Thursday, 26 July 2018

Be careful for what you wish for!

Hi All, ‘be careful for what you wish for’ is my  opening line to this latest blog. 
Looking back at my last blog I was talking about the high levels of rain following the snow but since then it hasn’t rained a drop. May arrived with 51mm of rain falling in just a couple of days but May began this drought and I mean drought. We had 26 dry days in May, no rainfall recorded in June and less than 1mm in July so far making in one of the driest periods in recorded history.
Not as bad as ‘76’ I can hear Charlie (one of our previous Greenkeepers who worked at Stoneham for 44 years) shouting from his front room and technically he would be right only due to the fact in rained so much in the first four months of 2018 putting our average rainfall slightly higher than 1976.

Is 2018 hotter than 1976? 

In 1976, temperatures soared to 32C or higher over 15 consecutive days, causing the biggest drought in living memory and becoming the one against which all subsequent droughts have been compared.

In 1976 areas in the south of the country went without rain for 45 days. We have now beaten that run with 56 days without rain in 2018 so far we also have seen similar forest and heath fires. There’s no doubt we have beaten the drought of 1997 already!
The highest temperature was 35.6C in Southampton on the June 28 1976.  With An estimated 50,000 trees being lost in Dorset alone.
2018 also has been sunnier that 1976 an average of 239.9 hours of sunshine were recorded last month compared to 205.5 hours in June 1976.
One thing is for sure, these droughts don’t come along very often but when they do you have to think about how you cope with the extreme heat stress on grass plants that aren’t naturally used to these climatic conditions. 
Okay, so it’s been great (maybe a touch hot at times) for golf but great weather none the less. 

July 2017 v
What issues has this caused us? Well plenty as you can imagine!

July 2018
Irrigation and watering? 

As you can imagine or you may have seen, we are watering a lot. Sometimes for different reasons (either replacing moisture or syringing to cool the Plant) but mainly in this extreme heat we are just getting moisture into the ground trying to make up Evaporation rates. 

We lost over 200mm in evaporation to date with 0mm in rainfall meaning we are in a deficit on areas without irrigation. That’s 8 inches of water in old money from every inch of ground across the Golf course... that’s a lot of water! 
Areas with Irrigation have been getting plenty. We have aimed to replace evaporation rates everyday, so if it’s 4mm ET we have been applying 4mm or just over depending on what is coming the next day.  We are constantly moisture probing the surface to make sure they aren’t to wet and are where we want them. 
We are aiming between 22% and 30% depending on the heat with our aim of 25% for the competitions. This can be harder than you think, as the sprinklers cross each other in the centre of the green so technically getting two passes where as the edges get one pass. Getting a consistent level moisture wise, means hand watering the edges to get them up and reducing the centres, so they can drop to our ideal. Mother Nature doesn’t tend to double pass with one rain shower!

The new Toro flex sprinklers on Greens and Aprons have made a huge difference and I think this is obvious to see now. 
We have been able to change arcs and trajectory of the water as well as adding tails to hit other areas.

Levi Pethick has become a master of these heads following his extra training in this area. He has been out repairing breaks, changing heads over, resetting heads to hit areas plus constantly checking and repairing cable breaks around the course. You may have seen these on the 18th or 8th. Unfortunately the cable on the system was put in about 50mm deep meaning we have been hitting it just by doing general maintenance to pathways or other areas of the course.
Did I or Levi ever expect him to be on this daily for so long... NO but thanks to him and Andy Garrett (our irrigation engineer) they have kept us running (touch wood). 

A special thanks to Andy who saved us one night when the system had failed for 24hrs during a 30• spell. Most Irrigation engineers would have just said you need a new panel (which would have been weeks not days to arrive) but not Andy, he spent all evening rebuilding the panel to get us up and running just in time. Thanks Andy!

We have had huge issues on the tees. The sprinklers on these, haven’t been changed and are poorly spaced and domestic heads (meaning they aren’t actually tees heads). We also only have sprinklers down one side on tees like 5th, 6th and 11th. This I can’t explain why, but if the wind blow the wrong way we have no chance of getting water where we want it. The use of stand alone sprinklers in the early morning has been part of the morning set up with members of the team running round hand watering and leaving sprinklers set up and then moved every 30 minutes.

Watering the heather has also been something we have needed to do. Areas of heather turf and natural heather have gone like toast and burnt off. We have spent hours trying to keep some of these areas alive. Even areas that get water every night are showing signs of stress. 
I am hoping this will be just like when you burn heather (like they do in the forset to maintain it) and it comes back in better state. There are signs of green life underneath some of these areas. My plan is to wait and see what Mother Nature does. I will leave the burnt ginger looking heather to act as a sun screen for now and then maybe cut it away during the winter if we see re-establishment. 

I know, I can’t believe it either but I am having to write about the bunkers. Bunkers and lack of moisture have been a huge problem for us. 
The bunkers are showing issues that like any freak weather system would show us something we wouldn’t normally expect. For example if it had rained for 56 days the drains and ground could have been full and we would have been talking about how wet the sand is sitting. Instead it hasn’t rained for 56 days with high temperatures daily meaning the sand is so dry it’s slipping down the slopes, we then are pushing this back up daily but as it’s dry it’s either slipping down again or not compacting due to the lack o moisture. 
The bases feel like they have 10 inches of sand rather than the 3 we want hand have almost all year round. The team have deliberately stopped raking with the teeth but instead opted for smooth back racking as a way to minimise feel of depth and to try and compact where possible.

The best way for me to some this up is if you imagine a beach. The sand at the top of the beach is dry and hard to walk through, the sand near the sea is firm and compact. We all opt to walk along the sea edge because the moisture compacts the sand and makes it easier. If you dig this up (like I have to very often due to my son wanting to build in the sand) you will know there its metres deep the same as the top, but the feel totally different.  

So what else can we do, we need to look at this properly and on context. Is this weather system going to be something that happens every year? Maybe. 

We have been watering some of the bunkers but due to other areas Greens, tees, aprons and heather, time and water has been limited. Do we put this down to a freak weather system? Do we also agree bunkers are hazards just like ditches, are the bottoms of ditches perfect to play from? Should Bunkers be perfect to play from all the time? So many questions and I don’t have all the answers. Bunkers started as waste lands on the links and weren’t raked until 1950’s... Golf at St Andrews started in 1574!!

Bunker Misters are used to water the sand during dry spells

They also compact the base and keep the banks alive

I do believe that we can look at some modern golf courses all with the same issues as us and ask what are you doing about this? A lot of clubs including Wentworth now have “misters” on the bunkers. This is basically sprinklers that wet the sand down every other night to keep them moist. Rob Patrick reported that Wentworth watered them everyday at the BMW this year while he worked there. I know other clubs who do this and some are just normal members clubs. This however isn’t a quick fix and will need to be part of our investigation into a new Irrigation system. 
I do promise you this, we have been trying our hardest to get these right and will continue to do so.

Well during May the rough was growing like mad following the wet spell. We got the Grillo out and hired the Ventrac mower to help us cut areas down. We also sprayed rescue (chemical which thins the thicker grasses out) and the stinging nettles off around the course. We made some subtle changes to the rough. Going from 2.5 inches to 4inches in areas and then 6 inches before leaving areas for ecology reasons or eco rough as I call it. 
By the end of June the rough had burnt up and was naturally thinning but a lot of work and hours had gone into it before. Thanks to Murray Long for his input on this too. 
By July the rough looked great but you could find your ball almost anywhere. I can testify to that after playing it a few times...

Cutting the course? 
Cutting of fairways, semi and rough have greatly reduced as we look to keep grass coverage. Wetting agents have been applied to all areas to help hold moisture in the soil. We also have applied PGR (Plant Growth Regulators) which help slow the plant down. This in turn reduces the amount of water it uses and perspires. 
Greens during June were being cut every other day in a bid to keep the stress off the plant. We increased rolling to compensate and this has carried on. 
Greens cutting increased during the tournaments (Club champs, Pro Am etc) to twice a day or more. With Aprons also being cut daily and tee being hand cut three times a week. 

Detail work

You will have noticed the weather has helped us to get round and stay on top of the detail work around the course, trimming Bunker edges, round heather, divoting (with the help of the bon fire crew),ditches etc so it’s not all bad. 

Keeping the team cool! 

The team have had to adapt to being out in the hot weather also. Plenty of liquids, sun screen and ice creams have been consumed over the last few weeks. Hats and new trainer boots have been provided to try and help keep them cool. Some of the team still have there cool cloths provided by Syngenta. Once wet these stay cool for hours. 
Just a note: remember how you feel after 18 holes in the sunshine... it can be tiring. The team are out there 8 hours a day, 5 days a week plus weekend mornings doing sometimes manual work in that heat. A little wave or hello goes along way! 

Anyway that’s enough from me. I hope this was helpful. 

Enjoy the sunshine, remember to wear sun lotion and pray for rain!! Ha ha 


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Where is Wally with his Trolley

Hi All,

I hope you enjoyed the bank holiday in the sunshine, the predicted rainfall didn't arrive until the Tuesday when we closed for an hour!

I know the Captains Committee and the MC have been looking at 'good practices' for when golfers/members are out on the course. They asked me to put a video blog together so it was easier to explain rather than reading through loads of documents.
I must say this is just a gentle reminder and as usual I have made this a bit tongue in cheek along with my Actor/Greenkeeping champion Paul Martin.

See the link here:-

Please remember that doing the little things can make a big difference to the course and its YOUR golf course, so lets enjoy it!


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Practice Ground Project Update May 2018

Hi All,

I thought I would do a quick video blog about the Practice Ground Project after I have been asked a couple of questions about it.

Please see the link :-



Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Old and washed out

Hi All,

I know the title of the blog isn't an attractive one and it could some up how I feel following the never ending winter but is not.
The old bit comes from a visit we have had from an Ecologist for BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association) James Hutchinson who was the Ecologist for the R and A. James is a bit of tree geek (sorry James) and was looking and prasing our woodland management. One tree in particular court his eye and that was the oak between the 3rd and the 1st by the 3rd green. He asked us to measure the base at approximately 1 metre high to age the tree. This came back at around 866cm meaning the Oak Tree was over 800 YEARS OLD! Making it one of the oldest Oaks you will find and dating back to when the site was a deer park.
James was also impressed with our natural wildflowers including Bluebells, Primrose and Wood Anenome in our woodlands along with the Deers, Buzzards and Owls.

Old Oak tree

Wood Anenome and Bluebells

The washed out bit comes from all the rain we have had lately with an eye watering 10 inches of rainfall since March 1st. 10% of it fell on 21st April in about an hour and caused us many hours of labour. You can see some of the pictures in our video blog. Link at the bottom.

149mm in March followed by 119mm in April

A better looking forecast now but we are still 20 days behind 1st May 2107

 We have managed to get all the Tees, Aprons and Surrounds Hollow cored ahead of the season and have applied fertilisers to all areas to help repair winter damage and get us going for the season.

Fertilisers added to the course 

Here is the link to our latest video blog :-

This will explain a little bit more about whats been going on.

Lastly I would like to thank the team for the hard work the winters are part of the job but this winter has been particularly challenging especially with the high level of down pours meaning reinstating of bunkers, paths and pushing water off greens has been a daily task. It would be easy for them to get disheartened and fall behind with our schedule but the haven’t given up and on while we haven’t come out the winter in bad condition. Thank you guys! 

The forecast now is for better weather, even if is short lived again. To me its like an old car trying to start in the mornings... a couple of miss fires and few revs before we get going. Whatever happens, we are still getting closer to the summer months, which means more golfing.

Happy Golfing 


Monday, 16 April 2018

Playing the waiting game!

After what feels like an eternity of rain and snow, I finally sit down to write a blog with glorious sunshine and the first real feeling that spring is coming.

One of my questions is ‘how far behind are we?’ 
Well compared to last year a lot or 28 days to be precise. Looking at the GDD (growth) magic number we hit 85 on the 9th April. Compare that to last year and we hit that figure on the 12th March! Just for your information we consider 150GDD as the magic number when grass is fully growing and the season has started.

2018 87 GDD 9th April 
2017 87 GDD 12th March

This coming week we will see a surge in growth, we will have more this week than the whole of February and March put together. This is great news for us as this will bring with it dry days. To the end of April last year we had 245mm of rain compared to this years 335mm of rain so far. The biggest issue had been rain days - March 2017 we had 13 days compared to 26 days in March 2018...

Okay Matt, what does this mean to us and our golf course as we already know the weather has been awful like you say! 

This week we will see a flush of growth, these warm days and night (nights being the key part) mean the grass will explode and the greenstaff will be out mowing and trying to keep up with it. We will also use this to our advantage by carrying out some maintenance to the tees, aprons and surrounds. We will be hollow coring these areas and getting some topdressing on plus the spring fertilisers to also aid recovery.
Micro coring 9th

Brushing Topdressing in

Today we managed to Micro core (small hollow core) some of the greens that we know require a little bit more thatch removed and All greens got a light top dressing onto them, this will help smooth them out and maintain speed as the growth flush kicks in (Note:greens get slower when grass grows quicker). 
Talking about smooth greens... I also need to remind you that in the spring when the grass is waking up from its winter, some grass species take longer than others to ‘wake up’ meaning we get differential growth if you look at the rough this is exaggerated out in these areas. This can mean greens get a bit bumpy for a short period. I have done a blog on this in the past if you wish to read this again the link is here :
But we doing all we can to minmise the impact to the golfer.

  • Cutting with brushes to help stand the grasses up before cutting so they are all cut at the same height. 
  • We are rolling to give smoother greens and help maintain green speed. 
  • We have also lowered the height of cut back to a normal height as we slowly bring the heights down for the summer months ahead. 

Getting the rough cut?
We will be attempting to get some of the rough cut in the coming weeks but some of these areas are still pretty wet and will require longer to dry up before we can cut them. 

Catching up on work!
As you can imagine we have a lot of work to catch up on as a team mainly due to us waiting for Mother Nature to play ball. Fertilisers haven’t been applied to areas yet due to the maintenance work being delayed for example. Topping up bunkers and pathways has also been set back due to the ground conditions being to wet to move anything.

Work postponed due to the wet conditions

Just take a look at the practice ground project which came to a grinding holt, as two machines got stuck in and had to rescued over a two day task. They decided it was to wet and postponed work for two weeks. Hopefully this should be up and running again soon.  
What has felt like a daily task lately 

We like all the golfers have had a hard winter. Possibly the hardest Winter I can remember. Please be patient during this period as Mother Nature and the greenstaff try to play catch up! 

So what have we been up too during the wet and snow period? 

Every weather has its down sides and upsides to it. For us as a team this is part of the challenge. Getting other things done while we play the waiting game.

Cutting as soon as possible after the thaws
The new bunkers were finally opened for play

End of pathways and high traffic areas have had honey cone mats and turf added
Out with old broken Irrgation boxes

In with the new
Lots of brush cutting old ditches has also been carried out. This will allow us to maintain them but better and to improve ashetics

Old Temp 1st tee could not cope with the weather and wear

Wacker plating the base for the teeing mat

Better looking Temp 1st Tee. The banks will also now grow in

During the snow days we had chance to catch up on furniture painting ahead of the season

Refurbished bins and boot cleaner

The team also took advantage and edged the old school way with edging irons on the old style bunker to give them a fresh look.

Old tree stumps were added to the overflow car park at the top of the carpark to make it safer for cars parking near the bank

Leveling our greenkeeper pathways has been on going during the wet period

Woodland management has been on going to with the removal of scrub and Rhodie. We have also spent many man hours lifting tree crowns up to improve tree health and improve light and air flow. This may also allow for a full swing...

The Greenstaff also got chance to attend the BIGGA South Coast Conference with talks on Weather, Practice ground design! The RAC Club and Boundary Lakes story so far. This was very educational and gave a lot to think about.

The snow also gave us chance to catch up on some Staff Meetings and college work for those guys that are doing work based learning.

Charlie (Chaz) was finally presented his gifts and caricature on his retirement after the greens forum which was well attended. Graham and Levi also spoke about the last year along with myself. A version will be added
to a blog soon. Thanks to all those the attended.

So as you can see, the weather may not have been kind but there is always work being done to the course.
One thing I have learnt about Mother Nature, is that she always like to even things up throughout the year. My money is now on a good summer that extends into October with lack of rain being my future blog moans:-) 

Enjoy the spring and remember, please be patient we are doing everything we can for your golf course!