With 160 acres of Championship Course to take care of, it’s up to The Mere Golf Resort and Spa greenkeeping team to ensure the grounds are kept in the best condition.
With 160 acres of Championship Course to take care of, it’s up to The Mere Golf Resort and Spa greenkeeping team to ensure the grounds are kept in the best condition. They have a fantastic team of gardening gurus who pride themselves on making it look fantastic. ONPAR caught up with John Quinn, Golf Course Manager at The Mere to find out more.
How do you protect the course in winter?
We use traffic management signs and stakes to keep buggies and trolleys off the approaches and away from the greens and tee boxes. Our GPS system on the buggies means they must follow a set route which helps protect the fairways and some of the wetter areas of the course. We protect the greens from excessive wear and disease using winter fertilisers, fungicides and non-fungicidal disease prevention such as phosphate, iron and seaweed. This strengthens the plant and makes it more robust and resilient to biotic and abiotic stresses.
Do you stay on full greens or move onto temporary?
We strive to stay on full greens as much as possible, but during periods of frost and snow, we do use temporary greens. The main playing season now runs from mid-March through until October and the demand is for smooth, true greens all season long. In order to accomplish this, the greens must get as much rest as possible through the offseason and go into the spring in healthy condition, ready for the demands of another busy summer.
Do you use mats on the golf course?
We try to keep play on grass as much as is possible, we don’t use mats on fairways and last winter through the use of some grass winter tees, we managed to go the whole way through without any mats on the course. This is only possible due to a continued aeration and renovation programme on all the playing surfaces right through the year. The key is keeping the plant as healthy as possible so it can stand up to the rigours of weather extremes and a lot of traffic throughout the year.
What maintenance do you plan to do this winter to the course?
We will carry out aeration work on the greens on a regular basis as part of our greenkeeping regime, every 3 weeks or so – solid tinning at various depths, slitting, air injection, sorrel rolling. The tees, approaches and fairways will also get aerated fairly regularly and all surfaces will receive wetting agent throughout the winter season to keep the water movement throughout the soil profile. We are rebuilding a number of bunkers this winter; some have problems with drainage capability and there are a few that are in need of reshaping to add to the character of the course. We will also be closing some bunkers that don’t add anything to the playability or aesthetics of the course and are a drain on time and resources.
Do you plan for snow and frost?
As much as is possible, but the weather is a fickle thing, particularly in the north-west of England and it can be almost impossible to predict what’s around the corner. We prepare temporary greens towards the end of the season for the inevitable onslaught of winter, although exactly when it comes is anyone’s guess.
What hours do you work compared to summer, and is greenkeeping staffing different?
We work a 40-hour week throughout the year, the weekend is done on a rota basis, every 3rd weekend through the summer season and every 4th weekend through the winter. Staffing levels stay constant all year round, the only real change is the start times. In summer we start at 5/5.30 AM and in winter at 6.30 AM.
What time of year do you start preparing for summer, what’s the first step?
For me it’s a never-ending cycle, the main playing season ends around mid-October and we start to put plans in place for protecting the course through the winter, but the next spring is always in the back of my mind and the work carried out through October onwards is the preparation for the next year. Continued aeration and nutrition programmes alongside disease management is designed to make the grass plant as healthy as possible so it’s prepared for the following spring. I don’t believe there is ever an endpoint, or a start point, my philosophy is continued plant health throughout the year.
With the better weather conditions, the plant can be pushed harder, cut lower, rolled more often, stressed to the maximum to provide the conditions of a top-class playing surface, but there are still demands for good greens through winter and a year-round programme helps provide this.