Throughout September the course has been as busy as it ever has been in my almost 8 years here. Membership is at its highest level in that time and a much higher number of visitors are playing regularly on top of the usual golf breaks staying in the hotel.
This is great to see, especially in an industry that has been struggling for the last decade or so.
During such difficult times and with Coronavirus dominating our every move, it is important to still remain positive and there is plenty to be positive about!
It’s been a tough time for the Greenstaff though, with reduced staff during September and we’re very grateful to Dave Smelt (below left) and Ray Harker (below right), 2 members giving up there time to help out on the course and in doing so have helped us maintain the same high standards as normal.
These difficulties make it ever more pleasing to still be producing excellent conditions for golf and everyone deserves great credit for their commitment.
Having got through the worst period with reduced staff, which saw us down to a team of only 3 for a few weeks, we are now beginning to get back to normal.
A very important part of that was to first find a replacement for Peter Fenton who was our most senior Greenkeeper.
With the ongoing project at Hunley we wanted continuity, so before going to market, we offered the opportunity to our current team members to make a case for stepping up into the role.
Gavin Kitching (pictured below left) has already taken huge strides forward in his short time with us, taking on higher education in Golf Course Management, something he is doing in his spare time away from work. Also Gavin was awarded an R&A Scholarship last year, becoming a member of a growing group of elite Greenkeepers from around the world.
Add to that, he has a long history occupying management positions, has a huge passion for the job, is completely aligned with our objectives and has offered some great ideas for improvement to the facilities. All this in the end made it an easy decision to promote him to the more senior role within the team.
In October, another addition to the team will be Simon Becconsall (pictured above right). Simon has more than 25 years of experience in Greenkeeping having worked for a long period at Hayling GC, a fine links course on the south coast. He then spent several years working in Australia before returning to the UK and taking up a position at Hanging Heaton GC near Dewsbury in Yorkshire.
We’re very excited about the future and delighted to have Gavin and Simon take up their new positions.
In every year of the last 8 the course has continued to improve, even when staff have moved on and there is no doubt that this will continue to be the case.
Throughout the month we have been cutting and collecting the long rough.
Most has now been completed with only a couple of holes still to finish off.
This season the rough has become close to the well managed grassland that we have been working towards over the last few years.
The longer grass is providing definition and improved visual aesthetics of the holes, whilst also creating a buffer for stray shots that can still be found and played, but at the same time providing a suitable penalty for such shots.
Continued management of the rough will see further improvements as well as giving more diverse species of wildflower the chance to become established and offer even greater benefit to the borders of each hole.
Repair works have now been completed on the irrigation system. This means that now all greens can be irrigated automatically and although the system is unlikely to see much use for the remainder of this year, we do have the reassurance of our most important resource being ready for use come spring 2021.
It is safe to say the new hole on Rawcliffe looks fantastic, however the green itself has been an ongoing issue.
This is due to the degree of slope on most of the green being too severe and has come about because of settlement on the right half of the green. This was where large quantities of material were required to raise up the ground when building the base for the green.
Although this was predicted, it was impossible to know how much the ground would settle and therefore very difficult to accommodate for this.
Over the course of the season the green has caused problems, particularly when faced with strong winds.
We look to place hole positions on slopes no more severe than 2.5 degrees and unfortunately most areas of the green are between 3 and 3.5 degrees. This has left us with a situation where it is not just difficult, but can sometimes be unfair and that is clearly unacceptable.
Moving forward and in order to resolve the issue we have begun lifting the green. We are doing this 1 quarter at a time and have started with the worst section, the front left quarter.
This area is just over 100 square meters and has not been available for pin positions at all so far due to slopes being up to and even in excess of 3.5 degrees.
After work was completed on this area, the degree of slope now varies between 0.5 degrees and 1.8 degrees and will give approximately 12-15 available pin positions in that quarter alone.
Next we will lift the front right quarter with an aim to achieve similar results.
In October we will be looking to begin work on projects planned for the winter.
With work first to be completed on the green at Rawcliffe, further details of the plans will be released in the next few weeks.
We’re always looking at ways to improve upon our course maintenance and in October will be starting a small trial in an area of rough on Metcalfe’s Ace.
This will involve sowing Yellow Rattle seeds into an area of rough dominated by thicker species such as Yorkshire Fog and Ryegrass.
Yellow Rattle is an annual, with seeds germinating in early spring they should grow quickly. As their roots develop underground they will seek out the roots of plants growing nearby, especially grasses. Once contact is made the yellow rattle draws water and nutrients from the grasses, suppressing their growth by as much as 60%. If this works and the Yellow Rattle can spread, it will create better grasslands for both the benefit of golf and nature.