After 11 years at the helm of the greenkeeping team at Portlethen Golf Club, Neil Sadler has seen his fair share of challenging seasons. As the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable, he shares his secrets of summer success
What are your plans for August?
“We’ve got a couple of big tournaments coming up, so there won’t be anything major happening. We’ll just continue doing what we’ve been doing throughout the season which has been verticutting and topdressing.”
How often do you verticut and topdress?
“Because we’ve had a lot of growth, we’ve been verticutting weekly and putting down a dressing behind that. We’re trying to make a smoother surface, and this year we’ve also kept the cut height up a little bit. Normally we’re below 4mm and this year we’re keeping it at 4mm and we’re getting results. It’s better all round.”
What results are you getting from keeping your cut height higher?
“The roll of the ball is fantastic and the speed is great. The plant is a lot healthier and happier at that height.”
Are you topdressing weekly throughout the year or just during the season?
“It’s weather-dependant. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been doing it weekly but next week we’re not doing it all, and then we’ll get back into it the week after that. It all depends on the weather. We’ll go out and look at the greens and if we can’t see the verticut marks from the time before, we’ll go out and do them again in a different direction. At the moment we’re getting thundery showers which is fantastic because they just wash the topdressing down into the canopy. Last year, we didn’t get much topdressing done because it was so dry. This year, it’s a different animal all together.”
That must make planning difficult.
“You’ve got to be flexible. You can’t plan from one day to the next at the moment. It’s really tough to plan things because the weather is up in the air.”
How much sand are you putting down?
“We’re putting down about nine tonnes onto the greens so it’s just a light dressing.”
Light but often. Is that due to the growth you’re experiencing?
“Yes. We’re keeping on top of the growth with the verticutting and topdressing. It’s helping with the refinement and with any thatch build-up down below. It’s keeping it clean and maintaining the air movement.”
It’s almost the exact opposite of last year.
“Yes, but there’s less pressure this year. Last year we were worrying about where the water was coming from. This year we need to cut, cut and then cut again. It’s so different. Mother Nature really is in control and keeping us on our toes.”
What sand do you use and in what quantities?
“We use Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand and we’re looking to put on about 200 tonnes a year.”
How long have you been using Hugh King sand and what improvements have you noticed during this time?
“We’ve been using Hugh King for about five years now, and as a result we’ve got a firmer, drier profile and the water percolates down at a much better rate. It’s a better environment now for the finer grasses to survive in.”
That must have a huge impact.
“Without a doubt. Last year we got hit with a terrible bout of disease at the end of August. The poa just got annihilated. So we put in some more bentgrass and you could see it coming into the areas where the poa was. It was just fantastic. Now we can be a bit more choosy about what seed we’re putting in because our thatch levels are so low – I think they’re down to 4%, so we don’t need to do the hollow coring anymore.”
How much of that do you put down to the quality of Hugh King’s sand?
“Without doubt the quality of the sand is huge. It’s brushing into the canopy very well. The golfers aren’t getting upset with it. And with it being so uniform for drainage purposes, it’s very, very good. The quality of the sand is of massive importance.”