a summer of consistent rainfall, the sun has returned and taken us into a dry spell for the beginning of September. We normally carry out our major greens renovations around this time of the year and we’re going to use this dry spell as an opportunity to complete the task. Our new Toro® Procore machine means we can carry out this work quickly, with minimal disruption.

Yes, the dreaded hollow coring! So many golfers wonder why we make loads of holes in the greens then fill them with sand, when they’re so green and healthy? The answer is simple, because they are healthy. You wouldn’t run a marathon if not at your best, would you? The best time to carry out an intensive an workout is when you’re at your fittest and it’s no different with the turf on a golf course.

The process of aeration is probably the most important job greenkeepers undertake. There are different types of aeration too. Here are the 2 most common.

  1. Solid tining – this is like forking your garden. Holes are made with spikes, but no soil is taken out. The small holes allow air into the turf and the roots get much needed oxygen. Dressing after this process is optional, and different sized tines can be used. At the start of spring we’ll use large tines to create larger holes, followed by monthly ‘pencil’ tining, named after their slim design that causes less disruption to the playing surface.
  2. Hollow tining or coring – this is where much bigger holes are made and soil is taken out. The holes are then immediately filled with sand dressing. This process provides roots with oxygen, takes away tired soil and replaces it with better free draining sand. Hollow coring also alleviates compaction. Greens take longer to recover, but we’re basically swapping bad for good in terms of what’s under the green. Here’s another way to describe what I mean: Say you had a foot sized cube of turf and you used a fork (solid tine) to spike it, you couldn’t squish it much after spiking as the holes are very small and close back up. However, if you used a fork that had bigger tube-like spikes that removed some of the soil, then squished the turf, it would be much easier as there is less density. This explains how we tackle soil compaction, which is really bad for greens if left unchecked.

The greens require this workout to stay healthy. Richmond Park one of the most visited golf courses in Europe and the high number of players creates compaction, which needs to be addressed before winter for the best possible greens for the coming seasons. Poor root growth and bad drainage means that in the winter months, grass coverage is poor and can thin-out even more under stress. Stress also results in disease outbreaks, which further degrades the greens.

I always say “What happens underground effects overground.”

Below is a diagram that should help explain it further.

The work will inevitibly cause some disruption, but we’ll keep it to a minimum. We’ll start on the Duke’s Course on Monday 6th September (the Prince’s will be fully open), then swap to the Prince’s on Tuesday. Both courses will fully reopen on Wednesday 8th September. They’ll be a light dusting of top dressing sand on the greens for a few days following. They may not look as nice as they normally do, but they will play as normal. The greens will have returned to their normal condition/appearance by the weekend.

So with the science and geology lesson over, I hope you all enjoy the remainder of summer, and we hope to have a dry winter for our upcoming projects.

Thank you in advance for your understanding while we carry out this essential work, but you can look forward to great playing surfaces this winter and beyond.

I’m signing off with an amusing slogan that I read on a t-shirt about greenkeepers (and maybe related to hollow coring and understanding why we do it!).

A greenkeeper – someone who solves problems you didn’t know you had, in ways you can’t imagine.

Mike Budd

Head Greenkeeper