June has been a very dry month with only 9 mm of rain falling in total. Although the current drought brings about some challenges, it has gone some way to making up for the first 5 months of 2018, with plenty of beautiful sunny days to enjoy the course, which has been in fine condition.
As usual, this month’s blog is to report on the notable issues on the course during June. Not everything is included of course and forgive the length of the update, as it is very difficult to explain in short what we do and why.
The prevailing wind for us is normally from the West or South West, however this year we have mostly seen North and East winds. This has meant the North sea coastline has been much cooler than other parts of the UK and unfortunately this brings with it our biggest nemesis, the Sea Fret (or Haar as it’s known in Scotland).
Obviously with visibility reduced, these conditions threaten the safety of anyone out on the course and can result in suspension to play or even course closure.
Even when temperatures have been close to 30 degrees inland, the sea fret can still be an issue on the coast. The height of Hunley above sea level also makes us more prone to trouble from mist, fog and low cloud.
On the greenkeeping side, we become concerned with the possibility of a fungal disease outbreak. With high temperatures and high humidity (often 100%) there can be no worse an environment for a greenkeeper.
This of course is highly unusual for mid summer, but we are having to adapt more and more to the changing weather patterns.
Dollar Spot is the main fungal turf disease that we have to contend with and has been more of a problem in recent years, mainly affecting the Fescue on our greens. A disease rarely seen in the UK, this highlights even more the unique nature of the course at Hunley. Despite our best efforts, during a prolonged period of sea fret in June, there was nothing we could do to prevent the onset of Dollar Spot. Having made a commitment to no longer using fungicides (antibiotics for turf), I took some advice from Greenkeepers working around the world that have more experience with Dollar Spot as a result of being in warm, humid climates.
This helped us decide upon a mix of nutrients consisting of Potash, Iron and Nitrogen. This was very effective at halting the development of the disease and was soon followed by improved weather conditions allowing quick recovery. This was very pleasing as we can be more hopeful of coping with this problem in the future.
Our work on the rough has been well documented in recent years and also a controversial subject at times, but our management of the rough is beginning to show good progress.
Now into the 3rd season, fringing roughs are beginning to thin out and getting easier to keep on top of. Just to recap, here is the process we have adopted in managing the roughs:
- Cutting and collection of long grasses at the end of summer to reduce soil nutrients, resulting in less vigorous growth.
- Another cut and collect in early spring to remove any winter growth for the same reasons.
- These areas are then allowed to grow long and wispy, providing definition and a more natural look to the course.
- As areas begin to become thicker (usually around June time depending on growing conditions), the rough receives a further cut and collect to prevent excessive loss of golf balls.
- Rough is then allowed to grow until the process starts all over again at the end of summer.
- Clover can be a problem in the roughs and is therefore treated when possible, throughout the season, with selective herbicide to reduce its impact on lost balls.
- If specific areas become thick again in between times, then they are simply cut and collected again as part of the thinning process.
As there is no quick fix, there will inevitably be periods where the rough is more of an issue than normal, so please be patient and let us know your thoughts.
Beyond fringing rough, areas of long grass are left alone as it is impossible for us to manage everything and it would also be irresponsible to do so. Needlessly burning fuel, wasting resources and unnecessarily harming the abundance of wildlife living in these parts of the course are enough explanation for our stance.
It is worth also pointing out that Hunley’s course is not like many others with the rough playing a big part in its set up.
As fairways are between 50 – 60 yards wide on average compared to 25 – 30 yards wide at other neighboring clubs and the semi being 6 – 8 yards and fringing roughs a further 10 yards, it’s easy to see our holes benefit from being very fair and they are easily the most generous in width of any course around.
There is a challenge presented in any situation and although a drought presents an obvious one, we would happily take the recent weather over any other.
- Great weather to play golf in!
- Firm, bouncy, links type conditions offering the most interesting golf to play, requiring more thought, skill and improvisation to negotiate the course.
- Reduced mowing as a result of less growth.
- A much more natural and aesthetically pleasing course to see.
- Heavy use of the irrigation system. As our system is less than perfect and cost of replacement beyond our financial capabilities, we just manage best we can. However, sometimes breakdowns to the system mean we have to allocate resources away from other areas of the facility.
- Some areas of the course may experience loss of grass cover, but in reality turf is very resilient and capable of surviving for long periods without water if managed carefully.
- We can also only water greens, but as the greens are the most important area and also the most susceptible, this is perfectly acceptable.
In summary, I hope this gives further perspective on the management of the facility at Hunley and also reassures you how well our team does offering you the best value for money golf in the area when compared like for like.
With an incredible number of facilities including a full extra 9 holes each day, short turf as good as any, the widest holes around, a beautiful natural looking course in the most amazing setting with wildlife all around, who’d go elsewhere? Wow, its a no brainer!
Thanks for reading and hope you keep enjoy the feast of enjoyment that is Hunley and leave us continue to battle with mother nature 🙂