MCMILLAN-SHIELS ASSOCIATES

           LEE ON THE SOLENT
               GOLF CLUB
                                Agronomist’s Report

                                                March 15th 2012

21 York Road, Woking, Surrey GU22 7XH. Tel: 01483 726997, 07774 986331. E-mail gshiels@btinternet.com
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.



1.1 At several courses this week I have met golfers who expected summer playing conditions
because the sun was shining by midday. Whilst I can’t deny the presence of the sun I can confirm
that Courses are still coming out of winter and there is virtually no growth in any area.

At 8.00am I checked ground temperatures on the 18th and 4th greens. On the 18th it was 5.3oC and on
the more shaded 4th it was 4.9oC. By midday the ground would warm up a little but at night it would
again fall to low single figures and it is this that delays the onset of growth. We need early morning
ground temperatures close to 10oC before we shall see clear signs of growth in all areas.

Some grasses are showing signs of growth, mainly the bentgrasses that Matt has been adding to the
greens but while we have a lot of meadow grass in the greens we have to be patient, it is the
meadow grass that really needs warmer conditions before it comes into growth. The difference
between these two grasses is what often causes bumpy greens in spring as temperatures begin to

Around the greens I noted the new bunkers, they make a great improvement to course presentation
and as the others are renovated over the next 2-3 seasons I’m sure they will be much appreciated by
members and visitors. It’s a big expense for any club to take on but the results so far are very

On all areas I found grass cover to be good for the end of winter, there were signs of wear that
testify to a busy winter of golf but in most areas an early feed and a pass with the aerator will
stimulate recovery.

2.0       GREENS: - General Assessment.

         The greens have good colour though some, for example the 9th, were a little paler due to the
          local conditions. On balance, uniformity is improving.

         There was a little evidence of the dark/purplish patches that indicate cold temperatures.
          This was much less noticeable than last year and suggests that conditions are better this
          time, with warmer weather being very welcome to encourage earlier growth.

         Grass cover was very uniform and there were virtually no blemishes from disease. There was
          no sign of active Fusarium and only one or two small scars.

         There were some signs of yellowing in the meadow grass, some of this may simply be due to
          cold conditions but some is probably due to Anthracnose.

         Bentgrass continues to be very obvious on most greens, less on the 9th because of local
          conditions but it is beginning to appear more strongly on the 4th which has tended to remain
          as pure meadow grass in past years. Tree removal and better light will help the bentgrass to
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.

         Pearlwort and Yorkshire Fog were mentioned last year and they continue to be present on
          several greens. We discussed their control and if there is available labour we should try to
          remove both of these weeds to improve uniformity of the putting surfaces.

         Surfaces were generally firm but we know that we have too much organic matter in the
          surfaces and as we get more sand inside this organic layer we shall see improvements in
          firmness and speed.

         I noted a few small patches of moss on some surfaces, nothing major at this stage. Hopefully
          it can be worn out by traffic but a little iron would help to remove it.

         Below the surface we continue to have organic material to deal with. I haven’t tested the
          greens again but include the chart from last year as a reminder.


            DEPTH               Green 16            Green 17       TARGET %

            0-20mm              11.8                9.4            5-7

            20-40mm             5.6                 6.4            <4

            40-60mm             3.6                 5.6            <4

            60-80mm             2.5                 4.0            <3

         We need to aim to reduce organic levels below the figures in the right hand column if we are
          to produce firmer, faster surfaces that cope better with year round play.

         In some greens we have very good colours, browns and reds that indicate good drainage and
          aeration but a few still have the symptoms of restricted drainage due to soil type and
          organic matter content.

         I found signs of new white roots in several greens and overall rooting depth was 10-15cm
          which for March is good.


Thatch management.

         This is still the main issue to deal with because it has a negative effect on the quality of the
          putting surfaces and also because it costs money to develop as well as to remove. Once it is
          under control the greens will be firmer, will dry faster and will suffer less disease. They will
          also be better throughout the year.

         Last year we discussed the method of removal and because we have a lot of thatch on the
          surface and slightly less at greater depths we need two operations during 2012. Matt
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.

         already plans to hollow tine in 2-3 weeks and nearer the end of the year he will scarify the
         greens. This isn’t as much as we should be doing but it’s a good start.

        Scarification is the most effective method to remove thatch in the top 2cm and hollow tining
         will remove thatch at deeper levels. This is essential work and I’m very pleased that it has
         been included.

        In addition to the above we must continue to get air into the thatch to encourage its decay
         and we need also to incorporate sand into the thatch layer to dilute it and keep it open to
         improve drainage and decay. This means frequent aeration and topdressing.

        Not being able to topdress frequently contributes to the formation of a denser thatch and
         this is one area we can improve on during 2012 though as always it requires staff time and a
         gap in play to do the work. I would suggest that it is in the interests of the greens to find a
         way to apply more light topdressings of sand after aeration even if only a few greens can be
         treated at any one time.

        The other additional work that would be welcome on the greens would be to use micro
         hollow tines whenever possible. The holes don’t cause annoyance with golfers but would
         help us to make better progress on wetter areas. It would also be possible to work on half
         greens so that the flag remains on undisturbed grass. After recovery core the other half.

        Low areas, eg on the 5th and 9th, which are known to be wetter would definitely benefit from
         extra hollow tine aeration, either micro or 12mm tines being used. If only half greens are
         treated, say 2-3 at a time, we might be able to achieve more this year.

        Timing is more controversial because golfers tend not to like disruption when they are due
         to play. I would generally prefer this to be during the growing season so that recovery is
         reasonably quick but it can be scheduled for quieter times or the work can be undertaken in
         several stages, eg a few greens at a time.

        Whenever scarification or aeration is carried out use the opportunity to work sand into the
         grooves or holes as this will immediately firm and dry the playing surfaces.

Surface smoothness in spring.

As the weather improves grasses will grow at different rates and may cause unevenness again this
spring. The best that we can do to improve levels quickly is as follows: -

        Lightly verticut to trim straggly bentgrasses and lift leaves into the mower blades
        I would then lower the cutting height by 0.5-1.0mm from the present height of cut of 6mm
         as this will reduce the difference between the dormant meadow grass and active bent.
        The first topdressing should then be applied. It depends on labour of course but I would
         prefer to see two lighter dressings rather than one.
        To reduce uneven growth we usually try to encourage the dormant grasses to grow a little
         earlier than they would normally. This has already been done; Matt applied the feed during
         a recent mild spell.
        I would begin rolling to settle any remaining unevenness, but don’t roll if the surface is wet.
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.


The routine work progresses quite well and the biggest issue this year is being able to aerate and
topdress sufficiently often to prevent further thatch build up and to remove/dilute what is already



        As a target level, greens in this region use around 80kg/Ha per year. This is a good starting
         point for planning but the figure is not cast in stone and may have to be altered according to
         the weather or to traffic levels. There will also be a need to target applications to encourage
         recovery after hollow tine aeration and/or scarification planned for later in the year.

        Ideally manage the greens with less nitrogen if quality and condition remain acceptable. The
         less we apply the less thatch we risk forming ad the more we can encourage bentgrass, but
         do this without severely stressing the Poa. If it starts to yellow we know that we have gone
         too far.


        I haven’t seen the soil test results yet and we can amend this when they are available but we
         usually need to apply a low rate to maintain root growth and plant density, this would be up
         to 30kg/Ha for sand greens but should be about half to two thirds of this rate for soil. If
         levels in the soil remain adequate then we can ignore this nutrient.


        Potassium levels should be balanced against nitrogen, roughly 1N:1-1.5K as a ratio over the
         year. They should also be kept in balance with magnesium, roughly 2:1 K:Mg.
        Whatever nitrogen is applied aim to balance it at all times with potassium to avoid soft, lush
         growth that wears quickly and which is easily attacked by disease.

For the other nutrients we need to see the test results rather than risk causing a deficiency or excess
of any nutrients. We can however be sure that with sand topdressings we need to apply trace
elements and seaweed to stimulate root development and soil micro-organisms.

If the greens appear stressed at any time we can use tonics such as Blade or Aminosorb, both work
well and are very useful for specific purposes but we should not need them routinely.


        This is one of the few products that have consistently given good results.
        The greens are not yet ready for Primo, they need some time to improve uniformity and for
         the few scars to heal. We should also wait until we have good growing conditions because
         applying Primo to stressed grass can cause discolouration. Wait until ground temperatures
         rise to around 10oC. When the Club is happy with the greens and they are of a quality that
         you’d like to retain for the whole summer then it is time to spray.
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.

          Experience to date suggests the best results come from using half rate applications every
           two weeks with liquid nitrogen added to reduce the risk of loss of colour. If the greens are
           stressed in any way don’t apply Primo.
          I would use Primo to improve density and colour of the greens as well as rooting but also to
           improve consistency of green speed.
          Primo should allow the cutting height to be kept a little higher and this can have great
           benefits for plant health, and also for reduced water use.
          Note that Primo can also help to manage growth and improve rooting around the edges of
           the new bunkers.


          Rollers can be safely used 2-3 times per week. More than this for a prolonged period of time
           risks causing damage to the turf.
          Use the roller to reduce pressure to cut the greens shorter. The extra leaf will help to
           maintain better root growth and plant strength.
          For tournament preparation you can use the roller daily for a week or so but then rest the
           greens and aerate to overcome surface smearing.
          As a routine use the Sarel Roller or star tines weekly to maintain an air supply into the thatch
           layer and avoid any risk of surface smearing.


          Height of cut to remain at no less than 4mm as long as we have members support but for
           special events the cut can be lowered temporarily if you need to generate extra speed and if
           growing conditions are very good.
          Try to brush before cutting or verticut lightly if the bentgrass is being missed and begins to
           look straggly.


          An early verticut is needed to refine the long bentgrass leaves but otherwise can be
           damaging if done too often to bents.
          If verticutting is needed regularly to improve surface levels do it gently.

Wetting Agent.

          Begin this as soon as possible as it is more effective if applied when the rootzone is moist,
           we get much deeper penetration and the wetter can be used to draw water away from the
           surface. This can help root depth which should ease pressure on irrigation supplies.
          If we do have a prolonged dry period the use of a wetter can help to make better use of
           available water supplies by getting t into the rootzone more quickly.


          Overseeding should continue as last year.
          Use the hollow tine holes and scarification lines to get seed below the thatch layer where
           germination is much more likely to succeed.
          With bentgrass 3-4g/m2 is a good overseeding rate.
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.


        An area where we need to improve if the greens are to continue to get firmer and faster and
         if we are to continue improving bentgrass levels.
        Frequent light topdressings are needed to dilute thatch as it forms and avoid any risk of
         going backwards and developing wet surfaces.
        This means trying to topdress more often than once per month but I appreciate the pressure
         on staff time. If we don’t apply dressings we risk dense thatch persisting, but frequent
         topdressing is one way to keep it open and more likely to decompose.
        A good target is to apply 1 tonne per growing month to each green but to do this over 2-3
         light dressings. With a spinner topdressing should be a quick operation if you can find a gap
         in play.
        It is sometimes better for golfers if the dressings can be applied in the late afternoon or at a
         fairly quiet time in the week. The dressings are an essential part of the work and we should
         try to find a solution to inadequate dressings over the year.
        Low or wetter areas on greens, such as the middle of the 5th or the 9th, should be hollow
         tined more often than dry areas of greens and should receive extra dressings to improve
         firmness and dryness. Any extra sand on low areas will be of benefit but I appreciate that it
         is difficult to include extra work on individual greens without lots of spare staff hours.


        Frequent shallow aeration to keep the thatch layer healthy and open supplemented by less
         frequent but deeper aeration for drainage and to get water and air to the roots. This would
        Weekly Sarel Rolling to keep surfaces open.
        Monthly pencil tining.
        Deep Vertidraining once or twice per year.
        Any additional micro or hollow tining would be welcome especially o the low/wetter parts of
        Given that it requires more time when aerating the greens we should run the machine into
         the approaches and treat the nearest 10m or so in the same way as the greens to improve
         grass quality and playing conditions.


        The Course in general was well-grassed and has come through winter very well.
        None of us yet know what the season will throw at us, if it is to be dry the best defence is
         aeration to encourage deeper roots that will seek water and also a slightly higher cut that
         also encourages deeper rooting.
        We can prepare grass for dry weather by aerating and avoiding heavy irrigation. Getting
         grass accustomed to drier conditions will prepare it for dry weather and improve its chances
         of survival. This also means that we should never irrigate to make receptive greens that
         reward bad golf. Golf surfaces should be firm and this will encourage better grasses and
         better playing conditions.

     There was some moss on fairways but treatment has already begun and they were being
        scarified during my visit.
Lee on the Solent GC. Agronomist’s Report March 2012.

        Applying a slow release feed to these areas should encourage recovery of the greens and
         hopefully prevent too much of the moss returning.
        This is probably also the last opportunity before we hit dry weather to deep aerate any
         compact areas, on the 14th carry for example.

     Tees had held good cover and whilst there are parts that need to be improved, eg the edge
       of the 18th tee the playing surfaces were quite acceptable for the end of winter and now
       need aeration and slow release feeding to encourage growth and better density.

     We discussed this in relation to a few areas because it generates a heathland feel to a
       course. It is an asset on the course but has to be managed by regular pruning, ie about once
       every 10 years for each plant. Rather than pruning all plants in an area at the same time, to
       leave a bare site, we can maintain course presentation to a better standard if we only prune
       about 10% of the plants in any given area each year. Once they become tall and leggy they
       tend to look unsightly and do not respond well to pruning. Regular pruning maintains colour
       and controls height and density as well as avoiding bare, ugly, stems.
     To the left of the 14th 10% of the plants should be cut back to 30cm above the ground.
     To the right of the 15th carry the gorse within the heather should be cleared to encourage
       the heather. Next winter use Kerb to remove some of the grass as this increases fertility and
       kills heather.

     The new bunkers are a big improvement and as discussed with Matt we need to ensure that
       we don’t overstress the new turf. It should be allowed to grow longer than usual to
       encourage deeper rooting but also to tolerate traffic.
     The entrance to the bunker can be cut shorter to allow balls to roll in but if acceptable to
       members allow longer grass around the bunker to reduce wear and loss of grass cover.
     If we hit a dry spell the turf liner can dry and curl up so checking sand depths every week to
       ensure that the turf is protected should become routine along with moving sand to maintain
       a uniform depth.

     Matt mentioned that this was to be fed to improve height. Whilst I can understand the
       reasons why I’d suggest a very low rate feed because if we have a wet season the rough will
       improve in terms of height as well as density. A very wet period can quickly make the rough
       too wet.
     Deep aeration of the rough to reduce compaction should improve growth rate and this
       should be included in October and again, now, in spring.

Let me know if anything else is needed or if you need clarification of any points.
George R Shiels

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