Monday, 18 May 2020

Covid -19 48 Hours notice and golf is back!

Hi All,

Well, what a week!

Great to see golf back 


On Sunday night Boris gave the word that some people could go back to work and some people couldn't. He said that people could travel and some people could go outside as much as they like for exercise. At this point most golfers in the country were celebrating thinking we are back but there was some confusion - did it mean exercise with someone from your household or on your own but then he added we could meet someone from outside your household as long as the maximum number was two and this was in a park or outside space.
At this juncture I didn't think we could open but the phone calls and messages started to come in as we tried to plan the next stages for us as a club.
Interestingly others from within the industry thought differently. After a few calls back and forth, England golf put up a short statement saying golf could go ahead but only in singles or with people from the same household. This was taken down fairly quickly as all the governing bodies from within the industry tried to contact the government for guidance and clarity. Late at night BIGGA and the R&A and GCMA tweeted that golf clubs in England could open from Wednesday 14th May. One thing I knew when I went to bed is that we would have 48 hrs to get ready for golf in some shape or form.

A lone golfer on the 17th 
Monday came and the R&A released an early statement that golf was back in singles or within the same household but at the same time Matt Hancock was on the radio 4 saying golf in twos would be permitted and meeting up with others allowed. By 11am the MC held a meeting again by Zoom, to finalise how we would open. For members, at that point it was singles and two tee starts. This changed again and again throughout the day. I think Nick Clayton got to version EIGHT as new things and permissions kept being released. You can now understand why the tee booking was left until midday on Tuesday. The MC worked so hard with Lawrence and Richard to get the procedures in place to keep people safe and to make sure the club is totally doing the right thing. Having been a part of all the meetings and processes, I can say that everyone came together to get this done.

Monday- weeds in bunkers 

We had a lot to get done. The bunkers hadn't been touched in a month in line with our guidelines but these needed to be addressed first thing Monday. Luckily the MC had decided to bring all the team back from Furlough as it was felt golf would be back within a couple of weeks and we needed to get things ready. So fully staffed, we hit all the bunkers, weeded them and pushed sand about. It's worth noting that we had sprayed them all with selective weed killer around the edges the week before and these would need to be left for a couple of weeks for that to really work. That's on the list for this week! Start strimming bunkers again.  
We also had no holes in the greens, this doesn't sound bad but this took one guy two days to sort as all the holes had sunk, so needed to be levelled up. All the signage and markers needed to be put back along with the pins and flags.

The Governing bodies also said all benches and patio furniture needed to removed and fountains covered up. Anything that could be touched needed to be gone, including the ball retrievers. The team managed this and had most of the cutting done before Wednesday morning.
Tuesday was a busy day getting golfer procedures in place and the final cuts, sprays and rolls on the greens so we were ready for Wednesday. We had to turn, our attentions from "turf health" and keeping the plant happy into playing surfaces for golf within 48 hours.
Putting green coned off into quarters to keep members safe


Opening day came and I must say it felt very weird, it felt like we were setting up for a major competition, a feeling of excitement in the team but also knowing this wasn't quite how we wanted to open. We just didn't have enough notice to go from minimum work to fully open. Somethings won't be perfect and will take time to catch up but generally I think we have done very well over the lockdown period. Especially getting major maintenance works and drainage done on the greens means we don't need to shut down in August and members can play golf. 

Our work schedules are still staggered to minimise contact, the team have different breaks and still have to spray everything before and after use. We are still in a lock down but with some easing of restrictions. Things won't be quite the same for some time but we are trying our best to keep these impacts to a minimum for you the members. 




Roughs 



Getting the first cuts in 


The one thing that was really apparent was the rough!! We were only allowed to cut rough every two weeks but the Ecology roughs were not allowed to be touched as it was felt clubs should be protecting staff and keeping the amount of time away from home to a minimum. Every May this happens and every May we end up cutting areas down. The combination of sitting wet all winter and then heat makes it very lush every May. We started working on these areas after Wednesday mornings set up. This will be on going until mid June when normally it's burnt off enough so we can let it grow back up.




For those of you who missed the latest video blog please find it here :-










I even got a chance to be a starter in a mask to welcome some of you back 




Conclusion

It has been a very busy week, a strange week and golf is back. It might not be golf as we knew it before and it may take some time before we are back in the clubhouse for a cold drink after our rounds but to be honest any golf is better than no golf. Please keep following the rules and socially distancing.
We know we will get an inspection at some point as golf is under the spotlight for letting people back. Golf could be taken away as quickly as it came back and we know this as the governing bodies have told us. The one thing we do know, is golf is a sport that can be played during this situation as long as we all follow the rules. Golfers pride themselves on the honour and integrity of how the game is played and how they play it. Now more than ever do we need our integrity because we need golf in lives. It makes the days better for all of us.


Please enjoy being back and remember if the ball goes right it's a slice, if it goes left it's a hook and if it goes down the middle after seven weeks off it's a miracle!! Enjoy it

Good to have you back!

Matt












Friday, 24 April 2020

Covid -19 Week four or five. Who knows anymore...




Hi All,

Well that's another week in this weird situation. I don't think restrictions will be completely lifted for sometime but the good news is the government are looking into golf opening and with other countries opening up golf first, it's looking hopeful. A lot of the European countries that have opened up have restrictions in place. Most are two balls only and bigger gap tee times but let's face it, some golf is better than no golf.

Out on the course this week it's been very busy, very busy indeed. I will go into more of this next week but following the 28mm of rain last friday the place greened up nicely and the growth started to kick in. The struggles of being short staffed are showing in some areas but we are staying on top of the key areas. Once we are all back to normal we can play catch up in these areas. I am very confident we could turn this course round relatively quickly to get open for play once the government says go!


Since Friday's rain, the forecast has been sun, sun, sun so the irrigation system has been busy along with the team hand watering, this is a daily task again.This has been one guy everyday of the week just trying to keep areas alive. The growth has been high this week and the team have done a great job staying on top of it and presenting a golf course ready for your return.





We also finally managed to get the 17th green and 18th tees back online. These had not worked since the new main went in on 18.  This is because the as laid plans are wrong and we don't really know where the pipe work is. Running a new line off the main to the existing box was fairly simple but needed to be dug in at the right time with the banks at the back of 17th being shaped.



Profusion are now back on site shaping the range. We have started at the back of the range by 17. This is because most of the soil we need is in place already. We will work behind the ladies 18th tee then up the left of 18th. We have had some lorries in but not a lot. Once we know more construction has started and loads easier to get we will be trying our best to get the 1st hollow started but currently there isn't enough to even start this but enough to finish areas like the 18th carry, the rear of the 17th. It's important that we get areas finished now and seeded. Having three or four areas started and not finished is not how we want things done.





For those of you have not seen last week's blog please see the link 



Okay, that's enough from me. I do hope you are all safe and well and that you are still practicing your golf for your return. I love seeing all the videos or photos of made up practice nets, games and putting comps. 

Stay safe 

Matt 

Monday, 6 April 2020

Covid -19 Week two of the Lock Down


Hi All,

Week two of the lock down has been abit different. Mixed feelings of frustrations at times and worry as most of you will be feeling I assume. The Queen delivered her speech last night and we all clapped for all the key workers on Thursday night.  If you are a key worker we thank you for all you are doing to keep the country running and especially for our NHS staff who are truly amazing. 

This week due to the frosts we had very little growth, we split the team up into pairs working three days in the week and then we had the staff in fully for two days. These were obviously staggered but unlike before we have pushed this to hour gaps so there is no pinch point in the greenkeeping yard. 


Watering has become a daily activity already. I can’t believe how quick we have dried out, our last day of rai was the 19th March, so different.. We managed to get our semi rough mower fixed so this has been out and we have caught up without mowing. We still haven’t cut greens yet. These have been left to rest and recover. The bent grasses have gone mad in them. Great to see but would be very noticeable if golfers were out here playing. 
Hand watering has started


Cutting taking place
Tees looking good after feed


Apart from that, cutting aprons, tees and semi has been all we cut this week. The areas around the clubhouse have been mown to keep tidy and weed removal from pathways and around clubhouse started and only to keep the place tidy. We fertilised the green on Friday. This will give us a good base feed for the coming year ahead and keep the turf healthy.  
Fertilising greens 

On Wednesday I came in with James Ferris to a heavy frost so we took the opportunity whilst here to get on with divot filling the crow damaged and areas damaged from the winter.

Lots of talk within the industry about what the next step of essential works will look like. It's a hard one but I know long term but  if we are allowed to work to maintain the course we should be allowed keep all areas in a good condition. One of my worries at the moment is golfer's thinking they will come back to clubs after a break and it will be like Augusta. This simply isn't possible or allowed under current guidelines. Watch this space, I will update when I can! One thing for sure is the course has never had rest like this before and this will help aid recovery from last winter.  

The range work is still continuing. TJ are working on moving the soil to the right place while its dry. This will speed things up once we are up and running as normal


That's enough from me this week. A quieter than normal week but the week ahead looks warmer so hopefully we will get some growth. 

Remember if you are struggling to get out or need help doing your shopping or you just want someone to chat too, please let us know. We maybe able to help. We care and are willing to help if needed. 
Remember we are Team Stoneham!

Stay safe everyone

Matt 





Sunday, 29 March 2020

Covid-19 Lock Down Week

Hi All,

I have been thinking how I would start this blog, how to say how we are feeling, how to describe whats happened in the last week. I cant find those words just now but I will try, that's all I can do.

On Monday 23rd March, Boris Johnson issued a full lock down of the UK. People just were not listening to the warnings and still gathering, laughing and joking about the situation. He had no choice.
You are only allowed to leave your house for the following reason he said

  • Shopping for basic necessities as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day - for example a walk or cycle alone or with people from your family or household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help the vulnerable
  • Traveling to and from work, but only where this absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home


After the announcement lots of phone calls back and forth took place with Richard Arnold, Nick Clayton on what this meant to us as a business. Would we need to shut down? Would we be able to maintain the course? Lots of calls from other clubs to find out our position and what we thought. The team were text messaging to find out if they needed to be in work? how could we secure the premises?  Are we allowed? emails from the MC were now coming in thick and fast. Yes its only grass, but an un-maintained golf course is a field, park. The fine turf areas such as greens, tees, aprons would need some serious work to bring back to normal standards. A few weeks would be doable but months would not. Luckily all the golf Unions made announcements very quickly to back up the clubs decision.

Golf Courses are close but Greenkeeping staff can attend work for security and essential maintenanace purposes. First thing we did was get a small team ready for the morning and told the rest of the staff to 'stay at home' like the government guidelines. This would give us time to digest what had happened and to plan for the coming weeks or months.  



Tuesday morning came, getting up early to secure the club. I felt guilty when leaving my driveway as no cars were on the road... I am allowed to be doing this, surely if I was stopped securing our business would be allowed (since then we have been issued with letters to travel). The English golf union had spoke to the government and we had permission but it didn't feel right. Once at the club the small team of twos arrived staggered. Talking on the radios and across the width of a green to a couple of them ( a team we would normally sit together and brief the day, not anymore) the feelings of worry, guilt for being out, scared, scared to touch anything were all being discussed. We worked to erect the fence to shut the car parks and clubhouse down. The gaps to the course were also fenced. After this all, flags, hole cups and markers and yardage posts were removed from the course. I ve got to say it looks so nice without all the furniture. What golf would have looked like in the early days.

After discussions with the Chairman we looked at selecting six staff to stay on and maintain the course and three would be furloughed and sit on the subs bench to come back to work when needed. Our thinking was we could survive with four but having a little room for staff illness which is bound to happen as staff isolate. This way we will always have three that can come in and maintain the course if the entire team also comes down with the virus. Telling the team who was staying and who would be off until further notice was hard. These guys live and breath being on the golf course daily and I can tell you being isolated isn't good for anyone but when you spend most days outside all day in all weathers, it's hard even at weekends.



We have been very pro active since the outbreak of the virus. We have been cleaning down the touch points all day long. Our staff now arrive at different times, staggering start times in ones or twos to stop any bottle neck that would go against government guidelines. If we have a break we now sit out on the course on our own, we work on our own, when we use machinery this has to be washed and then sprayed down with antibacterial spray or wipes. Gloves are worn non stop. Staff keep to the social distancing. Most times of the day now with no golf there can be six holes empty between us. Hearing there voices on the radio the only normal part of our day. Even going out to get fuel for the machines is a worrying time. Making sure latex gloves are worn and taken off straight after, using card only pumps to minimise contact with more people. Nothing is normal anymore...

How I wish to be moaning only about the weather or chemical withdrawals now but now is a time for us to do our bit as long as we are allowed. To maintain this beautiful course and come out of this in a condition that we can play golf asap once the green light is given and lets face it, these restrictions will be phased out and golf will be one of the first sports to be reinstated as its one of the safest at these times. Golf brings over 2 billion to our economy so bringing it back will be in the governments interest that's for sure. Once it is safe to do so.



After a couple of days and a lot of national debate about what is "Essential Maintenance" to golf courses and how long and how many staff are needed the R&A, BIGGA (Greenkeepers Association), GCMA (Managers), the PGA, the golf unions all came up with an document of what is essential at the moment and what is not. A national live debate took place via Zoom the app for meetings on Thursday and the Essential Maintenance statement for golf courses during Corvid 19 came out on Friday. This is version one and I think we will get an update in three weeks because some of the work is limiting at the moment but I am more than happy with whats on the document for now. It allows us to cut greens, tees, aprons, fairways semi rough and rough. No work to hazards including bunkers is allowed. Unfortunately we can be doing grand works or improvements as this is about keeping the buisness in a recoverable state. If the lock down is extended we will be able to do work I am sure to maintain the investments but the worry is if a hard lock down comes in and no work can be done.
We planned for this by applying PGRs to slow the plants growth down (this is normally against our planned spring works) last week.

One of our main worries this was also the lack of water. Our system has been down and the pipe work broken and buried on 18th. You will have seen the pipe work laid out on the surface. This week Graham working with Andy our irrigation engineer (2 metres apart) managed to get the system connected and water back on. This is a huge relief and something we can now use to keep the course alive in the coming months. Thanks to them both and Mr Trant for leaving us a digger to get this done.


Tees coming up well this week

Turning up everyday to an empty course has been very different. The team have been fantastic and getting jobs done as best we can on our own. Machinery breakdowns is a worry as no parts or mechanics are allowed to work at the moment. Currently our semi rough mower is down, changes to how we do things is a constant but we will over come this.
Some good news is that TJ waste have diggers back on the practice ground, at the moment like us construction is allowed and two guys in two machines at one end of the range to each other is permitted.
Fairway recovery is coming on


The bonus is the course will get a natural rest and mother nature has a way of healing areas when no golf is walking over her. We have left the greens to raise the height of cut for now. This will reduce the stress the plant is under and will require less maintenance. We are doing all we can to get through this very scary and worrying time.



I know we are lucky to be getting out during the lock down and its one of the safest places to be with no one around and I always thought wouldn't it be great to have the golf course to ourselves to do what we wanted. I can tell you that this isn't what I imagined, we miss every single one of you. We miss the  office staff, the pro shop team making us smile everyday, the clubhouse being busy, the bar serving drinks, we miss Leon and Dave's food and people to say hello too or laugh with. We miss being a team. We cannot wait to welcome you all back but we will with the golf course ready!

Take care of yourselves and others

Stay safe

Matt

The power of stepping away

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Covid -19... Update March 2020


Hi All,

While the rest of the world seems like chaos and we face a huge global pandemic from Coronavirus the one sport that isn't off the agenda at the moment is golf. The UK's Chief Scientific adviser has announced to a health select committee "You can play golf provided you keep a distance"

We are trying to keep course open as long as possible but the world of sport have turned their eyes to golf and asking why this should be allowed when there sport isn't... We must follow the simple rules as stated on the flag pole, emails and in the clubhouse.

Important Information

  •  If you have any cough, cold or flu like symptoms please do not come to club or go out on the course and follow the government guidelines. Please see here:- www.gov.uk/coronavirus

  • All Staff, Members and Guests attending the Club are asked to practice respiratory hygiene (i.e. covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Staff, Members and Guests attending the Club are asked to wash their hands and use the hand sanitisers placed around the Club regularly 
  • Please follow the government guidelines regarding "Social Distancing". This basically means staying 2 meters apart at all times. This is generally easy when playing the long game but the risk increases in the bottle necks, greens, tees, bridges and pathways. Try and stagger and stay back from the person in front of you. This also means staying 2 meters back from all staff members this includes on the course, clubhouse and the pro shop. 
  • Arrive for your tee time on time but please 'No hanging around' outside the pro shop or too many people around the putting green and nets. Please use common sense and protect yourself and others

Upside down hole cup
  • Ensure not to touch the flag or pins. Always use your gloved hand if you do. We have turned the hole cups upside down so the ball sits higher so hands don't need to go into the holes and the ball is easier to retrieve. Its important that we minimise all risks so we can keep the course open for you all to enjoy. We are encouraging 'Gimmes'. 
  • Do not clean your ball with your saliva!
  • No Handshakes before or after the match, no sharing equipment
  • The ball washers are out of action and not to be touched.
Rakes have bought in from the course
Bunkers have no Rakes now. The team will rake daily
  • All the rakes have been removed from the bunkers. Please use your feet or the back of your club to level out the sand as best as possible
  • Mark your own card. Do not swap cards 

  • The boot cleaner/ shoe compressor is now off (because this is touched by nearly every golfer coming off the course)
  • Wash your hand for at least 20 seconds on completion

We understand that the steps we take will create disruption but we strongly believe that they are appropriate in these circumstances where the health and well being of everyone remains our priority.
We are mindful however that guidance is constantly changing and that we are all being asked to take measures that change the way we work and live our lives to help stem the spread of the virus for the foreseeable future.


If you still wish to play golf at the club during this time, please do it safely and within the Government Guidelines. 



Other news... 

The team having been taking advantage of the good weather in the last week. You didn't think I would blog without mentioning the weather :-)  The rainfall has been unbelievable with 310mm YTD so far and nearly 800mm in the last six months. Our yearly average is 879mm and March has not ended yet... Luckily the weather has improved, its a shame about the rest of the world!




All the main playing surfaces have been cut this week. The fairways for the first time since January. We have finally aerated the greens using chisel tines. These are like knives. The go in and give a bigger hole underground but with slit at the surface. This will close up quickly and trap air within the soil profile. 



Chisel tine. Notice its not round but a knife like hole


Hand cutting of greens and aprons is still on going. The surfaces are starting to firm up now and trolleys are allowed back on (some good news).  All the tees, aprons and surround have been vert drained with 12mm tines at 200mm depth to breath some air into these areas. 




All fairways, Aprons and surrounds have been fertilised with Iron and PGR (growth regulator). Normally we are feeding like mad at this time of year to get growth and to improve course recovery. This year with the temperatures increased, following the winter feeds and the current situation in the world we are trying to rain the growth in just in case transport restrictions are brought in.




Flymoing and strimming of bunkers and banks has started and they look good for the first cut of the year. 


Lots of blowing of debris including the Corvid (Blackbirds, Magpies, Crow) damage. Remember that this is being caused by the chemical withdrawals in 2018 that we warned about. They are digging for leather jackets or crane fly (daddy long legs to you and me). While they are a grub (like the 'Hungry Caterpillar' book), they are eating the roots of the grass plant and the birds can see this from the air as the leaf discolours and they know where dinner is... the grass plant is the only thing stopping it. We have been trying to reduce the amount of Magpies on the course and are looking to encourage Starlings as they still eat the grub but with a smaller beak, so less damage. We are also looking at crow scarer's etc. The damage will be divoted or re turfed depending on the circumstances but in the grand scheme of things this is a small problem that we keep addressing. 


Its a worrying time for us all and staying safe and healthy is our main concern. Just because we cant see it, it doesn't mean its not there... 
As long as we allowed we will continue to maintain the course as good as we can. 

The team have been fantastic and adapted to the changes. Split shifts, breaks and cleaning procedures two to three times a day. I could not ask for a better team around us at this stage. 

I will to try blog weekly to keep those in isolation up to date with the course and the club.

As a club we need to be ready to come out of this in a better position and back to normal as quickly as possible. I am sure the party after this has past will be amazing. Until then, stay safe and protect yourself and those around you. 

Stay safe everyone 

Matt