Over the winter months, it is a great time to get some baseline levels of both nutrients and organic matters.
There are loads of golf course consultants and companies out there trying to sell their services and products, often they will do sampling for free.
Our question is, is it really a sample and is it really free, if they are trying to sell you a product and are attempting to show a before and after type scenario.
It's All About the Science
At Grass Science Seeds (GSS) we believe in science. We feel very strongly about the value of your confidence and your financial investment, therefore for us golf course sampling must be done correctly to avoid getting spurious results which will mislead and misinform, in turn could mean lots of wasted time and money and no results to show for it.
It is not at all technical taking samples, the first steps are to decide what it is you want to find out (the quality of the question).
- Do the greens grow well?
- Do they drain well?
- Do they provide high quality roll?
- Do they provide consistent playing surfaces through the year?
- Are they coming in within maintenance budget?
- Are they growing the natural and right grass species?
- Do they sit within a target zones?
The courses that we work with are happy in the knowledge that we are going to do our very best to do a proper job, and that if we have baseline numbers and then set targets, we will achieve greatness. We have many greens which we work across in zones, due to data which we have found from testing.
In this photo it shows how we approach winter baseline sampling, we are mainly testing for pH, P, K, Mg, Ca & Organic matter (OM) 2,4,6.
As you can see it is vital to get the most representative sample of the area (green) being tested, each yellow dot is a sample site. We take cores out of each. The first set of cores are bagged up and labeled as per the green number ready for the nutrient testing. The second set of cores are kept in tacked so the lab tech can accurately dissect into the 2cm, 4cm & 60cm depths.
For us the above is the only way to get the information required to build an accurate plan, and set of targets.
Whilst the entire golf industry is aiming at and talking about sustainability, surely adding data and sampling to your management protocols can only be a must. We are all aiming to improve on player experience and quality, whilst fitting into a budget and keeping members happy too. In our experience the best way to do all of the above is to start your jigsaw puzzle.
Remember we/you need robust data!! Always use a certified lab with a strong reputation, two great examples are Lancrop and European Turf Labs.
Avoid Bad Habits
There is a bad habit in our industry of taking 2-3 core samples from 3-4 greens lumping them together in one sample bag and then supposedly building a feed/fertiliser program based on the above results.
This is crazy as the variation in soil type and plant requirements over a 3-4 hole area is huge. It is highly likely that you will over or under feed as a result of the false testing, in other words waste money and time.
It is very common indeed for us to even split greens into several zones, for example back and front, this would be based on date collected through the summer (playing season) growth rates, plant health, plant type, drainage ability, and visual appearance. Another piece in the jigsaw puzzle is looking at your hole plugs, we often go around with clients inspecting the soil profile of the plug.
Again we advise doing this in a zigzag pattern across your greens, and all year as you change holes (it is so easy to grab a quick snap and tag the hole number and location. Equipment like the POGO are super helpful in the process of GPS mapping your greens, and can easily be added to your jigsaw of data collection. Obviously the POGO can record a lot more data than just the location.
There are many more pieces to this cool jigsaw puzzle, but for us a corner piece is defiantly regular sampling and testing.