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Dealing with golfers’ grumbles – part one

Features, Sport / 20th February 2017

by @strituf_paulw

Picture the scene. The greenkeeper is proudly laying turf on a newly constructed tee, when he hears the ‘banter’ of the passing golfer shouting “green side up” for the fourth time that day. Other favourites spring to mind such as “over here” when changing a pin position. Or “why do you always do that on ladies day”, whilst generally just trying to go about one’s work.


Landscaping the golf course

Landscaping the golf course


These are all lighthearted comments aimed at brightening up a greenkeeper’s day. But what happens when comments and opinions are aired in a more serious manner. Remarks that are directed towards the Greens Chairman or committee members who are trying to support the work of their staff? It is on such occasions that good communication is of paramount importance and is something that – although improving within the industry – needs to be pursued and practised at every opportunity.


I started out as a player, then developed a career in greenkeeping before becoming a senior agronomist with STRI. I want to make golfers aware that the men and women, who are out in all weathers improving courses, are not just seen as ‘people who just cut the grass’.


Many experiences in golf course management are repeated on an annual cycle. This includes the seasonal gripes and comments which carry little sympathy for the difficulties or technicalities involved in practical course management. Committees periodically change and the Course Manager often finds that the same old frustrations resurface, despite having previously dealt with them.


golfer fairway shot


For this series of “Golfers’ Grumbles”, I will be looking at the practical issues surrounding just a few of the most commonly heard complaints, suggestions and general frustrations forwarded by the golfer.


If you’ve got a comment, feel free to drop me a Tweet or post on STRI’s Facebook page. I want to hear your opinion.


So, let’s get the ball rolling with:


Top dressing following aeration – “Why haven’t they filled all of the holes”?


The USGA carried out research which found that if hollow tine aeration is carried out using 3/8″ tines operating at a 2×2″ centre pattern approximately 20,000 aeration holes will be cored on a typical 500m² green. The greenkeepers best efforts on the day may well have managed to fill the vast quantity of the holes. Brilliant job, well done, what a great team of greenkeepers we have! Irrigation comes on or rain falls and those holes have magically reappeared much to the frustration of the weekend golfer.


Ineffective integration of top dressing into hollow core holes – wrong conditions or poor technique

Ineffective integration of top dressing into hollow core holes – wrong conditions or poor technique


So what went wrong? Quite simply the practicalities of successfully backfilling aeration holes are immense. Firstly the surfaces need to be firm and dry. This is often not the case and the top dressing material ideally needs to be dry, or have drying time, prior to matting or brushing.


Greenkeepers have tried various experiments to drive and work the dressing down into the holes. Such as using a hover mower or vibrating rollers. Contra-rotating brushes are the most effective method. But even then, success in completely backfilling holes will come from perfect conditions and allowing adequate time, staff resources and tools. With the pressure on from management for a fast turnaround time, and carrying out maintenance away from the main playing season, some may well experience disappointing results through no fault of the greenkeeping team.


There are other problems of a practical nature following top dressing. The greenkeeper may choose, or be forced, into cutting the greens later in the day once surfaces have fully dried. Moist surfaces cause top dressing to build up on rollers and quickly blunt mowing units, affecting the quality of cut. A set of old or spare units are often kept for post top dressing mowing. Importantly budget provisions should allow for replacement bedknives and cylinder grinding.


Next week: bunkers