Since the last update the changes to the golf course have been ratherdramatic. At the time of writing, the contractors have completed all bunker builds and most of the turfing, with the work carried out looking quite different but very impressive. The past month has been an extremely busy period for us, being part of installation of the capillary concrete to the new bunkers and also finishing off all the coring work. This at times has been pretty tough going but very rewarding as we realise we are playing a part in something very special in the clubs future. Here goes with what has been going on with us over the past month, which hopefully will be of some interest to you.
Course Improvement Project
The installation of the capillary concrete is now complete, with15 lorry loads of concrete being delivered totalling roughly 145 tonnes, which has been raked and levelled to produce the desired, quality finish. The concrete was installed exactly to the same specifications as last year and we are very happy again with the end product. Luckily the recent heavy downpours we have experienced has given us a trial run to see if the new bunkers are draining well, and I’m glad to report there were no problems what so ever.
New Bunker at Front Right of 4th Green
The next step in the project is to finish off the turfing, tidy up the areas, get them roped off and ready for the sand installation. The sand install will be a bit different this time around, as we will put in the desired sand depths (4 inches base and 2 inches edges)sooner this time, to give the sand the best opportunity to settle in before they come into play when the season starts again. Hopefully this will deliver better playability, consistency levels and give us time to monitor any problems.
Before the contractors leave they will finish off turfing the new white tee that has been introduced at the 12th to give us more tee placements, better alignment and improve the view down the fairway. They will also address a couple of snagging problems from last year’s Phase 1 work. These include enlarging the soakaway at the 16th fairway bunker to minimise flooding after heavy rainfall, improving the drainage issues to the left of the 15th green, adding some small mounding at the 15th bunker and left hand bunker at 17th to divert water flow to prevent sand washout and contamination and finally some additional mounding to the 1st greenside bunker in response to member feedback.
In total contrast to Phase 1 of the project when the dry weather was perfect for heavy machinery travelling about the course, weather conditions for Phase 2 have been unforgiving. Extremely unhelpful amounts of rainfall throughout the construction period created saturated ground conditions for the contractors to work on. The heavy machinery essential to carry out their work has left large parts of the course muddy, damaged and unsightly, which was sadly unavoidable even though they tried to limit the wear as much as possible due to the underfoot conditions. This issue will be rectified with the areas being repaired by the contractors before they leave by filling in the ruts and holes and then we will follow on this work by dressing, levelling, seeding and turfing where necessary. We are confident with a little hard work and the areas being roped off and given time to recover, these damaged areas will soon start to improve and be back to normal by the start of the season.
Coring and Top Dressing Work
In the last month we finished our essential coring and top dressing procedures. As mentioned last month we cored the greens twice this time (first pass larger core, second pass micro tines). The end result was successful with good sand amounts applied, more thatch removal and a perfect seed bed. My time walking behind the procore machine during the process, gave me a lot of thinking time and I managed to roughly work out the amount of cores we extracted over the whole coring process. Now I didn’t personally count them all as I ran out of fingers and toes but I’m pretty confident that 13.5 million cores is not too far away. If anyone wants to find out how I came up with this, please stop me out on the course and I will happily bore you to tears with the equation I used to find this number.
The recent light dressings have proved successful
In an ideal world, we would have had some light rain afterwards to wash in top dressing, which we would have followed with further light dressings of sand to fill the holes again. Unfortunately we got heavy downpours that washed in the sand but left the greens too wet to top dress for a couple of weeks (optimum conditions for top dressing is firm, dry surfaces). It was later than ideal, but we managed to apply two light dressings of sand last week to the greens to improve the smoothness (will apply more sand if required). We have also applied a granular fertiliser to all the greens and hopefully this will boost growth a bit and start to close up the core holes and give you all a better surface to putt on.
On a positive note, our most recent agronomists report came in with their observations and results from their visit in late August. The results showed that we have reduced our thatch levels significantly in the last year (although not as yet within our target range) which is very pleasing and proves the coring and grading work carried out in March was a success. We have every confidence that this double coring process we have just carried out will again improve our thatch levels and get us closer to our objective of producing healthy, firm putting surfaces which will maintain a consistent performance throughout the year. If we reach our target thatch levels and maintain them consistently, it will result in us not needing to core as aggressively going forward. In short we will be able to control thatch levels with only micro tines and top dressing, meaning we won’t disrupt the green surfaces and playability as much as we do currently (meaning a longer playing season).
The thatch levels dropped from 11.5 % to 7.3 % from last year to this year
We have continued to mow playing surfaces all over the course where and when necessary and if possible to maintain definition and playing quality, we have also managed to roll the greens a couple of times in the last week or so to improve surface smoothness. The winter greens are being cut twice a week at 5mm and have had an application of worm suppressor to provide as good a surface as possible.The rain we experienced in October left underfoot a bit moist (definitely time to leave your cream trousers in the cupboard for a while at least), which resulted in golfers experiencing mud balls and poor lies on the fairways, it was then decided to introduce preferred lies on all closely mown areas throughout the course.
Preferred Lies in Place Since 18th October
Leaf litter has started to become a major problem lately, with huge amounts falling on a daily basis and we are trying as much as possible to make playing surfaces, tees and greens presentable and playable using hand and tractor blowers. Unfortunately our tractor blower was out of order for a couple of weeks due to a breakdown and we are unable to hire in a replacement blower. It took longer than expected to repair which led to large areas of the course being covered in leaves for a length of time, with us only being able to clear leaves around greens and tees and other problem areas with hand blowers. Thankfully it has now been fixed and we will be able to again remove leaves from playing surfaces regularly.
The last month or so has obviously been an extremely busy period for us all with the ongoing concrete work, aftercare and coring work. All this combined has given us very little time to maintain the golf course, so some areas like leaf removal, hole changing, bunker raking and mowing have suffered during this period. I would like to thank all the members for your patience and support over this period, but with these projects well on the way to completion we will be back soon delivering the high standards of course presentation the club is renowned for.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are we changing to white flagsticks, and why are we doing this.
The simple answer is yes. There are a number of reasons for changing, but the main one is the member feedback. We trialled an all white pin on the 18th green for a number of weeks during early summer and the comments we received were very positive, so we have acted on this and acquired new pins which will be in place for the start of the new season. We have also got newly designed flags and fresh aluminium hole cups to go out on the course at the same time as the pins.
New Flags and Pins Looking Sweet
The feedback we received was mainly based on the increased visibility that the all white pin delivered but there are also other benefits to them. The javelin style pin features extra thickness in the centre for increased strength and wind resistance but is also thinner at the base. The thinner base will lower instances of the golf ball striking the pin and bouncing out of the hole, if you choose to putt with the pin in, as this year’s rule change now allows. We hope that these new pins prove just as popular as the trial pin did.
By Shaun Cunningham