Tending the Turf: More Than Mowing Grass

By Rick Martin, Superintendent at Shadow Ridge Golf Club

June is one of the best months on the golf course. There’s sun, there’s warmth, and everything is in bloom. The turf department has been – and will continue to – work hard in the early hours to have player-perfect conditions ready for you.

A 5:00 am (or earlier) start during peak season allows early golfers to play with little-to-no disruption. A typical morning sees mowing enough turf to cover 25 football fields, raking bunkers, tee set-up, pin placement, irrigation, drainage and general tidying. Afternoons involve mowing rough, weed-eater work, irrigation repairs, tree trimming, hand-watering and other general golf maintenance. Here’s a little more insight as to what we do to make the course great for you.

  • Tees - Tees are the first thing you will engage with on a new hole. With that in mind the Turf Department takes great pride in mowing and setting up the tee markers for the day. We fill divots with a special soil sand mixture, remove broken tees and clean the whole tee area. We also pick up garbage and recycling and service the ball washers found at each tee.  Extra watering of dry areas or application of specialized fertilizer and wetting agents may be applied to help weak areas of turf. Tees need to be aerated, top dressed and over-seeded 2 to 3 times per season to allow them to remain healthy and lush.

  • Fairways - Fairways need constant mowing to keep them in “summer rules” conditions. They require regular irrigation and frequent fertilizing. Grass clippings from regular mowing are often left on the turf to be recycled as a top-dressing compost. Fairways are generally aerated 1 or 2 times a season.

  • Greens - Great greens don’t just happen by accident! They require daily maintenance and a well devised fertilization and aeration program. Quality greens require proper drainage to allow the greens to hold enough moisture so they stay healthy, lush and moist as well as run true, fast and firm. Greens are mowed, rolled and/or top-dressed long before the golfer arrives. Freshly cut pin placements happen after they have been manicured for the day to avoid damage to the hole before play.

    At Shadow Ridge, we mow our greens at 0.140 inch during the spring and fall but that cut drops to 0.100 inch during the summer to speed up the green. We feed our greens granular and/or liquid fertilizers and use growth regulators and fungicides when required. Stimp meters are used to measure the speed of the greens and we adjust our program accordingly to ensure our greens run true and consistent.

    Irrigation has come a long way and with updated computer systems we can be precise with the amount of water required to keep the greens healthy. Hand-watering is required for localized dry areas during high-heat stress times during the peak of summer.

  • Bunkers - Bunkers are definitely not a fan favourite but they still need tending. Fairway bunkers are made of firm hard sand that drains well while greenside bunkers are a fluffier sand type that holds moisture from irrigation. Regular maintenance of the bunkers happens at the start of the day but still requires golfers to rake the trap after they have played out! Traps also require a regular edging program and regular monitoring of sand depth to be adjusted as needed.

  • Rough - Rough areas require less mowing and fertilizer than other areas. The rough at Shadow Ridge is mowed 2 to 3 times a week except for the surrounds around the green which are mowed 3 to 4 times per week. Most golf courses cut their rough between 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches in height, depending. Generally, a rough mower is out on the course for 6 to 8 hours per day and chances are, this will be the only large piece of mowing machinery you will see during your round of golf. A good operator will try not to encroach on your play and may bounce around the course to avoid staying out of the players’ way. Our rough mower is on the course at 4 am during the peak season!

We hope the next time you play a round of golf, you’ll have a new appreciation for all the work that goes into producing and keeping the great playing conditions you enjoy. After all, golf course maintenance is much more the just mowing grass!