Dear Member / Property Owner,
Following on from the Golf Course Superintendent’s News Letter sent to you in December, which was designed to keep you up to date with all the important maintenance procedures, I am pleased to be able to give you an update on the works carried out and to inform you of the schedule of works which will be undertaken in January 2018.
As Golf Course Superintendent, I do not have the opportunity to speak with you all individually and directly. Even so, recently I have been approached on the golf course by individual members who have engaged in constructive conversation with me questioning certain areas and aspects of the golf course where they have observed something ‘out of the norm’, to whom I have been able to respond and provide explanations for the concerns that they have had.
I am therefore taking this opportunity to let you all have some further detail covering the areas of the golf course, which are of concern.
As you should be aware, Golf Club Questionnaire Forms have always been freely available and displayed at the Club House Reception. It is disappointing that these are not more frequently used as a rapid and quickfire method of communicating concerns to the maintenance staff. I respectfully encourage all to take full and frequent advantage of these and complete them whenever you feel it necessary or useful. The completed Questionnaires are reviewed on a weekly basis and the feedback provided, both positive or otherwise, is greatly appreciated by the Golf Course Maintenance team. This feedback allows us to respond rapidly to developing issues and concerns, as we strive to provide a Golf Course which we hope you will be able to enjoy playing and of which be proud to be a member.
In 2017, the Golf Course Maintenance team comprised sixteen staff and in September of last year an investment of a further €250,000 was made in new course and more advanced maintenance machinery. For 2018 we have increased the Golf Course Maintenance team to eighteen, who will continue to provide both proactive and reactive maintenance for the golf course and desert landscaping.
I sincerely hope that this Newsletter demonstrates our acknowledgement of the challenges our team faces in this unique but wonderful climate and provides you with the knowledge and comfort that improvements to the course and landscaping will soon become apparent to all.
GREENS & TEES
Between the 12th and the 14th December, the greens were solid tined with 5mm “pencil” tines, a programmed maintenance procedure that increases the green’s surface aeration and the oxygen uptake of the root system. These holes filled in completely and recovered within 48 hours of the completion of the programme.
During the winter months, due the reduction in daily air and soil temperature, the natural growth rate of the rye grass slows down, reducing the need for the greens to be mowed down to between three and four times per week.
The purchase of a ‘Greens Roller’ in October 2017, used on the greens after solid tining, and on days the greens are not mowed, has greatly improved the smoothness, roll and general playing consistency of the putting surfaces.
The purchase of a new rotary brush system has increased the amount of sand that can be worked into the playing surfaces after a single application. After multiple passes with the brush, less loose sand is apparent on the greens’ surface, even though three times the volume of sand is being applied compared to previous methods. The extra sand will allow the greens to become firmer and smoother by diluting more thatch during the growing season.
During the winter months, the greens can take on a purple appearance in response to the cooler air and soil temperatures. What you are seeing is a plant pigment called ‘anthocyanin’. The cooler temperatures deplete the natural chlorophyll of the greens and therefore expose the pigment. This is common feature of ‘Creeping A4 Bentgrass’. It is more prominent after warm winter day time temperatures, followed by very cold night time temperatures. It should not be confused with disease, which it certainly is not.
GREENS PITCH MARKS
During the winter months, the importance of not merely repairing pitch marks, but more importantly of repairing them correctly is even more relevant, as slow growing winter grass will not recover as rapidly as in the spring and summer months.
The 7th green of The Indiana Course is noted as being prone to excessive pitch marks, largely due to the high number of short approach wedge shots it receives. The photographs above demonstrate the difference between a badly repaired pitch mark (left) and a correctly repaired pitch mark (right) and how it should look afterwards to reduce recovery time.
It would be a great help if you individually would try and correctly repair (as per the instructions on display in the Clubhouse) at least two pitch marks each, even though they may not be your own, and encourage your playing partners to do so as well! This will greatly assist the greens maintenance and ensure a continued smooth putting surface.
GREENS APPROACHES & COLLARS
During the summer months, the course experienced a severe invasion of ‘Crab Grass’, an annual summer grass that thrives in hot weather and established itself within most of the greens’ collars and also invaded areas of the greens’ approaches.
As part of the annual maintenance programme, during the first 2-weeks of September, the collars and approaches of the greens were over seeded with ‘Rye Grass’. This maintenance programme is completed, after the heat stress of the summer months, to improve the turf quality and density of the grass during the cooler months.
As already reported in the December Golf Course Superintendent Newsletter, despite our efforts and because of abnormal high temperatures, which the ‘Crab grass’ continued to thrive upon, during October, and as a consequence of excessive damage caused by rabbits, the condition of both the greens’ collars and approaches did not continue to progress, preventing the ‘Rye Grass’ from re-asserting itself, as would normally be the case at this time of the year.
Therefore, during the first two weeks of December, the greens’ collars were hollow cored and top-dressed with sand and over seeded again with additional rye grass. This procedure helps reduce soil compaction and improves both turf grass quality and playing conditions.
To date, many of these hollow cored holes have not all fully filled in, because of a varying combination of all the usual adverse conditions from which we have suffered to an unusual extent this year; excess compaction, rabbit damage, dryness and excess winter temperature variation.
This week the maintenance team have completed a program of hydro-jetting and hand-watering of the green collars to assist with deeper aeration, and the opening up of larger pore spaces within the soil.
To make recovery more uniform so far as possible, we shall then repeat a further top-dressing with a sand and humic acid mix and over seed once again with additional Rye grass in the weaker areas.
As temperatures progressively improve, these weaker grass areas will naturally reduce, and we can expect to see a marked improvement within the next 3-4 weeks.
FAIRWAYS & GREEN SURROUNDS
The verti draining of the fairways and greens’ surrounds has continued through December and into January. This program helps to improve both soil compaction and air and water movement throughout the soil profile.
In some areas of the fairways, the root system has become shallow due to soil compaction and salt accumulation. This results in a slight turf lift after solid tining. These areas are then repaired and sanded. Divots and rabbit scrapings are also repaired at this time with a sand/seed mix.
FOREIGN GRASS ENCROACHMENT
On our Rye Grass course, which stays green in winter, Bermuda grass and Seashore Paspalum are encroaching species, brought in on golfer’s shoes and equipment, which are hard to exclude. Whilst in themselves they are not harmful to play on the course, they are hard to control without disrupting play. During the winter months, these grasses stop growing when temperatures fall below 60 degrees F (15.5’C) and actually become dormant when temperatures drop below 50 degrees F (10’C) for an extended period. Dormancy can last from a few weeks to several months depending on conditions. During dormancy the grass turns yellow to white; however, by March most of these areas will have greened up.
BERMUDA GRASS CONTROL
The laws governing the application of chemicals have, over the last 5 years, removed from use some of the most important and key products previously used to keep the cool season Rye Grass turf pure. Non-selective products are now the only solution. However the problem with non-selective control is that it means that both the invasive Bermuda grass and the desirable Rye Grass are killed.
The program of eliminating common Bermuda grass and Seashore Paspalum in the fairways will take place in August. Three applications of “round up” are needed. These areas will then be re-turfed with new Rye Grass in September as the summer temperatures decrease improving establishment of this cool season turf grass.
A course enhancement that was implemented in September of last year, as the new Rye grass germinated, was the introduction of the new fairway semi-rough for stage two of the European Tour Qualifying School. This introduction was well received by both our members and guests and will now be maintained throughout the year.
The bunkers are hand raked and the edges back raked to improve firmness each day by the course maintenance team. This method of raking has also reduced the loss of sand during high winds.
Throughout January and February, the course maintenance team will be edging the bunkers, defining clean lines. During this time, any bunker being worked on will be deemed ‘Ground Under Repair’.
During the last three years, we have experienced markedly below average rainfall which has killed and inhibited growth and further establishment of the desert planting in isolated areas. The Golf Course Maintenance team includes four members of staff who are responsible for the maintenance of the desert landscaping and hard-pan areas. Between November and December, the team have concentrated on the removal of the dead agave throughout the course landscaping areas. Clean up of additional areas of the desert landscaping will continue ahead of the spring season, when we can expect rainfall that will revitalize the desert planting.
The Golf course maintenance teams have started pruning all the olive trees near and around the 1st tee complex. The pruning will reduce the height and canopy density of the tree, which will promote new growth and increase healthy growth and fruiting. The reduction of height will also improve the views across the golf course.
The blue flowered plumbago bushes on the 1st Hole will be pruned, and any dead plants removed. A new rabbit fence will to be placed to the right side of the hole, between the property boundary and cart track. The heavy pruning will promote new growth, which in time will cover the rabbit fence.
An outside contractor has started a programme of pruning 100 Washingtonia palm trees around the golf course. This programme takes into account, Holes, 2, 14, 15, 17 and 18 and shall be completed within two-weeks.
ADDITIONAL GOLF COURSE PROJECTS
The Rabbit damage that has been caused to the golf course is both well-known and evidenced.
The control of rabbits in our circumstances is governed by the ‘Delegacion territorial de agricultura, pesca y medio ambiente en Almeria’. As rabbits are native to Spain rather than classified as a pest, the laws governing their control are not as conducive to their removal as in the UK.
Every sixth months we apply for and receive permission to capture the rabbits by the legal means of ferreting and/or falconry. Unfortunately, whilst this may provide a slight respite, the reality is that the problem persists.
To date, approximately 2.5 kms of rabbit fence has been introduced along the boundary line from behind the 3rd green through to the lake at the 13th green as well as from the right-hand side of the 14th green complex through to the lake on Hole 15.
An internal fence has also been introduced from bridge crossing at the ladies’ tee on the 14th Hole to the cart track adjacent to the 14th green.
There has been a noticeable improvement to the turf grass quality within these protected areas.
Further rabbit fencing will now be progressively introduced around the remaining boundary areas of the golf course, to ensure that the whole golf course will be protected as much as is possible.
Once all the rabbit fences have been erected, an outside contractor will be given the task of removing all the rabbits living within the golf course. This is not going to be an overnight process, but will take many months. It will allow us to achieve, once again, the quality of fairways and roughs, which we are accustomed too at Desert Springs.
In the meantime, all rabbit holes will be repaired with a sand/soil/seed mix.
2018 GREENS HOLLOW CORING DATES
Property Owners and Members need to have as much notice as possible concerning particular aspects of the golf course maintenance schedule that may temporarily effect the playing conditions of the green’s surface, thus enabling them to plan particular holidays accordingly, therefore please see below the hollow coring dates for 2018. These dates are subject to change due to weather conditions.
Hollow Coring Dates for 2018
Monday 16th April
Monday 21st May
Monday 3rd September
You will be able to keep up to date with the full tournament and social calendar, format and any additions, information of how to enter, and much much more, by visiting either our official website www.desertspringsresort.es or by contacting the golf reception at Desert Springs.
We and the staff at Desert Springs are looking forward to seeing you on The Indiana course in the near future.
Kind regards, Kind regards,
Alfonso Castiñeira Anthony Brooks
Golf Operations Manager Golf Course Superintendent
The new Tru-Turf R 50-11 Roller in operation on The Indiana Course
Sweep & Fill 3 brushes at work on the green
The consequence of repairing a pitch mark incorrectly against repairing it correctly
Green Collar of Hole 15 showing improved turf quality and density of grass after over seeding in September
Hole 1 on The Indiana Course demonstrating an establishment of ‘Crab Grass’ and excessive damage caused by rabbits to the greens collar
Vertidraning of green surround on Hole 6
HOLE 1 Fairway, dormant Bermuda grass
As we have not yet carried out this procedure on the golf course, a picture of the football pitch is given here showing Bermuda grass contamination controlled with Roundup in August 2017, involving the additional loss of the rye grass stand. This area was over seeded with rye grass in September 2017 and is now re- establishing itself
New bunker presentation with improved playability
Rabbit Fencing being introduced around the golf course boundary
Hole 7 Green surround with improved quality grass coverage and reduced rabbit damage
Hole 7 Fairway The left-hand image demonstrates an area of extensive rabbit damage with the right-hand image being taken only a few paces away representing an excellent conditioned winter fairway