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A seasonal look at BICC court management

Arlene Parker  | Published on 8/11/2020

Hello Everyone - the Chair of the Turf Committee is Lou Schenck. Lou wrote this interesting article on how our courts are managed through the seasons. Enjoy!

The members of the Bayfield International Croquet Club are very fortunate to have three world class courts to play croquet on starting in April each year until sometime in either November or December.  There is a lot of hard work that goes into making these courts the envy of many clubs across Canada. 

 

Early in the New Year, the Turf Committee puts together a plan that will keep the lawn healthy and running fast from the beginning to the end of the year.  Our goal each year is to strike a balance between making the courts look good yet not so good that the court speeds are slow.  Each action we take or do not take, will have an effect on speed of the courts.   Here are some of the things we are doing to manage court speed.

 

·         courts are cut three times per week in the summer season (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). Each cutting takes approximately four hours to cut the three courts and clean the mower.  Shorter grass makes for faster courts.  However, the shorter the grass, the less margin for error we have.  Grass that is too short may not stand up to the weather (heat, humidity and drought) and usage of the courts. 

·         We are rolling the courts three days per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) Rolling eliminates some of the smaller bumps and ant hills on the courts.  It also helps to reduce a fungus called dollar spot.  Finally, it firms up the turf, making for faster courts.  There is no downside to rolling more often other than higher labour costs.  It takes about three hours to roll the three courts

·         With every cut, we removed the grass clippings which requires frequent fertilization (six to seven times per year) to put nutrition back into the turf.  We have to apply the right amount of fertilizer.  Too much and the grass grows soft and lush, slowing court speed.  Without enough fertilizer, grass is firm and much faster but the turf may not be healthy.  This may work in the short term but over the season we risk losing patches of grass. 

·         Trying to find the proper irrigation strategy is the toughest thing we manage.  It’s more art than science and the person controlling the water needs to be aware of court health, grass height, weather patterns, rain\no rain, average and peak daily temperature, wind speed and humidity.  Too much water and the courts become lush, green and slow and more prone to fungal diseases.  Too little moisture and turf can turn brown and die.  We have seen both at the courts.

·         We are verticutting a couple of times per year to remove thatch from the turf.  We remove grass clippings with each mowing, but some escapes and builds up over time.  The verticutter “digs up” this layer of thatch.  Turf can breathe better with more oxygen reaching the roots, lowering humidity around the blades of grass, reducing the incidence of fungal disease.  Bent grass over time tends to become very thick resulting in slower court speeds.  Verticutting thins out the grass leads to a harder surface, thereby increasing court speed.  Finding the proper balance is the trick. It takes about 6 hours to verticut and clean the three courts. We typically verticut twice per year (Spring and Fall).

·         Top dressing is one other function we do each year.  We put a thin layer of sand on top of the grass.  This helps protect the grass, improves drainage, eliminates small indentations and generally makes the courts run faster.  The club has purchased a used top dressing machine in mint condition that will make this task much easier to perform. 

 

We are very lucky to have the services of Adriaan Schreuder.  Adriaan takes a lot of pride in the work he does, getting up early in the mornings to cut or roll the grass, so members can start to play at 8 am each day.  He has a mechanical background and is able to trouble shoot and fix small problems.  He takes excellent care of the club’s equipment and treats it like his own.  He is very passionate about the turf and is extremely pleasant to work with!  If you see him at the courts, introduce yourself and thank him for the good work he does for the club.

 

We have an excellent committee comprised of Cal Scotchmer, Brian Carrier and Andrew Widdis.  It’s a pleasure working with these gentlemen and I thank them for their service.

Lou Schenck