Steve Oultram, course manager at the Wilmslow Golf Club in Cheshire, and his team have their course thriving after a long, wet summer with the help of The R&A’s sustainability programme.
In the UK, there are currently five facilities working with The R&A to produce sustainable conditions on golf courses. The R&A definition of sustainability as it relates to golf course development and management is:
‘Optimizing the playing quality of the golf course in harmony with the conservation of its natural environment under economically sound and socially responsible management.’
What does sustainability mean to Steve and the Wilmslow Golf Club? “Minimal amounts of water, chemical and fertilizer. Minimal amounts of everything, except aeration – we still do lots of aeration,” says Steve.
A long, wet summer
With the record amounts of rain that fell in June and July this summer has not been kind to Steve and his need for ‘minimal amounts of water’.
“Considering the summer we have just come through things are looking excellent. Especially the greens, we lowered the height of cut slightly, from 5mm to 4.75mm, and they look brilliant,” Steve says. “Our greens are firm and have very little thatch despite all the rain that we have had.”
This is great news for Steve and his team as they await a second appraisal by an STRI agronomist who will visit the course to ensure they are working within The R&A’s guidelines for sustainability.
The STRI agronomist will look for quality, appearance and firmness of greens, in addition to disease occurrence and sward density of turf. Agronomists will also speak to the members at the Wilmslow Golf Club to see how they think the greens are playing with minimal inputs.
That is why Steve has implemented a policy that greens mowers are sharpened every fortnight.
“Sharpening our cylinders and bottom blades is critical. With so much emphasis placed on greens appearance, consistency, playability and health – the cut has to be sharp,” adds Steve.
Express Dual and Anglemaster 3000 grinders from Bernhard and Company have allowed the greenkeeping staff to maintain healthier, consistent turf.
Grinders complement sustainability in that they ensure all cutting units are sharp to reduce potential tearing and bruising of the grass leaf, which can result in discoloration, stress and disease.
“Using Express Dual and Anglemaster, grass blade tips have less damage. We don’t have to input substantial amounts of fertiliser, herbicide or fungicide. It has allowed us to be low input in the strictest sense,” reports Steve.
Another benefit that the golf course has seen since implementing The R&A sustainability programme is the steady health of the turfgrass. By applying a good quality of cut and maintaining the chemical balance of the soil, turfgrass does not suffer massive highs and lows, but remains quite steady in its health and appearance.