Course Update: October ’17
The weather has continued to be very good for both the course and golfers, with the greens continuing to receive positive comment, one of the first things golfers use to judge any course. We have taken the raised 10th tee out of use to encourage it to recover but more of that below. Otherwise, we are preparing the apron greens in the fervent hope we won?t have to use them much this winter.
We’ve had a poor month on the machinery front with breakdowns and delays making life difficult. Just as we were congratulating ourselves that we hadn’t made any great calls on our fairly substantial machine repair budget, the canopy over the blades on the mower we use on the fairways fell apart and threatened to wipe out the whole budget at a stroke. These are not things we can live without and so we resolved to spread the payment of the new part over time, thus allowing us to retain our small contingency fund which will enable us still to afford the improvements to the course planned for the winter. We have a staged plan for renewal of mowers, tractor, etc, and most if not all the equipment is in good order.
To add to this disappointment was the fact that we have been let down by the suppliers of our new leaf collection machine which we have been eagerly awaiting since ordering in late July. It is now due to be delivered in the first week of November. I can only apologise to those golfers who have already seen balls disappear in leaves on the course but, in this instance, it is out of our hands. Apart from the horse chestnuts, now dropping their leaves early because of disease, the other trees on the course still seem fairly green, and we can only hope they hold off shedding until next month.
I was asked by a member about the number of dead and dying trees around the course, specifically in the small copses around the 2nd and 11th tee. These are all elm trees which used to be a feature of Strawberry Hill but fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease. Although the immediate impact of the disease was to kill off all of them, they continue to sprout, grow for 15 or so years, and then die and fall over. We cleared tens of them from the course around five years ago and, time allowing, we will take the most prominent corpses away this winter.
Other unexpected calls on the course budget notwithstanding, we still plan to renovate the bunkers by the 4th green. This should not only improve their appearance but, hopefully, will get rid of the wild bees too and will prevent further damage being caused by our resident foxes. We are prevented, by our landlords, from doing anything to the foxes, and so we just need to learn to live with them and to use whatever means possible to stop them burrowing in the sides of the bunkers.
Car Park Fence
We expect to replace the conifers with a new fence within the next six weeks. As soon as we have a definite date, we will ensure golfers get plenty of warning of this work, which may necessitate very short term closure of the 9th hole. We will do everything to avoid any disruption to the golfing diary.
The 10th tee is currently too small and is almost impossible to keep in good condition as there are so few options as to where to site the teeing area. During the winter, it quickly becomes muddy and in the summer the drier surface soon degenerates and the grass disappears.
We are planning to increase the size of the tee next year. The rules allow us to take any teeing area ten yards forward of the tee marker and we would extend the 10th tee to make that possible at the same height. We could also level the whole tee at the same time
We have estimated the total amount of soil involved, and with around half of it available in the middle of the course, have a rough idea of cost too. It is only the extent of the work involved that is postponing this project until autumn 2018, but we thought it worth raising the prospect of a better looking and more fit for purpose tee at this point.
The most frequent complaint that we hear about the course is the fact that the weeds in the stream mean that, as often as not, any balls visiting this hazard are never seen again. It is bad enough losing a shot without also losing the ball as well. And this problem with weeds appears to be getting worse regardless of our efforts to clear them. Indeed, this year, when regular working parties have attacked this growth, seems to have been the worst one so far.
Even if we wanted to, we are forbidden from using chemicals to clear the stream. Indiscriminate use of such applications in the past by green keepers on other courses meant that they were declared off limits entirely. However, we have conducted some research in the last couple of weeks and come across an organic, eco-friendly application which professes to clear all unwanted growth from water courses and lakes. We are going to give this a trial over the next couple of months.
The other problem we have with the stream is the fact that it is often subject to contamination before it enters the course, killing the little fish and other creatures that otherwise populate it. We make regular reports of such events to the environment people at the council and they are trying to trace the source of the contaminants. The fact that the stream now runs through a children’s playground in Stanley Road has only served to make them more concerned about it.
Most recently, this work has focused on the left hand side of the 7th fairway and the bank in front of the 2nd and 11th tees. As usual, the number of golfs uncovered testifies to the value of this rather tedious but essential task.
And Finally ….
Thank you to all those who have joined in the working parties organised by the Captain. The course has responded extremely well to all the extra attention. Thank you also to the gardeners who have made the walk to the first tee so much more attractive.
Winter rules will be introduced on 1st November. Please remember that the flag cannot be tended under winter rules, but must be either taken out or left in. This is to help protect the area around the holes.