May has been an eventful month, as the lockdown eased and golf returned to the course. The dry weather has continued and has been perfect for the golfers and feedback on the condition of the course has never been better.
Thanks To Our Members
Firstly I’d like to thank our members, all guidance and safety measures have been followed in an impeccable manner. With further relaxation of the rules and in particular the allowing of 3 & 4 balls to resume in June, please remember to continue to follow social distancing measures and club procedures for the safety of everyone.
Thanks To The Team
The last few weeks have been very difficult for the Greenstaff. Although we aren’t key workers, continuing to maintain the course during lockdown was essential to ensure the course was available for our members when golf returned.
Travelling to and from work, working completely isolated for several weeks and dealing with vandalism, theft of equipment and abuse from members of the public, has been mentally challenging for us and contributed to a pretty stressful period.
Since reopening, we have received so much positivity and to see so many happy faces on the course has made it all worthwhile and the team deserve enormous credit for their efforts and attitude during this time.
Drought Setting In
A big task has been keeping the course irrigated. With only 18 mm of rain in the last 90 days and with no automatic irrigation since the vandalism in April, all watering has been done manually and with hoses.
Having deep rooted, fine perennial grasses has certainly helped and our style of watering also makes irrigation more practical.
Greens are not watered regularly, but when they are irrigation is applied heavily, getting water deep down into the soil profile.
This has been done on a rotational basis with 5 or 6 greens watered each day until all 28 have been done. From the middle of May, strong winds and increasing temperatures meant we have been watering continuously every day.
Although the turf has remained healthy throughout, one issue has resulted because of the soils becoming so dry. Basidiomycetes are fungi responsible for the disorder more commonly known as Fairy rings. These are an issue at Hunley and we try to manage them by maintaining soil moisture at adequate levels.
If the soils become too dry the fungi becomes stimulated and when the soil is rewet, symptoms begin to appear in the turf. Whilst grass doesn’t actually die because of the fairy ring, we do see puff balls growing on the surface of the green.
Fortunately this isn’t seen by the golfer as the team remove them each morning before play, but it does add to the time taken when setting up the greens each morning.
The pleasing thing though is that the condition of the greens remains excellent and despite the challenges, playing performance is ahead of where we expected after lockdown.
Course Changes Finally In Play
After being in lockdown, work carried out in the winter on Snaith’s and the completion of the new Green on Rawcliffe had yet to be open for play. Both are now in use and are a significant unpgrade on the previous set up of the two holes.
Although people have asked me if there has been an increase in wildlife on the course as a result of the lockdown, I’m not sure if there has or hasn’t, however it has certainly been more visible.
We have made a whole host of sightings, with the Deer more visible by day, dozens of Hares, all sorts of colourful finches such as Bullfinch and Goldfinch, Yellow Hammers, Stonechat, Wheatear and Skylarks have all been a joy to watch and hear.
It’s also great to see the many boxes put up recently around the course being used by Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows and others.
We have 4 Owl boxes on site and these are managed by the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, who monitor them across East Cleveland where they have around 100 boxes at roughly 80 different sites.
Last year we had success in one box with a pair of Barn Owls raising 3 chicks successfully. We believe the same pair are again using the box and hope that chicks are to be found when checking early next month.
Pellets were found in a second box, but even better in the third box we had a pair of Tawny chicks looking very healthy. This was delightful to find and have since been tagged and likely to fledge in the next few weeks.
With the hot, dry weather looking set to continue, it is likely to be more of the same in June.
We will be able to increase our team up to 5 from June 1st, with Peter coming back off furlough. This will help us catch up on a number of tasks that have begun to mount up during lockdown and since.
One area we are hopeful to get some positive news on will be from our insurance company in regards to repairs to the irrigation system. Once they give the go ahead, contractors will be instructed to begin work on replacing the damaged valves, sprinklers and valve boxes. A full electrical diagnostic will also be required to discover the level of damage done to the wiring and decoders.
Even with good news though it will likely take a couple of weeks to complete any works, so irrigating is still going to pose the same difficulties for the team for a little longer yet. With day time temperatures increasing, it may even be necessary for us to water late evening or even at night, although we hope it won’t come to that.
Thanks for reading and I hope you can continue to enjoy our fabulous facilities, particularly during this glorious weather!
As always please get in touch with any questions by emailing me at [email protected]