The beginning of June continued to cause us difficulties with conditions more akin to autumn than mid summer. Mist and fog was the main problem causing issues with course closure and damp turf for long periods. Disease became an issue during this time with conditions ideal for both Fusarium and Dollar Spot, with areas on some greens and greens collars affected.
The end of the month was much better and as a result the problems ceased and the condition of the course has been very pleasing.
One of our big projects on the course this year has been to increase the amount of long rough between holes. The rough has many benefits, providing good definition to the holes and framing each one with beautiful wispy grasses of different colors. It reduces the amount of intense mowing on the course which enables us to focus more time on the key areas of closely mown turf and bunkers. As a result of less intensive mowing our carbon footprint is significantly reduced, but possibly the biggest benefit of all has been the increase in wildlife on the course.
The rough is dominated by Creeping Red Fescue and this provides a lovely red, purple colour when seeding. Sweet Vernal grass, Marsh Orchid, Crested Dog’s-tail and Meadow Foxtail add to the attractive areas of long grass. It’s not all good though as areas of Yorkshire Fog and Cocksfoot are less desirable and can cause difficulty when looking for golf balls due to their broad leaves and lush growing habit. This is where our management is crucial and selecting areas to thin out on a rotational basis helps to minimise the impact on wildlife, whilst trying to maintain playability on the course.
Sky Lark’s are abundant and they love the long grass, finding plenty of seeds and insects to eat as well as good nesting sites.
Another beneficiary of the long rough has been Hares, as unlike Rabbits, they do not burrow. They are generally solitary animals, but we have been lucky enough to have a family nesting in an area of recently introduced long grass this year.
Also the long grass attracts Kestrel and Barn Owl as it provides ideal hunting ground for them, both are regular visitors and fantastic to watch if you’re lucky enough to spot them.
Yellow Hammers are a small bird from the bunting family, they love our gorse bushes and the male has a striking yellow head making it easy to recognise.
Stonechats are quite rare and a little more difficult to spot, but if you hear one you’ll understand where they get their name.
Other attractive small birds to see in and around the bushes are Bullfinches and Goldfinches along with more common others such as Blue Tits and Chaffinches.
We have gained new resident Mute Swans this year which have nested, successfully rearing 5 Cygnets so far, which is very pleasing to see.
Also around the ponds we have Blue Damselfly, Common Toad, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Smooth Newt and also the rare Great Crested Newt.
We sought advice from the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust last year on how to best protect and promote wildlife on the course and our hope is to do more in the coming years.
Although first and foremost we provide a golf course for people to play golf on, we have an opportunity to create a course that benefits the environment in so many ways. Playing in such an environment sets golf apart from any other sport and at Hunley we are blessed with a beautiful setting, a fantastic mix of facilities and an abundance of wildlife. This blog has highlighted a select few of what can be found on the course and we will continue to do our bit for the environment and ecology on our land.
So far as the playing surfaces are concerned, we have continued with our usual maintenance of the course. Greens and approaches have received applications of wetting agent, fertiliser and sand dressings. The condition of the short mown turf is as good as it has ever been and I hope that you are all getting great pleasure from playing the course at the moment.
July is our busiest month for competitions with Captains Day and Club Championships scheduled amongst others. Hopefully the weather is kind and the course can continue to offer excellent conditions for play.