Unlike regular greens-mowing where the blades are horizontal to the putting surface, verticut blades are vertically positioned.
Verticutting the Old Course
Aggressive growth of the grass sward on the Old Course putting surfaces is not unusual at this time of year. This happens in most part due to a combination of moisture levels, soil temperatures and extended daylight all contributing towards a period of excessive growth.
One activity that greenkeepers undertake to combat this is a process called ‘Verticutting’. Unlike regular greens-mowing where the blades are horizontal to the putting surface, verticut blades are vertically positioned. What these blades do is very simple yet very important to the quality of putting surface.
Below you can see a conventional mowing unit with horizontal blades and then a verticutting mowing unit with the vertical blades.
The blades reach in to the turf canopy and are set precisely to a depth where they can achieve their objective of cutting through lateral (sideways) growth. Verticutting should not be confused with scarifying where the blades are set to penetrate much deeper in to the soil or root zone to remove organic matter (thatch).
There is a wide range of pedestrian and ride-on equipment available to perform this maintenance operation. The type of equipment you choose is vital in achieving a top quality finish in the desired time frame and must suit your grass species and site. Here at St Andrews Links we use Toro Greensmaster 3250 D and Triflex 3400 ride-on mowers which have floating heads that follow the contours of the ground closely. These machines give us excellent results and help us improve the condition of the sward and putting surface.
Equally as important to the verticutting operation is the clean-up cutting afterwards. On this occasion with the damp conditions encountered we mowed the greens twice after verticutting, first with ride-on mowers and then with pedestrian ones to provide a clean, firmer, smoother and faster putting surface for our golfers. We will normally utilise around 10 staff members to complete these operations ahead of the first tee times at 6.30am. This is because of the large 3 Hectares of putting surfaces on the Old Course which is significantly more than the average golf course which has greens areas of around 1.2 to 1.5 Hectares.
Words by Simon Connah, Deputy Course Manager – The Old Course