Irrigation: Once I got back on February 22nd, the first task was the installation of our new Irrigation Controller and wiring looms around the course. You may remember that in September last year a lightning strike catastrophically damaged our old controller and decoders.
The upside was that we were able to upgrade the electrical side of our system with a large investment from GetGolfing. We now have a state-of-the-art controller system that allows us to control all the individual irrigation heads on greens, tees and approaches with our iPhones (other smart phones are available) rather than having to travel back and forth back to the Irrigation Room, next to the old pro shop.
We have also installed electricity surge protection rods around the course, which should protect us from this happening again, or at least limit the extent of the damage.
The works will continue throughout April as we also found that the long section of wire from the 13th tee to the 15th green had been completely fried, along with stretch of cable from the 1st green to the 2nd green on the Academy course.
We will be putting new mains wires into the land via mole ploughing and, once done, we should be much more efficient in our use of mains water around the course.
Mowing: Once my deputy Kevin returned, we set about the mammoth task of cutting down the forest of grass or, as some of you know it, the golf course. A tedious job, we had to slowly get each playing surface down to its maximum winter height of cut.
The big thing that has been in our favour the last four weeks has been the weather. Going long stretches without a single drop of rain really helped us hit the ground running and cut, cut, cut.
There were still areas we could not get to because of the wet conditions but perseverance meant we were able to steadily get the course to a condition that could be identified as a golf club. It was touch and go though, and at points we did consider getting some sheep to help us keep the grass down. Unfortunately, their wage requirements and working condition were too extreme for my budget!
Weeds: If there was a benefit to having the course closed, it was that I could properly weed kill all bunker faces and edges, pathways, car parks and patio areas.
This is usually a really hard task because the herbicide needs a few hours to dry and translocate through the plant but any areas sprayed are then susceptible to being walked over and spread elsewhere on golfers’ shoes. We really don’t want multiple size-10, dead foot prints on the greens or other areas, so having no-one around meant this could be carried out risk free.
You may notice areas that are turning yellow, in particular on the 3rd fairway to 4th tee walkway and the 18th white tee pathway. This is the result of the grasses slowly subsiding into themselves and it will eventually disappear.
Along with the main herbicide, we also applied another residual herbicide that will stick in the subsurface and, in theory, stop any new grass/weeds from forming going forward over the next 12 months.
Greens: Next, we began our task of greens renovation. We had originally pencilled in an aggressive scarifying and topdressing on the greens to remove organic matter, otherwise known as thatch. If not checked, thatch will create soft, slow and very bumpy greens that have a higher proneness to the onset of disease, which causes large scars and play surface disruption.
Again time was not on our side and I really did not want to impact the playing surface too much before the return of golf. Some form of work, however, was going to be required to continue the progress we are making with the greens.
Last year the greens really stepped up another level with the introduction of the turf iron but also thanks to the increase in the materials budget by GetGolfing, which meant I was able to apply 120 tons of sand topdressings to make the greens firmer and faster. The firmness increases because the thatch layer becomes emulsified with sand and creates layers of sand between the thatch.
So Kevin and I set out with the main goal of applying 30-35 tons of sand to the greens but trying not to cause excessive disruption this close to opening up. We started by applying a heavy first layer to the surface, which was then followed up with the pedestrian aerator punching 8mm diameter holes into the green and at 3-inch depth. This process helps to vibrate the sand back into the newly created holes and so not sit on the surface for too long. We followed this with a topdressing brush to force the remaining surface-lying sand into the holes.
We then assessed each green to determine how much more sand would be needed to ensure any open holes were filled with sand. The second application meant we were able to hit our target of 35 tons of sand into the greens. This year’s aim will be to try to apply 150 tons over the whole season, which usually finishes in mid-October. As I have said before, the benefit of this to the playability of the greens far outweighs the small disruption caused.
We also carried out a similar process to the tees to make sure they were in top condition and both teeing areas and greens were treated to their own site-specific compound fertiliser application to aid their recovery. Fortunately, we then had more rain, which will help break up the fertiliser and kick start growth and recovery on the playing surfaces.
Upon their return to work, Rob and Jonny were tasked with clearing leaves and debris around the putting green, clubhouse and 1st tee. Along with that, they applied fresh layers of wood chippings on the borders and 1st tee border as well, which has really smartened the area up.
The 1st tee pathway will require new drainage installation later as it always floods, but they did manage to tidy the recent damage and put a new border line along the edge.
The practice nets were in a horrible condition due to the storms we had and needed a lot of attention so rectify. Thankfully, the lads were able to rebuild and strengthen the frames and poles along with reattaching the nets to a more secure frame.
A few other odd jobs were carried out, one of which was the removal of the hawthorn hedge in between the ditch to the left of the 4th tee. The hedge, which obstructed the view and playability from the white tee, has now been cut down to ground height with the idea to allow it to re-grow but not the extent it had previously.
Well, that’s my two cents for the month. We all very much look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy the course and glorious weather that has been forecast.
One bit of advice to you all: make sure to stretch before and after a round of golf in the coming weeks. Having patiently waited for months to get back out there, don’t let it be spoiled by pulling a muscle! Most importantly ENJOY YOURSELVES!