We always aim to keep play on the main greens for as near 12 months in the year as possible. With milder winters becoming the ‘norm’ the demand from members to play year-round golf has increased together with the need of many clubs faced with the difficult economic environment currently being endured.
However, this need to maximise winter play must be matched with the drainage qualities, soil type, aspect, and elevation of the greens in question as well as prevailing weather conditions, particularly as milder winters also tend to be much wetter.
An indication of the type of damage arising from play under adverse conditions is given below and, whilst appreciating that members expect winter play, these requirements must be kept in perspective.
Most competitive golf and important fixtures take place outside the winter period.
Winter golf is normally less competitive and if the little inconvenience caused by playing to temporary greens of a satisfactory standard is accepted, when necessary, then the putting surfaces of the main greens are better preserved for when they are required and expected to be at their best.
In persistently wet conditions, the soil around the pin is likely to become severely compacted. Fine particles of silt and clay can migrate to the surface, resulting in soil-stained patches round pin positions and other well trafficked routes.
All of these effects weaken the turf and impede surface drainage. The aim of our green's management will be to develop firm and dry surfaces to minimise the effects of wet weather.
A sound aeration program will help minimise ill effects on drainage and the sward. In addition, hole changes will be frequent to avoid regular concentration of foot traffic to the same spot, use being made of the outer regions of the greens as far as possible, although keeping towards the front in very wet spells.
Damage caused by play during frosty weather falls into two main categories:
- When frozen, plant tissues are easily bruised by players’ feet following a thaw, it is often possible to see brown footmarks for several weeks, particularly around hole sites. The greater the weight of play in hard frost, obviously the greater becomes the extent of this damage.
- Affected areas remain thin for long periods, altering the trueness of the putting surface, and are more susceptible to disease in spring.
- Long-term damage is caused when play takes place after a sudden thaw. In these conditions the top layer of thatch and soil becomes soft, whilst the underlying soil remains frozen.
- Root damage occurs from the shearing action as players’ feet move the soft, unfrozen surface across the frozen sub-surface. This disrupts putting surfaces and creates weak areas that may not recover before the height of the competition season.
The best way to overcome these problems is to follow a management program for greens that develops excellent drainage and firm, dry surfaces.
However, even the best draining greens suffer from surface water retention and frost from time to time and the availability of good quality temporary greens will help protect the main surfaces when they might be adversely affected by continued play.
If prepared well in advance of possible need, temporary greens can provide an acceptable alternative to damaging the main surfaces or having to close the golf course altogether.
Deciding whether the main greens are fit for play
This is a vital aspect to consider and is one that is noted in the Course Closure policy. There is a clear pecking order of responsibility for closing the main greens.
The Course Manager is the primary arbiter, making a sensible series of inspections, other club officials or members will not be allowed to change the decision.
Allowing play on overly wet or frozen greens early in the winter sets a dangerous precedent and will be avoided. Every effort will be made to keep green closure to an absolute minimum.
Whenever possible a selection of greens will be kept open, i.e. the naturally drier ones or those less susceptible to frost, provided these are deemed fit for use.
Winter Wheels on Trolleys
During the months of December, January and February, winter wheels will be used on trolleys, however if course conditions dictate it may be deemed appropriate that winter wheels will be used out-side these times.
Parabolic studs on the Hedgehog wheels reduce contact with the soil surface. Reducing damage made by standard trolley wheels leaving little impression on the course and avoiding the necessity for winter trolley bans.
Winter wheels may be used that have been endorsed by the British and International Green keepers Association.
Pete Livie our professional has a heathy stock of winter wheels however if need be he can also order wheels of your choice, indeed if you require any advice Peter and his staff are there to help.