Often we go out to golf courses and farms around the UK, which is a great pleasure. Visiting some of the most exciting parts of the super UK. Production of the best Great British food, and the best game in the world.
One very common theme we find whilst doing these fantastic visits, is that we are normally working with 100 acres up to 10,000 acres, meaning that there is a multitude of soil types and weather patterns to deal with, and of course a huge range of business types and aims.
If we focus on golf for a moment, at a guess the average size of a UK golf course would be around 140 acres (this includes rough, woodland, dunes, playing surfaces etc etc) obviously there are exceptions with the likes of Gleneagles and Woburn.
So if we have 140 acres, this probably means we have around 2.5-3 acres of greens, these greens are clearly going to be spread over the entire 140 acres. Does this mean they will all play the same and or be the same under the surface? Depending on your answer to the question you may find the following sections of this blog interesting and helpful.
Using Our Experience
We at Grass Science Seeds look to use practical experience and science to put together our GSS Golf mixtures, but we also look to work with our clients to get the best possible results for them and their members.
A quick glance, how could 18-20 greens spread over 140 acres be the same. Usually they are not, and it takes very little investigation to find this simple fact.
Here are some examples;
- shaded areas
- Low lying areas
- High/open areas
- Different soil profiles
- Various shapes and sizes
- Heavy walk off areas
- Heavy play areas
- Trees (friend or foe)
- High/low wind
- High/medium/low rainfall
One of the first things that we talk about with a new client is, what are the challenges around your property and what are your aims/goals?
Let’s jump back to farming for a sec, this is exactly the same when growing wheat or potatoes or even growing grass to graze cattle. Obviously we are not producing a fine playing surface, but otherwise the list is the same. One big advantage farmers have over course managers is they have super crop mapping tools which help collect vital data and manage the soils and farm business. They also don’t normally have 300-600 members (experts) giving comment or advice.
The mapping and data collection is so very important, often we are altering our feed rates and spray application to optimise our efficiencies into really small areas. The farm machinery can automatically vary the rate as they drive through the fields, the links between yield mapping and feed/fertiliser applications is automatic, and pretty precise too. For some this feels like micro management, but ultimately these activities are what will help a business be successful and sustainable over many years and indeed generations.
At GSS our founder and Managing Director Stephen feels that in the world of golf greens a similar level of management or attention to detail should be adopted. Clearly some of the data is entirely different, and some is subjective. But as we said in a previous blog, it is a big old jigsaw puzzle which needs pulling together. It is fun by the way…!!
As a result of years of working with courses around the UK, one thing that is a frustrating common theme is the “one size fits all” programs and plans for all greens, whether over 90 acres or 500 acres. How can this be right, and best practice..?? As Stephen says “the devil is in the detail”.
When an average UK club sees a plan saying you must core and sand at least twice and year, or you must too dress with at least 100ts of sand per year, this must feel a little daunting. The shear financial implications are frightening, not to mention the upset to players experience. The same sort of fertiliser/feed programs are often found. These are often incredibly generic, across one site and sadly often the same across many sites. Is this really the correct way forward..?? It certainly doesn’t seem as bespoke as the program suggests.
The point is, the greens in both cases may need all the same treatment, but we can tell you it is very unlikely. Perhaps one argument is “what if we are a small club with a very small budget and maintenance team” this can be a fair argument, time to micro manage may seem hard to find. However when we look at the costs of all the feeds, sand, fuel and labour or doing a “one size fits all” plan, is there any other way forward..?? Let’s imagine for a moment, after a small amount of data collection and simply using some old fashioned (but highly relevant) husbandry skills, we are apple to only treat 50% of the greens that way. Example, greens 1-5 need a higher feed rate and higher sand rate, 6-9 need 75% of the same nutrient/inputs, 9-16 exactly the amounts the plans says, the 17th needs 10% of the planned (from the generic plan/program) inputs, leaving 18th green needing 90% of the program nutrients, resources. This above example is a quick demo of how we could/can manage our inputs and resources.
At Grass Science Seeds, we are absolutely certain that whether growing grass to feed 1,000 dairy cows or entertain 30,000 rounds of golf per year a “one size fits all” formula isn’t likely to produce the best results or business outcomes.
Think outside the norm, look at data, talk lots and build your data banks. This will surely yield results.