Glenn Gibson-Smith, Golf Course Superintendent at The Glades Golf Club speaks about managing the Bentgrass greens at the club during low rainfall and high temps:

The 2019/2020 season has been a very challenging one for most around Queensland due to the extremely unique weather patterns. This has seen The Glades Golf Club receive 827mm of annual rainfall which is a staggering 771mm below the courses average yearly rainfall.

This in turn has made the Golf Course Maintenance’s teams jobs as turf managers a little more interesting as a dry spell such as this really highlights any issues we have within our irrigation system and the inconsistency of the 20+ year old system.

 

With Bentgrass, its extremely important to manage moisture and know exactly the water quality (what’s in the water – salt/bicarbonates etc.) you are applying to your turf grass. This is even more important within the hostile environment that is the Gold Coast, Queensland as the humidity is extreme and it plays a huge factor in our day to day maintenance of the A1/A4 Bentgrass greens.

There are a few different tools/techniques that the team use to help use maintain the greens:

  1. POGO moisture meter– this tool is a GAME CHANGER!

It allows the team to manage moisture levels to the desired percentage level which in this climate is absolutely vital, it also allows the team to see what is happening below the surface (salinity idex etc.). This allows management of the irrigation cycles which helps them achieve consistent turf throughout the entire turf surface. This is a tool that the team believes is simply needed for this climate and its ever changing weather conditions.

  1. Hand watering– watering by hand, helps to maintain consistent moisture levels throughout greens, this technique will create a much more consistent playing surface for members and guests. The goal percentage on the POGO at this time of year is 20% in the cooler months (winter/autumn) this percentage drops to around 10-15%.
  2. Afternoon shifts– The Glades have introduced an afternoon shift (7am-3:30pm) to their roster – this is for one senior member of staff once every three weeks. This member of staff is responsible for the greens that week, which means that they are on moisture control all 7 days of that week.
  3. Deep and infrequent watering– once a week for 5-7mm of irrigation, this is usually at the start of the working week and gets the moisture back up to the desired level and helps set up the next week for the team member that is on moisture control. Before this deep water the percentage in the A1/A4 bentgrass can drop down to around 10% and the grass will start to wilt when this happens, they know it’s time for the deep watering practice.
  4. Light/frequent topdressing– every two weeks they apply 4tonne/ha of usga sand.
  5. VertiDraining – 8mm solid tines = 1x month. 6mm hollow tines (phantom) = 1x every 2 months.
  6. Fertilising – (little and often) The nutritional program is extremely important as the annual actual nitrogen applied is 55kg/ha, which in Queensland terms is somewhat low. This just allows them to control certain pressures such as disease, OM levels & wintergrass (poa annua) germination. The nutritional program is based around growing degree days, growth potential days & clip mass readings. The fertilisers consist of a lot kelps, amino acids and micro nutrients. Most of the applications are foliar but they also have a soil drench every 2 weeks which they time around our deep watering practices. This allows us to “flush” the profile of any unwanted salts which helps the plant uptake the nutrients that are being applyed.
  7. Fungicide applications – The fungicide program at The Glades is without a doubt the most important part of the overall agronomy program as time between applications changes a considerable amount throughout the year, listed below is our program for months December and January:

December:

Week 1: Evolution @3L/ha + Banol @6.5L/ha – water application rate – 600L/ha + 4mm of irrigation

Week 3:  Signature @12.5kg/ha + Daconil @20L/ha – water application rate – 360L/ha – leave it on leaf

Week 5: Banol @6.5L/ha – water application rate – 600L/ha + 4mm of irrigation

January:

Week 2: Signature @12.5kg/ha + Daconil @20L/ha – water application rate – 360L/ha – leave it on leaf

Week 4: Banol @6.5L/ha – water application rate – 600L/ha + 4mm of irrigation

The main concern at this time of year is “Pythium” and with the extreme humidity of SEQ. The window of protection closes to around the 13-16 day mark in the heat of summer hence the reason for these application so close together. Throughout the winter months, they will spray for “Pythium” once every 8 weeks – this is simply because of the weather conditions.

  1. Wetting agent application–  the soil drench is every (14-16 days), listed below are the wetting agents we use at certain times of the year:

Tricure @11L/ha – December – March

Tricure @7L/ha + Terrafirm @3L/ha – April

Tricure @5L/ha + Terrafirm @5Lha – May – June

Tricure @3L/ha + Terrafirm @7L – July – August

Tricure @5L/ha + Terrafirm @5L – September – October

Tricure @7L/ha + Terrafirm @3L/ha – November

  1. Maintenance practices –During the heat of summer, the HOC is raised to 3.5mm, this is lowered to 2.75mm in the cooler months. However, as the team are managing the growth with the tools / programs as stated above (GDD, GPD) they can take the pressure off the turf and interchange a mow for a roll throughout the working week and still get the desired speed.