On the Green: Spring

Our course manager considers a perennial members’ complaint:

8th Old Course‘Why have our greens become so bumpy all of a sudden?’ It is the regular whinge from our man in the spike bar, and usually aired in Spring just as the golf season is getting underway. This year, with climatic conditions being such that the ground remained colder for far longer than usual, the question is still being asked even as we enter June.

The answer is simple. When the grass starts to grow again in the Spring, different grasses grow at different rates. Some start growing at slightly lower temperatures than others. Some species have deeper roots than others so when they are in soil that has not warmed they do not start to grow until warmth gets down to the requisite depth. And clay soil takes a lot longer to warm up than sandy soil.

The greens on the Old Course at Royal Ashdown are predominately a mixture of agrostis, fescue and poa grass. Poa being the weed species that no one wants but a lot of courses end up with! It is poa that produces all those little seed heads in the Spring which also causes unevenness.

Having not paid much attention to the grass mixtures our man in the bar then fires in his supplementary, ‘Then why don’t you just mow the grass more often and make the greens quicker?’ And the answer to that is that mowing can do the trick but it does not last very long. And if it is done too often and too much leaf is removed the plant can no longer produce enough food to live.

Mowing at a height of 3 mm for any length of time measured in days rather than weeks creates excessive stress and the grass dies. The best way to increase green speed is to increase the height of cut to encourage the finer species of grasses and to regularly roll the greens.

It is costly in terms of man-hours and equipment but it gets the most pleasing result as well as getting rid of those early season bumps. If not the annual complaints!