May finally gave us some dry and warm weather, although not for the whole month with the dreaded coastal mist being with us for several days during the last part of the month.
We reached the time of year when the course really comes to life and also when all the wildlife is at it’s most prolific. In this months update, we will take a look at the interesting things going on around the course at Hunley and in the greenkeeping department.
The Golf Course
Although now very dry, growth on the course has been very strong. Coming off the back of such a long winter, it has been well documented that we are further behind than we would normally expect and there is still evidence of this as we work through the backlog of jobs.
Greens are in excellent condition, firm and true with the turf health and density very good. For various reasons they are a little on the slow side, mainly down to the fact that we haven’t had as much time to refine the surfaces with regular grooming and rolling. This will soon change though as we catch up in other areas.
One of the bigger projects from the winter was around the first tees on Pennington’s. This is now nearing completion as we allocated a few days to do this. Although the path is still to be finished off completely, the surrounding areas have been tidied up and the area to the right of the tees has now been prepared and seeded with wildflower (see pictures below).
We are now in the third year of managing the rough grasslands which is geared towards creating a more eco-friendly, attractive and sustainable golf course. Many areas of the rough is now pretty much ideal, with large swathes of fine wispy grasses dominating the landscape.
There are still areas though that require more attention. Clover is still a problem and we will be looking to treat all areas with selective herbicide to prevent issues with lost balls. Where the grass is still thick and lush, we are continuing with the thinning process which involves cutting and collecting the clippings to reduce the vigour and density of the grasses. We do our best to be proactive and identify areas before they become a problem however we are always likely to miss the odd area, so please do inform us if you think this is the case.
After planting 1200 gorse bushes this winter, many of them were really knocked back by the harsh easterly wind that we endured for many weeks. However, there are now signs of recovery in some of the plantations and hopefully we’ll see these begin to establish over the next few months.
Having lost Tore Hansen back in March, we then also had Tom Coulson move on shortly after. Tom had been with us for 2 years and made a big impact in his time, but the opportunity to work at an Open venue was too good to miss as he took up a role at Royal St Georges. Both Tore and Tom are outstanding Greenkeepers and we always new there would be a time when they would move on and we are grateful for their input whilst they were with us. Both R & A Scholars, it shows how far we have come that guys of that caliber have come to work at Hunley.
Replacing them wasn’t as difficult as we had imagined though as we had many applicants for the roles available. David Bickerstaff joined us first, a local lad originally from Marske, with experience working as a Greenkeeper at both Ingleby Barwick and Teeside golf clubs. David’s enthusiasm was what really shone through and his skills and sense of humor have brought great spirit to the team.
Next came Gavin Kitching, although no previous Greenkeeping experience, Gavin’s CV was impressive as well as his application. A long career in the RAF followed by time working as a trainer for the Metropolitan Police, he has a wealth of experience in roles which held great responsibility. Since moving back up north to Whitby he has been working as a fencing contractor working in all weather, his attention to detail and methodical personality really appealed to us and we have not been disappointed with Gavin taking to the role of Greenkeeper like a Duck to water.
Peter Fenton has now moved up to fill Tom Coulson’s position and his calm demeanor and professionalism has been perfect in helping us through this transitional period.
To make up the numbers we decided to change tack, after running several Apprenticeship schemes without success in the past, we turned to seasonal Greenkeepers. Both Liam Paterson and Jack Dobbing joined for the summer last month and have been a revelation since starting. Both so enthusiastic, wanting to learn and impress, their additions could well become permanent meaning we now have the makings of an outstanding team for the future!
Our annual educational trip took us to Whitley Bay Golf Club, where Course Manager Simon Olver very kindly hosted a brilliant day for us. We heard all about the changes made to their course in recent years, both in turf condition, reconstruction works, particularly to several greens and also work carried out to improve the ecology of the site there.