Saturday, 27 April 2019

Same spring issues, different year

Well it's that time of year again, the Masters (which was amazing to see Tiger back) has been and gone and the season has started. Mother nature is throwing us curves balls again and the worry within the industry and Agriculture is increasing daily.
Hand watering...again

Having little rain over the winter was a good thing for golf but not for recovery on turf. The lack of rainfall to replace last years drought has not happened this winter meaning we started the year in a negative, rainfall wise. December tried its hardest to help claw some back but January was again low, February was above average helping us recover very quickly from maintenance week but March and Now April have been low. In fact so low we have only had 36mm of rain but due to the high daytime temperatures of the last two weeks our Evaporation has been 50.3mm, meaning a deficit of 14.3mm to date and another step back. So far this year we have had 223mm of rainfall on our new weather station (on top of the greenkeeper sheds, giving us accurate data). and on the same date last year we had 399mm. So what I hear you say! Last year was considered an awful spring, the 'Beast from the East' one and two... Without moisture and temperatures you cannot grow grasses or any plants or food more worryingly. Last year the lack of heat then extreme heat, this year lack of moisture with heat is just as bad and this has a knock on effect to the golf course.

Compost spread on fairways

The team have worked hard on re turfing bunkers and hollow coring, scarifying and over-seeding fairways. We also added green waste (compost) back on to the worst fairways to help us try to retain moisture and to give a natural feed to the weaker fairways on top of the granular and liquid fertilisers applied. Not only were the fairways worked on but we hollow cored surround and solid tined them too, these were over seeded and fertilised too including all the weak areas and pathway ends around the course. All the work has been done for these to recover as we get rain and they will. The next stage will be to go round and get the detail areas done. By this I mean more soil and seeding of weak worn areas, spraying weeds and getting on top of the course detail. Our man hours will now turn to all this rather than the all the work mentioned above. We will also be praying for some rain!

Once bush up you can see how much the bent grows compared to the Poa

Double bush and Lower HOC will help until temps pick up

The Rye grasses and the Bents have woken up from winter and soil temperatures are high enough for these to be going well but not quite high enough for the Poa grasses on the greens or on the fairways and rough. The Fescues are not quite awake yet either and all this is normal for time of year. Like I always say our golf season has started but mother nature always seems to start her season up after the FA cup final... why I don't know but by mid May every year we are up and running again.

Soil Temps still not high enough for good Poa growth but great for Bent
The higher bent grasses cause the ball to bobble

So what effect does the grass species have on you the golfer? Well firstly the greens will get a little bit bumpy and no this isn't caused by 8mm solid tines on greens or Topdressing, in fact both of these thing have been scientifically proven to smooth out surfaces. We also carry this out every month without fail, we even carried this out between the Club Championships and Pro Am last year and no one noticed...  The uneven growth in April is a big issue and as we try to encourage more Bent grasses species into the greens over the next few years will need to managed properly. Why would we try to encourage more Bents then? This is due to restrictions on us as an industry to use chemicals, in fact by 2020 the major chemicals we use to prevent Fusarium will be banned.We have already lost chemical for worms, leather jackets, chafer grubs and these we have started to see the effects from this already with more bird pecking and increase in mole hills. The chemical we had to stop fusarium on green once we had it was banned last year giving us nothing to cure it apart from cultural practices... Cultural practices like Topdressing and aeration! The bent grass species is more drought tolerant and more disease resistant, hence why we are encouraging it.

So I have explained why we need to encourage Bent grasses above but I have already blogged alot about why the greens get bumpy when the soil temperatures aren't quite right and all about the grass species. If you read these please read here:-

What have we been doing to help correct this? Well, we have lowered the heights of cut ready for the season and we have started to double brush the greens before we cut them to get the bent grasses to stand up tall so we cut them and improve the ball roll. We will be adding more topdressing again, as we know this smoothes them also. Please see a link to the USGA on topdressing :-

What else have the team been up too?

Well, all the work above including over seeding and composting fairways. If you have seen the last video blog please take a look here:-

Tree work


Apart from the tree work happening on the practice ground project you may have noticed lot of work taking place around the course and an increase in wood stacks. This has been due to a lot of trees suffering from last years drought and showing real safety concerns. We were lucky enough to have visits from both Mike Wood Senior Arboricultural Consultant and Will Jones (Managing Director)
The Tree Management Company during the planning stages of the driving range, both noticed trees they had real concerns about. These they didn't want removed but felt we needed to 'reduce the sails' and dead wood to protect the trees for the future. Some of these piles will be left for ecology and other removed. 

Lots of hand watering of new turfs, lots of cutting, many hours strimming (with more to do) and work to help the Practice ground project, the pathway on 18th will settle soon and looks great. We have prepped the edges and over seeded these areas. We have transplanted heather also from the back of the 1st tee tee banks to help give this a rugged natural feeling.
Some people have asked me what all the turf is down on the banks, this is called clod and its what was stripped off the practice green area before we lifted it as part of the project. This process allows us to get natural grasses to reappear somewhere else. The grasses from the piles facing out will establish quickly, and secure the bank, the rest will over time will breakdown into a nice soil, this will move a little giving a more natural finish and exactly what we have done on a couple of areas during the bunker project including the mounds right of the 2nd hole. 
We also took advantage of the shaper being on the 18th and got him to remove the old steps form the 18th and install a ramp instead. This will help improve safety for those who struggle with the steps and a reduction in manual handling.

We also got to demo a Wiedenmann Air seeder. This is a new digital way to seed with users being able to change inputs by 0.1 of gram. This is the future of over seeding when overseeding will be one of our best options in the future against disease.

Staff Training

The staff have undertaken two days of staff training this month. Firstly Customer service as the club looks to keep in proving the member relations and secondly First Aid training. Both days were fantastic and will be benfical to the members but let's hope we don't have to use the second one...

Practice Ground Project

The Phase 2 of the practice ground project is well underway and the new yellow and red 1st tees subsoil bases have been created.The pathway down to the new short game area and driving range has also started and safety mounding.  The trees down the bottom of 18th have been removed as agreed in planning and the old ditch is being piped to allow the range to move more left and centrally away from the 1st, 4th and 18th. We have the Presentation night for this on the 7th May at 6.30pm. Please come along and find out more about this exciting project.

New 1st tees and pathway route

We are also going to carryout are annual Greens Presentation night in June so watch out for information on that.

That's enough from me today I think, Please be patient with us as we wait for mother nature to help us out. The base work we have done will massively benefit once nature catches up and pray for rain (at night)!


Saturday, 30 March 2019

Our Rays of Light

Hi All,

I just wanted to do a blog about our newest members of the team. For those of you who haven't seen them or met them yet. Its been a long winter with lots going on. The weather has'nt been an awful winter but as we come out of winter into the spring we have some positives...

James Ferris

James Ferris joined the team back in October and although I have mentioned him in the blog I realised I have not given him the formal welcome he deserves (sorry James).
James joins the team as a Trainee Greenkeeper and one I can already say wont struggle to get qualified and build a strong career.
James qualified as a golf coach in 2008 along with fitness instruction certificates before moving to Canada for year before returning into the family business of fencing. James then moved into banking but missed the outdoor life so combing this with his passion for golf, the gym and boxing, made him an ideal candidate for our Trainee Greenkeeper. He's also good friends with Adam Hickling as they grew up playing golf together. James brings an enthusiastic energy to the team and someone who is keen to learn. He's started playing regular golf with the team as was part of the successful BIGGA Turkey Trot Team from Stoneham. I think James has taken to this industry like a duck to water and will progress amazingly.

Mike Littlecott  

Mike Littlecott  is the latest member to join the team, starting on the 11th March as a Greenkeeper. Mike joined from South Winchester where he was the Deputy Course Manager for the last four years. Mike joins the team as a fully qualified greenkeeper, holding diplomas in sports turf levels 2 and 3. He holds all his spraying certificates and chainsaw certificates and has tournament experience working at the Irish Open in Portstewart in 2017.
Mike started his career at Wellow Golf Club, where he worked for five years He is a keen golfer and cyclist who is also a Saints fan.
Mike is one of the up and coming greenkeepers within the industry and someone I was keen to bring in to strengthen our team. He is very career driven and his time in a management roll will help our eye for detail within the team. He's always wanted to work at Stoneham being a local lad and wants to help us move down the Top 100. I am delighted to have him on board as I believe he has a bright future in greenkeeping.

I do feel very lucky as we have always attracted the right people to join our teams. Everyone of them has been fantastic since I arrived and everyone of them would be welcomed back. As you can see above, we have two great members of staff who have joined our team. Both have great attributes and both could have strong careers. Lets make them feel welcome and wish them luck!



Sunday, 24 February 2019

The false spring?

Hi All,
Wow, what amazing weather we are experiencing at the moment compared with last February/March when the “Beast from the East” arrived. Do I think that’s it and we are getting into spring now? I don’t hold my breath because GDD wise March and April have been colder than January/ February, four out of five years.
Rain does still concern me as our rainfall has never recovered from the the summer. We are still in a slight deficit rainfall v evaporation wise. So we are not at field capacity... normally by this time of year the rivers and wells are over flowing which is great going into the summer. My worry about water isn’t alone as a lot of concern within Horticulture and Agriculture is being talked about. Not enough rainfall so far and more housing going on using either boreholes or connecting on to already struggling demands could lead to an early hose pipe ban... and Golf courses would be within such a ban. 
I am losing sleep over this yet? Not yet I am just enjoying this amazing weather and like they say making hay while the sunshine’s. Mother Nature has a funny way of evening things out! 

I know we lost four days due to snow again this year (so far) but generally the cold dry winter has meant we can play more golf and the greens have held on well. 

Course maintenance last week went very well. Firstly we topdressed the greens then we got all greens solid tined using just 12mm times to 225mm followed by 10mm to 100mm. We then applied an organic fertiliser and topdressed and brushed in again. This should take about a week to break down and start to show us some growth, especially with the highs of 14/15’s this weekend. 
Due to the amount of work we have put into the greens in the last three years to get the OM levels down and finally hitting target last year has meant we can be less aggressive this spring. 
This should mean we see the greens recover quicker than before
We will keep monitoring it from now on and make changes following our soil analysis. We won’t want the levels to go up but be maintained.


The aprons also got a deep aeration (12mm x 200mm) and micro hollow core to remove thatch (OM). This was then verti cut to collect the cores and cleared. We will be adding sand to these in the coming weeks and a liquid feed. We are coring these again in March as we try to firm up the aprons to get them to play firmer. This like the greens will be a slow process but it essential to get the course playing firm and fast. 

The tees also got a solid tine and these like the aprons will be getting hollow cored in March and sand topdressed/fertilised and over seeded before we get into the season. 

2nd Hole 

The 2nd hole has been out of action as mentioned in my previous blog but we have also completed a full drainage system in the apron and off the front of the approach. This has taken 10 days to complete due to how wet the area was. 
Part of this has been caused by the levels dropping after top soiling and also that the soils under the area haven’t resettled. If you remember we had the same issue in year one of the Bunker project to the right of the 4th or at the ditch at the 11th. These have since settled and are preforming much better now. I believe that given the extra drainage and once it’s dry enough for us to aerate the area it will restructure and settle just fine. The best way to describe it, is that we have stirred a pint of Guinness and now we need it to settle again. 

The hole is now back open and the new turfed area is GUR. We will keep monitoring it as soon as possible we will start to work the site to refine it for the summer. 


Re turfed bunker at 6th
So far we have had to re-turf around 20 bunkers on the course following the drought damage. This is obviously labour intensive as we have to strip everything not flat by hand, Shape and re turf. I think it’s something that we had no choice in doing but will be worth it in the end. 
The hollows on 13th we were re turfed using Dwarf Rye. Like I have said before this is still one area we wish to improve but our levels have been determined by the tree roots of the big Oakes next to it and the Irrigation system running under the hollows. 
Please do not play from or walk on any of the newly laid turf areas until we open them up. This could cause serious damage. 

Woodland management 
You will have noticed lots of woodland management around the course going on as we look to improve air flow and light while maintaining the woodlands for future generations to enjoy. 
We had a visit from the head tree officer from the council in December who was very complimentary about the work being carried out, especially since his last visit prior to the woodland project but reminded me of the damage Rhododendrons could cause our woodlands and to keep committed as we don’t want them falling back now the Club have done so much work. 
We have lots of dying trees that are to big for us that need reducing or felling due to there dangerous nature. We have roped these areas off so please do not walk inside these areas until these have been worked on. The Tree surgeons are booked in. This is for your safety. 

Part of me wonders if last years summer paid the price for these trees. I have never seen so many dead at the same time before. 

Please be aware a lot of work is planned for the fairways in the coming weeks as we try to continue getting them back for the season. We are planning to granular fertilise, spray the moss off (we have left this for now because if we had ripped this out before the grass starts to grow the only thing that would replace it would be weeds).
Scarifying fairways, over seeding and hollow coring the worst areas, top dressing with compost and fertilising again. Then we will pray for more rain...

 You will have noticed they have been Verti drained as they needed to have some aeration holes to move the water down from the top surface which had become slippery in the wet and for the roots of the new seedlings. These need channels to move down to establish. Some areas unfortunately ripped up but we have to think about the bigger picture and these can be repaired by divot mix. The words no pain no gain come to mind.
Bird Pecking damage
Chafer Grub on 14th
You will have also noticed the bird damage across certain areas of the fairways. These are being dug up by the birds as they look for Leather jackets and Chafer Grubs that live in the soil at this time of year. Since the EU banned the chemical to be used for these grubs we have nothing in our armoury to beat them and this is going to happen across Europe. Last year two horse racing days were cancelled due to the damage and I know clubs that are spending thousands of pounds trying to re turf huge areas. 
No after Brexit it won’t change. We are following the same model for at least 10 years. We are looking at more traditional methods like cultural practices (aeration), encouraging starlings and bird scarers (please apply if you wish to be a scare crow :-) 

BTME & Training  
The Greenkeepers conference in Harrogate was attended by four us within the team. It was fantastic with a brand new bigger layout and hundreds of hours of education. There was a real buzz with lots of debates about the industry with the new legislation restrictions, sand, staff and grass species being the big things being talked about. I was lucky enough to be asked to present again but I am managed to attend a lot of seminars, starting at 8am and finishing at 6pm. Came back head blown but inspired for the season ahead. Graham and Levi attended conferences and seminars and James Ferris attend his first one. We came back with lots of ideas and discussions for the club. 
David Lambie also delivered a New rules off golf training session for the team and how it will effect them. It was great to get some clarity on the new rules and for the team to ask questions. Thank you David.


Unfortunately we have to say goodbye to Mike Ray this week. He’s moving on to Rowlands Castle to ply his trade in the PO postcode. Mike came to us as an apprentice who had never been on a golf course before. He’s gained his qualifications and learnt how to use all the machinery. He’s worked hard and been great to have around and leaves us as fully qualified Greenkeeper. Good luck Mike! 

That’s enough from me I think, busy week ahead with a big spring clean of the course and start fertilising the fairways... that’s a lot of steps!

See you soon 


Thursday, 14 February 2019

2nd Hole Update

Hi All, 

Following the recent snow and then heavy rainfall the 2nd hole showed us that it just couldn’t cope with that level of rainfall which has meant it unfortunately has been out of play despite our efforts to hand dig a drain in earlier in the year.
 I understand that having carried out such large amounts of work across the course in the last three years as part of the project this will obviously bring up some issues/teething problems. Typically the last place I would want this one is just off the front of the green making the hole unplayable, anywhere else on the hole and we would still be able to play it... this I think is Murphy's law! 

The Problem

The problem we have had is due to some sinkage of the top soil. The levels were meant to move the water left to right, meaning the water should shed into the hollows right of the hole. Unfortunately as time has passed, we have noticed the top soil has dropped causing the apron to sit wet. Meaning the water cannot make the hollow on the right as this side is now sitting slightly higher. 
The hollows are shaped to shed, middle to front and middle to back where a drain has been installed to take the water behind the green. 
The front (or nearest the tee end) of the hollow was always going to hold a bit of water but it was hoped this would drain through quick enough.  

After noticing this we decided to try hand digging in a drain to allow the water to by pass the high edge and shed into the mound but this hasn’t been sufficient enough and water has backed up. 

What we are doing? 

On Monday I made the call to Profusion and discussed the urgency of the situation, which they agreed with and have sent Tom their drainage man into have a look. We laser levelled the site Tuesday and have decided to implement a full drainage system into the approach with main drain across the front. We are also going to add two soakaways in the hollows and a gully pot on the collar of the green to collect surface water after downpours. 

When will it be open? 

Due to the scale of these works I now don’t think the hole will be playable for the weekend which was my aim at the start of the week but I hope you agree, that we should be trying to do the best we can to fix this issue once and for all. 
We plan to complete works next week and re open the hole with the new drainage and turf areas being left GUR. 

I can only apologise for the inconvenience caused but promise you this is being dealt with. 


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Planned Maintenance Week February 2019

18th February – 22nd February 2019

Below is the information on works to be carried out during course maintenance week
Please give way to operators at all times

Greens and Aprons
Monday: Deep solid tine to 225mm with 12mm tines, solid tine to 125mm with 10mm tines, fertilise, top dress and brush (Front 9 Closed)

Tuesday: Deep solid tine to 225mm with 12mm tines, solid tine to 125mm with 10mm tines, fertilise, top dress and brush (Back 9 Closed)

Wednesday: Hollow core Front 9 Aprons and clear, Solid tine surrounds, Top dress, Fertilise Greens (Front 9 closed)

Thursday: Hollow core Back 9 Aprons and clear, Solid tine surrounds (Back 9 closed)
Friday: Cut and Roll greens, Possible snagging day for bad weather.

Following the works the greens will be sandy and a little bumpy for a couple of weeks. We apologise for an inconvenience.

Please remember these works are essential for our greens to continue to improve!

·         Tees Verti drain, top dressed, over-seeded rye, bent and fescue mix and fertilise
·         Tees, Aprons & Surrounds in (13th/14th March)  – It is intended to Hollow tine and collect then rake and blow
·         Fairways (week of 25th March)- Hollow coring and over seeding of weak areas around the course, scarify and clear

 All Greens and Aprons works will be carried out in maintenance week   

All works are subject to weather conditions    
Matt Plested
Course Manager
February 2019