Due to our continuing philosophy here at Down Royal Park Golf Course of having full greens playable all year round, it is imperative that the various processes of our Greens Maintenance Program are carried out both from a horticultural and playability point of view. In order to gradually increase the pace of the greens, it is important to maintain the health of the grass so that it is in the best possible shape to withstand the wear and tear of a full golf season.
Our key focus regarding the health of the grass is about finding the correct balance. A perfect blend of food, water, oxygen and sunlight. If the plant receives too much of any of these then it will have an adverse effect of the health of the plant.
As greenkeepers we are constantly trying to strike the right balance of all four of the above elements but we are always battling against weather conditions. However, our aim is to give the plant the best possible chance with the tools at our disposal and in the environment that we are based.
The most recent objective of the Greens Maintenance Program is to reduce the levels of ‘thatch’ that accumulate just under the surface of the greens. Thatch is produced naturally by the plant as it is either dead or dying grass that has either not been collected by grass boxes or simply dies off the plant and sits within the sward of the green. Thatch acts as a sponge and prevents water from draining down into the soil and therefore to the roots of the plant. With the thatch holding water at the surface the plant develops shallower roots, leaves the plant more susceptible to disease and produces a soft spongy playing surface. These are conditions that neither golfers or greenkeepers ever wish to see.
With a Greens’ Maintenance Program of aeration whereby greens are hollow cored, verti-cut, vertidrained and top dressed the spongy thatch is reduced and is replaced with free draining sand. This over time changes the profile of the soil structure and allows for firmer, truer and more disease resistant greens. These conditions are beneficial to everyone.
The hollow cored holes have sand worked into them (through brushing or dragging), and this allows columns of sand to form within the soil profile allowing water to pass down deeper into the ground. Consequently, the roots of the grass will then follow this water source as it needs it for the plant to remain healthy. In addition to the reduction of thatch, the maintenance program is also aimed at compaction relief. Compaction occurs through traffic, be it feet or machinery, constantly passing over an area. By hollow coring and verti-draining we are either removing cores of soil or aerating the soil through disturbing the structure. Both of the processes enable air and water to pass more freely through the profile of the soil and thereby contribute towards the balanced environment referred to in the second paragraph.
The Greens Maintenance Program forms part of the overall Course Development Plan and is integrated into the calendar so that it occurs with as little direct impact on golf as is possible. There will be some disruption but as a team we aim to keep this to an absolute minimum. If members, visitors or members of staff have any questions regarding anything to do with the program then please feel free to ask.