From the first day of the season till the last, turf managers are always on the lookout for signs of forces trying to take over the course. This can range from grubs in the soil to dollar spot spreading across a fairway. Sometimes, however, we have to look at defending on other fronts.
At Mount Juliet, high traffic has started to show its teeth. Normally, golfers keep the buggies on the cart path and pull into rough from time to time to chase an errant shot. But this week we found evidence of a buggy in the fairway by way of the tracks. These were not traditional tracks, however. It appeared as though the tires of the cart were on fire! The turf was scorched where the cart had driven through a traditionally dry area. The damage normally would only be only some packed-down grass, but this was different.
Aidan, the course superintendent, came to the conclusion that it was a combination of events that led to the strange tracks. The area was very dry to begin with, due to the extreme heat thats been present for the last three weeks in Ireland. When the area was hand watered, it left the turf well saturated going into the hottest part of the afternoon. When the temperatures heated up, it warmed the moisture on the turf accordingly, creating a near steam-like layer on the blades of grass. And at this, the most vulnerable point in the day for the turf, was when various buggies and carts were driven through the patch, beating up the turf when it was weaker than it ever would have been normally. To defend this in the future, better routing plans will be put into place to make sure buggies avoid these tender patches of recovering turf.
The pull carts, electric trolleys, and buggies are all tools used to make a round of golf more enjoyable for the golfer. They're a great way to let people get more out of the game, and should definitely have a place at the course. But, there needs to always be compromises in place to make sure they're used in the proper way.
Traffic routing devices like ropes, stakes, and hoops like the ones we use here at Mount Juliet are simple tools to help in traffic control. What also needs to happen is that the tools need to not have a bite, but have a powerful bark. The clubhouse can help in this effort by posting signs making the visiting golfers not only aware of the traffic control devices in place, but the theory behind them.
Traffic-control hoops in place amidst the bunkers at Mount Juliet.
Theyre not there to create a prison for the players work in; theyre there to give the turf the best chance to survive and flourish. In the future, Id like to push education for the common golfers on why we as turf managers do what we do, especially on issues where compromising is the key to survival.