Friday, 12 January 2018

Looking forward to 2018

We are a good week or so into January and we've finally had a prolonged dry spell - the first for quite some time. It has been good to get the greens striped up and at least presented nicely. Granted, they will not be lightning fast but it is the middle of winter and the main objective for now is to maintain play (and good grass coverage) on the greens.

They have, this week, been verti-drained and this is the first opportunity that the weather has allowed us to do this since our autumn renovation work in September 2017. Don't be surprised that the greens are a bit soft. They've never had much opportunity to dry out since. In the coming months, slitting and spiking will be very useful to keep the greens surfaces dry and to encourage some root growth in preparation for spring.

It's fair to say that the winter so far has been a little bit naff but hopefully the worst of the rain has fallen and now we can look forward to a bit more sun & wind thrown into the mix. I certainly agree with some members who have suggested that we need to crack on with some drainage improvements. Whilst drainage will not totally solve the problems associated with constant, heavy rain, the alternative of doing nothing is not exactly proactive. I think everyone knows which areas need to be addressed. There is no issue with doing the work - we just need a mini digger and a few more raw materials like gravel & root zone. I stress again, doing the work is not hard. Given the necessary resources, it will get done.

The green side bunker was one of our winter course improvement projects. As it was, the bunker was pretty dreadful (never pretty, mind) and not an aesthetically pleasing bunker to find oneself in by the 1st green. So we set about reducing the size with a view to creating a nicer shape, in line with our other renovated bunkers. We did however encounter a hitch - the irrigation ring main running straight through it. So, that had to be re-routed and while we were at it, we replaced the drainage pipe too.

Following this, we had installed a new valve assembly to replace the old, knackered one and this was relocated into the widened path by the 11th tee. Then we just needed to lay the turf to ensure it had a chance to slowly root in before spring. Bunker sand will be added nearer the time and when budgets allow.

Also, we decided to fill in the 8th green side bunker. It wasn't a great bunker and it was sat in shade all the time - never a great idea if you want the sun to dry out wet sand. So at least this area is now a bit more presentable.

Lastly, the 8th fairway bunker got a makeover - literally. Before, it was a terrible bunker with zero drainage capabilities and zero redeeming features. I used to cringe whenever I went past it. The real problems though were that it wasn't very prominent from the 8th/17th tees. I think it's important to be able to view hazards from afar. It gives a hole real impact and gives the golfer a better mental picture of how they visualise their shots. The other issue was one of poor aesthetics and an elevated leading edge. Bunkers should gather a wayward shot with the ball feeding into the base.

To achieve our target, I said to myself "what is it going to look like?". So, I looked at the first bunker on the 3rd fairway and thought, "just like that". Therefore what we did was basically imitate it.

The contouring around the 3rd fairway bunker (above) served as a model for the 8th, below:

I do think that we have achieved what we set out to and I also believe that these 2 renovated bunkers will look fantastic once they are completed. I will, of course, post more photos of the continuing progress at a later date.

To date, we have (woodland work aside) achieved the following from our course master plan over the last 4 years:

  • Remodelled 12 tees
  • Remodelled 10 bunkers
  • Filled in 3 bunkers
  • Reshaped 3 greens surrounds
  • Environment Agency flood defence work at 4/7
  • New permanent winter tee mats at 1, 2, 4, 5, 8
I think that is a productive 4 years work. Throw the ongoing woodland work and new paths into the pot and we have ourselves a much improved golf course.

I know that temporary greens are a bugbear. We don't enjoy golfers having to play golf on temporary greens either but sometimes they are a necessary evil. Over the next few years, they will improve. It is like with everything - they will not miraculously get better overnight. This year, they will improve again and with a bit more budget, patience and time, they will be more playable next winter (should we need them).

James is making great progress with his NVQ Level 2 and he should be qualified in February/March. I have completed a third of the GCMA Diploma in Golf Club Management. Education is important. Golf clubs hopefully recognise that employees who continue their professional development become a greater asset and stay motivated as a result. 

We both hope to see you all on the golf course in 2018. 

Have a great weekend and enjoy your golf!