December has seen the first and only real cold period of 2022, with a couple of weeks of temperatures down to zero or below.
Overall though, 2022 has been a very good year for weather in relation to playing golf. Many dry days obviously brings about challenges for the Greenkeeping team, but for an outdoor sports facility it has been ideal. A wet end to the year has seen a few pockets of the course become quite wet and after such a prolonged dry spell, it’s easy to forget what winter is normally like for golf. Below average (715 mm) rainfall of 655 mm o has hit the course in 2022, compared to 783 mm in 2021, which also saw a dry summer.
Recent years have seen a trend towards drier summers, so we might be forgiven for expecting more to come. However, at the start of the century we experienced a number of extremely wet summers with 2012 seeing record levels of rainfall across much of the UK. Such is the nature of our climate in the UK though, we have to be prepared for everything and anything and pretty much at any time of year!
The year started promisingly with the course in great shape awaiting the return of competitive golf. Coming out of Covid, with things beginning to look more positive, mixed with extremely dry and mild conditions in January got us all preparing for the season with a great deal of optimism.
March into April though, the greens began to suffer from Leatherjacket activity, which is one of the biggest problem we face in trying to produce healthy turf for play. It also looks likely to be an issue year on year, with no realistic options available to us to combat the larvae of the Crane Fly.
We did what we could though and were grateful to the help provided by members as we covered the greens 1 at a time with visqueen sheets, bringing many grubs to the surface overnight for removal. This certainly helped reduce the impact and kept the disruption to a minimum.
Once temperatures increased and growth became more consistent, the greens have perfomed well and we’ve been pleased to hear the positive feedback from golfers on their condition.
We have some options to further alleviate the leatherjacket issue in 2023 and we hope to keep disruption to a minimum in the early part of spring when the greens have been most affected.
The entire summer saw fantastic weather, with warm sunny days the theme. This brings the course at Hunley into its own, as firm bouncy turf provides the optimal challenge to the golfer.
For the Greenkeeping team though, irrigation system pipework that has passed its functional lifetime, meant a lot of our resources were spent repairing burst pipework.
This was at times demoralising ,as we repaired burst after burst, each time only to find another appeared within days.
For some time we have been discussing how to find a way to upgrade the system, but it has now become our top priority.
Keeping a record of each repair did help too, as at the end of the year we could see a clear pattern.
90% of the leaks came with a section covering only 5 holes and it came as no real surprise, with the increased gravity induced pressure being placed upon the pipework in this section. This comes about due to its location below the pump, which sees the pressure peak at this point before a valve regulates the pressure before it goes under the railway line.
This has enabled us to prioritise this section for immediate replacement, which will greatly reduce the problems of the last year and allow us to phase the full upgrade over several years.
Having now ordered the materials, we hope to complete this work in February. The result will not only eliminate the risk of burst pipework in this section, but will also see us upgrade sprinkler coverage to include teeing grounds, greens approaches as well as the greens themselves.
Further benefit will see us have greater control over the sprinklers, improving accuracy and saving water in the process. We will also be able to isolate sections of the system too, which will avoid the loss of the whole system in the event of any repair work required.
You can see the area in question in the design below, with the main pipework shown in yellow.
2022 has seen a national shortage in the labour market and golf has certainly been affected by this, with even the top venues in Yorkshire posting adverts for multiple Greenkeeping positions. With that in mind I just want to say a big thanks to my team, who have been fanastic on a daily basis. Having a small team always leaves us with great challenges, but without the collective effort we wouldn’t have been able to keep pushing the boundaries like we have.
Pennington’s 1st Tee
Autmn saw the start of winter improvements and every year we aim to make structural changes to the course for year on year improvement.
This autumn we focused on an entirely new tee complex on Pennington’s. To improve upon first impressions and give the first hole the same ‘wow’ factor that arriving at the club gives you. Raised tees have been constructed. We are very pleased with the results and the feedback backs that up with everyone very excited to tee up come spring.
Despite the cold snap we have progressed our winter workload, the most noteable being changes to the hole Mcleans.
Possibly the weakest hole at Hunley, Mcleans is a short par 3 that posed a limited challenge, with very little features to the hole, aside from the pond behind the green which wasn’t really visible either.
The original bunker back right of the green wasn’t a good feature either and we had long intended to fill it in to create a swale instead. The reasons being that the bunker was quite large, washed out badly after rain and it was awkward to mow it’s surroundings.
When you combine time consuming maintenance to a hazard with little golfing value, it’s easy to see why we’ve decided on it’s removal.
However, removing it with no further work on the hole would have left the hole looking even less of a challenge, so after some consideration, we wanted to create a hole where finding the green was crucial to making a Par or better. To do this we needed to create more features around the green that needed to be negotiated.
To start with, a bunker was introduced front right, which will require a well struck shot to clear it. Any shot pushed to the right will also now run into the swale that has replaced the old bunker.
After that we cleared the pond edge behind the green, grading the bank down to the water so anything hit long will now find the water hazard.
Finally the left banking has been reshaped, with another bunker being introduced tight to the green on the left. This will now see a ball hit wide of the target either find the bunker, or stay in a depression behind the bunker, rather than being kicked towards the green.
Next winter we will complete changes by raising the tee to bring everything more into view, but already the hole presents a much more inviting challenge and 1 we hope you will all enjoy!
With persistent rain for the last couple of months, we have begun to see water standing on the greens in places for longer than normal. Because of the problems with Leatherjackets, we have limited the amount of aeration carried out on the greens. For the last few years we have been seeing aeration holes open up in spring and this has been because the Leatherjackets have used the holes beneath the surface to live in and each night eat away at the turf base around the edge of the hole.
However, with drainage becoming impeded by the heavier soils becoming tightly packed lower down in the soil profile, we have been carrying out some deep tine aeration to improve water percolation rates. The problem is predominantly on Morgan’s course greens, as during construction clay soil was mixed into the rootzone and is now prone to compaction that becomes more difficult for water to drain through into the drainage layer below.
Our aim will be to carry this out on several occaisions before March, using different sized tines at different depths to improve the soil structure across all of the greens. Rolling will follow when conditions are suitably dry, to smooth the surface again and retain good playing performance and we will also be applying some Iron and Nitrogen to improve health and optimise photosynthesis during the shorter days.
This combination will then take us into spring where we hope to continue to provide quality surfaces all year round.
Apolgies for the lengthy post this month, but despite trying to stick to the main topics, there are plenty of ommisions still. However, I’ll sign off now by wishing everyone a fantastic 2023 and all of us at Hunley are very excited about the year ahead and being able to offer you a great experience using our facilities!
All the best, Greg and team