Friday, 3 May 2019

New 8th and 9th greens

It's been a while since my last blog post. In between a screaming toddler (joking!) and an online diploma, it's been a busy winter and spring (have we had a spring yet?!).

By now, most of the members will have played to the new greens. This blog post charts their development which, hopefully, is quite interesting from a visual perspective. I will focus on the 8th green so as to give members an idea of the progress. The process was essentially the same for the 9th green - it is just the design and location that are different.

Above, we see the 8th green prior to breaking ground with the contractor, Lakeland Earthworks. We needed soil in order to raise the green and this was taken from a 'borrow pit' in the rough grassland behind the 9th/18th tees. This gave us approximately 450 tonnes of earth (total for 2 greens) to essentially 'lift' the greens to their finished, future levels. This is exemplified by the lone oak tree. In the top picture, you can see the base of the trunk. In no further photos is this visible.

This photo shows already the working area. We did have an old bunker in the foreground (just beyond the roped area) that years ago was grassed over, leaving a small hump. This was removed so that the new green side bunker would be more visible from further back down the fairway.

Very quickly, the Course Architect and Shaper had fashioned a bunker that sits into the front left portion of the green complex. The wooden stakes indicate the perimeter edge of the new green. What has also been created is a 'well' - basically, a void into which drainage channels, gravel and root zone are installed to create a USGA green.

Thereafter, we see the process; a herringbone drainage system, gravel carpet, irrigation pipe around the externalities of the green and then the root zone.

Once the shaper has arrived at the final levels, the greens surrounds are shaped, raked and then the area is raked in preparation for turfing.

Unfortunately, January through to early March were cold, dry and frosty in equal measure. Conditions such as these are not conducive for turf to be able to establish roots and enable the growth required for the development of these greens and greens' surrounds. 

Finally, in March, we got to the stage  of rolling and mowing the new turf. The bunker base was graded with shovels and rakes before being nicely edged. Then we could install the new bunker sand.

The greens surfaces themselves were opened for play for Captain's Drive-In. I must stress that a 3 month grow-in period (from turf being laid to a hole being cut into the greens surface ready for play) is a very narrow window to establish a golf green. In an ideal world, a greenkeeping team would have longer to get 2 new greens (a £50k + investment) ready for play.

Whilst I understand completely the excitement that this project work generated around the golf club, we should all remember that it really is early days for both of these new greens. I am confident that, in time, they will provide excellent playability and will prove a great challenge for golfers coming down the stretch.

Please understand that regular top dressing is being carried out to establish the levels required for a really smooth surface. This is very time consuming but it is essential for these 2 greens for the long term as well as the short term. These greens will perform differently to the older established greens on the golf course. That is perfectly normal. But the real positive is that these greens drain fantastically compared to the previous 8th/9th greens. USGA greens offer year round playability and this will serve the members very well for the long haul.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to oversee the construction of these 2 new greens. It was ultimately a team effort; golf course architect, construction team and greenkeeping team were all part of this process. Without the efforts of the directors to generate the necessary funding, it is unlikely that these 2 new greens would have materialised.

The investment, whilst significant, will seem relatively cheap over the long term. Take a new green at approximately £25k; over a 25 year period (the age of the 1st green), that works out to £1k/year. That, in itself, is cheap as chips. It becomes a no-brainer in the end.

We hope you will enjoy them. Please be patient whilst they establish and, in time, they will really repay the initial investment.

Have a great weekend!