Developing firm, dry and healthy surfaces on greens, tees and fairways is the primary objective of successful turf management programmes; a commitment which is best communicated through a ‘Course Policy Document’. Since every golf course is different, turf management cannot be a prescriptive discipline. There are, however, several key principles which, if adopted and applied, will provide healthy growing conditions, excellent playing quality and greater ability to manage cost. These include:
- managing water effectively to promote healthy turf. Rapid movement of water from surfaces, through various forms of drainage and aeration, is essential, as is the ability to apply just enough water to keep turf healthy in dry weather
- keeping organic matter (thatch) production down to a minimum. Too much water and fertiliser produces excessive organic matter, leading to soft, wet turf which can also dry out rapidly, resulting in undesirably hard surfaces and uncontrollable bounce. Mechanical removal of organic material, combined with dilution through applications of top dressing, can help to manage this problem. Such practices will induce stress and disrupt play if required too often or implemented under inappropriate growth and weather conditions
- ensuring that all closely mown turf, particularly greens and tees, has good access to plenty of sunlight and air movement
- maintaining turf species that are best suited to your particular climate, soil type and water availability. Native grasses will be less prone to climatic stress and disease or pest pressures than imported ones
- implementing the right mowing height and other maintenance practices to favour your grasses of choice
- growing the least amount of grass to produce a playing surface. Golf is about the quality of turfgrass, not quantity. Ideally, water and fertiliser would only be applied to achieve optimum playing conditions, never to create lush, green turf for purely aesthetic purposes.
Unhealthy turfgrass will be wholly reliant on water, fertiliser and pesticides. Aside from the economics of trying to manage in this manner, there is a strong environmental and social case for working to keep your golf course in good health throughout the year. Keeping records of turf management practices, such as water, fertiliser and pesticide use is necessary to monitor impacts on turf health, playing performance, the environment and costs.
Excessive organic matter accumulation reduces surface drainage and root development, resulting in unhealthy turf and poor playing performance.
Intensive management techniques will be required to address excessive organic matter accumulation, incurring greater expense while also disrupting play.
Aeration is a key element of any good management programme, since healthy soil should contain 50% air space.
Maintenance programmes need to be planned to achieve their objectives with minimal disruption to play.
Heavily shaded environments cannot support healthy turf, therefore other solutions may be required.