Lockdown Tales – Golf Course Changes

Since the lockdown began on the 23rd March, Greenkeepers have only been allowed to conduct “essential maintenance” on golf courses across the country. These industry guidelines, produced by the R&A and BIGGA were implemented with the goal of keeping Greenkeeping staff safe during the pandemic, and also ensuring that golf courses could be maintained in a minimal way, that would be easy to return to an acceptable condition once the lockdown is lifted.

This guidance gained government approval and ensured that greenkeepers, who are not classed as key workers, could continue to maintain the clubs biggest asset the golf course – even if the lockdown restrictions had been tightened further after the initial 3 week review by the government.

This meant that throughout the lockdown, despite there being no golf we have succeeded in keeping all our main playing surfaces in good condition. To compensate for members of the team who were having to either self-isolate or shield for health reasons, we managed to assemble a crack team, to keep on top of the cutting. Non-essential areas of the course had to be temporarily overlooked, so things like strimming around trees, posts, fences etc has been left – this can all be caught up with easily once the restrictions are lifted and we can get back working with a full team.

Greens, as always have remained a priority, to protect them against stresses, reduce their reliance of inputs such as water, and fertiliser they have been maintained at a higher height of cut, initially 5.5mm this will gradually be reduced as the course reopens, so golfers should not expect green speeds to be quite what they normally are at this time of year initially. We have managed to keep up with our maintenance program, fertilising, wetting agents, PGR’s (plant growth regulators) so all the building blocks are there to return them to their usual good form asap!

Tees and aprons, have not yet received their early season application of fertiliser, this was so as not to create any undue growth, but equally it has not been required as without play, the wear on these areas has been greatly reduced.

Semi Rough, as always at this time of year the rough is growing at a rate of Knotts, we have kept on top of it, but you may notice some accumulations of clippings on the surface, these will soon disappear as regular mowing will aid their dispersal.

Bunkers – arguably the most labour-intensive areas of the golf course, have for the lockdown period been left to their own devices, without any play it simply was not economical to continue maintaining them as normal. Due to the lack of raking, play and sand disturbance, for a time they became quite weedy, however all bunkers have been sprayed off to kill any weeds, and will soon return to normality once we have given them a little bit of TLC.

Overall I am really pleased with how the course has faired through this period, an awful lot of work has taken place to ensure it didn’t fall too far behind, and to all of those involved, particularly those not normally tasked with working out on the course I am eternally grateful. From a distance the course looks great, lush, green, and striped, however scratch the surface and you will no doubt see evidence of our restricted maintenance practices, but once the spring growth flush is over, we will be able to turn our attention to these areas and have the course back to the one we all know and love.

Thanks for your support and patience, I can’t wait to see you all back out on the course again as soon as possible!