The Royal Spanish Golf Federation (RSGF) and the Spanish Association of Greenkeepers (AEdG) have conducted research to monitor the firmness of the putting surfaces at the Centro Nacional de Golf over the 12-month period from July 2011 to July 2012.
Using the Clegg Impact Soil Tester, weekly assessments were taken and analysed to assess the influence of player traffic, rainfall and maintenance practices. The main conclusions coming from the study were:
- monitoring highlighted the consistency of overall putting surface firmness irrespective of player traffic or rainfall, but there was variance locally within greens
- the impact of maintenance practices, especially aeration and top dressing, aimed at giving optimal firmness and smooth, fast playing surfaces to meet golfers expectations could clearly be seen. This now enables better planning of maintenance likely to negatively impact on firmness related to key golf events
- extreme weather conditions, such as frost occurring during winter months which caused unplayable putting surfaces, resulted in values being recorded that were outside the optimal range of firmness. The impact of the duration of such weather events on playability can now be predicted
- there was an inverse relationship between the volumetric water content in the soil and the firmness, i.e. as soil moisture content increased, firmness decreased. Therefore, tracking firmness and soil moisture values is very useful for helping to programme irrigation needs and to realise the effect of the level of water input on the playing performance of the greens
- the quality of irrigation water has a direct impact on the behavior of the putting green and its evolution over time. Water with a high salt concentration reduces its firmness and uniformity as a result of damage to soil structure and drainage. This may also account for the appearance of moss which, where present, creates a softer surface. It may be possible to schedule flushing events more accurately if reductions in firmness are noted ahead of such damage
- a lack of traffic in a given area of the putting green results in reduced firmness which may result in greater soil moisture near the surface, leading to the proliferation of moss
- higher firmness values within greens were directly related to player traffic, enabling identification of their movements. This could then be related to the design of the putting greens, highlighting traffic flow between entry and exit points, indicating those areas more likely to become compacted and requiring micro-management with regards to aeration.
The use of monitoring in this fashion, if perhaps at a reduced monthly frequency, could result in cost savings as greenkeeper time and fuel used is targeted more accurately.
The RSGF has prepared a protocol to explain the methodology for obtaining valuable information from assessing the firmness of greens and this can be extrapolated so that any golf course can take advantage of this simple means of testing an aspect of playing performance.“
...weekly assessments were taken
David Gomez, Director of the Green Section with the RSGF, summed up his reaction to this study: “This year-long study of green firmness provides statistical evidence of traffic, maintenance and weather related impacts on the playing performance of the greens at the Centro Nacional. Using firmness readings will now help the Course Manager maintain consistency and plan the management programme to get the best out of the greens and give golfers the optimal playing experience.”
In a second stage of research, the RSGF and AEdG intend measuring and analysing the reliability of the greens at Centro Nacional using the Greenstester and the R&A ‘Holing Out’ Test. The outcome of this work will be reported on in 2014.