Challenging Time - Summer heat


Fairways and greens

It has been a while since my last newsletter and I hope to get back to you with a regular update of work on the course and things to expect.
We are currently levelling tees on the par 3’s and will move to the par 4 and 5 tees after all the short holes are done. The rails we use for the levelling process were kindly given to us to finish the project by the Bowling club, and for that we are truly thankful.
Levelling of the 7th club tee.

Many of you may have noticed that the course have been taking some strain over the past few weeks and it is mainly due to the fixing of our mainline irrigation pipe. We have taking out the pipes that was always leaking and replaced it with a 250mm stainless steel pipe. We have more work to do in the pump station itself to have the system operating at 100%. We hope to get the course back in shape very soon.

Other work on the course is the project to eradicate foreign grasses from our fairways, mainly focusing on the kikuyu that is currently spreading like a wild fire. We have sprayed 4 holes and aim to have the whole course done by mid-April, with more applications to follow after this application. The first and second fairways are currently looking out of shape due to a Grub infestation that are eating the roots of the grass and causing it to die back. We are also currently spraying insecticides on the course to control this problem. In the picture on the left you can see the white grubs and the picture to the right shows the damage they cause below ground and the effect of this above ground.

You may have noticed some marked areas on the landing area of the first fairway. These are areas marked off to be sodded with new grass and a big tining project is planned for this area to relieve huge compaction issues. This will help us to get the first impression back to what it should be. The picture on the right shows the compacted layer below ground that formed a rock solid base that promotes anaerobic condition in the soil and prevents the plant to grow to its optimum strength.

Charl Blaauw
Estate Maintenance Manager/Golf Course Superintendant

Why do we hollowtine?

When love and hate collide
I know the heading of my article sounds like a song, and maybe it was written for Course Superintendents as they start their Spring treatments on the course every year, the time of the year when course superintendent punch holes in their well-manicured greens that resembles billiard tables, also the time of the year when members “love to hate” the poor guy maintaining the greens, the Course “Sup” .Why would any person in their right mind want to mess up a perfect green?

I hope to answer some of these questions from a Superintendents point of view.

Why do we hollowtine?
It is hard to believe that hollowtining helps you keep your greens perfect, but this is true. The main reasons why we do hollowtining will be named and highlighted in this article.

Thatch removal is a key reason why greens and fairways for that matter gets hollow tined, the definition of thatch can be described as, “Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively-growing grass and the soil underneath. Thatch is a normal component of an actively growing turf grass. As long as the thatch is not too thick, it can increase the resilience of the turf to heavy traffic. Thatch develops more readily on high-maintenance lawns than on low-maintenance lawns.” The definition sums up why it is important to remove thatch on greens.

Compaction relief
, with this I mean compaction caused due to traffic moving over the green on a daily basis, whether it is the machines cutting the grass or golfers enjoying a nice round of golf .Imagine walking in a veld and ahead of you are animal paths heading in all directions, have you ever noticed that nothing grows where all the traffic is focused on? This is all due to compaction and outside stresses that are not advantageous to normal plant growth, take the traffic out of the veld and the weeds will start growing on these compacted areas and water will struggle to infiltrate the soil. Let me explain how hollowtining helps with compaction relief. A hole gets punched into the greens surface and a core extracted (or not in the case of solid tines), immediately the tine breaks the hard crust under the surface and depending on the severity of the compaction the Superintendent can set the depth of tining accordingly. Now for the rest of this article I will focus on “Hollowtining” where we extract a core from the actual green and fill the hole with sand to ensure a smooth putting surface. By filling the hole with new sand it creates a new growing medium for the roots to move into, and the more roots you have, the stronger the plant, and the stronger the plant, the less it will suffer under the stresses of heat and disease.

The open holes on the greens give the Superintendent the perfect opportunity to get all the needed soil amendments down to ensure optimum plant growth. The open holes also promotes air movement within the soil, and like all living things, the most important components to stay alive are air, water, food and temperature. I think I have touched on most of these key components now, except water. Due to the compaction relief, water now drains freely through the soil profile where the plant can absorb the water through its roots and also due to the water movement, a lot of unwanted salts can get washed out of the soil that will usually be harmful to the plant.

The time of the year when most clubs do their tining will be dependent on weather, golf days and scheduled tournaments, but most courses do it between September and November and some courses even do it twice a year, with this I mean that they do it again in March or April. This seems a lot, but the only reason most clubs don’t do it twice a year is because of budget constraints and loss of income during and after the hollowtining.

Now you can take this information and apply this to your lawn at home, trust me, you will see some amazing results. There are contractors that specialize in hollow tining and scarifying of lawns. Ask your course Superintendent for some advice; he might just be able to put you in contact with contractors like this.

This is in short why we hollowtine and how we can keep giving you great greens surfaces for most of the year. Next time you see your Course Superintendent, have a chat with him and ask him more about the process, because the more we all know the better, and remember this “sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind to get the best results”.

Greetings from St Francis Links where we hope to make a first impression a lasting impression.

Charl Blaauw
Estate Maintenance Manager/Golf Course Superintendant

What makes a great course?

Behind every successful golf course there is a whole organized system that happens behind the scenes to ensure a winning product.

In this article I will show you the true “Heroes” that makes a golf course look great. No operation becomes a success with only the Superintendent leading in the front; the true quality of a course gets measured by the team that does the tasks behind the scenes. I will start with the most important operation in my mind, the workshop. The Workshop determines every step taken on a daily basis, if you don’t have a sound system in place to have all the machines and transport vehicles in a good working condition on a daily basis, then you will see the negative results on the golf course. Machines needs to be checked after every mowing schedule for heights, tire pressure, oil and so much more. Without these checks you will have machines leaving unsightly lines on the fairways, greens and rough and even the roll of the greens won’t be up to the correct standard. It is the duty and responsibility of the workshop manager, which in my case is Nico Young, to make sure all the settings are done and ready for the next day. The daily responsibilities of the workshop team needs to be on par every day to ensure a healthy and visually satisfying playing surface.

The schedules of the workshop gets divided into daily, weekly, monthly and yearly procedures.

- Checking machines heights
- Checking oil
- Checking tire pressures
- Look for hydraulic leaks
- Preventative maintenance
- Placing orders for parts on time
- Filling all machines with fuel
- Report to the Superintendent to ensure that we can prioritize the work to be done.
- Taking time every morning to check the machines while they are cutting.
- Checking that all lights on machines are working on the machines.
- Managing and delegating tasks to the staff under the workshop manager.


- Ensuring that machines that only get used on a weekly basis are in good working order.
- Cleaning of the workshop.

- Stock take
- Staff training
- Grinding of mower reels on a set program.
- Servicing of vehicles and machines.

Machine service board
- Stock take

- Replacement program of machines when required.
- Servicing of key components like the compressors and the hydraulic lift in the workshop.

These are just a few aspects involved in running a workshop and on a daily basis these tasks gets stretched to the maximum due to unexpected breakages and more.

A well organised workshopon your right.


Danny Mhlabeni (Assistant Superintendent St Francis Links)


The other crucial part in a successful golf course will be the assistant Superintendent which in my case is Danny Mhlabeni. Without a good assistant no operation can ever be a success. At St Francis Links I am fortunate not to have a good assistant by my side, but a great one to ensure that the prioritized tasks gets done in the correct manner and at the correct standard. The two foremen and staff that completes the team are each crucial in their own positions, without one staff member on my team we would not be able to be the 8th best course in the country at the moment.

With this article I salute my team and all the other course maintenance teams in this country for their dedication and hard work behind the scenes.