In 1997 three greens of the 18-hole clay based course at Pannal Golf Club were rebuilt to USGA specifications of 80% sand and 20% soil.
“These were the wettest greens on the course,” recalls Head Greenkeeper Kevin Wroe. “We put in full drainage systems underneath plus gravel 10 mm in diameter, followed by a binding layer of grit 3-4 mm in diameter and a sand based root zone to a depth of 225 mm on top. At the end of October we re-laid the greens with their original turf.”
Despite hollow tining, top dressing and overseeding in spring and autumn Kevin noted poor root growth during the following season.
“We opened the new greens in May ’98 but by the beginning of ’99 they were still struggling. There was not the quality or density of sward or the root growth that we would have hoped for. They just sat there waiting to be fed and watered.”
This situation was brought to the attention of David Snowden from Lindum who had supplied turf for re-constructed tees at the Club. By the end of the season it was decided to implement a revolutionary plant nutrition programme which Stephen Fell, Lindum’s managing director, had discovered in the USA where it had been developed by Floratine of Memphis, Tennessee.
Floratine’s foliar feed and soil amendment system demands extensive soil analysis followed by detailed interpretation of the results before an individual turf management programme is compiled for the client.
Six of Pannal’s greens were selected for the programme, the three new ones and three of the old ones which are based on clay. Samples from each of them were flown to the Floratine laboratories in America and returned with a report which recommended a soil amendment programme running alongside a system of foliar feed.
“We started in late August 1999, spraying with foliar feed once a fortnight and taking steps to amend the nutrient capacity of the soil once a month,” said Kevin Wroe. “Due to the mild weather we were able to carry out the programme straight through until October. Initially we had the best results with the clay greens but they were all looking and playing a lot better. I could see a significant improvement in this short space of time and we thought we would try the programme for a full year on the whole course.”
In May last year the air temperature rose and all 18 greens at Pannal Golf Club were put on to the Floratine/Lindum Plant Nutrition programme. The weather, coupled with demands of play restricted the time available to carry out treatment.
“We’ve done what we can which amounts to about three quarters of the programme, along with our usual hollow coring. In the spring the sand greens were still slightly struggling but last summer they really came on. I think that the Plant Nutrition system alongside our own regular maintenance has done the trick. All the greens are a lot healthier and we now have growth going down into the new sand based root zones.”
The success of the new greens has implications for the future of the course. Plans to reconstruct the remaining 15 greens to USGA specifications have been put back until after the Club’s centenary in 2006 but, nevertheless, Kevin Wroe hopes that this will happen.
“Although it will cost a lot of money and cause severe disruption I think that for a busy inland course sand based greens are the only way to go, especially as the wet weather is forecast to continue. This course is played all twelve months of the year with competitions right through the winter and over 100 golfers out every Saturday whatever the conditions.”
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