Golf club moves to Bent grass for sustainability

Martin Coward, head greenkeeper of Broadstone Golf Club, has embarked on a sward conversion programme to make the greens more sustainable.

Broadstone GC head greenkeeper Martin Coward. Image: Supplied
Broadstone GC head greenkeeper Martin Coward. Image: Supplied

Broadstone is a heathland course set in the Dorset countryside and is listed in the Top 100 golf courses in Britain and Ireland.

The predominately Poa annua greens at Broadstone are always in great condition during the summer, but with the demands for year-round play, Coward wanted to extend the period the greens could be in top condition to get good play throughout autumn, winter and spring.

Coward - who has worked at Broadstone for 30 years and is supported by a team of seven - said the club is now in the first year of a five-year programme to convert the greens to predominantly bent.

The decision was made around two years ago, under the guidance of master greenkeeper and now consultant Gordon Irvine.

Coward explained: "The Poa greens are at times difficult to manage and prone to disease meaning regular applications of fungicide are required to eradicate the problem, costing us around £1000 a spray. With the upcoming legislation changes on pesticides, chemical applications, water usage and the continuing challenge of climate change, Bent greens will not only provide improved annual coverage but will also require less water and chemical input."

Following successful conversions at other clubs, Coward was happy to follow Irvine's tried and tested advice and chose the Johnsons J All Bent mixture for the job.

"I've used Johnson's J Fescue on the fairways before and chose J All Bent on this occasion because of the top STRI ratings for the two Browntop cultivars, Arrowtown and Manor. It was so important that this being the first year, we achieved great results and needed a seed that could deliver that."

The first pass on the greens began on 25 September and by 8 October they had already achieved good germination. "Everyone was amazed how quickly it came up, the lines were clearly visible."

Coward has received a lot of positive feedback from members and fellow greenkeepers and course managers after he published his results on social media. He added: "It's been an intense job, lots of ground work beforehand but the results we've achieved show it pays dividends to do it properly.

"This programme will continue for the next four years, when the greens will be predominately Bent, and hopefully then we will be in a great sustainable position for future greens management."

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