Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog March 2021

Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog March 2021

With golf returning on the 29th, this month’s update is available early to give you all a heads up on what to expect when you can finally get the clubs back out.

I’m pleased to say that it’s almost entirely positive news, with the course in great shape going into what is sure to be a very busy season, despite coming off the back of a very wet winter.

Playing Surfaces

All short grass is in excellent condition for the end of March and especially when you bare in mind the conditions thrown at the course over the winter months.

It has also benefited from a rest too with no wear damage to recover from like in a normal spring.

We had anticipated having preferred lies on as we reopened, but such is the condition of the turf on the fairways and green surrounds, this won’t be necessary (see above picture). This in itself is quite a thing and a testimony to how the course is improving year on year.

The greens are in good shape and have wintered very well, although there are a couple of points to note.

We had intended to top dress prior to golf’s return, however with temperatures still so low, the decision was made to wait for more optimum conditions. With playing performance still very acceptable for late March, with surfaces rolling true, this is not of great concern.

For the same reasons, the relaid green on Rawcliffe has not become established enough to match the performance of the other greens. Growth has been minimal and as a result, refining the surface hasn’t been as easy as we would have liked and the surface is still a little uneven, with ball roll slower in comparison to the other greens.

This is only temporary and within a matter of weeks we expect it to become consistent in it’s performance.

Tees are in good condition and have definitely benefited from the extra rest. Due to this we will have a full course available with white, yellow and red tees available for play at full length.

Winter improvements

Everyone has suffered over the last 12 months in many different ways and as a business we have lost significant revenue because of the pandemic. That said, as Course Manager I’m delighted to work at such a forward thinking club. 

Despite the difficulties they recognised the need to invest and continue with improvements on the golf course for the future.

Albeit with a smaller team, the Greenkeepers have been retained full time to continue with winter projects and an enormous amount of work has been completed against the odds.

Drainage

With increasing pressure being caused by more extreme weather, drainage work has been significant. 500 meters of drainage was planned and carried out on Warsett fairway. A further 600 meters of unplanned pipe drainage work was then installed to further aid the rapid removal of water from the course. Additionally we have created several open ditches in out of play areas to intercept water as it flows acorss the course during instances of flash flooding.

Too many projects have been completed for me to cover all the details, but it’s safe to say that we are now much better prepared for the more frequent and more severe weather events we are seeing.

Turf Improvements

750 meters of fescue turf has been laid to enhance playing surfaces on green surrounds and tees.

The following are the main areas receiving improvement work in this regard.

Redding’s Apron green surround has been recontoured, softening slopes and creating run offs to all sides. The approach is now less steep and will facilitate run up shots, that are in keeping with the running golf style that is most suited to our course. The bunker on the left has been replaced by a grass swale to offer more variety with recovery shots and give the green complex a more unique playing experience compared to other holes on the course.

The back left of the green has been extended to allow this area of the green to accept pin placements which had previously not been possible.

Wetlands green surround received a good portion of the drainage work, but also the surround of the green has been relaid with fescue turf after the area was sand capped to improve firmness and playing quality all year round (see below picture).

Morgan’s Mound & Fox Covert has received significant drainage installation and landscaping. 

The area between green and tee was previously very wet in winter. whilst also being bland and featureless, with turf dominated by coarse Ryegrass.

Mounding has been introduced using subsoil to provide low maintenance, wispy fine grass features. The low lying areas have been sand capped, turfed with fescue turf and will be closely mown to provide various options for recovery shots to be played from.

The tee on Fox Covert has been levelled and relaid with fescue turf. The surrounds of the tee have been mounded with subsoil, again to provide low maintenance, wispy fine grass features.

The subsoil for the mounding was taken from the side of the tee away from playing zones and has now become a wetland that will change throughout the seasons and provide the ideal habitat for amphibians and invertebrates. The banks of the wetland have been left as bare soil which is good for invertebrates, spiders and pollinating insects. These areas will slowly regenerate, but much more sparsely and mostly with native wildflowers.

Our aim is to create more interesting and enjoyable golf, at the same time as creating more diversity of wildlife and work in this area is an excellent example of how many benefits can be achieved simultaneously.

Rawcliffe tees have received the same landscaping as on Fox Covert with low maintenance, wispy fine grass mounding. The basin excavated to the left of the tee to create the mounding is there for the same reasons as Fox Covert but also as an additional drainage outlet.

Work on the basin is still to complete and will be done so early in April as we have prioritised areas affecting play up to now.

Further news on Rawcliffe is that the green has been lifted and recontoured. The original build resulted in too much slope across the whole green which made for unfair playing conditions. Recontouring has produced a green with 3 levels offering many pin placements on level ground. The green will be tricky to negotiate still, but not in an unfair way as before. As already mentioned, the surface isn’t quite there yet though (see picture below) and will need more top dressing before it can be mown the same as the other greens.

The top tier of Gray’s Tor green has been extended and raised up to provide more pin placements and hold well struck shot, where previously the ball would tend to roll off no matter how well played. 

The surround on the right of Guibel has been sand capped with fescue turf relaid to provide better quality playing conditions for shots finishing close to the green.

Bunkers

Bunkers have been prepared for play, but because we haven’t been able to overhaul every one yet since the winter damage, please don’t expect them to be perfect. However, we’re not far off and work on them will be completed in early April.

With our focus more on other work, only 6 bunkers have been revetted this winter. Two of these were on Dickens Dilemma, replacing one of the few old style bunkers left on the courses.

Trillo’s Torment grren side bunkers have been rebuilt and as with the two on Dickens, they are not yet established sufficiently for play and will be marked as no play zones for a couple more weeks. Once the turf is knitted, they will be properly edged off and topped up with fresh sand.

Aside from these four, all other bunkers will be in play.

Furniture

Course furniture has seen it’s biggest upgrade in my time at Hunley with new distance markers installed on tees, new markers made from stone found on the course and painted for the tees, with new hazard marker stakes being installed and painted. With distance markers also having been painted in the fairways, this has really provided the finishing touches to a fantastic period of improvements made to the courses through the winter.

Finally!

I’d like to say a big thank you to the team, two of which have only been with us for a few months. Gavin, Simon and Callum have given their all in some truly atrocious weather conditions AND during a global pandemic that has tested us all to the limit psychologically. 

To have completed so much work during the winter under these circumstances is frankly, remarkable and I for one thoroughly appreciate their efforts.

We have good news on that front also with a new addition to the team starting in April. We also have the possibility of further additions through the government led kickstart scheme. With our much appreciated volunteers also able to come back things can only get even better from here!

Apologies for the lengthy update, but even with all the above, there was more work going on that wasn’t included, such as machinery servicing, astro turf path installations and irrigation repairs!

Anyway thanks for reading (if you made it this far) and for your continued support which is much appreciated also.

Above all else we hope you enjoy the course and we simply can’t wait to see you out there!

Greg Fitzmaurice

Course Manager

[email protected]

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