After a particularly mild autumn temperatures recently have dropped slowing up grass growth and helping the last of the Oaks to shed their leaves.
Many believe grass stops growing in the winter, but actually grass growth slows but never stops growing. This does mean surfaces will need light cuts throughout the winter which does prove difficult when ground conditions are wet or when machinery is off site being serviced.
With this in mind we took the opportunity last week to give tees, fairways and the rough a cut improving the appearances and restoring definition.
The greens are now cut 1-2 times a week with pedestrian mowers at a cutting height of 5mm.
Regular systemic fungicides with iron continue to be applied in hardening the greens from disease and improving colour.
Most of the fairways have now been aerated with the verti-drainer, the remaining fairways will be completed in due course.
I did warn members that compacted fairways will heave leaving an untidy appearance for a very short time, this is a natural occurrence with compacted soils and cannot be avoided. But this work is benefitting the fairways allowing moisture to percolate through the soil.
A concerted effort is being made to improve the bunkers especially in defining the edges and keeping the sand evenly spread in the base.
Inconstancy is mainly due to golfers raking the sand backwards creating a build- up of sand on the back lip, so I do encourage raking the sand forward.
Bunkers are raked fully on Monday and Fridays, footmarks are attended to during the week.
In response to feedback directional signage has been ordered to help guests find the next tee.
The new signage will located:
4th green directing to the 5th tee.
10th green directing to the 11th tee
13th green directing to the 14th tee
Review of the year
The golf course in 2018 underwent many changes, all of which benefitted the golf course to provide a better experience for our members and guests.
Last winter saw the installation of the new Rain Bird irrigation system which involved heavy plant trenching lines for over 3 miles of pipework to be installed.
Work started in October 2017 and continued throughout the winter until completion in March. We have experienced a few teething problems along the way which have now been resolved, but overall the Rain Bird system has worked admirably providing excellent coverage and reliability during one of the hottest summers since 1976.
Last winter also included the installation of drainage to the 12th green, probably the wettest green on the course prior to the works.
Drainage was also installed to the area in front of the 5th green which was also prone to becoming wet and extremely muddy during the winter months.
All work was completed in house at a fraction of the cost of using outside contractors.
Two new paths at the 7th and 12th were constructed this year.
The new path at the 12th allowed golfers to exit the hole to the rear of the green which avoided walking on the approach where large bare areas appeared through foot traffic. The new location of the path has helped the approach recover and allow golfers to leave the green much quicker, thus speeding up play.
The second path was an extension to the 7th path leading directly to the 7th tee.
The path created a far better walking experience to and from the tee and avoided this area turning to mud in the winter.
One of our favourite jobs in the winter is clearance projects to enhance overgrown areas of the course and help speed up play.
This year we carried out extensive clearance to the area behind the 5th tee that was choked with vegetation and dead wood that had built up over the years.
Once the vegetation was cleared we lightly rotovated the soil and sowed wild flower seeds that we trialled for the first time.
With careful nurturing the seeds started to germinate and before long this once drab area was transformed into a burst of colour creating interest during the summer months.
The spring brought more new projects that included the re-modelling of the 16th bunker that was continuously being damaged from foxes digging into the face. The technique uses recycled astro turfs to form a strong revetted face that foxes cannot penetrate.
Work took two days to complete and totally transformed not only the bunker but improved the appearance of the hole.
To enhance the hole still further we cleared the banking behind the green and planted it with shrubs using money from the tree fund.
These shrubs once established will look stunning and give the green a fabulous back drop when viewed from the tee.
In April we undertook some tee levelling namely the 1st medal tee and the 3rd tee that lost their levels due to subsidence. Turf was removed using a turf cutter and stored whilst rootzone was added to restore levels.
Tee levelling is such an inexpensive project to carry out and can make such a big difference to the look and playability of our tees, more work of this type is planned for the future.
Our most recent completed project was the desilting of the 13th pond which was last carried out over 20 years ago.
The pond was choked with vegetation and silt and had very little water due to the very dry summer
We acquired quotes upward of £25,000 from outside contractors to carry out this work, so it was agreed to take the opportunity of the lack of water to carry out this work in-house using a long reach excavator and large dumpers to remove the silt.
Work took five days to complete which resulted in over 100 tons of silt being abstracted at a fraction of the cost, saving the cub many thousands of pounds.
Once the pond was filled with water a fountain was located in the centre and lilies planted to finish off the project.
And finally we end the year starting another new project in creating a short game area on the practice field.Ground works will continue throughout the winter ready for the grow-in next summer.
Planned opening will be August 2019.
It has been extremely busy year but also very rewarding with the work that has been completed.
The greenstaff look forward to tackling many more projects next year to make the course even better and to a produce a course we can all be proud of.
On behalf of the greenstaff I would like to with wish all our members a Happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you all on the course very soon.