June has certainly been an eventful month, with many difficulties making for a particularly challenging time.
There have been a good few positives as well though and despite the difficulties we have come through the month in a good position going into July.
Last month I discussed the problems being caused by leatherjackets. In June we have seen an improvement but more issues have made life very difficult for us to our job properly. Firstly a 6 week drought restricted growth, which by itself isn’t unusual, but this period coincidided with the loss of our irrigation pump.
Our irrigation pump was over 30 years old and our plan had been to have it reconditioned at a convenient time. We knew this would take up to 2 weeks so when we had a period of wet weather in May, we took the plunge.
Unfortunately once it went to be reconditioned it turned out that the exact parts required were no longer available. This meant we were left with no option but to order a new pump. Lead time for the pump was expected to be no more than 2 weeks, however, whenever delivery was due the date kept being put back. It got to the point where even after 4 weeks we were again told it would be longer and we couldn’t carry on with the uncertainty and had to cancel the order.
Fortunately we were put on to Arden Lea Irrigation who immediately gave us reassurance on timescales. Once ordered everything went as promised and we got a new pump delivered and installed within 2 weeks.
All in all we were without a pump for 7 weeks. With a combination of our 600 liter sprayer and temporary pipework connected to the irrigation tank, we were able to keep the turf alive.The downside though was the time and labour it took away from our normal duties.To make matters worse we had a serious mechanical failure on our 2nd tractor which meant we had severely limited means for maintenance with our main tractor spending most of it’s time watering using the sprayer.
All of the above created the perfect storm and the course inevitably wasn’t at the level we would want. These things happen, but it’s safe to say that luck hasn’t been on our side recently.
Whilst we were able to keep the main playing surfaces maintained, areas of fringing rough adjacent to the fairways didn’t get a periodic cut when it would normally have done. This led to a couple of weeks where it became too thick and the course became very difficult to score on, especially as the course became firm and fast. Once we were able to, we got the majority of this rough cut and collected and things immediately improved, with feedback on the course again very positive.
Some rain eventually came at the end of the month and with the new pump installed, we now have the chance to return to the high standards people have come to expect at Hunley.
Having yet to apply fertilser on the course this year we decided that the greens and other isolated areas would benefit from this. 10kg of Nitrogen per hectare was applied to the greens to improve density across the surfaces, which has been effected by pest damage and the recent drought. Some tees have suffered badly with heavy play and the drought combining to prevent divot recovery. The worst affected will also recieve nitrogen and some surrounds that have been worn by heavy traffic will be treated in the same way.
Firstly we are pleased to tell of our success again with Barn Owls. This year they’ve chosen a different box but it was great to be able to see 4 chicks reared in the box.The Tees Valley Wildlife Trust monitor the boxes and have tagged all 4 of the new Barn Owl chicks.
The abundance of Hares is currently fantastic as well as seeing an increase in Starlings and Grey Partridge amongst many other species that are thriving on the course. We even had a visit from a Little Egret, a bird that seems to be becoming more common across the UK, but is a first timer to our course.
To end this months update I can share a more personal achievement. At the start of June I found out that I had gained Master Greenkeeper status and become the 85th Master Greenkeeper.
This has been something I’ve been working towards over the last few years and to have successfully achieved this award is a very proud moment. It is incredibly difficult to complete, with extensive experience and qualifications required to even be eligible for assessment.
This involved a rigorous assessment of our course management techniques, carried out by 2 current Master Greenkeepers. Looking at all aspects of course management they assess the quality of the turf, the management of resources, communication skill, health & safety and more, where everything has to be spot on.
Having narrowly failed the first inspection in 2019, improvements were made for reinspection in 2020. This resulted in a pass and an opportunity to take on the final stage which involves written examinations.
A technical paper followed by a case study examination test your knowledge across a wide ranging syllabus and I’m delighted to have become part of what is regarded as an elite group of Course Managers and Superintendents across the globe.