I had all these great ideas for blogs and vlog updates in the last couple of months. I started to make some videos but due to the pace of the amount of work being done it’s always so far behind when I come to editing or even when writing a blog. Always seemed pointless as things had changed again. I am not going to let that stop me anymore but I can’t believe I am writing another blog during lockdown... another one!
Lockdown2 is different if I am honest, for me personally not a lot has changed. I am still coming to the club to work daily, the kids are at school or nursery. Having young children means I don’t go out anymore :) so I am not even doing that at this stage in our lives. Our evenings and weekends are normally taken up by beach walks, parks and walks in the forest. All of these are still open.
It does make me question why golf is now closed ?
Golf is one of the safest sports you can play. It’s a great walk and social distance is never a problem. Even now measuring out the outside hitting bays on the range project. It’s 2.5 meters between players, because that’s the hitting mat sizes to give you room to swing.
For me and others in the industry we realise this is a political and traffic issue and not a safety issue. Imagine being the government during the pandemic that allowed only hunting, golf and tennis and not football!
The argument could be that this should reduce essential travel. For example we as a club with 5,488 rounds available during this lockdown will reduce roughly 10,000 car journeys. Imagine that for all golf clubs in England and the risk it reduces of people going to get petrol, stopping at shops, accidents for the emergency services to deal with etc.
The only bonus I can take from golf course side is the course is getting a rest. The damage following one of the wettest October’s and out wettest month ever since we started recording weather all those years ago. 226mm of rain fell over ever square inch of the golf course. That’s a lot of water.
On top of this we tried to stay open towards the end when we shouldn’t have because we knew lockdown was coming and we would be able to get some recovery. This will get harder as we go into winter.
As I sit and write this blog we’ve just had 29mm of rain on Saturday alone and it’s still raining this Sunday morning. Make no mistake the course is very, very wet in places. This is hindering so much work both on the course and on the range project.
I know the course isn’t playable at the moment and we would be closed.
So the good news is due to the awful amount of rain you are not missing much!
Without doubt every year we seem to be breaking records. This maybe the hottest years on record (three of the last five are in the all time hottest top five), the wettest months keep breaking with images of flash flooding now becoming a scene we see regularly on the TV. The heaviest rainfall in a 24hr period. The climate has definitely changed even in my 25 years in the industry. We tend to get more extreme weather, hot and no rain and then periods of heavy rain as Mother Nature evens things up. It’s a more Mediterranean feel to it. Big down pours, less actually rain days but more rain when it comes. This makes sense to why we are draining greens for example. These will still flood because the infiltration rates are still lower than the rain rate but it’s about quicker recovery and being firmer the other side of the downpour. We really are seeing the benefit of the investment now. Out of the six wettest greens we have drained so fair they are the ones we can mow first now after the rainfall. More gulley pots and runoffs have been added along with fairway drainage and more will need to be added.
Irrigation and water are the other way. These high temperature summers with long periods of drought cause the grass plant to die. We need to build an infrastructure that can cope with modern weather patterns and having irrigation across the course to stop us losing grass coverage is a must and something we are working on very hard in the background.
My worry going forward is how busy we will be after lockdown is lifted and golfers can finally get back out. Last time we are the weather on our side, dry and recovery was good. The levels of compaction last time due to how busy the course got was frightening and this time we will get just as busy.
We are a full membership with a waiting list and that’s before the range opens. I think this will bring another surge of people wanting to become members.
The downside is the weather will be going into is coldest months and recovery will not happen until spring. We will need to be tough on roping off areas and managing the traffic through the course. We will need to protect it sometimes too but this lockdown gives us a chance to rest the course and be ready and to get a lot of work done. To get things in place for the spring and the following year.
Due the record breaking wet October we decided to postpone the hollow coring of the fairways until spring (if needed). The damage caused would have been to great but the good news is the green staff have been able to get on a get loads of work done around the course.
At this time we have decided not to furlough any of the green staff. We are probably busier now than in the summer. If you think of farming, if we don’t do the work now it won’t be in place for the spring and we would have no crop and our crop is grass. Add to this the pressure of the leaves coming down (1000 man hours every year) the fact we couldn’t hollow core fairways so we are trying to aerate in house, staff holidays and allowing for people to be off in isolation plus all the projects going on.
We are busy, busy, busy!
Day one of Lockdown 2 and the staff had to remove all course furniture. This is to stop theft and trespassing. We then secured around the clubhouse and car park, even having to put a new post box up ready for the clubs mail.
This was less stressful than before, we had done it before and we had more time, we understand more about the pandemic and we know the club are in a good position. Before it felt strange with the weather being amazing and the car park empty. It doesn’t feel the same in the wet, it’s almost what happens during the winter months. We still miss those smiling faces, quick conversations and laughter with the members and staff but it doesn’t feel like before. We know you are coming back and can’t wait but we know your coming!
The aim straight away was to divot tees and around greens and aprons. I wanted as much recovery as we could get before we opened.
We carried on with the aeration on fairways and now have completed the fairways twice with 19mm solid tines.
We also aerated the greens at 1.5 inch settings. Something we have never done. This basically is a tighter spacing between the tine holes, meaning more of the surface area is hit and more air into the surface. We don’t normally do this as it took four days to complete (frost delays added in). We normally aim for one or two days. It also makes the surface a little soft, which we couldn’t get a way with during normal play.
We have also over seeded fairways in two directions on most fairways. We have applied a Dwarf Rye again following the success of last two seasons seed. Even though it looked like we had lost it in the summer, it proved it had just gone dormant and as soon as we got rain it greened up and recovered. Pretty amazing really. This is the grass species I think we will see emerge first. The second way we used a Hard Fescue, Creeping Fescue and Chewings Fescue mix. This was after consultation with seed experts who visited the site during the year and we looked all the species that had survived the last three years and tried to get a mix that would thicken the fairways back up following the 2018 drought. I expect these species to establish in spring next year.
We have also take the opportunity to hollow core some of the worst areas of fairways, collect, broadcast over seed and topdress before running the seeder over in two directions. We will fertilise all the fairways with a granular feed go try and establish as much of this grass as possible. We intended to do this during lock down and we may start selected areas but one of our big issues now is the amount of leaves coming down. These are obviously covering the site and we will now wait until all the leaves are down in most areas before applying as we don’t want to blow it or sweep the fertiliser off the surfaces. We have gone with a 6 month base fertiliser that will just trickle away for six months and hopefully get us back to full establishment. For those interested this works by each fertiliser prill being covered in one of three different coatings. Each coating breaks down in different temperatures and moisture levels. So the first hit we get comes from a quick release granule and last about two months. Once this breaks down the next coating has weathered and started the same process until all three have fully broken down. Anyway, thats enough from me about fertilisers.
|Top dressing sitting on surface at 1st|
When you return you may notice some woodland work has been carried out around the site. Lifting of the lower branches to 14ft along the Greenkeepers track at the 1st (relief for all of us that regularly hit it out there and have to thread the ball back into play!), this hasn’t been done with golf in mind but the delivery of the new halfway just that is delivered as one unit in the back of a lorry and we needed 14ft clearance to get the unit out to the course. Next we will start to trench utilities down the 18th to the new area at the 10th halfway hut. It is hoped we will get this area built during lock down. We then will wait for the spring or a dry period to allow us to transport the halfway hut into position on the back of a lorry. I can confirm no lorries can get out there at the moment!!
We have also done some major clearance of scrub and Rhododendrons in the bowl on the 18th. This will give us chance to survey the area to see if it could help us in anyway with water storage. To do this because the area is so wet we had to hire an amphibian digger. There are only a few if these in the country but the grapple on this made removing the Rhododendron and scrub easier.
From Monday the delivery of our trees as part of the driving range project will arrive and the planting will begin. I will post photos of low loaders full of good size trees arrive. Exciting stuff!
As you can see the team have been busy since lockdown started and the battle with leaves is hotting up. We have cut most surfaces once due to the wetness and have started cutting greens by hand mowers. The battle keep on top of disease is also on going. Our aim now is to get as much seed out and projects done as we can and intend to up the presentation if this if possible before we come out of Lock down in December. It wont be quite the same as last time with the weather falling away but the team are in and working very hard for all of you. My personal thanks goes out to them.
I will do another blog about the Range Project as there is so much to tell you about. Also I will be publishing videos this week of works that have been getting done over the last few weeks.
I will blog again with a range update and keep you informed with what’s going out on the course next week.
For now I will be watching the Masters. I must say this has been a great Masters for all Greenkeepers. Seeing Augusta showing signs of wear, covered in leaves, balls plugging and “mud balls” has been quite refreshing. Even with all the investment and hundreds of staff. It’s a golf course, it has issues just like the rest of us. When we normally see it in April it’s their best time of year. We know GDD (growth wise) it’s the same as when we have Club Championships in July (with a few millions less spent on upkeep). I’ve been lucky enough to visit the site and it is amazing even in the winter but as this Masters has proved, it’s great but not perfect!
Stay safe everyone, let’s get through this.