Delivering Autumn Gold

Royal Ashdown Forest Golf clubAS WINTER fast approaches there is a race against time for the Ashdown green-keeping team, with this month seeing a flurry of activity to get essential maintenance completed before the heavy frosts and rainfall make conditions treacherous. And the recent storm did not make their workload any easier.

October has seen lots of aeration work on tees, greens and surrounds; patching up of worn areas with turf and topping of paths. One job that involves a lot of work on a daily basis every autumn is the collection of leaves. They not only cause problems for the golfers but they make life very difficult for mowing and other essential maintenance as well as blocking drains and ditches. A group work daily with backpack blowers and a big tractor mounted blower for the larger areas. And the storm-force winds of late October brought leaves and extra work in equal measure.

Elsewhere, the irrigation system will be de-commissioned for the winter with pumps and pipes drained down and all computer data backed up. Some Ashdown members may be surprised at the high technology nature of the sprinkler set up which means that sprinklers are programmed by computer to come on at varying heights and appropriate times, thus ensuring that the system is not in full flow during the course of, say, a ladies’ medal!

There will be also be regular maintenance on the water harvesting system for the reservoir to keep filters clean of debris and silt. And whilst all this is going on, all around the course there is growth, so tees and greens will be mown.

The greens need a top-dressing and are treated with a seaweed/iron mixture to harden the turf and an eye kept out for signs of any fungal disease. Top dressing is a way of smoothing the surface and helps make the greens true. Over a period of time it helps improve the quality of the topsoil as well.

The top dressing used at Ashdown until 2010 was sand and a small percentage of fensoil, the latter being often used in a divot mix. This has now been changed to pure sand, as the organic material levels are high enough already. This enables the green-keepers, with the help of their spin top dresser, to top dress lightly once a fortnight much more quickly.

This is also the time of year to treat the worms, as they are much nearer the surface and more susceptible to treatment.  The greens will also be sprayed with an insecticide to kill off any hatched out leather jackets. There was a lot of crane fly activity with moist, verdant greens being a most popular place for eggs to be laid.

And in between all this some refurbished mats will be appearing on the West Course although, hopefully, they will not be needed for some time and work on the pipework to reconnect the drinking fountains on the Old Course.

So with all this going on, apart from the clearing of fallen branches, twigs and leaves plus a repair to the path leading to the first tee on the Old Course the green-keepers were all extremely pleased that the storm this October did not bring a repeat of the devastation wreaked by its 1987 predecessor!

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