January Maintenance

General Maintenance

Maintain regular brushing and switching of the greens and tees to remove moisture, stop the spread of disease and make it easier to get a good quality cut on dry grass.

Depending on grass growth and the standards set by the course manager, you will be mowing once or twice a week. Local conditions, course type, course expectations, sward type and mower type will dictate your mowing heights.

The mowing heights below are a guide and remember not to remove more than 1/3 of the total grass in each cut. Stress the grass as little as you can now to reap benefits later in the year.

Greens: Mow to around 6-8mm
Tees: Mow to around 10-15mm
Banks: Mow to around 22-30mm
Fairways: Mow to around 15-25mm

Mow and tidy up rough and semi-rough grass areas. Reduce clippings build up by cutting little often using a rotary flail. Again, your height of cut will depend on the type of course and standard of play required but in the winter it will likely be between 50 and 100mm.

Continue aerating greens, tees and fairways when conditions allow, using a wide range of solid, hollow, or slit aerators for this hugely important task.

Take a look at your bunkers. Inspect them thoroughly, rake and weed them. Repair any damage done by rabbits or other mammals, maintain sand up the face to prevent erosion and sand loss. If you've been hit by flash floods, then repair work may be needed - continue or undertake this construction work as required.

Similarly, inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage and/or vandalism, which increases during the winter months.

Regularly change your holes, although just how regularly will depend on green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green.

When it is wet, the holes will likely wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning effect and surface wear. If there are thatch problems, this wear will show more clearly. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression formed by golfers' feet. In this case, change the hole position more than three times a week while it is still wet.

Tailor your fertiliser programme to suit the plant's needs. We have recently seen new products on the market which you can apply during the winter to aid recovery and fight off disease.

Most turf grasses are now dormant and growing slowly. However, an option for greenkeepers is to apply some liquid iron to keep the turf healthy and strong. USGA greens will need some top-up feeding during the winter months to maintain nutrient status of the green.

Agronomy

Your greens will be sodden, if not saturated and the grass roots badly need some air. When it is dry enough, try to aerate - the holes will close up and this work can make a huge difference to the plant's recovery.

As temperatures are unusually high, use some slow release low nitrogen feed to nourish the sward. An iron (ferrous sulphate) feed would also be recommended.

In order to keep the golf course open during the winter, especially on heavy soil course, aeration is the key. Continue with a varied plan as described above using your full range of tines - hollow, solid and slit tines.

Use solid or slit aerators on the greens, aerate tees throughout the winter when possible and aerate fairways with solid tines when you can - the deeper rooting of grasses you can achieve on the fairways, the better for the long term.

Weeds, pests & diseases

You could still be hit by diseases in January, especially when the weather is mild. Keep the sward brushed, particularly in the mornings as by knocking off the dew you are removing surface water and allowing it to dry out, preventing disease attacks. Use switching canes and brushes.

You can control disease using systematic curative and protective fungicides. There are a number of products on the market with active ingredients Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, usually applied in liquid form with water as the carrier.

Remember - all perssonel need to be suitably qualified in chemical application.

Worm activity can be common at this time and especially when it is mild. Keep an eye on the square and treat accordingly. You can carry out worm treatments but if worms are present, try to work out why that is - pH levels, organic matter and your cultural practises may need assessment. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient for worm control.

If you have issues with rabbits, foxes and moles you need to identify the problem and control their activities and if need be, call in the services of approved pest control teams.

Fungal disease outbreaks can occur due to the combination of dew in the mornings, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours. These attacks can strike against weak or susceptible plants, disease-producing pathogens and when weather conditions favour the formation of fruiting bodies and spores (moist, mild and wet).

Typical diseases that can strike at this time of year are Fusarium Patch, Red Thread and Dollar Spot

Machinery

You ought to have almost got to the end of servicing, repairing and overhauling your mowing equipment. It is now a key requirement to sharpen your reels and replace your bottom blades, so it is vital that all such replacement parts are in stock and readily available.

The new year is a good opportunity to have an early spring clean, thoroughly cleaning up mess rooms, toilets and garages. This is also good Health & Safety practice.

January can also be the time to reflect on the work achieved and what your plans are for the year ahead. Golf clubs will often have their budgets set in January, so prioritise your spending!

 
 
Dennis Mowers