Hot (or wet) on the heels of Storm Francis comes this (better late than never) course report to update members on 2020. It's been a strange year so far as most will agree with Covid, the ensuing lockdown and May re-opening of golf in England.
In March, the directors made the tough decision to furlough me along with Ann and Kim. As the finances of the golf club were precarious, this decision was forced upon them. As a result, Ali was the last man standing, holding the fort. The issue presented to the golf industry, as a result of the government lockdown, was the fact that staff shortages were common place across the UK. It posed the challenge of a skeleton staff having to maintain the principal asset with no idea of when lockdown would end.
This dilemma was recognised early on by the main golf organisations; R&A, GCMA, PGA and BIGGA. They collaborated quickly to produce some guidance for golf clubs so that greenkeepers could still carry out essential maintenance. This information is accessible via the link below:
I would like to re-iterate my thanks to Ali for keeping the course maintained through lockdown. He did exactly what was required in accordance with these guidelines and kept the course ticking over despite being on his own.
Since we re-opened for golf in May, the golf course has been busier than it has ever been. Membership is higher than it has ever been. It's quite incredible how a pandemic has been the making of the golf industry after a number of lean years. Green fees have been very healthy too and the really positive thing to come out of this year, for our golf club at least, is that it has a secure future going into 2021 which is fantastic.
The first issue that we had to address when I returned from lockdown was a need to fast track the course in order to get it up to speed for returning golf. The second issue was that April and May were incredibly dry - so much so that we were in drought conditions. Hot, dry weather is great for golf but when you've got a golf course that has just re-opened after a lockdown with golfers. The major drawback is getting recovery from divots - particularly on tees - when the grass is basically in shutdown mode. The grass is basically focused upon survival once there is significant soil moisture deficit. Hence why the tees started to get hammered so quickly.
Think of it like this - once the level of wear exceeds the rate of growth and recovery, you will get tees that look like a practice ground tee.
So we had 3-4 weeks of tees needing regular hand watering just to keep them watered. We have no tees irrigation so hand watering is plan A, B and C. Morgan, our junior captain, has recently joined us for a couple of months to assist with tee divoting and he has done a stellar job.
We are currently mowing tees twice/week at 8mm and the presentation is excellent. The tees are fertilised according to growth and to maintain that mowing height, they have to be cut twice/week. But I think the members are fairly pleased with the tees on the whole. Some just need to be significantly bigger - the par 3s in particular.
You will also have noticed that we have extended some of our greens' surrounds since lockdown ended. 3, 4, 5 and 6 have more run-off areas and the reason for doing so is to offer members more shot making opportunities (putter, wedge, bump 'n' run) just off the green. Aesthetically they look miles better, are more resilient as they are mown more tighter and offer more interest to the course rather than thick rough just off the green. But perhaps the most important thing, for me at least, is that the surrounds should be an extension of the greens surfaces. We need to get them to look and play as close to greens surfaces as we can.