At last we now have some positive news with the announcement of golf coming back on March 29th. Setting up and maintaining a golf course for no golfers isn’t right. We miss those sounds of balls being hit, laughter, the clubs rattling in the bags, the conversations we have with you all across the greens and the smell of beer, wine and food coming from the patio area and the odd shout of FORE!
One thing we have had to do is rethink our strategy going forward for this season. Course Maintenance week was originally booked in for the 6th of April.
This would have included Greens, Tees, Aprons and Surrounds plus the potential back up date rope drainage of three greens.
There were several reasons for the later maintenance week this week this year.
The main points:-
1) April is the month when the Bent grasses grow in the greens and the Poa Grasses don’t, leaving the surfaces very bumpy. This is all down to soil temperatures, Bent thrives at 6* and Poa 8* and that 2 degrees plays a massive part until middle of May. Over the last two years along with the possibility to add PC rope drainage in the greens we have really increased our Bent grass over seeding. Again this is due to the revoked chemicals for turf diseases and the need for us to look at more sustainable ways for the future. It was discussed with our Agronomist and the decision made to move the maintenance week to April to punch holes, scarify and sand the greens while they would be bumpy anyway. Unfortunately this is a yearly occurrence but was missed by you the members last year due to Lock down 1.
2) Leatherjackets (or crane fly/ daddy long legs to most). These are now a real problem for golf courses and other turf industries as explained before but this year is the start of the process of the old chemistries having no residual value left in the soils to help protect them. We are likely to see even more damage especially on fairways. The Crane fly while in a grub state (leather jacket) have laid eggs towards the end of last year and these will now would have hatched and be eating up to 60% of the plants root system leaving them very weak.
Holes in greens would leave us open for the leather jackets to move up and down the plants like an elevator shaft. It would also allow other Crane fly that are in flight from the surrounding areas to lay eggs in the soil again and the process repeats. After March the ground tends to be drier and the leather jackets less active. This added to our decision to move to April.
Some of you will notice a weak plant when playing but the Corvid birds notice them even more from the sky and dive down to peck the surface ripping the turf out of the way for them to find their dinner. The damage we are left with is great and will need constant divotting until they repair.
Taking all of the above into account on any normal year we would have kept maintenance week in April.
However the circumstances of this year have made us re-think our plan as you the members have been away a long time and coming back in to find the greenstaff doing Maintenance week would be very unpopular!
Luckily the course has dried out hugely in the two weeks, this has allowed us to cut all the main playing surfaces for the first time this year including semi rough.
This meant the course was dry enough to topdress the greens to fill the holes up and this reduces the risk of the leather jacket issue so I think we have done the right thing in taking advantage of the weather.
We have also managed to move the contractors we use to help us Hollow core Tees, Aprons and surrounds to March the 10th. This should take no more than two days and all these areas can be then topdressed and over seeded behind them.
This will only give us 18 days until opening and some areas won’t be fully repaired but this will mean the work is done for the season ahead.
Obviously the two issues raised at the start of the blog won’t go away but something we can watch and learn from but I think as long as the weather holds we should do as much as we can to give the course back to you the members to enjoy.
Due to the break in the weather we have managed to go ahead with the drainage work as planned and we haven’t had the issue of this rolling into April. It was touch and go on Day 1 because the course was still so wet. We have had to make some decisions about what greens got done.
After a course inspection the 17th hole was just too wet to get into with the machinery so an option nearer the clubhouse was chosen.
After 9th, 10th and 11th next on our list of wettest greens was the 3rd. It was decided to add this green to the 5th and 6th.
The 17th is now a summer job.
I am keen to do 9, 10 and 11 in one group to allow golf to play to the 8th and then down the 12th when we do it.
|Outlet being dug in on 6th|
As work started on the other greens I spoke to the MC about the issue on the putting green. This has gradually deteriorated over the last few months particularly since November. It was closed for most of the time between Lock down 2 and 3 and was getting worse in January and February.
Our moisture readings were 56% on that green which meant the green was suffocating as the soils were full of water and had no air space in it.
The Clegg (firmness) reading was 43 gravity’s. That’s below our target of 70gm for winter golf. The rope drained greens on the same day were at 40% moisture and 65gm, this then improved again with in 24hrs to 36% and 71gm.
The putting green was still above 50% and around 45gm. This data showed me just how bad it had got and we made the decision to get this done while no golfers were on site.
I must be honest I didn’t want to drain the Putting Green until all the course was done but feel our hand has been forced as it is a heavily used green and outside the clubhouse. It also made sense to do this while everyone was away from site as the outlet was a very long one and wrapped around right edge of the green and between the putting green and the 18th.
We have completed all the drainage works on the 3rd, 5th, 6th and Putting green.
These are all now finished and the repair works to get these greens smooth have started and in the coming days and gives us nearly a month to sort. It’s worth remembering this drainage won’t stop flooding but will massively speed up drain down time and allow us to open the greens quicker.
All the drained greens will be hollow cored to reduce the thatch levels and not scarified.The newly drained greens aren’t quite smooth enough to take a scarifying blade without causing damage to the surface so this it our best option to maintain the thatch levels on those greens.
Greens Maintenance week
Greens maintenance as mentioned above has been completed.
The greens were chisel tined at first,this is a knife action which helped dry the surface out to allow the tractor to get on them quicker to carry out maintenance week. The Chisel tine doesn’t leave a hole for the leather jackets is more of a stabbing action with a blade.
|Verti Draining 18th|
Next the greens were Verti drained to 200mm with 12mm tines and then Pro cored with 12mm solid tines to 100mm.
Between each tine sand was applied and brushed in with our sweep n fill brush. On Wednesday night we got 4.1mm of rain which helped wash the sand in lovely.
|Pro Core |
Following all the sanding the greens were scarified to -10mm. We may choose to do this again while no golf is on site to help remove even more thatch and firm up the greens.
The newly drained greens at 3rd,5th,6th and Putting green have been hollow cored along the drain lines, then rolled along the drain lines to help get these level. This process will be repeated in the next couple of weeks until the greens are smooth again.
|Sand slit left from greens drainage|
All the Tees, Aprons have been Verti drained with a 12mm tine to 200mm. Other works this week have included hollow coring of weak areas on fairways, cores removed so we can sand and over seed these again before you return.
|Verti Draining 15th tee|
Next week the greens will be topped up as the sand settles with another couple of top dressings and fertilised to aid recovery.
After six weeks of hard hand digging all the heather is now out on the course. The team have done a fantastic job in making it look natural. I don’t think anyone will know how hard it was getting that 820m2 out actually was and I doubt many will notice as it looks natural but we know we have done our best to age the banks.
The last of the turfing has taken place around the 8th and 18th bunkers too. The additional smaller trees have arrived and have been planted around the range.New Yew hedging has been planted to cover the Greenkeepers yard and the Bomb shelter.
A small amount of gorse has arrived and will be planted around the range to age the banks and naturalise them even more.
The team have been busy clearing scrub from within the heather areas. We get a lot of Oak saplings taking hold these areas and part of our heathland management is to clear these areas when required.
The damaged areas from the tree planting have been over seeded. These areas will come back in the coming weeks, to give a full grass coverage.
As mentioned all the course has finally been cut, Fertilisers have been applied to the main playing areas, the course has been blown to collect debris and last of the leaves collected again (the strong winds are blowing these from the dumping grounds), greens have been sprayed and all the winter servicing of our machinery has been completed.
One thing which is really pleasing to see, is the recovery on the fairways from all the work. There are still some weak areas as mentioned but we are working on those.
|End of season 2020|
The Range Building
The range foundations are now in. This took just a week and now it’s ready for the steels team, unfortunately they are delayed on their current project are expected first week of April. The steels will all be put up in one hit and then the suspended beams for the flooring of the building added. This design has taken the foundations into the original sub soil of the old range and built up from that. Over time we are expecting the range outfield to settle but the building will remain in the same place with the foundations that have been engineered.
What a difference a day makes they say. Well two weeks of dry weather right when
we needed it has helped us hugely.
The continued investment in the course with another four greens drained and now maintenance week completed at the beginning of March is truly fantastic.
Golf maybe the only turf sport where there is no “off season” like Football or Rugby, Cricket or Tennis. These sports all shut down for a period and renovate there pitches, wickets and courts before they return to play.
This year has been a unique opportunity for us to see what that feels like and the team have achieved so much in a short time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team for all for their hard work.
I am so glad we have got these major works done while you the members are on a forced break and not in April as planned.
Our attention in the coming weeks can now be the golf course and not major projects. The time between now and opening will give us an opportunity to set up and get the definition and detail right for the season ahead. With all the major works done we now just need Mother Nature to do her bit.
We are all on the home straight now. Not long to go.We can’t wait to see you back!
See you soon