After being locked out of their golf courses for the best part of three weeks, New Zealand superintendents have been allowed back in after the New Zealand Government approved an exemption for essential maintenance last week.
New Zealand has been in Alert Level 4 lockdown since 26 March, with golf and sports facilities forced to cease operations entirely as they were considered non-essential businesses. Kiwi superintendents were literally given 48 hours’ notice that they wouldn’t be allowed back on their courses, prompting a flurry of work to get surfaces as best prepared for the shutdown.
Following lobbying by the golf industry, last Tuesday (14 April) the New Zealand Government announced that urgent maintenance of golf courses would be permitted under Alert Level 4 restrictions. This followed an earlier exemption granted for the upkeep of turf surfaces at schools and other sports facilities. That has enabled superintendents such as ASTMA member Leo Barber (Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club) and his crew the welcome opportunity to get back on course and see how their prized surfaces have fared.
And in further positive news for the NZ golf industry, just this week the NZ Government confirmed that it would be lifting its lockdown restrictions from Level 4 to Level 3, meaning golf is allowed to resume as of next Tuesday (28 April) albeit with restrictions in place.
“The maintenance of sports turf was deemed non-essential by the Government which meant absolutely no maintenance could be carried out during the lockdown at all,” explains Barber. “We prepared for the worst during the 48 hours we were afforded to prepare and having applied a growth regulator and fungicide to the greens and given the course a final mow, we closed the gates and headed into our socially isolated bubbles.
“Those gates were opened marginally last week and just two staff members were allowed back in and only then to undertake very minimal and only urgent maintenance. For us this has been mowing greens (3-4 times per week), fairways/tees/surrounds (once a week) and rough as required. We haven’t had to fertilise or apply any fungicides, but would do so if required.
“We are fortunate that the lockdown had occurred in mid-autumn and not the beginning of summer, and despite no maintenance at all for those first three weeks the course has held up very well. The treatments applied prior had worked and even with such a small crew and hours of work limited, we have the course ready for opening this coming Tuesday.”
The ASTMA thanks Barber and wishes him and his crew the best of luck.