Friday, 20 May 2016

The development of the 4th hole

Looking back through my golf course photos, I thought it would be good to see how the 4th hole has developed over the last year. 

The above photo is from last summer. The right side of the hole (as it is played) is heavily populated by poplar trees and it was always a really demanding tee shot with no margin for error. Watching golfers continually chip out sideways from the trees was painful viewing!! 

The above photo shows the early stages of tree removal near the old fairway bunker.

The sheer scale of the clear up operation was just huge, given we only had a tractor and trailer. It did take a long time but then it always would with 45 poplars (approx 70 feet high) removed.

Strategic golf hole design should always offer risk & reward. Now, this area is much more forgiving for tee shots slightly off target. 

At least any golfers not finding the fairway will get a chance of playing to the green now. That surely will help to speed up play and improve the chances of making par.

Obviously, we would like this area to be absolutely perfect now but in reality, that was never going to happen without stripping away all the poor turf and returning this entire area. Our budget just didn't stretch that far. 

Not only that but the remaining poplars and their huge invasive roots will continue to compromise the surrounding turf in their endless search for water. Golf courses are great places to grow trees. But poplars should never be planted on golf courses. They compromise turf quality way too much. So for the time being, we will continue to seed, fertilise and mow this area but it will never be ideal.

However the above photo shows that this hole is now much fairer. Plus the definition from closer mowing adds real definition to the main playing surfaces on the 4th hole. Now that is a real improvement!

Have a good weekend and enjoy your golf!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Getting the definition right

It has been a good couple of weeks for mowing and the course is starting to look a bit more defined now. We have taken the opportunity to get plenty of mowing done to up the presentation for the main playing surfaces; greens, tees, approaches, surrounds, fairways.

Growth is still patchy at the moment - cold mornings, dry weather, the odd slight frost (Saturday 14th believe it or not!!!) and very changeable temperatures are all contributing to seasonal fluctuations. 

Even the leaves on the poplar trees are only just appearing whilst the elderflowers are not yet fully in flower yet. It's fair to say that the weather in December was more consistent & warm than what we have now in May!!

The aeration holes from hollow coring are just about filled in. The greens are lovely and firm now. The better greens are only showing minor pitch mark indents and that demonstrates that they are spot on for surface firmness.

You may have noticed that some core holes still seem to be open. This is classic leatherjacket damage. The grubs burrow up through the tine holes and feed on the base of the grass plant just above the crown.

Unfortunately, the insecticide that we used to spray to control leatherjacket grubs was withdrawn from amenity use last year. It was labelled as carcinogenic by the EU and consequently is no longer available. We are looking at different options currently to see if there are any viable, proven alternatives on the market that meet our budget.

The rough mower is temporarily down at the moment so that some roller bearings can be replaced. All the rough has been mown constantly over the last week and as soon as the repairs are done, the mower will be back out there. In the meantime, try to hit the fairways!!

Congratulations to Ryan Leicester who has just accepted a Greenkeeper position at Dunham Forest Golf Club. Ryan has done fantastically well to earn this opportunity and I hope all members can join with me in wishing him a great future when he leaves in early June. It is the next step in his career and it shows great progression for him!

The fairways and approaches now look excellent now that we have tightened them up. They now give golfers the chance to get plenty of control and backspin off these lies and, of course, they look awesome. Feedback from members and guests has been very positive recently and the course is gearing up nicely for summer!

Enjoy your golf!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Hollow coring greens

We've just got through that dreaded time of year - hollow coring & topdressing greens. It's never an enjoyable process for green keepers or golfers. However, it is essential for healthy turf and to ensure that the greens are more playable, drain better and have better root systems.

I found a diagram that illustrates this process better below:

The cores or plugs that are removed contain thatch (dead grass shoots/roots) that act as a sponge to hold water and don't allow grass roots to get through easily. This thatch layer builds up over time (if neglected) and makes greens slower to putt on. Plus, it is perfect for disease outbreaks.

Therefore we replace bad (thatch) with good (sand) and this channel that is created is perfect for root growth, drainage (rain passes down the sand channel easily) and to allow roots to access oxygen, water and nutrients more easily.

Over the last 2 years, we have been continually replacing the bad with the good. It should come as no surprise that the greens are now drier, firmer, faster and look so much better. 

The core holes are perfect to overseed with quality grass seed and what we are now seeing is a better composition of finer grasses in our greens. 

This is better for putting, mowing, resistance to disease and in time, will be cheaper to maintain because the finer grasses (bent and fescue grasses) use less nutrients and water so the bottom line is improved.

We expect that next year, only a few greens will require hollow tining. Only the putting green, 4th, 6th and 9th still give us a bit of hassle now. 

Admittedly, the 8th green is a whole different proposition but dealing with this green is a huge financial outlay and can only be addressed if the necessary funds are available.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience. The greens should be recovering fairly quickly now and we hope to have them more playable very soon.

Monday, 2 May 2016

New bunkers all in play

At last we are there with the completion of all the new bunkers that formed part of the winter course improvement program.

Let us look at how things started.

It looked very poor, untidy and unappealing. However, we had other ideas.

It became a lot more attractive in the end! 

How about another?

Admittedly, it started to rain. A whole lot. And then more. And more!

But you don't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs first!

The right hand greenside on the 3rd evolved like this...

On to hole 2 and this bunker reduced dramatically in size!

Finally, the first fairway bunker on hole 3 became a lot more appealing.

Bunkers as hazards fulfill several criteria: 
• To penalise wayward shots
• To direct play
• To provide protection
• To improve the aesthetic appeal of a hole

As Donald Ross, the great golf course architect and protégé of Old Tom Morris once remarked, "There is no such thing as a misplaced bunker". He implied that it is the responsibility of the golfer to avoid it!!!

So happy golfing, whether your sand wedge gets used or not! Please remember to rake them should you be unlucky to visit the bunkers!