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Head Greenkeeper's Blog | November 2021 | Richmond Park

Head Greenkeeper's Blog

November 2021

Normally I sign off my blogs with a motto, but this month I’m going to start with:

   “Swift and Bold”

This was given to me by our new apprentice Brai Graham. He’s recently joined our team and has previously served in the British Army – this was his rifles’ regiment motto.

I would also like to introduce Dylan Galloway, another recent recruit to our team. Brai and Dylan have joined us fresh from Fulham Football Club as groundsmen and will now boost their turf knowledge with greenkeeping. We welcome them both as we head into what is going to be busy a winter!

The recent good weather has kept us all busy. While we’ve have had our fair share of heavy rainfall, the recent clearer spells have allowed water to drain, which has kept mowers going.  This has left the course in much better condition. Dare I say, we can still stripe the fairways, which is quite unusual for this time of the year!

So, why did I start this months blog with ‘Swift and Bold’? Well, it relates to the winter projects we have planned. Some of them are bold, and we plan to deliver them swiftly.

11th hole, 11th day, 11th month at Richmond Park. Remembering those who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Major winter projects

I’m really excited to announce that our management team has approved a major winter course improvements project, worth over £100k. Work will start in November and we aim to complete the project by March 2022. Further details to follow, but here’s a sneak preview.

Before Christmas we will be carrying out a process called vertidraining, to all fairways. This was discussed in my October blog and how it will alleviate compaction from many years of high footfall, with the added benefit of improved root development. Due to the demands of a task this size it will be carried by a specialist contractor that has access to industrial-scale machinery. This means the vertidraining process will be completed swiftly over a period of days, rather than weeks.

Vertidraining fairways

Some of the paths around tees are going to be refurbished too. We’ll be constructing new steps to tees and some pathways will be extended, along with some nice floral plants to add some colour. This winter we will do our best to ensure your experience under foot is as pleasant as possible but some paths maybe closed while we use a digger to lay foundations.

We’re also finalising plans for a major project to improve areas of the course that suffer from poor drainage during the winter months. This work will focus on areas around the two 1st fairways, 18th on Prince’s and the 9th & 10th holes on Duke’s.

These are just a few of the projects within the £100k programme, with more to come over the next few months. I’m excited that we’re continuing our investment into improvement and hopefully you are too. I’m sure that once springtime comes you will all agree the courses will not only function better, but look better too.

Everything has a process, and that process takes time to complete, but it’s a price worth paying in the long run.

The trouble with trees

November at Richmond park brings leaf fall from the many beautiful species of trees we’re blessed to have. Many are oaks, which don’t fully drop their leaves until December.

A larger mix of trees around fairways makes leaf clearance possible earlier in the season, so the abundance of oaks causes more headaches for the greenkeeper. We are using backpack blowers to clear tees and greens, but it’s time to be “swift and bold” so we’ve brought out the big guns – with a tractor-mounted turbine blowing the fairways.

Wind is the main contributing factor to leaf fall, and it can play havock after a hard days work of blowing, undoing the efforts of the team. We are completing this daily but sometimes leaf fall can’t be avoided. Luckily the course is dry enough to use the turbine blower and we hope this continues.

Richmond Park’s most impressive and oldest tree is the ‘Royal Oak’. Estimated to be around 750 years old this magnificent, gnarled tree is supposedly one of Mick Jagger’s favourites.

Under pressure

Another winter hindrance is disease pressure. Similar to most courses at this time of the year, some disease spots have appeared on the greens and this has been managed with our spray program. Grass growth slows down when the soil temperatures drop below 10 degrees. This means once a fungicide has been applied and the disease controlled, a scar will appear where the disease was, much like chicken pox or a bite.

With growth being slow in winter these scars will take time to heal. You’re probably thinking “why don’t you just feed the grass and grow the scars out?”. However you can’t force grass to do something it doesn’t want to. If you were recovering from illness, would you want to consume a huge meal? Maybe a small bowl of porridge is best to start with until you’ve warmed up a bit, then you can return to normal.

Another negative from feeding grass in winter is lots of ‘top growth’. This actually invites disease as the grass below is weak and doesn’t have the growing power it does during spring and summer to fight off disease. This therefore opens the door for even more infection, much the way that young children get ill without the resilience an adult has.

Saying this, after this week’s inspections, they are healing very well indeed and some have hardly a trace now, so let’s hope this continues. The aim is to have ‘clean’ greens for Christmas. This is what many greenkeepers aim for, but it’s very difficult. The idea is this; if you can get to Christmas ‘clean’, then after that you normally get more frosts and maybe some snow. These conditions actually stop the supply of what disease needs to thrive. The halfway point of winter is Christmas, meaning we will only be heading to warmer weather in a few more months!

Well, I hope you all stay healthy this winter and look forward to an even better golf course this winter. I’m dying to share more but I need to keep some surprises back.

Take care and speak to you all next month!

Mike Budd

Head Greenkeeper

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