Even with the start of a new year, things haven’t got any better weather wise. It’s extremely frustrating for all of us but with no control over what comes from above, all we can do is continue to push on, so that when we do get a break in the weather we can at least benefit from some positive improvements.
With little to report on since my last update, I thought I’d try to put some perspective on the recent situation and the resulting course closures.
Has the weather really been any worse this winter?
- 2017 saw 764 mm of rainfall compared with 473 mm in 2016.
- 552 mm of that has fallen since July 2017.
- For a comparison, Nairn on the north coast of Scotland had 721 mm.
- The last time we had 48 hours in a row with no rain/snowfall was mid October.
- The 3 previous winters have been very dry, with less than half the rainfall that we have already had and we still have nearly 2 months to come before the beginning of March.
- In the last 9 weeks, the few days where we have had no rainfall, the ground has been frozen, which has prevented any drainage or the soil to dry out.
But what does all that information really mean?
It allows us to see how much wetter this last 6 months has been compared to previous years and also how few dry days we have actually had in between for the course to recover.
So should we be investing in an improved drainage system?
Some areas of the course would certainly benefit from further drainage, however during periods such as this, even the best drainage couldn’t prevent course closures.
Drainage can only remove surface water and with good drainage the water will go quickly. There are a few things to consider in this regard;
- Surface water at Hunley does drain quickly, usually around 24 hours is enough for all but a handful of puddles to disappear.
- Drainage cannot dry out the surface, only evaporation can do this and for that we need temperatures above freezing.
- Wind is perfect for drying out the surface, but unfortunately when it’s been windy this winter, it has also rained.
- There are half a dozen areas on the course due for drainage work in the future, however these are small areas, only really a problem in the winter months and also only after extreme periods of weather.
- Again for a comparison, Fulford GC, my first place of work has spent vast sums of money in the last 15 years on a superb drainage system across the whole course. Even with this system, they have still been closed for many days over the last few weeks.
So if our course drains well, why has it been closed so much recently?
After extreme weather makes ground conditions saturated, a period of time without further rainfall is needed for it to recover. We haven’t had any period of time for which the course has had chance to recover since mid October.
But Cleveland GC has remained open, why is that?
This is simply down to soil type.
Hunley is on clay soil which holds moisture better than any other soil type, unlike Cleveland GC which is on sand with this being the best soil for drainage.
Without going too deep into the subject, I’ll quickly try to explain.
Clay particles are tiny and flat, they also hold a magnetic charge which means they easily stick together. This means very little air space is left between the particles where water can pass through. Imagine smearing wet clay into the bathtub and then filling it with water, not much, if any water will escape.
Sand on the other hand has much larger particles which tend to be round in shape allowing plenty of air present for water to easily pass through and away. Imagine filling the bathtub with golf balls this time, all of the water will still escape out of the plug.
Another comparison for the different soils is to think of the beach, as when the tide goes out the sand is dry and firm to walk on whereas the clay banks of an estuary are sloppy and actually extremely dangerous to walk on when the tide goes out.
So what will it take for things to improve?
Despite clay being very poor once it has become saturated, once it has the chance to dry out it shrinks and cracks and this creates lots of air space again for water to be able to drain away. This is why we only really suffer course closures in the depths of winter, unfortunately this year we went into winter with saturated soils.
When might this be?
So far as the course being fit to open again, we just need 24 hours for the majority of standing water to disperse and then another 24 hours for the surfaces to be dry enough for the turf to be fit to play from.
There are certain situations that may speed up or slow down this process, but in an average situation 48 dry hours after extreme weather is sufficient for the course to be again fit for play.
We can only look forward and hope for an improvement, which will eventually come. As the saying goes ‘It can’t rain all the time!’
Please do get in touch if you have any queries at all regarding the golf course.
Thanks for reading,