Golf Club Green Keepers deserve a ‘hole’ lot more credit
If you have a pride and glory green sward in your front and or back garden, you will know the difficulties of keeping these green with the vagaries of the weather, wet moss inducing winters and burning, sunny summers.
Consider these problems with the added problem of having to maintain the condition with, perhaps, one hundred people walking on it every week pulling compacting effect wheels, stopping only to deliberately take out lumps of the turf with a blunt instrument.
That is the task of the golf course green keeper who, in addition to maintaining the condition of one part of the course, has to consider the condition of another part-contrasting the treatment of the compacting of the pathways to the fine requirements of the greens.
He has to have extensive knowledge of course management and the application of the various grasses depending on the type of soil and other conditions prevailing.
The basic grass is, of course, meadow grass, which has its advantages and disadvantages but is the starting point of most golf clubs from their origin.
One club in Leicestershire – Kibworth Golf Club in South Leicestershire, started out in 1965 as just a number of meadow fields which were purchased by the members who, together with then, little experience, made it into what is today one of the very well kept courses in the area and makes Leicestershire with its natural pasture grass lands a good choice for visitors and Societies.
Kibworth today, now maintained by Head Green keeper Chris, bears no resemblance to the meadow grass fields having over the years had the meadow grass replaced with a number of various grass species Rye grass for fairways and for heavy traffic path ways Ryegrass plus Fescue for tees, Pure Bentgrass for greens and Rye Fescue Grass for ‘rough’ areas. The green keeper still needs the skills to maintain it and dealing with the many diseases and other problems that can destroy a green or fairway in weeks which is a constant battle.
Developments in grass technology have considerable helped and there has been considerable research into disease resistant varieties of grasses which can help to deal with turf grasses diseases such as Sclerotinia dollar spot, snow molds, Helmint hosporium diseases, rusts, powdery mildew, summer patch and necrotic, ring spot, springing dead spot, and other diseases but invariably it comes down to selecting the correct treatments as the situation demands.
Costs are a factor that green keepers have to always bear in mind and they are always thinking of ways to meet the members requirements for a perfect course and dealing with the pressure of the management committee to keep costs down and it is invariably a balancing act. A major cost today is watering but even this has to be carefully controlled as this can cause diseases.
Treating the areas for compacting, which brings about a lack of oxygen in the soil, is also a constant battle and is achieved at times by re-routing players at certain points to relieve the areas as well as treating them. Members may curse at the autumn treatments of greens to achieve aeration but without this they would be of no use the following season.
Chris also has the task of meeting the requirement of the £140,000 development programme to be carried out over the next 10 years to further develop the Kibworth course.
Green keepers are, inevitable, the villains of the piece when, to protect against damage that would take months to reverse, causes them, in these recent wet months, to close the course, which, thankfully, Chris has had to do only a few days this year.
It would be nice if the members could appreciate a little more, the skill and effort that goes into providing them with the area on which they can have hours of enjoyment and realise that when they curse that their putt didn’t go in, that they only had themselves to blame, on a green that after all the labours of a dedicated green keeper, had a surface akin to a billiard table.