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Fairways

Posted by mynormas on February 9, 2016


Unmaintained fairways are not something new in Malaysia. I’m sorry, let me rephrase that: Low maintenance fairways are not something new in Malaysia, since I know many of our superintendents won’t agree (even if golfers do). Out of the 200 golf courses in Malaysia, the number of them that actually maintained their fairways beyond mowing are very few. I don’t agree to not maintain fairways at all but in the effort to be ‘sustainable’ and to survive, I actually think its a pretty good idea to have some minimum level that we won’t go beyond.

Lets defined maintained fairways first anyway: I’d say they’re

  1. Mown, regularly and not just once in a while and at a consistent cutting height.
  2. Fertilised, as per requirement and at the optimum level.
  3. Done cultural practice when necessary; things like aeration, vertical cutting, y’know… stuff like that.
  4. Watered during the dry season (this should be in ‘cultural practice’ but what the heck).
  5. Drained of excess water during the rainy season via adequately constructed or maintained subsoil or surface drainage.
  6. kept as much as uncontaminated by weeds as possible.
  7. kept to not having any bald areas (don’t you just hate it when your ball is on the fairway but its on hard clay soil that you know is going to damage your club and duff your shot?)

Otherwise, and as are often seen in Malaysia we are left with fairways that are wet in the rainy season, dry (and dead) in the dry but most importantly, and this is the culmination of the lack of all of the above practices, mostly weeds that survived the water-logged, drought, no fertilising, compacted condition of the fairway.

I think its okay. When it rains in Malaysia, it pours anyway so most golfers avoid playing in the rain. When its really dry, its hazy so most golfers avoid playing during the driest months. Of course, if your fairway are the sort that turns muddy when wet and hard as concrete when dry, you had better have fantastic greens.

So, as long as the fairway has a consistent surface that a golfer can hit a ball as best as he could without damaging his club or his ball I’m sure most golfers are happy enough. Its when a fairway’s surface are not consistent that issues arise. If I hit further than my mate but my ball lands on a area of a fairway that’s bald or hard (at least on a wet surface I may be able to declare casual water) or the weeds are so long that I can’t make a good shot then I’ll get angry because it causes me to lose the advantage of a longer drive or a well-placed shot. Especially if my mate hits a puny shot, lands on prime fairway land and he makes this smug face while whistling, making this funny walk. One day I’m going to get into my buggy and run you over…

Golfers are also prone to anger when the ball they hit and they saw it land on a fairway but they can’t find it because its buried under the fairway for some future archaelogist to find a thousand years from now but more likely an enterprising staff later in the day to sell it back to you in a bag of used balls when you come again next weekend.

It really isn’t that much of a deal to maintain the minimum. This advice may not work for all golf courses but for most clubs that I’ve seen in Malaysia, apart from good subsoil drainage; some aeration and regular mowing is good enough.

Hollow tining is good but if the problem is the cores and topdressing, may I recommend just slicing the fairways more regularly? Instead of hollow-tining once a year maybe slice six or ten times a year? You don’t have to close the course because the damage isn’t as bad as hollow tines. My experience is that after a few rounds of slicing, my fairways won’t be as soggy so soon after the beginning of the monsoon. There are of course, other factors involved so there may be some other methods to try too but many older clubs built with input from expat experts have one (I have seen a club with two) fairway slicer rusting and rotting in the workshop. Just be careful of slicing during a drought because the sliced hole may stay for as long as the drought lasts.

fairway slicer

Slicing will help with aeration and water penetration.

As for mowing there are two issues I’d like to bring up. One is that the insistence of many that a fairway can only be cut with a five-gang mower. It would be good and nice if you can afford it but if you can’t; why suffer? Buy a small to mid-sized tractor and fix it with mowing attachments! It costs less than one-third of a fairway mower and most mechanics can take care of it. When the time comes and you can finally afford a five-gang, the tractor can be used for other works. All you have to do is change the attachment.

Cutting height: about 15 - 17mm.

If you think a small rotary mower can’t do stripes; think again. This small mower on a course with a lot of Lovegrass does it very well.

tractor reel mower (2)

This tractor is a bit large for my liking but the small rural club have used it for years. They’ve stopped mowing the rough around greens this year because of the wet condition.

 

 

The second issue is that reel mowers can cut some of the long weeds on Malaysian fairways. I’ve seen superintendents send staff with brush-cutters or even lawnmowers behnd their five-gang mowers to cut these weeds. Why not use rotary mowers? Nowadays the five-gang mowers can be fitted with rotary mowers or you can also use a tractor-pulled rotary mower.

mow lovegrass 2

Note the long grass springing back up behind the mower.

mow fairway cutter

And this guy has to come behind the five-gang to cut the long weeds.

5 gang rotary fairway mower (2)

Or you can buy a five-gang fitted with rotary blades and save on backlapping at the same time.

 

 

But the most important thing is; don’t neglect the fairway. If you have a bald spot repair it or at the very least, mark it with a GUR or do something.

Golfers will, mainly, judge a golf course by its greens but the fairway is the area a non-golfer could judge a golf course because thats what they see from the clubhouse, the road or maybe even their houses beside the course; you really don’t want to be judged badly for something that’s not necessarily hard to maintain.

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