Bearwood Lakes removes ryegrass from its rough

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 24, 2011 11:03

The course manager of Bearwood Lakes Golf Club, Daniel Lightfoot MG, has timed his selective herbicide treatments, targeting ryegrass and Yorkshire fog, to coincide with the natural fescues’ autumn senescence. The result is minimal visual impact on the course now, and it is likely that whispy fescue grasses will grow back without the dense coarse grasses that make playing conditions difficult, by next spring.

Daniel reported the real testament is that after last season’s initial applications players have stopped raising issues about the dense rough. “The best endorsement I’ve had is the members’ overwhelming ‘silence’. When I first came here I constantly had adverse comments about the rough, and how difficult it was to play. Since we’ve been using Rescue and better practices to manage the rough more effectively we’ve seen a great improvement that’s been welcomed by the players.

“In all honesty the members probably don’t know the difference between ryegrass and fescue, but they do know when they’re losing balls and don’t get a decent lie,” he said. “I like to think that it’s all gone quiet because they are satisfied. Before, they certainly used to let me know if they weren’t.”

The course fairways and semi-rough are all a mixture of ryegrass, fescue and poa annua. What he wanted was to avoid the ryegrass intruding into the fescue deep rough, along with and other coarse weed grasses, primarily Yorkshire fog. It is the pale, gently blowing fescue grasses of the rough that dictate the undulating landscape and the integral design of Bearwood Lakes.

“We started looking at the potential of selective herbicides for the control of competitive coarse grasses to help the establishment of wildflowers in rough, as part of the pioneering Operation Pollinator research,” said Daniel. “It was quickly apparent that there was real potential to manage all the rough grass areas more effectively, to remove the aggressive ryegrass and coarse grasses that were muscling out the desirable finer fescue species.”

Now, since integrating Syngenta’s Rescue into the annual maintenance management plan, he reckoned the club has turned the corner. All the rough, except the one close to the clubhouse, has now been sprayed at least once and the incidence of weed grasses has reduced significantly. The second hole has had a further application, and here the fescue ‘waves’ in almost total dominance. It’s acknowledged that even here he will have to keep on top of it and will spray annually to keep any re-establishment of ryegrass in check.

Where there were signs of a little regeneration of ryegrass, he reported it’s decidedly weaker than before and this weakening will continue with further treatments. Even the large expanse of rough directly outside the clubhouse is set to be sprayed this autumn, with Daniel now confident that the visual impact will be minimal and that he has the full support of the club’s members and its management in the strategy.

He added that the club will continue to cut and collect all the vegetative material from the rough – a practice that keeps fertility low and encourages fescue grasses. But as the rough gets thinner with less ryegrass content, it’s a faster and less costly exercise, with less material to remove and compost.

After a couple of years of blanket spraying, Daniel believes sufficient control will have been achieved to enable further treatments to be limited to spot treatment or patch spraying of rogue intrusions.

Carl Rutherford, the club’s managing director, added: “Keeping our members 100 per cent satisfied and making sure our course is both picturesque and competitive is a difficult balance, but one we always try to achieve,” he said. “Daniel and his greens’ department consistently do a wonderful job. What they are doing with the rough is proving a real plus.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 24, 2011 11:03
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