Apart from weather patterns that nowadays often mean the seasons seemingly merge into one another, one of the biggest challenges facing Course Manager Justin Robinson is coping with the large temperature differences that he sees at different holes on the Henley-on-Thames Golf Club.
“It’s not unusual to record 6degC variations, on the same day, at different tees and greens due to the topography of the course”, he says. “But after 24 years here and knowing how to vary the treatment of the different greens and tees so that we ‘work with the weather’ – plus help from some world-class amenity supplies – we get things right, despite the vagaries of mother nature.”
Justin ‘gets it right’ by inspecting the course every day, deciding exactly what is needed and when by every green and tee. He also works hand-in-hand with Rigby Taylor’s area sales director, Gareth Acteson, to instigate a best-in-class nutrition (spring) and fungicide (autumn) programme of turf care.
“I’ve been utilising Gareth’s knowledge for the past six years or so and the course has definitely benefitted. Based on our twice-yearly soil analyses, we plan a treatment programme and I use a range of Rigby Taylor products to give me what I want and when I need it.” He also insists: “I always buy everything I use on a cost versus benefits basis.”
Justin admits that club members ‘play with their eyes’ so first and foremost he ensures the greens look lush and his choice of amenity supplies reflects this quest for top-class presentation.
He continues: “Our agronomist is this year suggesting we incorporate more bent (Rigby Taylor’s 105 browntop bent) grass species on the greens and while this plan will take at least two/three years before we see the full effect, in an attempt to stress the poa annua we have this year applied only one granular and one liquid feed between April and July.
“We’re trying to get the finer grasses on the tees and aprons; often in areas where they wouldn’t normally survive. It is difficult to get dwarf perennial rye to ‘take’ on the tees; the grass is simply not large enough to take that level of play.
Also in an attempt to improve the push-up greens (and the tees and aprons), after the members had spent all year round, due to a mild winter, playing the traditional summer course, Justin implemented a concerted programme of coring, tining and overseeding (with Rigby Taylor’s R105 treated with Germin-8, a unique treatment that stimulates and supports accelerated germination and emergence) plus liberal doses of sand – he often distributes about 100 tonnes throughout the course – “and the course very quickly recovered”.
Justin, plus six full time greenkeepers as well as part-time help from July through to September, keep the greens at 3.5 mm or occasionally down to 3 mm for competitions (and roll them three times a week), while the tees and aprons at maintained at 8 mm (10 mm in winter) and fairways at 15 mm (18 mm in winter) in the quest to consistently produce “true and pure greens” across the 18-hole course.
While Justin says he “loves producing a good golf course for the members”, he points out that course presentability plays a key role in meeting members’ aspirations. This is where Rigby Taylor has been a great help, he says.
“For example, we were having a lot of problems with daisies – being on chalk we always struggle to control these – and Gareth suggested I try the Crossbar selective herbicide. I was blown away by the results!
In addition to the Propel R wetting agent (applied in monthly liquid applications as well as tablet hose-end spot treatments), SeaQuest 100% concentrated seaweed extract is applied for added stress tolerance.
Activate XL biostimulant is also used to assist in the breakdown of organic thatch matter and increased microbial break down; indeed, both biostimulants are used all year round, especially at renovation time to help the establishment of new seed.
Justin also uses a variety of Rigby Taylor fertilisers which, he confirms, “are second to none, including Apex and especially PolyPro which I use on tees, surrounds and fairways”. The micro-granule PolyPro, for consistent, predictable and gradual release, features added calcium and magnesium for improved turf disease tolerance.
“At the end of the day,” Justin adds, “our players want the course to look good and play well. My job is to ensure that is the case, and I will utilise all my experience – and use any products necessary – to give the players exactly what they want.”
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