November has seen by far the most rainfall of any month this year and surprisingly brings us close to the average annual rainfall. That said we would need another wet month in December for that to be the case.
97mm fell on the course in November, which is by no means excessive, with some parts of the country seeing more than triple that amount.
It did cause some disruption though, with 2 days of course closure and some restrictions on buggies having to be brought in. However, the course has remained in good condition and we head into December with all 27 holes in play. The warm autumn so far has meant cutting has still been necessary, with tees, fairways and semi rough all being mown frequently as well as greens and surrounds.
The majority of time spent on structural changes, has been on the new tee complex on Pennington’s and we are pleased to have been able to complete the reconstruction and turfing of the whole area.
This has been a huge job and as a team we are happy with what we have achieved. Building up raised tees became possible by creating a series of wetlands to the side and using the soil excavated to create new teeing grounds. Each tee then had sand spread on top of them in order to provide a level, firm surface to play from.
The new tees provide a spectacular view down the hole as well as significantly improving first impressions.
Elsewhere we have completed the work relocating the back tee on Morgan’s Mound, which has brought the fairway into full view as opposed to the blind shot you were faced with in the previous location.
At the end of the month we spent time on some more subtle changes, with some alterations to Warsett green surrounds.
There was a ridge on the approach that could divert away a good running shot. In addition it was awkward for the mowers to negotiate when maintaining the surrounds, which was also the case for a depression at the rear of the green. The ridge has now been removed and the depression has been lifted.
Both areas were finished with a screen of sand which will improve firmness all year round and significantly reduce worm activity. Because worms feed on the soil, and with the sand particles being larger, coarser and retaining less nutrients, the worms will avoid the area going forwards in favour of smoother, more nutrient rich soil.
The bunker on the back left has also been altered, with the sand trap being converted into a grass bunker.
Run offs and swales are a feature of the courses at Hunley and offer a variety of shot options for recovery. With bunkers being one of the most labour intensive parts of the course, we want to ensure that any bunkers on the course offer good value in regard to the strategy of each hole. There are still a few bunkers where their position means that a run off, swale or grass bunker can have the same strategic effect on play and is therefore a better and more sustainable option for us.
This allows for resources to be reallocated, further enhancing overall course conditioning.
An issue that we have had over the years at Hunley is with certain species that were planted during the construction of the course.
All plantations require some form of management, but possibly our biggest challenge is trying to remove invasive Poplar species.
Aside from being completely inappropriate for the course at Hunley, Poplar trees are invasive as they have an extensive, fast growing, and shallow root system (up to three times wider than the tree is tall). Poplar roots send up suckers, up to 100 ft away from the base of the tree while spreading seeds rapidly. This has caused their spread across the course and over the last few years we have been removing them where possible.
Even when removing the larger trees, we see saplings growing every year after and despite our efforts they keep coming back.
Moving forwards we hope to allocate more time to this task, with the aim of getting the issue more under control.
Felling larger trees, grubbing out and pruning smaller saplings, as well as chemical control will be necessary and all will be adopted in the battle against their spread.
The Links Club
At the beginning of November I was again fortunate enough to be invited to the links club, which is an educational event with the objective of maintaining and conserving coastal courses for golf.
It was held this time at Royal Porthcawl GC in South Wales, which was absolutely stunning in every regard and an experience in itself just to see it. Over 50 Greenkeepers were in attendance, all with many years of experience and knowledge and it was great to have the opportunity to share our views.
I travelled down with Tom Coulson, Course Manager at Seaton Carew GC and we visited Sutton Coldfield GC on the way there. This was an interesting course set on heathland close to Birmingham that has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment of their bunkers. It’s always good to visit a new course and take ideas away with you for the future.
The event at Royal Porthcawl GC involved plenty of networking with other Course Managers, as well as several suppliers of products and equipment, who kindly sponsor the event which enables it to take place.
The travelling time with Tom was also beneficial, with both of us able to discuss the different challenges we face at our respective clubs.
Once at Porthcawl, there was interesting talks and demonstrations and a fascinating course walk with information about the management of Royal Porthcawl GC. With such a level of detail going into producing a world class golf course, it was impossible not to take inspiration.
As we are likely to begin stage 1 of the new irrigation system in the new year, nothing significant is planned for December.
The site of the old green on Rawcliffe has almost had all the remaining materials cleared, so once complete we will leave the area to regenerate naturally. As an area that is completely out of play, we will be monitoring to see nature using the area and will tailor our management acordingly and possibly introduce specific species that may aid it’s development.
Other ecology work is also planned, such as gorse cutting, Sea Buckthorn removal as well as Poplar control that has already been mentioned.
There will also be some focus on staff training and machinery maintenance.
That’s all for this month but please get in touch with any questions by emailing me on [email protected]