Common Mistakes & Summary

In this last part of the programme, we are going to have a look at the most common mistakes we would all see and how to go about avoiding them or fixing them. We will also do a summary on the most important topics we have covered as well as a few other issues to make you aware off.

7 Deadly Sins
  • Fertilisers burn
  • A scalped green or collar
  • High/low repaired hole plug
  • Badly maintained bunker
  • A missed area when mowing a green, collar or fairway/rough
  • Grass clippings left in the playing area
  • Uneven tee mat

For me these are the top pet hates when you see on pitch and putt courses. Other things may catch your eye, but these are the ones that stand out for me and most important all of them can be and should be avoided.

Fertiliser Burn

To avoid this, make sure you have set the spreader settings before you put the product in the hopper, always fill the hopper in a safe area and never fill on a green or collar, always be walking when opening or closing the hopper.

If you do have an accident, I would advise using a blower to blow the area if you do not have one use a brush, never use your feet to kick or brush away the granules as you will only squash them into the ground. Finally, when you are happy you have cleared as much as you can, fork the area and irrigate.

A Scalped Green or Collar

It is absolutely vital that you check the height of cut (HOC) and the quality of cut before you use the machine. After that it is just a matter of technique. It is not a race, so the more you take your time with lifting, turning, and lowering the machine after each run, the less chance of a scalp. I would also advise slowing the machine down for the clean-up lap to ensure consistence of the lap. This is where mistakes are made, and the collar is cut into and the dreaded yellow mark appears. Also disengage the blades when going from green to green, this will save the blade from wearing down and will also reduce the chances of a scalp in the rough.

A High/Low Repaired Hole Plug

This is quite common on pitch and putt greens. I do feel a scalped high hole is worse than an overgrown low hole but with some care neither should happen. I think this happens through people rushing to get all the holes changed, and therefore I recommend doing six per week. You will have plenty of time to do each one correctly. The only advise I can give is do not be lazy and say, “ah it’ll be grand” and try squeeze it in by standing on it.

When you put the plug in, add a little pressure with your foot, then using your hand brush the top of it and feel if it is protruding, if it is, take the plug out and remove a small amount of soil/sand and then but the plug in again. The opposite applies if the plug is low, take it out and put some soil/sand into the hole. Do not walk away until you are happy.

Badly Maintained Bunker

What frustrates me about badly maintained bunkers is how little time is actually required to keep them in good condition, when kept they do add something to the aesthetics of a pitch and putt course as they do on a golf course. As we spoke about in a previous part, I recommend strimming, blowing, and giving them a good rake every two weeks to maintain edges.

A Missed Area When Mowing a Green, Collar or Fairway/Rough

Goes without saying it really should not happen. Again, with greens and collar machines I feel it is the speed the operator uses the machine. Use a speed that gives you complete control, greens mowers are quite a heavy machine and with all the undulations and raised greens we have I feel it is easier to cut a golf green than a pitch and putt green.

When cutting fairways/rough with a ride-on it is a case of getting a good system. I think striping a course reduces the chances of a missed area. Stripe each hole individually and then where possible do two laps around each green, if you do this if you have a miss it is likely to be in a less used part of the course and not in play.

Grass Clippings Left in the Playing Area

For me, this just comes down to laziness. If clippings are dumped in the playing area, the clippings themselves will die and go yellow and then the grass underneath will go yellow and die. A lot of courses have waste areas that can be used but if you are going to dispose of them in the playing area be sure to spread them by throwing them out of the box and not to dump them in a pile.

Uneven Tee Mat

Pitching can be hard enough at times, without having to negotiate a dip in a mat with your feet or having to position your ball and tee in the corner of the mat because of a dip or uneven mat. Please god, just put a handful or two of sand under the mat and level it. Also, do not forget to put fresh holes in the mat every now and again for the people who like a high tee and lastly, no wooden tees!!!!!

Next is just a summary and a few tips on the previous parts of the programme:

The Lower Profile

Oxygen, try to get as much oxygen into the lower profile as possible, do not be afraid to roughen up your profile to achieve this. 25% oxygen, 25% water and 50% soil/sand. Make sure the water is draining from the upper down to the lower and down as far as you can. Aeration is the best way of achieving this, verti-drain and Air2G2.

If you do not have a moisture meter get the soil sample probe into the profile and check to see the moisture content, if it is wet you will have problems further up the profile.

The Upper Profile

Again, oxygen, aeration, is the only way to maintain a healthy turfgrass surface. Topdressing regularly is also essential; it really cannot be said enough. By applying topdressing, you are drying out the surface as well as building a surface that will naturally be able to breath with the sand content. Build up the speed in your greens.

Verti-cutting/scarifying is so important for the removal of thatch which is a breathing ground for disease and other problems such as a bad putting surface.

Soil Nutrition & Feeding Programmes

We covered the nutrients and how they affect the growth and health of the turfgrass. Soil sampling is the first step to acknowledge what is good and bad about your greens, it is a vital tool full of information to start feeding your greens correctly.

Now that you know how the plant goes about the uptake of nutrients, you can decide what type of programme suits you, whether it be solely granular, solely foliar or a mix of both. In fairness we are spoilt for choice when it comes to fertilisers, granular, liquid, soluble, all standard, as well as all the chemicals such as soil surfactants like the wetting agents and soil penetrants available. Turf hardeners, iron products, and micronutrients

Other nutrition options such as organic, Turfcare do the Gro-Power series, some of the benefits are, active soil conditioners, only beneficial bacteria, immediate breakdown of granular particles and many more. Compare what you are using now to the organic and see if it is in your best interest to try a different way of fertilising.

When we covered this topic previously, I explained calculating the amount of each individual nutrient applied per area. I will now explain how to calculate how much product to use when fertilising your greens. If your greens are 1,200 m2 and we are applying 13-3-13 with an application rate of 30g/m2. Multiply 1,00 x 30=42,000grams of product. Divide 42,000 by 1,000 (1kg) =42kg. You will need 42kg of product to cover the area. Remember using 25kg bags of fertiliser this will leave you with 8kg of product, so do not just go and throw two bags out on the greens if you done this 3 times a year it is an extra 24kg of fertiliser. With 13% Nitrogen (N) that is a huge amount of extra N which will only add to thatch conditions and poor-quality playing surfaces. Be accurate with your applications.

Course Areas and Machinery

Every club will have different amounts of land and finances available to them. Some clubs have bars to generate money and perhaps employ people to work on their course and so on.

One suggestion I would make is for clubs to have a spare hole or holes if your land allows. If not, I would suggest having a spare green, practice putting green or nursery green. Inevitably at some stage a green maybe be damaged and may need some plugging, maintenance, or worse re-sodding, it would be ideal to have sod that is the equivalent to the rest of your greens. Having a spare hole would allow you to rest greens if needed. Have a good look around your course, with some imagination you may come up with a good idea that could improve your course, another option could be to add a second tee-box on a hole for different competitions.

Flower beds can be a nice addition to a course but there is a lot of time involved in maintaining one, as a result all too often we see overgrown flower beds which are a terrible eyesore that can take the look off other great work that has been done. I would recommend by all means keep the flower bed but on the condition that it be maintained by somebody that has a knowledge and interest in flowers, otherwise I would suggest filling it in soil and sodding the area.

Again, not every club will have the resources to have a shed full of the most expensive and up to date machinery. Some clubs will have the basics, some clubs may have back up machines and some clubs may have speciality machines like aerators.

Next is a list of machines I feel every club should have at least one of:

  • Greens mower           
  • Fairway/rough mower           
  • Pedestrian rotary mower
  • Strimmer with hedge cutting attachment                 
  • Hole changer
  • Pedestrian spreader   *Pedestrian sprayer               
  • Small tractor and trailer
  • A large sprinkler head trimmer (For plugging damaged areas)
  • Weighing scales and jug (for weighing and mixing chemicals)
  • Hand tools such as shovels and rakes           
  • Grease gun and tubes of grease
  • Small toolbox for spanners and sockets for adjusting machines
  • Brush for the green’s mower             
  • A large bucket/container for mixing chemicals
  • Backpack blower        
  • A small air compressor/power washer for cleaning machines

If you have all the above you are covered, obviously some clubs will have spare greens machines, collar machines, or may even have a spare ride-on.

One machine that I have used on the golf course and have seen used one or twice on pitch and putt courses is a greens roller or greens iron. This is an excellent machine for increasing the speed of your greens without stressing the plant through reduced heights of cut. Probably not a machine to necessarily look into purchasing but certainly to hire if you have a major championship or competition and just want to have it that little bit slick.

Greens iron Ref. Campey Turf Care
Grease Gun Ref. John Deere
Stihl Backpack Blower

Where I think clubs are losing out, is in machines like aerators, scarifiers and back lapping machines. Clubs should look strongly into pooling their money together and purchasing these types of machines and sharing them, there are great deals to be had if clubs are willing. Hiring machines or companies to come out and do jobs such as hollow coring, scarifying etc can be expensive, but if this is the road you want to go down the Dublin County Board has contacts available for this work, as well as contacts for mechanics for servicing golf course machinery so feel free to contact the board to avail of these.

Another thing to watch out for when using mowers is grass build-up on mower rollers. This can happen when mowing in damp or wet conditions, particularly in the morning. If clippings start to build-up on the front roller your mowing height will change as the bottom blade will be higher off the ground, so be sure to check it after every couple of greens and this is prevalent when mowing a green that still has topdressing sand on it, once damp the sand will stick to the front roller.

Finally, on machinery, I want to mention “ribbing/marcelling”. This when a cylinder has become slightly egg-shaped normally because bearings have been worn out and the result is a ribbed affect seen on the mowed turf. Another reason is the machine is not set correct or the incorrect speed is being used. It is particularly noticeable on collar and higher grass. When checking the height of cut and cut quality, check the bearings on the rollers and cylinder. Hold it where it is attached to the machine by the bearing, if you can move it up and down it is worn and will need to be replaced, it should just spin around with no other movement. Generally, the bearings will be checked when the machine is being serviced.

Examples or ribbing or marcelling. Ref. and Pitchcare
Grasses, Irrigation & Wetting Agents

We covered the prominent cool grass species we have in this country and the optimum growing conditions for each one. We have seen how Meadow/Poa Annua is one of the most found on our pitch and out courses as well as the problems off seedheads. We have seen how PGR’s (Plant Growth Regulators) help to supress these seedheads as well as slow the growth by making the grass coverage or density much greater. The brush on the front of the greens mower as well as the mechanical groomer are also excellent for cutting away seedheads but be careful how often these are used as they can also stress the turfgrass. Products such as Primo Maxx and Clipless are excellent but be sure to use suggested application rates.

Next up was drought tolerance of the grass species. Each grass species has its tolerance which we should know based on what species you have on your course, which then leads us to one of the main problems in our game, soft, over watered greens. We have seen in previous parts how damp, wet soil/rootzone profiles inhibit the grow of healthy turfgrass. This something we have a reasonable amount of control of. Monitor the moisture content of your soil/rootzone, be vigilant with your irrigation practices.

Wetting agents and soil penetrants are an excellent way of regulating the moisture content. Again, make sure to apply these chemicals using the correct application rates. If treating an LDS (Localised Dry Spot), pencil tinning the area first will allow the water and chemical to infiltrate the soil/rootzone. Syringing/hand watering these areas instead of irrigating the whole green is also good practice and higher the height of cut.

Disease, Pests & Weeds

We addressed the major disease and pests there can cause us problems. The conditions that bring about the problems along with remedies both cultural and chemical that are available.

Again, damp, wet conditions being the major factor in a lot of cases, we seen the cultural operations that can reduce these conditions, but also chemicals such as DewCure can be used to reduce dew accumulation. The product Gravity, which is sold as a water penetrant also has a bit of a side effect, in that it too helps to reduce dew accumulation. Therefore, it is vital to contact your chemical supplier as see what new products are on the market and keep yourself informed. Be aware of all your chemical options.

That concludes the course maintenance programme, I want to thank the Dublin County Board for their support of the programme, we feel standards can be raised throughout the County and the Country. Most clubs do not need a major overhaul but do require nudge in the right direction, as you know, as a course manager there is nothing better than looking at your course in the middle of the season with pride, knowing all the hard work has paid off. This programme was designed to show the science that is involved along with common sense, how the little and often approach can lessen the workload and that it can be interesting as well as rewarding to work on your course. If you take on even half of what we have covered in the last few weeks imagine the improvement you would make on your course.

All this information is available on the internet, there are many sites, Pitchcare and the STRI are just two I recommend, and as I have said many times contact your chemical supplier, they are well educated in this field and want nothing more than to help you. Teagasc runs a Level 6 Sportsturf Science and Maintenance course in Botanic Gardens and Ashtown, Dublin. This is an excellent course that I would recommend if looking to go further in the industry.

Finally, if you have any questions on the topics, we have covered feel free to contact the Dublin County Board or myself and we will help you in any way we can.

Thank you and best of luck with your course.