Construction and maintenance of greens remains every Greenkeepers challenge. Whereas many of Kenya’s golf courses boast of immaculate fairways, the same cannot be said of greens.
The Baobab course at Vipingo Ridge, Africa’s only PGA-accredited course, has just concluded upgrading all its greens. The project which took seven months at a cost of Kshs 16 million, involved replacing all the old greens with a better denser grass type for better ground cover. Following the conclusion of the exercise, 21 greens at Vipingo Ridge now have Paspalum Marina grass, the latest version of hybrid paspalum available in seed form, which is easier and cheaper to maintain in terms of nutrient requirement and soil PH range.
The greens had been long singled out as the only blot on the exquisite world-class course designed by former European Tour professional turned course architect, David Jones, but golfers visiting the facility can now expect a much smoother and quicker putting surface.
Vipingo Ridge Director of Golf Saleem Haji who was in charge of the project offers insights into why many golf clubs in Kenya are struggling to construct and maintain greens.
Lack of Technical know-how
An ideal green should have good surface drainage, aeration and nutrients for the plant. Greens must be built to the right specifications. Most of the greens I have seen that have issues I would say go back to a drainage problem. The drainage system should be designed to get water away from the surface quickly and into the root zone.
You must understand the weather conditions well since greens thrive when you have a good reliable water source. Consequently, you must invest in an irrigation system that can be controlled automatically so that the right amount of water is released, not too little and certainly not too much. Frequency of irrigation is also something that needs to be worked out. Course and greens design need to be done with drainage in mind, and then technical expertise to carry out the work.
Further, I think that a lot of clubs would benefit from a more frequent and regimented hollo-coring/topdressing/verti-cutting regime.
Costly maintenance equipment
The cost of constructing a PGA-standard green largely depends on the size of the green or green complex, as the surrounding shaping, bunkers water features etc. play a large role in the cost. I would say to build from scratch would be around Kshs 2 million per green.
The biggest cost goes to mobilizing machinery. Some of the critical machines include a tracked Bobcat or small excavator with a steelwrist, a topdressing machine, an adjustable seed spreader, TORO sand pro for tracking in the seed and drag-matting the topdressing material.
Understandably these specialized machineries are very costly, but there are clubs that have the equipment and would perhaps be willing to hire it out. The best strategy is for clubs to share maintenance equipment instead of struggling to raise funds to own the machines independently.
Qualified personnel/Team vision
Construction and maintenance of greens is highly specialized. It is very important to hire companies or personnel that have experience in doing this type of specialized construction work. The construction process should be well documented. Always follow your greenkeeper’s plan or seek out specialist advice on agronomy.