Monday, July 14, 2014

Firmness: An update

This year we have made a consensus effort to monitor firmness on the golf course.  A golf course that is either too firm or too soft has its own set of problems.  Soft conditions promote weak rooted plants, numerous ball marks, bumpy greens and Poa annua invasion. Too firm of conditions make stopping a ball impossible and can take away from the enjoyment of the game.  

Our goal has been to promote healthy turf that is firm but not so firm that balls fly off the back of greens.  So far in 2014 mother nature has prevented us from getting the golf course too firm.  Being half way through the golf season it is still  good to look back at what has gone right and what things we need to improve upon.  

So far the putting surfaces have been in really good condition despite the heavy rains.  Although soft, greens have remained smooth and a reasonable speed.  Root structure and depth is still very good throughout.  

The biggest issue we have had this season is getting approaches to firm up so balls that are hit short run onto the putting surface.  Greens and approaches do not dry down the same simply due to the fact that greens at Ridgeway tilt severely from back to front.  After rain events water surface drains into the approaches making them wetter than greens.  Because of this they hold more water than our putting surfaces.  So far we have had inconsistency from approach to green due to this drainage fact.   

So what can we do to have approach firmness mirror that of the greens?

  1. Install smile drains.  Smile drains are sections of drain tile that would be installed at the low areas of the green/collar catching water as it leaves the putting surface.  Because it follows the green edge it often looks like a smiley face.  Smile drains offer a host of great benefits to both the green and approach.  Also depending on how they are done they can sometimes be utilized to get water off of greens in winter months. By adding smile drains we would cut down the amount of water that gets to our approaches thus firming them up.
  2. Sand, sand and more sand.  We have been topdressing our approaches however we have anywhere from ¾”-1 ¼” of sand in our approach profile, whereas greens have almost 4” of sand near its surface. By adding sand to approaches they will react more like a green.
  3. Aeration and verticutting.  This will remove thatch which acts as a sponge and stops balls from bouncing.
  4. Rolling.  Due to the wet conditions we have done very little approach rolling which would firm up the surface.
  5. Monitor using moisture meters and firmness meters. We have purchased and will be receiving these devices which will allow us to check daily both the water moisture levels and firmness levels.  Using bluetooth technology we can log our information so we can best use the data to benefit the golfer and turf health.

So far member feedback this season has been very positive however we still need to look to improve so we can provide a better product day in and day out. Our goal is to make fairways and approaches firmer than greens.  So far this season that has not occurred.  By following the 5 steps laid out we can make playability more consistent and make the game more enjoyable.