Singapore: In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, The R&A has issued an Essential Maintenance Statement for Golf Courses in Asia.
The industry statement sets out a reduced, essential maintenance regime for golf course maintenance that protects workers, jobs and secures golfing facilities for the physical and mental well-being of millions of golfers who will resume play following the easement of safe distancing rules.
“The Asian golf industry and golf courses are only sustainable if course maintenance staff continue to work, safely and securely,” said Chris Gray, Head of Sustainability & Agronomy – Asia Pacific, The R&A.
“The R&A industry statement for Asia outlines those treatments considered essential for the safe maintenance of a golf course during potential government restrictions. It is accepted that golf courses exist in many different forms, on many different soil types and in differing landscapes and that this guidance may require adaptation to suit individual club and climate circumstances,” he added.
The primary consideration must be the health and well-being of course maintenance staff. All golf facilities should implement stringent measures to ensure staff members are not at risk. The amount of time that course maintenance staff work should be closely monitored and be tailored to fit with the agreed essential maintenance programme.
These measures should include (but are not limited to):
- Consider split shifts for course maintenance staff to help ensure continuity should self-isolation among turf maintenance staff be required.
- Sanitise equipment, motorised carts, line-markers, fuel pumps, buggies and all-purpose vehicles and air compressor handles before and after use.
- Ensure effective communication protocols are in place for management and staff.
- Encouraging employees to have breaks including lunch in outdoor areas where practical, such as eating lunch in open spaces or open areas of the course/facility.
- Encourage staff to wear gloves when using equipment and removing course furnishings.
- Ensure there is a robust working alone policy.
- Ensure a well-structured and contactless equipment servicing programme is in place and continues to support critical machinery.
- Ensure adequate supply of plant protectants is in place (and continual supply) for essential maintenance practices and preventative programs to be undertaken
Mowing and General Turf Maintenance
Golf courses are living, dynamic systems which require on-going maintenance to ensure the overall health of the surfaces does not decline to a point where they require significant renovation or complete surface replacement.
Failure to provide adequate maintenance could result in works being required which would be considered prohibitively expensive for many clubs, risking the future and viability of these important community facilities.
Turf surfaces on golf courses should be maintained based on their level of importance, with priority given to greens, then tees, fairways, bunkers, roughs/out-of-play areas with care and general management as required to maintain important natural vegetation, wildlife and greenspace areas.
Greens should be mown according to the rate of growth to a maximum of four times per week. Dew removal should be considered on non-mowing days as required to prevent disease spread.
Tees and green surrounds should be mown according to the rate of growth to a maximum of twice per week.
Fairways should be mown according to the rate of growth to a maximum of twice per week.
Managed roughs and grass paths should be mown according to need to a maximum of once every 10 days. Only roughs considered to be in direct play should be mown, allowing for naturalisation to areas largely out of play.
The height of cut adopted for all these areas is site specific but the elevation of the cutting height on fine turf areas is advised to minimise unnecessary stress on the turf. The aim of the above operations is to maintain uniformity, density, texture and health to allow surfaces to be quickly brought back to an appropriate playing standard once play resumes.
Irrigation and Nutrition
Irrigation and nutrition should be carried out as necessary but with the objectives of keeping the turf alive, maintaining a full sward and preventing turf thinning. Avoid excesses of either input which will only serve to promote unnecessary growth and necessitate more maintenance.
Machinery and Equipment Maintenance
This should be carried out as required to ensure that essential equipment is kept safe and operational.
Regular course operations such as maintaining bunkers, penalty areas, wider practice facilities (other than greens and tees) should be reviewed to determine level of essential maintenance required.
Turf managers are advised to monitor rainfall, temperatures, Growing Degree Days (where applicable) to manage spraying to control an acute pest, weed or disease problem as they arise. However, it is conceivable that occasional spraying to control an acute pest, weed or disease problem should be considered essential at times, particularly for greens.
Given the fluidity of the current situation there may be a requirement to update and re-issue this guidance in respect of future government advice.