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!


Friday, 19 October 2018

Fairway work, Bunkers and 2nd hole update

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to do a quick blog with some updates from the course. I have done a quick Vlog covering the 2nd hole, fairways and bunkers.

link here:

The fairways, tees, aprons and surrounds have all been hollow cored. The pictures above show just how dry it was until the 40mm of rain over the weekend.

Over seeding fairways with Dwarf rye and Fescue has been started. We have had to stop while the seeder is repaired. This will be finished next week
Other news
The dark mornings are making course set up harder for the team. The first few holes are being set up under lights. Please be aware the team are trying there best to stay ahead but set up takes longer under torch light.

2nd hole drainage added to help water shed quicker. James Ferris our new greenkeeper, getting stuck in on his first day.
The blowers and Trilo (big hoover) are now out and will be a common site in the coming months
The team have sanded all the new bunkers (more on the bunker project to come) and are now re visiting the first and second phase bunkers to check and add sand       

Friday, 5 October 2018

The home straight!

Hi All,

I can’t believe it after 3 years of major disruption for you the members and stress for me, we are finally on the home straight of the Bunker project. 
I wasn’t ever sure if we would ever raise enough money or would we be supported so positively in getting this project finished but we have. Seeing those machines coming down 18 filled me with such joy. 

I know it’s been tough at times but I must thank you ALL for your patience, support and enthusiasm over the last three years. Like I said in my first ever blog. Stoneham is a great course, a fantastic club with amazing history. 
We are making history right now... We are changing a course from 1908 and modernising it but keeping it very ‘Stoneham’. 
This is a term we have used a lot during this project, we have looked at original photos, copied sand lines or tried to mimic the original features around the course. We wanted to modernise so the golfer has something to think about. We wanted to make it more aesthetically pleasing on the eye and improve the health and safety. We wanted it to be great... WE WANTED IT TO BE VERY, VERY STONEHAM! 
The Autumn Equinox has been and we are now in Autumn

So the home straight isn’t quite finished but the end is in site. We have started to add sand to the bunkers, we will be finishing turfing the bunkers on the 15th and 18th. The 18th green surround and bunkers are now finished and awaiting out fall drainage and turfing . These were probably the most difficult on the course hence why we left them to last. There is very little room between the green and putting green.  We also wanted them to be visual around the green and from the clubhouse. 

You may have also noticed the new fairway bunkers. These were all part of Ken Moodie golf course Architects plan. The Bunker left was set at 240 yards and the one right has been moved back to 285 yards. Meaning a real risk and reward shot up 18th from the tee for the big guns. 
The new approach Bunker has been added and the hollow on the right lowered to narrow the gap for those playing short. 

One less bunker right of 18th giving a bigger walk off area towards the clubhouse 

The green side Bunkers have reduced by one from six to five to allow us to give more exit room from the green towards the clubhouse. 

Let’s talk about what else we have been up too lately. 


The greens recovery from maintenance week was very impressive but we have been out again giving our monthly solid tine. 
As I have spoke before about this, it is essential for us as we look to keep organic matter levels under control and improve soil biology. Improving the biology will help with the battle against diseases. It’s basically improving our immune system and aiding drainage. 

The summer has taken its toll on the fairways

With 2018 being the hottest on record and now one of the driest six months ever, we have seen some serious damage to the fairways. 
The plus side to clay is that it tends to hold on to moisture longer meaning we were greener than most during the start of the heat wave but the downside is if it drys out, it takes a lot to re wet. We have applied wetting agents and fertilised them in attempt to get some growth but we simply haven’t had enough rain to make a difference. Another thing I am monitoring closely are the grass species and how they are reacting to the heat and how they have recovered after the heat.

This has been interesting because everything we Greenkeepers have been taught in College about certain grass species being drought resistant or quicker at recovering from drought hasn’t been true this year. Was the heat so extreme? Have we not had enough rainfall since? What species have come out the best and why? These are all questions being discussed by Course Managers across the south. There are not many Course Managers around that worked through 1976 to ask how they recovered. My guess would be they didn’t... They just let nature take its course but Golf has changed and standards have undoubtedly been raised.

So what are we going to do?
Well we have scarified fairways already and we are hollow coring them next week. I am hoping even though they are hard the hollow time will at least get in the top inch or two to punch holes in the mat layer on the surface. This will then allow grass to come through this. I expect then we will carry out some over seeding of the worst areas along with more liquid fertilisers to try and establish grass before the temperatures drop too low. One of my major concerns with have bare areas on fairways is weed and worm invasion. I know this sounds like a 70’s film but it what will invade bare areas first! 
Let’s hope the coring works and some minor over seeding plus some rain will see huge improvements... fingers crossed.
We may be forced into over seeding fairways, this is obviously a costly exercise

Aprons and Tees 
The aprons and tees have had there winter fertiliser and were hollow cored and solid tined during maintenance week. These will be done again during the fairway hollow coring. Our plan now it to lower the organic levels in the aprons to firm them up over the coming years, so they react more like greens and shots can be played with this in mind. We also will be adding lots of sand. This will help with drainage especially on the tees but will also assist us in our battle against worms. 

A reminder... we are now not allowed to use the products we once used to control worms. The chemical is now banned in Europe meaning things are going to get tougher in the winter months that’s for sure. We are looking at improving all cultural practices to help us in this battle. Including dressing with sand. Why? Because worms don’t like sand as it can irritate them. It also helps change the ph of the soil (again something they don’t like) and over time we will build a layer of sand above the profile meaning the three types of casting worm will bring sand up rather than clay. Which as you can imagine will be easier to remove and should naturally disperse. 

Phase 3 Bunker Project 

Flymoing the first cuts on 2

The 2nd hole grow is going well but is still very soft in places. This maybe something we have to keep an eye on as the weather changes and maybe we will need to review the hole opening on a daily basis. 
Most of the seed has established but I would think we are still only at 85% establishment. The high points and tops of ridges are always the last to come through as the moisture tends to shed off of these. 
We have managed to get three cuts now on the main areas including hand mowing the aprons turf that was put back down. We started off Flymoing the turf and have now moved to the semi rough mowers set at 20mm. We intend to slowly bring this down ready for the start of next season. 
When will it open? 
Well, that’s the big question. My honest answer is... not long. At the moment we need to work on the apron area so any balls coming up short may have a chance of getting on. Lots of top dressing is required o smooth this out too. We may rope off the weaker areas and provide ball scopes for you to be able to retrieve your ball. So in short I think it’s days not weeks away from opening in some shape or form. This will be monitored daily. 

The 2nd being cut and sand added to the bunkers

11th Ditch 
The ditch across the 11th last year took us nearly two weeks due to the heavy rainfall. We had dumpers and diggers stuck down there and the scares still haven’t fully healed. We were never totally happy with the finished look as it didn’t match the 8th ditch but this in the end was more about getting across rather than aesthetics. One year on and we got chance to rough it up and make it blend with the ditch at the 8th. This took just three hours in the dry and shows you the difference having the right weather can make to the projects. 


The new swale linking to left of the 9th has now rooted but is still a bit soft but we are now cutting it and will continue to work that areas until it’s ready to open. The new Bunker right is a big improvement on the last one and it drains... which is nice. 
We have also shaped the front right to take rain water away from the green and not near the bunker. We have removed the old steps behind and added a walk off path for those without a trolley. 
The rear of the green got stripped and reshaped and been re turfed. You may have noticed this has been very dry and just shows how little rain we have had. Having a member of the team hand watering the new turfs all day has been a four days per week task for us plus some additional work at weekends. At some point the weather should break bad Mother Nature can give us hand. 


The new bunkers on 10 look fantastic. The left Bunker has completely changed shaped and has moved closer to the green. We are governed by seeing the sand lines v cutting v heights of the banks. This is prime example. Any closer to the green we would be able to mow it. Any further away it would be back where it started. The middle Bunker moved closer too and the right Bunker has been turned to you can see the sand line back left and maybe some added heather like the old one might be coming soon...
The mounding left took some work to try and make this look more natural than the old version but also giving you the same short of issues you had before. We again added another swale/ run off left of this to take surface water running towards the green away from it and pushing it down the back or  falling the other way towards the ditch st the front. 
These subtle movements will help keep us more playable during wet spells.

The dead pine behind 10th green

Two trees at the rear of the green were removed due to drought damage. I know drought damage... one of them was one of my favourite pine trees on the course. Unfortunately the summer took its toll and they were both dead. The tree surgeons confirmed this and we had no choice but to remove them on safety grounds. The only positive is the fact we have some stunning old oaks behind which have filled the void. 


The bunkers at 15th have been remodeled. The left Bunker has come closer to the green and the one right has moved closer left meaning the gap to the green has been tightened! (said in an evil voice). 

The Bunker at the rear has been lifted so it’s now what we would call a reverse Bunker. A higher back than front.  The advantage to this is you can see the sand line at the back of the green as you approach. Mounds have been added to the left to stop rain water running down 16th and across and onto the green. 
We have also reduce some of the slope at the rear of the green as this wouldn’t hold water and we were left with thin grass coverage on the green.

A huge amount of drainage was also added to the area from the Bunker. This joins up fall from the bunkers at the 16th and then goes down and out into the ditch behind the 16th tee. We are hoping that will improve the wet area we always got near the steps of that tee too. 
Look out for some subtle heather being added to the mound between the 15th fairways. 


This hole has seen a huge transformation. The one Long Bunker in from has now been broken into three. Sand lines are now visible from the tee. The bunkers were moved slightly right due to the amount of rain water that falls from the green off the front and into the old bunker. This meant it was always washed out and leaving clay mixed with sand . We obviously didn’t want to many wash outs so again we shaped it to try and get the majority of the water away from the bunkers and green.
Graham giving the re laid green its first cut

The front of the green was lifted and lowered with lasers by 6 inches to allow a better view onto the green. This has had its first cuts and will re open soon.

Some turf has been striped ahead of the heather plugging

The left side has seen some major work with a swale added short of the Bunker. This has a gully pot in it to take excessive rainwater away. The new Bunker has a sand line now visible from the tee and no the angle isn’t to steep. It’s just long but is only 28.4. Blinder guarantee slopes up to 35 degrees. 
The mound left will hide the pathway behind and link up to the existing mound and blend into the new Bunker. 
The bunker at the rear of the green has been removed in an attempt to create more walk off points to the 17th tee. 
Again lots of drainage work went into this hole to get the correct falls away. This has now been turfed and we have started to add sand to the bunkers. We are trying to do this before the weather turns to minimise damage to the course. These will along with the other will open once ready.

I hope this blog has given you a quick update and understanding of what’s going on out the course at the moment. As the late great Elvis Presley once sang “ I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows”! My flower is grass so let’s pray for SOME rain preferably at night to help us get recovery from the summer and to help bed our new turfs down before the new season. 

Speak to you all soon and thank you again


Sunday, 16 September 2018

Seed up, green turf off and turfs down...

Hi All,

Just another quick Vlog update from me regarding the 2nd with also updates from 15 and 16 to help keep you informed. Above are pictures of the new look 10th and below are some pictures of the last week but I will leaving the talking too the video!

The link is here:-

Lets have a look at whats been going on...

Hand top dressing the turfs on the 2nd to improve smoothness and fill any gaps

Every greenkeepers nightmare, lifting the turf off the 16th green. This part of the green will be lowered to enable a view of the green surface from the tee. Picture Below shows the digger parked on the green surface ready to start

Area left of the 10th marked to increased height to the mounding
New Mounding left of 10th. We added a swale to remove the water running onto the green in the winter faster

A drain has also been added to the front of 10th Apron

The hollow left of 9th has been bought round into the Apron-linking in on to the hole

The stripped aprons turf being re laid to blend in after shaping
Turf down and first look at the swale. I think it looks great!
I visited Andy Gray Head Groundsman at Saints to talk about how they establish turf so quick from seed. Football do this every year as each year the rebuild the pitch. We don't have the lights but at Staplewood only the first team pitches really use them. It was a good to catch up again and discuss his methods, methods we can help us establish turf on the 2nd.

6 Days after Hydro Seeding the seed popped. Now the work starts to establish it