Spring is starting to make an appearance!
But don’t be fooled, that spring growth spurt is yet to happen. The late start means that tees and divots are still taking a little time to recover. What the small temperature rise has done is brought insects and micro bacteria to the surface of the turf, encouraging badgers and foxes to dig for insects. Each day we repairing their damage and we mark these areas as GUR as we go. Like paiting the Forth Bridge, the work is relentless. It takes staff a whole week to repair a full 18 holes, then we have to start all over again. However, this is normal for February to March as the soil warms gently and grubs and leather jackets come up to feed. More on this later.
As the weather is changing, so is the course.
We will be overseeding all fairways and semi rough in the last week of March. This is a major advancement for Richmond Park Golf Course has never been done before. It’s an expensive task (£20k in grass seed alone), but it will massively improve coverage and create lush, thick fairways that are so much nicer to hit off and will look great too. The germination and thickening won’t happen until temperatures really arrive, but with the seed drilled into the ground it will sit there ready to go. We’re serious about continual improvement so we’ve invested into a new Vredo Drill Seeder, which is arguably the best out there. Having this kit at our disposal means we can carry out overseeding more frequently in future – expect to see a huge difference.
Once the fairways are done, the tees will also be overseeded to revitalise heavily played tee boxes. Coupled with our new fairway mower and granular feed going down, the place will look very smart indeed. The new seeder can then move onto high traffic areas which are relatively small. These areas are not in play so are lower on the priority list, but nevertheless they will contribute to much nicer course overall.
Greens will also be overseeded in the summer with pure bent grass seed, which is very robust. Soil must be very warm for it to thrive, but will help in fighting against disease as we phase out the poa annua grass and drill in more bent, which isn’t as weak.
I have added some pictures of the 9th Duke’s drainage project. This should stop the hole flooding in the winter as the ditch is directly over the main low point that usually gets very wet. Two bridges will be added and the approach will be mown larger much like the grand approach on the 10th Prince’s. The bank will be grassed and should look fantastic once finished. I’m particularly proud of our new 1st Assistant Neil who headed up the project, and now has funny eyes from concentrating on getting the edges perfect day after day. It has brought a very bland hole to life, and while it may be a dry ditch in the summer, it will now offer a greater challenge for those big hitters.
Back to this month’s lesson, and more on the badger and fox damage:
As we know, part of being a golf course on a nature reserve brings its own challenges.
Badgers are protected by law, so there is nothing we can do about them. Foxes are part of living with wildlife in Richmond park, but these are the secondary problem to what’s really going on. The real problem lays with what they are digging for.
In Summer to Autumn crane fly lay eggs in the turf which hatch into lave called Leather Jackets. These Leather Jackets feed on steams and roots in the turf and go deep into the soil for winter to survive. Come February and March as soil temperatures start to rise, these lava rise to continue feeding and complete their life cycle. Milder winters mean more survive from past years making the problem worse. Anything less than minus 1 will start keeping numbers of survival down, but that’s now changing year after year with warmer winters, we also haven’t had any snow this year either.
Chaffer grubs are also a problem. Chaffer beatles lay their eggs in May and again they stay below the soil until spring, when they come up to feed on thatch and roots. Birds pecking is a sure sign of both of these turf pests, but heavy damage by foxes and badgers is every greenkeepers nightmare.
In 2016 the insecticide used to control these pests was banned in the UK. Chlorpyrifos was found to be causing human health issues and subsequently was removed from sale. Currently no insecticides can be purchased by turf managers and used to fight these off. There is an emergency approval of a new product but the effect are next to nothing compared to days past. Being an insecticide the old products used to kill off worms too, so this is also why you may be seeing lots of worm activity too.
It’s a very tough position to be in. Golfers demand perfect turf, and we have to provide that and now have less tools to achieve the desired outcome, imagine the difficulties of a turf farm! If that gets an infestation, how do they make their money? You can’t sell infested turf. It’s a debate that has been going on for the last 6 years right up to England golf and the R&A, but with more and more eco friendly solutions, this is one product that will never be replaced. Practices like dressings and aeration along with biological applications will be our way forward, but there is no quick fix.
So with the Entomology lesson over, I shall be signing off.
This is to be my last blog to the readers out there. I’m making the move to a private members club closer to home. I have always wanted to be part of a members club as it’s a management challenge I have not tried yet.
I shall miss sharing lessons and tips, and love bringing the education of what we do to the wider audience.
I’m sure you’ll welcome the next manager with open ears and eyes to all they have to share too.
Thank you for listening and taking the time to read my blogs.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end“
As winter fades, so comes a great spring filled with projects, improvements and a great golf course to welcome in the new, and keep happy golfers playing with some smiles.