April showers – not this month

April in Scotland – usually a time for rain and lots of it! This year has been different though with long dry spells being the predominant weather in the East Coast. Turf has dried out and our surfaces have become firm and fast – as they should be for a true links experience.

The below graph gives you an idea of how little rainfall we’ve had. This shows the quantity of rainfall during April for the last seven years with the green bar representing this year’s total.

Rainfall during April for the last seven years in mm

Without delving into too much detail, 78mm of rain fell during April 2016; only 4mm has fallen so far this year. To put that into context, this April looks like becoming the second driest month since my records began in 2011.

It’s important during dry spells such as this to monitor the moisture levels in the turf. We do this using an evaluation device called the ‘POGO’. This not only measures soil moisture, but also temperature and salinity.

POGO device

The device has GPS which connects wirelessly to a phone or tablet and uploads any readings to The Cloud. From there, the data is analysed which can produce moisture maps like the one below. This is a picture of the moisture levels across the second fairway of the Jubilee Course. The darker areas are the driest, white signifies the perfect level and blue means too much moisture.

Moisture map

We then use this data to plan any required irrigation. The dry weather also causes us difficulties with areas of new turf such as the new mounds that divide holes 4 and 15 on the Jubilee Course. The new turf has a shallow, immature root system and cannot cope with prolonged periods of dry weather. These areas require frequent irrigation using a combination of the automatic system and selective hand-watering.

Hand-watering the greens

From a golfer’s perspective, this dry weather is no bad thing but it certainly keeps us greenkeepers busy!

Words by Graeme Taylor, Course Manager – New & Jubilee Courses

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