Sunday, 5 July 2015

My first week

Welcome to my first real blog as Course Manager of Stoneham Golf Club. 
To say I am very excited about what can be achieved at this great club is an understatement. I truly believe with a lot of planning/hard work and dedication we are going to be part of something special in the coming years.  
This isn't any normal club in Hampshire, this club is steeped in history. It's held the British Masters (then called the Dunlop Masters I believe) and the Brabazan (twice). It's layout and stunning scenery is often compared to the Old Course at Sunningdale (another Willie Park Junior design). 
For me growing up as golfer in Hampshire this was always a club I loved and wanted to play. As I became a greenkeeper I knew I wanted to be the head man of this course at some point in my career. So here I am... Now the real work starts as we look to take the club forward and build on the works done in the past and become one of the leading courses in the south. 

 My first week hadn't started as I imagined it. This was due to Mother Nature, deciding she wanted this week to be the hottest week of the year (to date) with temperatures up in the 30's most days. 
(As the blogs go on you will see I am obsessed with the weather, like any horticulturist or farmer it governs our working week, so I am never happy).

This hot start did give me a great opportunity to see how the course reacts to the heat and how the irrigation system would cope with the demand. 

Above the long dry spell starting to show signs out on the fairways and bunker banks. However, this look actually suits the heathland look of the course and I quite like it. 

The irrigation system straight away showed its weaknesses and strengths. The system has valve in head which is superb to allow us to water the stressed areas rather than the whole green at certain times. A lot of hand watering with moisture probes use was carried out in week one (more on moisture probes in a future blog). 

The moisture probe shows the difference in moisture content in the soil on each green. We collect 9 readings off the greens in a 3 x 3 combination (front, middle and back). The readings showed some greens had readings as low as 9% right up to some with 30%! This showed areas that need to watered and other areas we need to leave to dry out. This something we will be working on over time to achieve a consistent surface across all areas taking into account each greens make up and micro climate. 

Other irrigation system problems were a bit more obvious and these have been addressed this week. 

Broken sprinklers have been replaced (above picture on the 8th) with more on order to replace ones that we know are nearly at the end of there life. 
Some of the tees that look particularly dry only have irrigation on one side meaning it's only got half the irrigation it requires (6th tees and 11th for example). This will be addressed as part of the winter works. 

The Greenkeeping team have been busy in other areas too. 

Flymoing of the tee banks, with an extra cut width now at the front to keep the grasses down so they do not interfere with the ball flight have been added. 
I got asked if I liked the look of the long banks? 

Yes is the answer. There are clubs all over the country who would pay good money to grow the grasses on the banks like we have at Stoneham. These natural banks really add the heathland look. Don't get me wrong there is some tidying up of certain areas but these look great and will be worked on in the future to improve there look either further. 

Stimming and edging of the bunker banks was also carried out. This takes a team of four guys a day to complete. This is carried out a least twice a month and is big drain on man hours but it's worth it for the increased presentation. 

These are strimmed first.

Then the debris blown out

Then weeded and de stoned (this is a real issue on the bunkers on the course along with sand depth, all of these are now on our list to be done asap). 

Finally the are raked. Note some faces are now smooth raked. This will increase as the new bunkers are built. Doing this helps to compact the sand on the edges. This helps to reduce the fried egg or plugged ball in the faces and allows the ball a chance to fall back to the middle of the bunkers. 
All rakes should be placed in the middle of the bunker at the back edge with the tip of the handle on the edge of the bunker. Doing this greatly reduces the contact of the rake in the bunker and also keeps them out of play. If all golfers could follow this rule it would be greatly appreciated! 

Also some work to the practice ground was also carried out and will continue as we look to improve the presentation of this area.

We also demoed a new surround mower. I felt the one we currently use is not the best for surrounds as its a rotary mower and this can scalp any slight hump or bump (see below, the yellow area before we tried the new version). 

After just two cuts we could see a noticeable difference. This machine will be something we will look to add to our fleet in the future as we look to improve the surrounds. 

We also managed to carry out some woodland and hedge work, taking advantage of the slow growth because of the heat. The Oak on the 3rd had its crown lifted. This was sitting lower than desired meaning we can now cut under it easier and golfers with have a chance to get swing on there shot, should you hit it under the tree. 

The hedges around 18th were trimmed up again and this will continue as part of our normal presentation. 

Lastly, we are carrying on the work started by Murray Long and exposing some of the heathland features of the course. 
Some of the roughs have been hiding the shapes and heathland features. So the team started to tackle some of these with the strimmers. This will show the old bunker shape and heather off and now becomes an attractive feature. 

There are many areas like this that we as a team will be tackling in the coming weeks.

The heathland 
One thing I really noticed this week was the amount of heather coming back throughout the course. This is very exciting, especially this quick. 
Leaving the roughs to go long is allowing  the heather to grow again without being damaged by mowers.  
Some heather starting to show its self in the roughs on the 1st. 

Again on 18th

One of the most pleasing areas is the area on the 8th where the seed was spread last year. You can just see the start of the heather coming through (small dark green tips). 
We will now look at areas to protect while we establish these areas. Once established we will spray off the grasses amongst these areas to stop competition but for now getting these up to an established plant is the priority. 

Eventually they will look like some of the other areas of the course. These areas are just beautiful and are very Stoneham! 

That's enough of my ramblings this week. I hope you like this blog. It allows me a chance to show you some of the stuff going on out on the course. 

Enjoy your golf and remember your sun lotion! 



  1. Really informative. Nice to meet you and get my pic in the blog

  2. Great blog Matt and welcome to Stoneham. Looking forward to the continued improvement of the course and you being able to put your stamp on it.