A golf club captain details the day he spent with his head greenkeeper

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 15, 2012 18:15

A golf club captain details the day he spent with his head greenkeeper

I agreed with Neil, our head greenkeeper, to meet early one morning to see for myself how things work for Neil and the greenkeeping staff.

Coincidentally, the day we chose was the day when the greens were to be micro-hollow-tined. I arrived at 6.30am (yes there are two 6.30s in one day) to find the shed locked and no-one to be seen. They were already out on the course!

The first job of a morning is an inspection of the equipment, checks of the hydraulic and cooling levels and general safety checks. The greenkeepers sign for the equipment before it is taken onto the course.

Andy had been despatched to remove the cups from the holes to prevent damage from machinery and to put the flags on the temporary greens. Chris had been given the job of hollow-tining with the Toro ProCore machine. This pulls a core of grass and soil out of the green and leaves it behind the machine.

The cores are then picked up with a ‘core harvester’ which is mounted on our existing Cushman. This ‘bit of kit’ does in minutes what would take four men an hour to do, Neil told me. The cores are then used to fill holes around the roots of trees and will later be grass seeded if necessary. Loose soil and cores were being blown into the path of the harvester by Rob who was newly appointed to the green staff only a few days ago.

After the cores were picked up, the greens were heavily sanded by the assistant head greenkeeper.Wayneexplained to me the complexities of moving equipment around the greens and the need for everyone to be aware of where the equipment is working and the dangers associated with this equipment. Bunkers that pose a hazard to golfers are more of a hazard to the staff as they move heavy equipment around the greens.

By 8.00am the sixth, fifth, fourth, second and the practice putting green had all been cored, blown and sanded.

I played the course three times over the weekend and the greens were as good as I can remember and a class above other courses that I have played recently. I asked why hollow-tine now when they are so good? Neil showed me some cores from the back of the fourth which were full of ‘thatch’ and did smell of rot. Thatch forms for several reasons including lack of natural light. When grass is growing properly, it forms new roots, stems and leaves as the old ones die. As long as new grass is formed at about the same rate as the old dies, there will be no thatch accumulation, but when the grass grows faster than the old material can be destroyed, thatch accumulates and prevents proper drainage. Hollow-tining removes thatch and allows the soil and roots to breath and helps the greens to drain.

At 8.45am there are bloody golfers on the course firing balls into the path of the machines; nuisance from golfers from other clubs on courtesies.

The final part of the operation is to brush the sand into the green and the hollows. This is another job for Andy. A grooming device is attached to a mower and simply pulled around the green until the sand is in the holes and the grass is again visible. The cup is then placed back in the hole, the flag replaced and the hole is back in play.

At 10.00am the machine that pulls the brush groomer overheated, but after a quick top up of the fluid levels the problem is sorted.

Neil told me that in previous years when we had to hire the equipment, this operation was dependant on the weather and cancellations led to poor drainage and flooded greens. Now that we own the kit, we can tine when we want and in the future the greens will be even better. But in the meantime hollow-tining is a “necessary evil”.

A job well done Neil, please congratulate your staff.

Kevin Rourke is the captain of Leeds Golf Club

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 15, 2012 18:15
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