Annual course renovations are upon us again with numerous practices being undertaken on both Bentgrass and Couch surfaces during this week.
The Bentgrass greens and collars were firstly Verti-drained with 8mm solid tynes to a depth of approximately 200mm. This technique has not been undertaken during past renovations and is a process that is not being utilised as much as it once was throughout the industry. Pedestrian machines like the Toro Procore have somewhat taken the place of the verti-drain on greens, as it is gentler on the turf surfaces, eliminating the need to drive a tractor over the greens and manoeuvre around bunkers. The one major downfall of the Procore is it does not allow a deeper fracture of the profile, which is where we believe the Verti-drain is still a valuable tool to as it can provide this deep aeration, encouraging a deeper root system and in the long run healthier turf.
Following Verti-draining, greens and collars were hollow tined with the Procore, utilising 16mm tines to remove cores to a depth of approximately 60mm. Cores were harvested with a specialised machine that picks up the windrows of cores left behind, after which staff performed a final clean up, blowing any remaining debris off the greens and surrounds before rolling and top-dressing with Tailem Bend sand. The sand was allowed to dry (thankfully we experienced some dry sunny weather during this time) and then rubbed in with a brush to incorporate the sand into the core holes. The aim at the end of brushing is to have the majority of the core holes filled with minimal sand remaining on the turf between the holes.
When I was satisfied with the finish on each green, amendments were applied included Gypsum coated with Wetting Agent and two different granular fertilisers to improve soil structure and assist in turf recovery. A deep, heavy irrigation cycle was applied to wash in these products, which along with fertilisers applied in the weeks leading into renovations should see the greens back to full cover in a short space of time. Many may have noticed additional grass on the greens in the lead to Sunday’s renovation as a result of additional nutrient being applied, but it is an important aspect to ensure the greens are as healthy as they can be before performing any of these renovation processes to ensure they recover and are back to normal as quickly as possible. Preventative fungicide and insecticide applications are another important aspect pre and post renovation.
And while all this was being undertaken on the greens, we were also busy working away on the couch surfaces. Fairways were all scarified to a depth of between 20 and 25mm, which was directly followed by verti-mowing to a depth of 2mm. With no course renovations being undertaken last year as a result of hosting the Women’s Australian Open in February, this year it was important to have an impact on the additional years’ worth of thatch, removing some of the build-up that had been to the detriment of the overall presentation of the fairways during late summer and winter when issues with scalping were evident.
Following these processes, fairways were blown and then mown with a high-powered fairway mower with wider and heavier cutting units that we brought in specifically for this purpose. This mowing and blowing process has occurred at least 4 times on each fairway between Sunday and Wednesday to refine the surface, leaving the results we can now see. This year we had an advantage of using three scarifiers instead of two as in previous years. This allowed us to drive further to dump clippings in out of play areas which will save time in the long run when we would usually be carting this material off course. Each machine was able to scarify around 0.5 ha per hour, and it took us around 21 hours over 2 days to complete. As an example, the 1st fairway alone took a total of 2 hours and 43 minutes to scarify.
As a result of a large amount of thatch being removed, it is natural that we will see an accumulation of clipping gathering in the roughs. An added advantage of the scarifier is its ability to be able to be used as a sweeping implement, which we have used to good effect to remove as much of this material as possible as the mowing and blowing process has continued. As much as we attempt to avoid blowing debris into bunkers, a side effect of the scarifying process is the removal of these clippings, which involves a lot of manual labour, and is one of the important finishing tasks along with the removal of piled clippings and cores from the course. Next week any minor damage on fairways will be sanded, and other more severe damage on localised areas on 10 & 16 fairways being sodded.
Along with aeration of the couch tees and surrounds with 12mm solid tynes to a depth 175mm, this year two fairways, the 5th and 8th were aerated using 19mm solid tynes to a depth of 100mm with a larger, wide area machine. This process will aid in de-compaction and allow for better nutrient and water uptake/penetration. Whilst we attempted to tine all tees and surrounds, unfortunately time restraints did not allow us to cover as much area as we’d have liked. Aeration of the tees and surrounds will continue in the coming weeks, as no real disturbance will be evident, and results of the fairway aeration will be monitored with a view to incorporating more into future renovations.
Topdressing has been carried out on a number of fairway areas throughout the course, concentrating mainly on areas where we experienced scalping and the scarifying processes were most aggressive. This will assist to smooth and firm the surface along with the benefit of further thatch dilution. All fairways have had an application of controlled release fertiliser applied, which will release nutrient over a 4-6 week period to assist with recovery, and an application of wetting agent and insecticide targeting both larval and adult stages of African Black Beetle and Argentine Scarab has been applied to all couch surfaces. Results of all product applications will be monitored closely, with follow up fertilisers to be applied based on recovery rates. We are certainly happy to see the warm weather to assist in couch recovery.
Overall the result so far has been pleasing. Greens received their first roll on Wednesday with their first cut occurring on Thursday and then again on Friday at a height of 3mm. As with the fairways, close monitoring will occur over the coming days and weeks to ensure the greens continue to recover as expected, with the hot weather in this instance not being quite so favourable.
All Course staff present have worked tirelessly throughout the week, and we are certainly very thankful for their efforts. The guys completed a 7-8 hour shift on Sunday afternoon, a 14-15 hour day on Monday and extended hours on Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure we could complete the necessary renovation processes and present the course in the best condition we could for its return to play. Thanks also goes to the team from Glenelg Turf Ace who always provide a superior service during these annual course renovations.
Course Assistant Superintendent