January has again demonstrated that previous trends with the weather are pretty meaningless, as we go from one extreme to another at random. Last year we had 140 mm of rain in January leaving the course flooded and average temperatures were 3.5 c. This year only 18 mm of rain and the course is so dry we have been forced to irrigate areas of turf, with the average temperatures of 6 c also resulting in some growth.
This highlights the random nature of our climate and how it makes effective planning difficult. However, we also have a good degree of flexibility and a wide range of tasks to undertake in caring for the facilities, which means we are never short of something to do!
In fact, there is way more to do than we can ever achieve, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it always gives us room for improvement.
Over the last month we’ve been able to put the last big project behind us and spend more time on the playing surfaces and square away a few smaller projects.
As many of you are already aware, the final large project was to extend the new green on Rawcliffe. We were very pleased to have Chris Haspell Associates to help us carry out the work and we decided that having someone with specific experience and understanding of both course design and construction, was required to ensure the desired results.
It was a tough week for the team, with another 1000 rolls of turf to remove from the green and then relay after work was completed. A total of 3,275 m2 of turf has been laid this winter, with 2,000 m2 harvested from our nursery, meaning twice the work, so a massive well done to the guys and a real achievement for such a small team.
The week with Chris went very well, and we couldn’t have wished for better weather. We all learned a lot from him as we moved through the project, with a variety of techniques that will help us on future construction projects.
The end results speak for themselves and we’re delighted to have what looks like being the most spectacular green on the course!
It will remain out of play now until spring and we hope to have the surface up to the quality of the other greens just as soon as we can.
With such dry conditions, we were able to cut all areas of the course except the fairways. The only reason we didn’t mow fairways was due to the fact we are changing our machine shortly and agreed to maintain the working hours before we let it go. Buying new is prohibitive for us, with a new fairway mower costing in the region of £70,000, but we have so far been able to source good used machinery over the years and are pleased to have again found good quality machines.
It’s very exciting too, as we will be able to raise the standard of presentation with the newer mowers. Moving from the larger machine to 2 more lightweight mowers, will allow us to closely mow green surrounds and fairways in one operation. This will improve our efficiency and also reduce the workload on the smaller mowers that had up until now been used to mow surrounds.
Bunkers have also been weeded, trimmed, with sand redistributed. New sand will be added to them all next month to freshen them up for the playing season.
We’ve even been able to mow the driving range and we also spent a little time tidying up the surrounding areas. It’s great to see the range getting more use than ever before and so many people enjoying another of our great facilities.
Some slightly better news on the greens after last month’s update. Despite initial concerns of damage being caused by leatherjackets eating at the turf base, things have not deteriorated as we feared.
All greens had an application of ammonium sulfate (nitrogen), and after a short period of frosts drove the grubs deeper in the soil, the turf looks much happier There is still plenty of birds pecking and some weaker patches on some greens, but overall things are much improved.
We tried covering 1 green overnight with visqueen, however it was likely too dry and cold for the grubs and very few were brought to the surface as a result. We will be trying again once we have more suitable conditions.
The thinning of the turf has led to moss invading areas of the greens (pic below) and we applied iron sulphate to control it at the end of January. This is only a minor issue though, as the moss will disappear once the days lengthen and the sun warms up the surface. The iron also darkens the turf, which helps absorb more heat from the sun at this time of year.
A granular fertiliser will be applied in February containing nitrogen, potassium and trace elements such as calcium, fulvic and amino acids. This will help maintain turf health going into spring and hopefully aid some recovery in the short term too.
We don’t normally apply fertiliser to this extent, but with the leatherjacket activity being so high this year, we feel it necessary to maintain good grass covergae.
Recurring issues led us to reassess our penalty areas on the course. New rules came in 2019, but up until now we had retained the original setup.
With quite a number of water features at Hunley, we decided to make alterations to simplify the application of the rules. All areas are now defined with red stakes so that the same rules can be applied for each area.
While painting them red, we have also moved the position of some. Doing so has allowed us to reduce the number of posts and make the areas slightly larger, which will make it easier to identify whether a ball has gone into the penalty area or not.
We also decided to permanently fixed the posts.
We are aware that this isn’t a perfect solution, but having looked at all the options we felt this to be the least problematic. Previously posts could be removed, but this led to them left strewn all over the place as well as issues with vandalism. This meant the areas were rarely marked properly and it frequently caused confusion for golfers trying to apply the rules correctly.
Having sought advice, it was suggested that we could remove the posts entirely, but we felt that it was important to be able to identify the areas from afar, especially for those new to the course. The downside to fixing them permanently is that if a post impedes your shot whilst in the penalty area, you’re not entitled to free relief, although you are if your ball is outside the penalty area.
Some of the penalty areas are also in areas off the main playing zones and this often made it difficult to tell if a shot was in or out of the penalty area. Moving the posts out wider has helped in this regard and will also make it possible for us to maintain the areas if it becomes an issue during the growing season.
The main thing now is that the penalty are areas clearly defined and visible from distance, with each golfer now faced with a consistent situation.
For the month ahead our plan is to complete servicing to all the machinery, top up all bunkers with new sand, clean up the pathways and carry out some general husbandry around the buildings and car parks.
As already discussed greens will receive a feed, but we also intend to carry out some aeration using narrow tines to avoid surface disruption. If conditions allow we will also look to cover greens over night in an attempt to remove leatherjackets.
Finally, if we get chance we hope to install a couple of small drains to low areas next to Davy’s and Wetlands greens.
Thanks for reading and as always if you have any questions, please direct them to me via email if you don’t see me on the course – [email protected]
For anyone interested in becoming a Greenkeeper, we are we are looking to add to our team. Below is a link to further details –