Autumn leaves- a rake’s progress

20131202-Waterfall-4 ONE OF THE MORE infuriating things that a golfer can say during a round is ‘Apparently trees are 90% air.’ This is only ever said to an opponent whose ball has just smashed into one and bounced deep into the jungle. Apart from that, trees bring beauty to a course and joy to golfers when not stuck behind them or ricocheting off them. But for greenkeepers at this time of year trees simply mean an awful lot of hard work.

Autumn this year has been unusual with less than average rainfall and mild temperatures with nothing more than a slight grass frost which has kept the leaves on the trees and the grass still growing. Only now is everything slowing down with the leaves falling fast aided by some gale force gusts of wind. So it’s leaf clearance time on a daily basis.

Rather than raking up piles of sodden foliage the leaves are blown off greens and fairways with both tractor powered and hand held blowers. There are many other pieces of kit available but leaf collection only covers a relatively brief period of the greenkeeper’s year so in order to maximise the return on the capital outlay the machinery should be able to perform other tasks at different times of the year.

Elsewhere, because of the late season, for the first time ever greens are getting a top dressing in December and unlike other courses in these warm and moist conditions there is no sign of disease. The greens only require periodic mowing although they are switched or brushed off every morning as both a preventative operation against disease and to remove any worm casts. The only time this will not happen is when the ground is frozen.

A lot of work is being carried out on paths, with drainage gulleys being cut on the steeper slopes to prevent erosion caused by heavy rainfall and sleepers are being replaced on worn bridges.

Over on the West course the car park is having some long overdue improvements. Earth banks are replacing the lumps of wood around the perimeter and once these are finished they will be grassed over and the car park resurfaced. The earth for the banks is coming from on-going work on the course, so is arriving in dribs and drabs as other work is undertaken.

The first of the new large tee mats has been installed on the first on the West. A further one will be built on the sixth before the turf is stripped off the main tee for levelling work to take place.

A drain to cure the problem of the large puddle on the front of the 18th green is planned although the team needs a quiet day with minimal golf while this is going in.

Activity in the workshop is now in full swing with winter overhauls and servicing of every single piece of machinery, starting with a full steam clean followed by blades being reground, worn parts replaced so that by next Spring everything is ready to go, and keep going, all season long.

So when members return from their Winter rounds saying, ‘I played a full 18 and did not see a greenkeeper all day!’ it is more than likely that they will be indoors working on equipment or cleaning, drying and painting tee markers and other pieces of course furniture so that they will all be at their best next year.

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