By Robin Little
An unusually warm and wet autumn has meant that even now at the end of November the grass is still growing. If it wasn’t for such heavy rainfall in October and November the greens, tees and surrounds would still be cut once or twice a week.
Very wet conditions have also meant that we haven’t had our tractor out with the leaf collector on, this is to try and reduce the amount of machine traffic on the course. Hopefully a cold dry couple of weeks will allow us to get the course cleaned up.
Due to ever rising costs all fertiliser for next season has been purchased and delivered to avoid another price increase in January. Costs for everything have become exceptionally high which is why an increase in prices for visitors and subs for members are inevitable. As a few examples; the mower we use to cut tees and aprons was purchased in 2019 for 21k + vat, the 2023 price is 39k +vat. Our main greens mower was 34k + vat in 2019, the 2023 price for an equivalent machine is 49k + vat. Diesel has seen a price increase of 100% and some of the electronic irrigation parts we use have seen a price increase of 45%.
Greens & Aprons.
We started Deep verti-draining in October but unfortunately, we had to stop due to breakdown. Since the machine has been repaired all greens have been verti – drained and aprons will be done in December. We always try to carry out as much aeration work as possible. This is due to the nature of the construction of the greens and the very high levels of footfall which the Course receives. We do this as it is essential to maintain water infiltration and to ensure that the grass roots get the air that they need to survive.
Due to the warm wet autumn we have had our fair share of fusarium disease, as have many courses this autumn. The amount of rain prevented us from spraying a fungicide until it was prevalent on almost every green. As soon as there was a break in the rain the greens were sprayed. Our drip feeding will aid recovery as soon as possible.
Winter tees are now in use. While there was still some temperature in the soil a liquid fertiliser was applied to all summer tees to get as much recovery as possible before really cold weather prevents any more growth. Because the weather has been mild, we haven’t been able to cut them as much as we would like. Winter tees also received a granular feed.
Some winter servicing of machinery has begun and this keeps green staff busy on wet days. We have held off sending cutting units away for sharpening for now because the grass is still growing.
An oil leak on our Verti-drain halted aeration work in October. This turned out to be a big problem inside the gearbox, a new gearbox was fitted under warranty. The delay being down to issues with shipping from Holland. The machine is now back and aeration work is being carried out on greens and aprons.
We took the opportunity to have a demonstration of a tractor mounted leaf blower at the end of November. This machine clears leaves and debris very quickly and effectively leaving areas looking very tidy, it also does a great job in areas where lost balls are an issue. We are always looking at ways to improve the course which are not only cost effective but also time efficient.
- Drainage work on greens 2 and 16 is well underway. All pipes and gravel have been installed. Before Christmas the areas will be tided and the rootzone put in, leaving the turf to go back on after Christmas.
- Bunker work will take priority this winter after greens 2 and 16 have been drained. The worst ones on holes 4, 8 and 10 will be rebuilt / repaired as appropriate.
- Repairs were made to bunker liners on holes 1, 4, 10 and 15 at the end of the summer. We intend to make further repairs to bunkers during the winter as part of our winter work. We will ensure that there is sufficient sand in every bunker.
- Removing trees to widen the gap on the 4th hole was something which we wanted to do last winter however our time was taken up removing the wind-blown conifers on the 15th. This winter we would like to make sure that this work gets done before the gap is becomes even tighter.
- New Irrigation valve sets are required for the 1st green and 2nd tee they are leaking due to being rotten, and the 16th green requires a new station decoder. We will repair and replace these as soon as possible.
- Should time allow we would like to install a drain along the left-hand side of the 9th tee. We may not have time to do this before April. Tee markers could be in use on the right-hand side of the tee while we do this work in April or May.
A Summary of the Year.
It has been widely recognised that the weather has had much more of a controlling effect on grass growth this year than normal, especially on those courses at altitude, Penrith Golf Club being one of the highest in Cumbria. Putting surfaces began to improve from mid-June onwards, we are well aware that this is much later in the season than members would like, however nature is in charge and until there is a consistent temperature of 7 degrees in the soil any growth will be minimal. Our fertiliser spraying every 2 weeks means that nutrients are always there and available as soon as the grass plant wants them.
Visitor feedback on the course has been very good, as is the number of repeat bookings for next year. Income has been exceptional this year, making the club financially stable. This is the result of hard work from the Directors of golf Tim and Andrew, the support from Pauline and the previous management committee plus the hard work and dedication of the green staff. Everyone has worked very well together as a team and I want to thank all the individuals involved who made it work. Circumstances have been difficult for staff since September but hopefully things will be much more positive next year.
Drainage work carried out last winter has been successful, temporary greens have not been needed on greens 1, 8 or 15 due to waterlogging issues. Grass coverage has improved on these greens, especially 15, which were the wettest. There is still work to be done on the 8th green where the drain collapsed but I know that this area will improve greatly next year.
This year was the first time that we hollow cored the greens in August. Being able to do this in such dry conditions means that the job is carried out to a much higher standard. Being able to fill the holes right up to the top with dry sand (think of dry sand in an egg timer) means that the stability of the surface is greatly improved as well as firmness and water infiltration. We considered the job very successful and will be doing the same next August.
Goals for next year will include keeping the general presentation of the course to as high a standard as possible and the continuation of greens drainage (winter work) which will help to ensure competitions aren’t cancelled. Priorities going forward will include draining greens 6, 4, 7, 13, and 17 plus further bunker work and the improvement of paths on the course.
Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.