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

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Winter Programme

One of the questions I get asked a lot is what do you guys do in the winter? Well I thought it might be easier to add a copy of the winter programme I give to the MC to show all the areas we are planning on working on. This is weather depending and a rough guide because like we know in life, things come up that have to be dealt with (for example: High winds may bring trees down or snow may stop aeration and turfing works).

Note: Projects Teams are Aesthetics Team (step repairs 150 posts etc), Heathland Team (Shaping, pruning and clearing the last leaves, removal of invasive species) Drainage and Irrigation team (improvements to both areas) and Repair team (repairing damage on fairways, surrounds etc)
As you can see the winter works are pretty busy, some would say busier than summer. With normal tasks taking longer. 
In the Summer one member of staff can cut the greens using a triple mower (ride on) in 3.5 hours including Pre start checks and washing down. In the winter, the greens are hand mown. This takes four members of the team 3 hours to do including set ups and wash down. That's 8.5 hours more for the same task. That's not including having two staff members blowing leaves off the greens so they can get cut, again this takes 3 hours. So cutting greens alone takes 14.5 hours compared to 3.5! The reason we hand cut is to minimise compaction on the greens and damage around the course and I think we can all agree our greens in the winter have definitely moved forward.

Lighting kits have been added to machinery to help us set the course up in the winter months

During the summer course set ups normally include mowing greens daily and rolling them three/four times a week. In the winter the growth drops away but our disease pressure intensifies. Removing dew in the morning is one of main tasks as long spells of moisture on the leaf cause turf diseases, especially when its mild. The greens are dewied most days in the winter unless being cut, rolled or frost. This is done by Dewie brushes. These are 6ft wide brushes that the team push round the greens to knock the dew off. Walking around 12,000 steps by 8.30am...

Dewing Greens 

One question I sometimes get asked, is Why are the team driving around the course when we cannot take trolleys? Well in short if it gets too bad, we will not! Driving in the winter is kept to a minimum but due to the amount of equipment needed to carryout a course set up, it's not possible to walk around with it all.
(Tools for morning set up : Blowers x 2, Squeegee x 1, Hole changer-board-bucket with flags-hole puller-scissors-top hat-syringe, shovels x 2, swish x 1, bin bags, divot mix, white paint and head lamps)

We are lucky at Stoneham to have the old 'Stoneham Park House' driveway which went down to the fishing lakes (originally the house lakes) Below is a picture of the lakes with the house in the background. I am going off piste a bit but the now internal greenkeepers path which has been extended over the years runs from the Greenkeepers yard round to the 12th meaning we can drive around in the winter and the team can stick to this, but have all the tools they may need close by. Sometimes this may require a few trips back and forth to the machine to get everything we need.

However, Golfers tend to follow the same routes due to the nature of the game and in these areas that damage is caused. Roping off areas to stop people with carry bags as well as trolleys from causing to much damage its essential. We have introduced rubber mats to walk on and turfed areas with rubber mats on top, so the grass can grow through. This then becomes a hard wearing area that looks more natural in the summer. We plan to intro more of these in the future.

Please remember that banning trolleys is the last thing we want to do and when we ask for you to make every effort to carry your bag, we hope that those who can honestly say they need one will and those who can carry will. If you are young, fit and healthy... you can carry your bag! It's your golf course but damage costs can spiral if trolleys are used when damage can be caused but its the members that eventually end up with the bill...

Anyway back to the winter program. You can see we break this down four main areas;-

  1. Renovation/Maintenance
  2. Construction
  3. Other
  4. Woodland Management
Renovation and maintenance- These areas are really general greenkeeping duties (Aeration, Seeding, Irrigation, Cutting etc).

Construction - This is pretty obvious and includes all major works and tasks that take a bit of time to complete.

Stripping back the dead turf from the summer
After being re turfed

- This is where our time allocation goes mainly outside of daily work and projects. Leaf clearance (remember this takes over 900 man hours every winter from October to December alone and is a huge drain on our resources but we have other tasks to do at the same time and it's my job to prioritise these), shrub cutting and clearance, health and safety updates etc.

Woodland Management- We have huge areas of woodlands, these are as big as the golf course (playing areas) and this area need to be managed. We are lucky to have the 'Bon fire crew' who help us on Tuesdays to maintain these areas but its at this time of year our attentions turn to these areas as the growth rates drop.   

All of the above works need to be carried out along with our daily set ups, cutting of the course and anything else that may come up. You can see from what I have said earlier, tasks take longer in the winter, even basics like course set up and cutting greens. We have also have other priorities, like keeping the dew off the greens and then the issue of leaves, turf that needs to be down early enough to root and get recovery ahead of the summer. 
Planning like this helps us to focus on what is important for the long run and not just the short run and enables us to keep moving the course forward! 

See you all soon and wrap up warm 


Friday, 11 January 2019

2018 Wow what a YEAR!

I would like to start this blog wishing you all a 'Happy New Year'!

As the dust finally settles on 2018 and we finally put all the Christmas decorations away and the empty bottles in the recycling bin, it's time to look back and forward.
It's like making the turn on the course and realising how bad the front 9 went, or at least how good the front 9 went but what is for certain, as we look to the back 9 we have HOPE. We hope things will turn round or things will continue to keep getting better and better...that's a human trait.

When I look back over the last twelve months, I know it's been an interesting one! I can safely say it was the hardest year I ve had as a greenkeeper. We all know I am obsessed with the weather and that's because it affects everyday life for us, everyday decisions, everyday outcomes or comments back in. It affects budgets and resources and whatever weather we get we have no control over...  None of this can be planned. What we can do is plan our best way out of each situation, we can change plans on the last minute if needed and have back up plans, we can plan using the seasons (even though they are shifting) and we can use the weather to forecast our plans. Last year we have had to learn and adapt more than ever but do you know what? I loved it...

Below is a link to Video I have made summing up 2018 in four minutes. The team at Stoneham have been great during the challenging year and that includes all the clubhouse and pro shop staff. Teams get you through difficult situations, individuals don't. A massive thank you to the team!
Please enjoy the video :-

2018 started off started off wet, very wet. This was mainly due to the wet end of 2017, this then carried on with 280mm of rain in the first 3 months plus 10 days of snow. We thawed out from the first round of snow in time for the February greens maintenance, something I had been considering a lot and all the data said it was the best time to do it... we did it and got it finished only for the "Beast from the East" to arrive with more snow and freezing conditions.
I had never seen snow on the beach and told my son he would not see it again in his lifetime or at least until he was a man and then two weeks later it snowed again on the beach! At that point I should have realised it was not going to be a normal year. Interestingly, the greens had fully recovered by the week we were planning to hold Maintenance week at the end of March, meaning we had better greens for extra month nearer the season. Imagine if we had a good spring!

So the cold SSW (Sudden Stratospheric Warming) which is a swift jump in temperatures linked to cold weather was our biggest worry in March and April as temperatures dropped and so did the growth and recovery around the course. The rain came down heavy again in April with low temps meaning no evaporation so things were wet. This highlighted some areas that will required drainage in the future including some greens and the 18th fairway near the top was almost un-walkable. This has since been drained as part of the bunker project and has been good ever since.

May came with only 6 days of rain and temperatures started to jump as did the rough, this caused issues for a couple of weeks and we tried to get on top of certain areas but we knew it would eventually burn off in the summer and this is something we had to be wary of as we looked to protect the heather areas. June came with 30 degree heat (plus 26 for 25 days in row) with NO RAIN, 0mm that's never been recorded here. It must have happened during history but nothing recorded.

By July we were now getting close to beating 1976.. the hottest year on record. The down side was grass coverage and heather. We just could not get enough water out, we watered all day and all night where we could. Golf clubs with fairway watering were putting out so much that eventually they had to make the decision to stop due to costs or licences meaning they would not have enough water for greens. We concentrated on Greens, we moisture probed all day long and applied enough to water to cover ET (evaporation). The tees showed how badly are aging system is and things we need to do to improve it. These were also getting hand watered along with the heather areas that we could reach. Unfortunately the fairways took the biggest hit by August, everything we were taught in college about grass species had gone out of the window. This left Greenkeepers and Agronomists all over the country asking questions to why? The hottest and most prolonged heat for 42 years was the answer.
We had great tans, good bbqs and amazing golfing weather but even that became a chore with evening or early morning golf becoming the answer. In short... even the golf course got sunburnt and now our next three seasons (Autumn,Winter and Spring) will be taken up repairing the damage for the new season.

One of the bonuses from the hot spell was that we finally caught up on the lorries filling the practice ground (phase 1), apart from the dust which they spent many man hours trying to hose down (that must have been sole destroying for there staff, we were at least were watering to keep the grass alive).

The other big bonus being there was no delay to phase 3 of the bunker project. We finished nearly 40 days ahead of  the previous year, mainly down to the weather. The heather turfing was finished in December like previous years due to only being able to be lifted until mid November.
The work in phase 3 has been dramatic and enhanced some holes that previously not as visually impacting as other holes on the course. What has come out of the bunker project, is a modern version of Stoneham, a more aesthetically pleasing with increased 'risk and reward' for the golfer. I think the changes have been fantastic!

As we go into 2019 we will be addressing all the teething problems (the 2nd drainage issue just short of the apron, refining the grasses, re-turfing the summer damage on bunker banks, firming up and making sure bunker sand levels are correct plus more). Doing a huge project like we have over the last three years will always bring teething problems but these are just another challenge for us to get over, it would be boring without a challenge!

Our other battle, the leaves (remember those trees get bigger each year) started in October and is still going on with small amounts of drift from the winter winds in January, these drifts tend to blow leaves out of woodland areas around the course and these gather in ditches (which have been cleared 3 times already this winter, this alone take three peoples two full days ) They also get stuck in the heather. Again these are constantly blown out. All leaves with the course are collected are moved with Trilo or Grillo (big hoovers) these are not just blown into the woods. We average about 10 loads a day moved from play to dump sites within the boundary and we spend over 900 man hours on leaves alone during October and December each year (as recorded on G2C).

Along with the leaf clearance work, we have been working hard on hollow coring/solid tinning the playing surfaces while topping up bunkers from the sand lost during the year.
The main area for our attention (outside of the greens) has the fairways, these took the biggest impact during the drought and these have been scarified, hollow tinned, wet agents applied, fertilisers applied (both granular and liquids) and over seeded. Over seeding fairways costs thousands of pounds and the club know we may have to go again in spring in some areas. The mild weather at the the end of 2018 finally helped us as most of the seed established. Yes, we still will see an increase in moss and weeds. We knew that would happen due to the grasses thinning out. These are easily fixed and something we will be addressing in the the spring renovations.

During this time the EU Banned some major chemicals from being used within horticulture. The withdrawal of chemicals used to suppress worms has gone, meaning worms cannot be touched and worm casts is a battle that only reducing OM levels and brushing will help. We have already upped our hollow coring in the last two years to fairways and from 2019 we will be boxing off (collecting clippings) fairways as the club have invested heavily in new fairway mowers.
We have also seen bans to pesticides used to stop the grubs from eating the roots of the grass plants (this might not be a bad thing enviromentally). This again will cause other issues as birds will peck these areas as they look for a tasty snack. We are looking at encouraging Starlings as these eat the grubs but they have smaller beaks causing little to no damage. Watch out for more on this...
The big withdrawals have come in for products used to prevent turf diseases on greens or as I would call them the 'get out jail free card' for those of you who play monopoly. Improved cultural practices like we have been doing for the last three years with monthly aeration to keep the plants healthy, good drainage and air flow will be needed too. Looking at increasing our speed of bringing in more disease tolerant grass species. A greater understanding from golfers across Europe is going to have come as disease outbreaks will happen on any turf from time to time but is how quick we can get recovery and keeping the plants resistants up. In other words, we will keep the vitamins high and hope not to get to many flu's!!!

All in all, with the practice ground project, the final phase of the bunker project, the aeration being upped, the woodland management, the drainage work, the drought, the snow, the cold and the mild plus the new regulations, it's been a learning year. It's been a good year and we have a lot to be positive about. Stoneham has come along way this year and in the last three years and we plan to keep improving. When I think of 2018... Wow, what a year!

See you all soon



Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Course Update December 2018

Hi All,

11th Green December 2018
As the famous lines of John Lennon say "So this is Christmas and what have you done" ring out in my head on this grey overcast day as I sit in my office, planning work and signing off invoices.

Well to answer my opening line... a lot of work is being done out on the course. Mostly it's been clearing leaves and laying heather turf plus daily set ups for the team of late. This as you can imagine with all our trees is very labour intensive but I felt the team dealt with the leaves really well this year. We had some weekend set up's from hell  (Set up's include blowing greens and surrounds, blowing out every bunker and every tee, dewing or cutting greens, raking every bunker, moving any holes or emptying any full of water and moving the markers all before the first tee off time and then the battle to stay ahead).

The heather is now being added to areas to frame the holes and new features and giving the finishing touches to the new bunkers (which I think look great).

The new look 18th

 The 2nd hole is still having some teething problems with water holding on the apron. The little drain we put in is running but cant cope with the amount of water sitting on it. I plan to lift an area and shape it back down to the levels the shaper put in which I feel has been lost during the top soiling phase of the works. We have not been able to see this until the levels settled. This is an easy fix and something we will address once we have completed the heather turfing and leaf clearance.

I have done a video blog to save you reading anymore of my ramblings, which is available here:-

As I look back throughout the year, I realise how tough it's been. From the wet start, to the snow, the cold spring and then the burning heat. I think the Bunker project has gone well, obviously we are left with areas to re turf following the drought and this will be addressed in the new year along with more over-seeding and aeration to get the grasses back. Weeds and moss were inevitable this year after losing coverage but that's part of the challenge. Every year is different and every year has its challenges. The removal of some major aids to Golf Course Managers with chemical removals will and adds to the pressure because we have lost our get out of jail cards. When I say we I mean golfers! So we are going to have address as many issues as we can rather than spraying something to hide them. Air flow, light and aeration will be key. My job is to minimise the impact of this work to you all. 

It's been a tough year but we have some really positive things to be proud of. The greens have played well this year and we have hit a lot of our targets regarding OM levels (this alone will help in the future), we have completed our bunker project so disruption will never be at that level again. We have added drainage to some wet areas and seen huge improvement to our aprons and tees. We have added real quality to the team and I believe next year is an exciting one for Stoneham as we look to improve and move forward!

Winners BIGGA Turkey Trot 2018 Stoneham 

I would like to thank the team at Stoneham for all their hard work and commitment over the last year, it's been a hard one but you all have been fantastic.

Lets end as we started... as John Lennon also sang we wish you 

"A very merry Christmas and a happy new year, Let's hope it's a good one without any fear"



Friday, 7 December 2018

Stoneham Recovery (After the War)

Hi all,
I just thought I would put these pictures up for you all to look at. This was sent to the club via Twitter but it’s a copy of an article written about Stoneham and how it survived the war and held the Dunlop Masters (Now the British Masters). I hope you can zoom in on the pictures. This will allow you to read the article after all these years. I have asked for a copy so I can put it up in the clubhouse.

From this article I have learnt some very interesting things:-

1906 Willie Park Surveyed an old deer park north of Southampton and reported it would make a “First-Class golf course”

•June 10th 1941 - Four parachute bombs landed on the course. One landed in the car park killing 16 soldiers who were standing by military vehicles. 

•During the Blitz no fewer than 2000 people were fed snack meals and given shelter in the clubhouse (old clubhouse). 

•The clubhouse became a Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Rendezvous and the bomb shelter to the right of the clubhouse (from 18th) was Southampton’s Emergency Control centre before becoming a Greenkeepers building later on. 

•Wire and metal poles erected on the fairways to stop planes landing (Some of these chains are still visible within the truck of some of the trees on the course today). 
A Bunker was added to the 18th Fairway to make it narrower for planes to land. 

•George Tolfree Head Greenkeeper (50 years) ran the course pretty much on his own during the war with volunteer parties helping out. He did however get help from the then Captain Mr E C Waller (Un Paid). Both have caricatures hanging in the clubhouse!

•Plus lots more...

Please have a look. It’s amazing to see some of the old photos and here the reasons why certain things are how they are today! 



Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Unsung Hero's of Stoneham Golf Club

Hi All,
Hollow right of 18th Opened up to be more of a feature
18th Hollow Before

I just wanted to do a quick blog to thank the Unsung Hero's of the club in my eyes.
Golf clubs up and down the country are run with huge help and time given by volunteers. These volunteers come in all ways, some give their time, professional expertise and advice on committees.

So many at this club have done this throughout the years, some for many, many years like Angus Murray Fisher who we sadly lost this year. Thank you to all of you who have sat on the Management, Captains, Ladies, Seniors and other committees in the past and present for helping to shape the club.

Others will give their time as starters, ball spotters, referees, gardeners, flower arranging, Christmas decorations etc. Others will help repair a leaky roof or plumbing that might need fixing and offer to help quicker than we can get tradesman in. Some have helped make things, bake things or donate things. ALL of YOU have played your part in helping to run the club.

View From 10th January 2018

View after the work by the crew

View From 10th 1980's
 My special group 

There are one group outside of the Committees, who also give so much time to the course. A group I get the pleasure in spending time with and seeing most weeks. The group known to the greenstaff affectionately as the "Bonfire Crew', the reason for this is because generally when they are in, you can see smoke rising up at some point on the course and for those of you who know this group is organised by our president Niall Fitzgerald, know that Niall loves a bonfire!

This small group of volunteers come every week and spend time cutting back bushes, removing dead or small dangerous trees. Sometimes when we have a big competition on they will divot the fairways to help out the greenstaff. Generally though they remove unwanted undergrowth and tidy our woodlands, raking up leaves and protect the future of woodlands by "proper management" - a quote from the Forestry commision on their visit to the club this year. Don't ever think a park, National trust site, RSBP site or even the New Forest isn't being managed because I can assure you they are and I am normally on training courses with them.

The group all so enjoy some amazing home made food (which I can tell is the most talked about thing as group, not how hard they are working) while sat around the fires when the decide they need a break. There have been many who have been part of this small group, a small group who do big work and help me, the greenstaff and the members of this golf club with pride... We thank all of you, past and present!