Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog January 2024

Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog January 2024

January has again been a difficult month in which to make progress.

We did have a dry few days but this coincided with a cold snap meaning frozen ground actually held us up even more than the wet. 

Despite this we have continued to get on and installed more irrigation, doing the best we can under the circumstances. 

Course Drainage

During long wet spells like this, we certainly aren’t alone in our struggles, with clubs across the country in a similar situation.

We can be grateful for having good drainage though, with water clearing the course rapidly, due in part to our location, but also the pretty efficient drainage system.

These factors certainly help us to recover more quickly than most courses and here’s why:

  • The course sits 150 metres above sea level at the top and then slopes down to 60 metres above sea level where water leaves the course in a valley at its lowest point, meaning we always have somewhere for the water to go.
  • The course has a series of ponds and wetlands that act as localised collection points, that land drains feed into. Each of these then has an overflow which feeds into the next pond or wetland, and so on until it leaves the course into the sea.
  • The lay of the land facilitates natural drainage as the gradient sends water down off the course, even without filtering into the land drains.
  • The greens were built with a variance of the USGA specification green, which offers the most efficient drainage. This is slightly hampered by a blended rootzone which used indigenous clay soils to bulk out the bought-in sand rootzone, but except for a few isolated areas the greens drain very well.

Unfortunately, when rainfall is this excessive and regular, even the best drainage can’t keep up. What the system does do is aid recovery and it usually only takes 24 hours to reopen the course after closure, but in some extreme cases perhaps 48 hours.

It’s also worth noting that drainage can only remove standing water. In the depths of winter, with short days and colder temperatures, our heavier soils take longer to dry out, which is why it remains soft and in places boggy underfoot.

This can take several days to dry out properly, but as an example, just before christmas we had 4 dry days out of 5 and went back to 27 holes with buggies on the course, demonstarting how quickly we can recover given the chance.

Whilst we had way above average rainfall this winter, the main problem has been from its regularity. Even though January has been less severe than the previous three months, we still only had 8 days without precipitation and it’s this constant topping up that has led to the poor conditions we have seen this winter.

Poor Working Conditions

Although it might seem obvious, the continued poor weather conditions have prevented us from getting even close to where we hoped to be going into February.

We were at least able to carry out construction work on the course in early autumn, creating new tees and extending Morgan’s Mound green before conditions became more difficult. All of this work is settling in well now though.

However, the bulk of our time this winter had been set aside to install a large chunk of a new irrigation system. 

It’s certainly been demoralising and for the last 3 months solid all we have been doing is working on the irrigation and picking balls on the driving range. 

Usually we are able to collect balls with machinery, often even up to Christmas before conditions become unsuitable. This winter though, hand picking began mid October and the field has become so bad now it’s a case of digging them out first before they can be picked.

The only excption in our work has been the introduction of a new bunker on Gray’s Tor. After already having the tee relocted, the new bunker completes changes to the hole and we feel this transforms what was previously a poor hole into an excellent one.

Recently we laughed as we realised whatever we’ve been doing, it has involved digging in the mud, and the team have been fantastic soldiering on with a smile. My thanks go to them for their efforts.


More trouble we’ve had while installing various parts of the new irrigation system in wet conditions, is the soils become unworkable if they get saturated.

Because all of the pipework, sprinklers and valves are being installed via excavation, we need dry conditions to take out and replace the soil, as once too wet the heavy soil loses its structure and will not consolidate back into the trench.

However, with having so few good days in which to work, we have been forced to work in pretty poor conditions on a regular basis.

This has allowed us to make some progress, but it has taken twice as much effort to complete half as much work.

We desperately need a decent month in February, with 4 greens & approaches still to install.

Ideally we want the full team to turn attention to course preparation for the season come March.

We had also intended to get sprinklers on all the new tees, but we will have to see how things pan out.

It is positive still though and so far this year we have installed the main pipeline, sprinklers on 7 greens, surrounds & approaches as well as 4 teeing areas. Although our target of 11 greens and 6 tees is now looking a tall order.


As you probably have guessed it will be more of the same in February for us.

Even with just a partly dry month, we should be able to get all purchased pipework, cable, valves and sprinklers in the ground. Hopefully this will be the case and March will be free for preseason preparations.

Ideally we would like also to carry out some much needed aeration on the greens as we have a problem with finer soils lower in the soil profile, which tend to become compacted over time. This slows down the percolation of water and to alleviate this deep tine aeration will break up the soils at depth.

We hope to complete deep tine aeration in February just like last year above.

Thanks as always for reading and I hope it has been of interest, but please get in touch if you have any questions!

Greg Fitzmaurice

Course Manager

[email protected]

There are 2 comments
  1. Avatar
    David Pearson

    Congratulations to the greens staff for soldiering on despite the atrocious weather conditions, it must be so frustrating for everyone. Here’s hoping for better weather to come.

  2. Avatar
    PAUL Jackson

    Thanks for all the excellent hard work you and your team put in in incredibly poor conditions. We don’t say it enough, Greg! Without the greenkeeping team we would be well up the creek without a paddle!🏌️

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