A change in weather systems saw a couple of significant frosts at the end of November, but the trend of cooler nights has been ahead of previous years as we are seeing almost all of the oak trees coming to the end of their leaf cover. Previous years have seen them hang on until nearer to Christmas. The plus side of these conditions is the beautiful, crisp mornings that winter brings.
Rainfall over the last month has been close to long-term averages, approaching 70mm but this came on the top of a wet month in October with close to 170mm falling, which I would confidently call very wet! December rainfall is currently very high on average with over 50mm falling so far and more forecast. We have had to limit work in areas of the course because of this rainfall and we have roped off areas for this reason.
Lockdown gave the team an opportunity to complete a raft of work that has benefitted the course and that we would normally have had to spread across the winter season over a longer period.
Key accomplishments over the period were extensive aeration across all areas of maintained turf with both spiking and slitting carried out.
The greens have been deep tined, deep slit, and received a heavy topdress that settled in well without the need for aggressive brushing. Not having the need to prepare the green for play allowed us to leave the aeration holes open which gave the opportunity for great oxygen exchange into the soil over a longer period. We raised the height of cut to 5.5mm, a generous winter height.
Our aprons were also deep tined, deep slit, and topdressed and again left open to aid aeration well into the soil structure. Following the rather consistent stream of golf over the summer and autumn, the tees took quite a battering and the lockdown allowed them to recover well with a solid divotting programme and deep tine aeration, coming into winter they are in good shape.
A couple of fairways have suffered following October rainfall which has limited the work we have done to them but except for the 8th around Queenwood and the Academy we have deep slit aerated all fairways twice.
Part of the process of changing the signage for the course “reversal” was to check the measurement of each course. There were a few minor discrepancies which we have accommodated through altering the mowing of teeing grounds which you will see but there were a few instances that required some construction to maintain length on the course as per the card. The team have relocated two tees, 8th purple and 14th black. Reconstruction has allowed us improve the surface turf-wise and ensure that orientation is correct. Ground conditions have scuppered our attempts to complete the 8th purple so we are halting work on this project until the ground conditions improve when we will complete the bank shaping and turfing. It is frustrating because there is really only a few days of work outstanding but we are at the whim of the weather out there! 14th black is complete and all areas that were seeded on the bank and surrounds have germinated and seedlings are establishing, albeit slowly given winter temperatures.
And finally……leaves! Leaf collection is key to winter turf health. Leaving leaves laying on turf will smother the grass plant which will lead to either thinning or death, hence we place a huge proportion of our resources into this task every autumn and winter.
It is great having everyone back on the course after this little hiccup. We will still have rake-free bunkers to comply with COVID safety procedures which will require you to take a bit of care when in bunkers so as not to make things too challenging for the groups behind you. Please smooth your footprints with your foot or club as we cannot be out throughout every day to rake in between groups. Our hole and cup set-up will effectively remain the same although I will not be using the retaining rings from this point on as we will have reduced round numbers per day and the wear and tear to hole edges consequently be reduced.
Don’t forget that pitchmarks and divots don’t repair themselves, you need to look after these.
Enjoy being back on the course through the winter but please carry if you can, as I outlined earlier, winter weather has not been kind to us.
Yours in sport.