Careful management of organic matter levels is critical to optimising both the health and play characteristics of golf greens. When it comes to managing these thatch layers, there is no universal tool or technique that will suit every course, however methods and machines are now at our disposal that are far less disruptive and can incorporate additional operations such as simultaneous sand injection which helps to bring surfaces back into play even quicker. GKB tells you more about the techniques and about our machine: the GKB Sandfiller.
Factors that influence the rate in which thatch accumulates
A number of factors will influence the rate in which thatch accumulates; climatic conditions, the dominant grass species that form the composition of the greens along with the levels of nutrition and inputs applied to the surface will all have an impact. Too much thatch can result in greens that become soft, water retentive and susceptible to damage from play or mechanical maintenance – particularly during the winter months. It also:
- restricts airflow;
- inhibiting plant growth;
- creating an environment favourable to some turf diseases.
Equally though, too little organic matter can cause putting surfaces to lose their stability. There is an equilibrium to be achieved between the rate in which OM builds and the rate to which it is diluted.
High reed techniques
For most courses, thatch content of around 5-7% is considered the be ‘ideal’ in the top 20mm of the surface. When levels are higher than this, mechanical methods of thatch removal should be employed which would traditionally see the use of invasive scarification or hollow-coring. However, both of these techniques can be highly disruptive to surfaces, possibly leading to contention with golfers over the impacts that has on playability.
Apllication of sand
The application of sand is another key practice, effective at diluting organic matter accumulations. Along with reducing thatch content, top dressing is well known to bring many benefits to a golf green, such as:
- improving surface permeability;
- facilitating better grass growth and improving the trueness of the green.
However, depending on the type of sand, amount applied and the timing of such, it can cause frustrations with players due to the inconvenience and disrupted play resulting from broadcast applications.
Techniques from GKB
As with most elements of greenkeeping, balancing the expectations of the players with the needs and requirements of the course requires careful management. Communication around the necessity for either sand application and/or invasive methods of organic matter control is key. To assist, manufacturers including GKB have come up with new techniques to better equip greenkeepers with the tools needed to manage organic matter, while minimising disruption to the playing surface.
Our GKB Sandfiller
- scarifies the surface down to depths of up to 40mm;
- removing organic matter and creating channels which are simultaneously filled with sand or a combination of sand and seed – maximising efficiency
- improving drainage and ground firmness in one pass.
The unit features a 400L hopper to collect the removed material, leaving a clean and tidy finish and allowing the surface to be back in play almost instantly.
Experiences with the GKB Sandfiller
Contractors Marc Kerr Limited have been running a GKB Sandfiller for the last five years, conducting work for golf courses up and down the country. “This machine brings so many benefits to a green” explains Marc. “Alternative methods of organic matter management are labour intensive and run the risk of taking the surfaces out of play which is not an option for many given the year-round demand from the members. We are using the Sandfiller on around 30 golf jobs a year, with an additional half dozen bowling greens also calling us in for the service.”
GKB sandfiller: Thatch removal and sand injection in one
“I previously used an alternative machine that was more labour intensive and that left the excess spoil and sand on the green which then had to be manually collected when the job was complete. The efficiency of being able to conduct both operations – thatch removal and sand injection – in a single pass was the reason we switched to the GKB Sandfiller. It has made the job much more time and cost effective for both myself and the club, and gives the greens teams the quick recovery which is critical.”
For every season
Marc continues, “We’re lucky to work with clubs of all levels, with some elite venues calling us in annually or bi-annually to pass over the greens with the Sandfiller. The interesting thing is the different schools of thought around the timing of the operation. Some like it done in the spring, to give them recovery from winter wear and damage and set up strong surfaces for the start of the season. Others like it throughout July and August, where we can mix seed in with the sand to optimise germination. The final group will request a visit in the late autumn, where the lateral aeration and slit slits will allow for better drainage and help the course to sustain winter play.”
He concludes, “No matter the timing, what the Sandfiller delivers is a fast, firm surface with reduced organic matter and improved percolation and root growth.”