For the first time in what has been another challenging year, everything is finally falling into place.
All we need now is a drop of rain!
So far this year we have only had 272mm of rainfall, which is well below average. In June only 3 days saw any rainfall at all.
That said, we are certainly more robust to dry conditions, having encouraged more deep rooting and resilient turf grass species to dominate the course.
The irrigation system is performing much better too, after a new pump, several new valves and several new sprinklers were installed last year.
The pipework is still an issue though due to its age and is regularly springing leaks. These are occupying our time, but having fixed a few now, we can only hope for an easier time for the rest of the season.
It can often be a bone of contention at this time of year as our Grasslands reach maturity, so I thought it worth giving a thorough analysis of them in this blog.
The following are questions I’m asked regarding the grasslands that I thought I could address here for all to see.
Why is long grass on a golf course?
There are many different types of golf course and long grass is a feature of some and not others.
The skill of good course design is to have the course fit into its environment rather than try to change the environment to fit the course.
Hunley is a unique course in many ways, but it most closely resembles the links courses of the UK in both its appearance and playing conditions.
How do you maintain the long grass?
For several years now we have adopted a very specific approach to managing the areas of Grasslands that border and separate our holes.
It involves cutting and removing the arisings periodically, which helps reduce the vigour of growth by removing and therefore reducing the available nutrients to the plants.
As time passes, finer grasses begin to take the place of the more lush and thicker grass species.
We have an abundance of fescue now as opposed to an abundance of Yorkshire Fog several years ago, for example.
Is all the long grass dealt with that way?
The grasslands are separated into 2 areas, with both having slightly different approaches taken to their management.
Fringing rough, which is the strip of grassland closest to the fairways, is cut and collected as it begins to get too thick to locate a ball easily.
This is just as often as is required and varies from hole to hole. Often it can thicken quickly and take a bit of effort to get back on top of it, which has been the case at Hunley in the past.
When we started the process though it was necessary to cut and collect every 3-4 weeks, whereas now it’s only 3-4 cuts a year. This demonstrates the success of the technique, but it’s been far from a walk in the park, as many of you will know!
Areas further from play, beyond the fringing rough, receive just one cut a year in autumn after the nesting season is over.
So why isn’t all of it cut?
Firstly we have 266 acres and cutting all that is beyond the realms of possibility and we also have several red listed species living onsite such as Grey Partridge, Kestrel and Brown Hare, that we have a responsibility to protect, along with many other species that rely upon the grasslands for survival.
Secondly, having long grass gives the course visual appeal, provides strategy to the holes and provides character to the course as well as providing the habitat for an abundance of wildlife.
Thirdly, the resources saved from this approach have been put into the key playing surfaces of greens, fairways, surrounds, tees and bunkers which are now in a different league to where they were several years ago.
We can still lose balls though?
Well of course, I wish we could eliminate that for everyone!
Our aim has always been to set the course up as fair as is reasonably possible. The following helps give perspective:
- We have some of the widest fairways in the UK averaging 50 yards across the course. The general average for fairways is 35 yards.
- We also aim to make fairways wider at the start, to help the less able players and then narrow them further up for long hitters. Other factors mean this isn’t always possible though, such as the location of scrub, trees or the topography.
- There is then a strip of semi to provide a decent lie to shots just running off the fairway. This is wider on the low side of fairways but averages approximately 8 metres in width.
- The fringing rough then borders the semi and prevents balls from running further off line. This allows for ball recovery, but provides a penalty for a mishit shot. Again this is much wider on the low side of holes that slope across and can be anything up to 20 yards or more.
- With these areas combining to give 70 yards plus of playing width, we feel this is very fair to the golfer, but also gives the Greenkeeping team a chance to maintain the course and to produce the excellent turf condition that we now have, where a good shot should be rewarded.
When I last played I lost a ball just off the fairway on Redding’s Apron?
This is where we need feedback from golfers. If there is somewhere on the course we haven’t got quite right, or perhaps some fringing rough needs attention that we’ve missed, then it’s important that people tell us so we can look at it and take any action that’s required.
The aerial images below demonstrate perfectly what is explained above.
We finally took delivery of a new tractor mid June and what a difference it has made. Within a week we had all areas of fringing rough in order and have begun catching up on outstanding tasks and small jobs on our wish list.
We now have a very strong inventory of equipment that will allow our team to eliminate many of the issues we have faced over the last couple of years.
Thanks for reading and for your continued support, please direct any feedback to my email, which is [email protected] and I’ll be happy to assist in any way I can.