The climate in this country can hardly be said to lend itself to the growth or development of natural greens of the first rank. The extreme heat and cold are not favorable allies. Therefore, all really good greens call for artificial treatment from their inception to protect them from adverse climatic conditions and to insure their being kept well. In the first place, it is absolutely essential that each green should be freely watered during the summer months, and this can only be properly done by laying a system of pipes. Unless this is done the grass becomes blistered by the heat and drought, and the ground gets hard and lumpy.
Nearly all good courses have water laid on to every green. It is not too much, in fact, to say, that no first-class green can be maintained without such aid, intelligently applied.
The best time to do the watering is after the sun is down, otherwise possible injury may result to the grass, to say nothing of the loss from evaporation on a hot, sunny day. The water should be applied in a fine spray, not on any account in a solid stream or unbroken jet, which is liable to make the surface rough by washing out the soil. It should be kept going sufficiently long to thoroughly percolate through to the roots of the grass. It is much better to thus soak a green twice a week than to simply moisten the surface nightly. More especially does a new green demand a liberal supply of water in order to give the young grass a chance to get well rooted.
Where the natural conditions are favorable it is advisable to build up a green from the old turf. But if coarse grass exists to any extent, then it is better in the long run to resort to sodding. In the event of good sod not being available, there is but one thing left to do, and that is to plough up the surface to a depth of a foot or so and remove all loose material. Then proceed to fill in a layer of sand a few inches in depth, and cover it with good loam about an inch or so thick; on top of this put a thin crust of well-rotted manure, and then another layer of loam of two or three inches. At this stage apply a dressing of bone-dust, with a touch of slacked lime. Cover this with a suggestion of sand, superficially only, and top off with loam, the surface being raked and finely pulverized. Sow liberally with a mixture of recleaned Red Top, Rhode Island Bent, Creeping Bent, Crested Dog's Tail, and Kentucky Blue grass, and level off and roll with a very light roller. It is of prime importance that the ground should be abundantly supplied with moisture to make sure of the roots becoming firmly established, as it is not always safe to rely upon Dame Nature to look after this end of the business. Err on the side of an apparent excess of moisture rather than an insufficiency, especially during the early stages and the first season.
Aim to give diversity to the greens in respect to the character of the surface, avoiding as far as possible dead levels. Rather let the contour be of a gently undulating nature here and there. This may very easily be done also in the case of sodded greens.
Where there is a fairly good foundation to work upon in the shape of average turf that offers promise with a little nursing, it is better to accept what the gods give us and make the best of it. Proceed first by carefully removing by the roots any weeds or coarse grass; then gently loosen the surface, particularly on bare spots, with a rake, and cover with a thin dressing over the entire green of rich loam previously mixed with bone-dust and, if possible, sheep manure, with a liberal admixture of the grass seeds already mentioned. Rake over thoroughly with a wooden rake, and lightly roll and keep freely watered. Well - rotted manure is a good plant food, in conjunction with bone-dust, but the paramount objection to it is that it is apt to contain weed germs, consequently it cannot be safely recommended at any time for top-dressing. Pulverized sheep manure is also excellent, but not so readily procurable. A slight sprinkling of wood-ashes will do no harm. Avoid, however, any over-indulgence in potash fertilizers, as they provoke a growth of clover, and clover of any kind has no place on a course. Unless it is kept very closely cut on the greens, it has a very "draggy" and retarding effect on the run of a ball, and is therefore undesirable. It is also objectionable through the fair green, as it has no sustaining power to hold a ball up. The ball sinks through the yielding cluster of leaves and stems and so embeds itself that it has to be dug out by the roots as it were. Before the face of the club can reach the ball in a patch of clover it has first to come in contact with the intervening leaves, and the stroke is thus robbed of a good deal of power.
The ideal putting-green is covered with a close sward of very fine grass, with a thick matting of roots. The blades should be fine and slender, silky and yet tenacious - entirely different from the ordinary first-class lawn. A coarse, large - bladed grass, the product of undue fertility, is not what is wanted - quite the contrary. Putting, in the true sense of the word, is impossible on such. Really good greens are to be found naturally on sandy soils, or rather where the substratum is of sand with a surface deposit of loam.
Comparatively few courses are blessed with such, but much may be done to bring almost any green up to a better level by approximating the conditions and constituents of these seaside greens by a liberal use of sand, the free application of which, during the fall and early spring months, will work a most beneficial change. Most inland greens need impoverishing instead of enriching. Sand will do this to a marked extent, and a finer growth of grass will result.
A close and prolonged study of this question convinces me that the best treatment for the general run of greens is a liberal application of sand, seed, bone-dust, lime, and water. Neither the sand, the bone-dust, nor the lime, however, should be put on during the summer months. Commencing in October, a sprinkling of sand, bone-dust, lime, and clear, white sea-sand should be applied, while the greens are still in use. The sand will quickly work itself into the soil, and as fast as it does more should be sprinkled on until it is decided to close them for the winter. Then a more liberal supply of bone-dust may be added, and the entire surface of the green be covered with about half an inch of sand. The snows and rains of the winter will leave very little trace by spring. In April or May - according to the latitude - put on a very thin coat of fine loam mixed with bone-dust and plenty of seed. On top of this sprinkle a suggestion of sand, and see that the greens have plenty of water, if the natural supply is deficient. Run a very light roller over so as to make an even surface. If any weeds make their appearance, carefully remove them by the roots, and fill in with the compost mentioned. After the warm weather sets in abstain from sand, and water freely.