Brian Clark of Close House Hotel and Golf Club continues his Greenkeeper's Diary column aimed at keeping Golf North East reader up-to-date with greenkeeping goings-on.
WOULD anybody like to guess the weekly man hours that are spent cutting the grass on a golf course during the summer season? There are a number of factors why this time varies from course to course, for example the number of greenkeepers, the size of the course and the growth of the grass. During the summer season for a course such as ours, 240 hours can be spent a week purely on cutting the grass.
There are several specific areas that are mowed on a weekly basis, the most important is obviously the greens.
Every golfer measures a course by how good the greens are and this is why I like to start at the greens and ensure they are good before looking at the rest of the course.
Greens are always cut first thing every morning, ours are currently being cut at 4mm height which is producing a speed of 8ft on the stimpmeter.
The stimpmeter is tool used to measure the speed of a green, whilst many courses may have faster greens than ours, due to the slopes and healthiness of the green I feel this is a good speed for general play.
There are several methods to speed greens up including double or triple cutting, or for example grooming, rolling and verti-cutting. The techniques used will depend on the healthiness of the green, the speed which you are trying to achieve and of course the quality of the greens.
Rolling is a good technique as it saves having to cut as often, however if greens are rolled too often this can lead to compaction of the green and therefore drainage and thatch problems.
Tournaments like the Masters and US Open can produce greens running as quickly as 14 on the stimpmeter.
Whilst this would be fantastic to putt on, it would be difficult to maintain the healthiness of the green to keep them at this speed. For the majority of golfers it would be too fast for them to enjoy the course.
The other areas that are concentrated on are the semi, which includes green surrounds and the area in-between the rough and the fairway and this is cut at least twice a week. The fairways are cut twice a week as well as the rough, and tee boxes cut 3 times a week.
Each are of cutting has a dedicated machine for that purpose, so a typical golf course might have a greens mower, tees mower, semi-mower, fairways mower and a rough cutter. This why so many greenkeepers are required to maintain a golf course in pristine condition.
Machines tend to have a life span of 3-5 years, due to the hours spent cutting and can also cause problems in machine repairs. This is why so many courses employ their own mechanic, as it is cheaper than sending machines to be repaired, but also you can have the machine working again a lot quicker.
Whilst there are many different brands of machinery on the market, it is imperative that the machinery is reliable and you receive good backup from the machinery supplier to ensure the machines are always working during peak periods.
Like us many clubs use John Deere machinery, as it is world renowned as being one of the market leaders in mowing machinery and provide a good backup service. Due to the high expense of purchasing machinery many clubs can't afford backup machines therefore it is even more important that the machine is reliable. The quality of the machine can also reduce the time spent cutting if it is faster and also provides a cleaner cut.
This is one of the most important parts of any greenkeeping team but it is worth noting that whilst this much time is spent cutting, there are several other jobs that need doing on a weekly basis. Prioritising the time on each job is an important part of a Course Manager's role.