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Fresh from the Fairways July 2023 | Richmond Park

Hi everyone, I’m Roger Mills and I’d like to start by introducing myself as the new Course Manager at Richmond Park Golf Course.

I started the role in February this year, taking over the reins from Ross Cook, who did a great job of elevating the quality of the courses over the last couple of years.

With an NVQ in Sports Turf Management, greenkeeping and golf have always been a big part of my life. I play to a handicap of five and I feel really fortunate to have a career in an environment that I love. To me, it’s much more than just a job!

As we rapidly approach next year’s centenary, Richmond Park Golf Course has a fascinating history. In the short space of time I’ve been here, I’ve already met many members & customers, plus the team from the Royal Parks.

Quick wins

While lots of improvements have been made in recent years, I’ve also been keen to put my stamp on things. You may have seen a few changes already:

  • To better accommodate the high volume of golfers that play here, we’ve made subtle changes to the shape of the fairways by widening them in places, using the 1st cut of rough to increase run off areas.
  • Adding steps to several tee platforms, making them easier and safer to access, especially when ground conditions are wet.
  • Extending the network of pathways, which will reduce wear and tear from buggies and foot traffic.

Good things come to those that wait

It’s a distant memory now, but we had one of the wettest starts to the year, with record breaking rainfall for March & April. Combined with colder than average temperatures, grass growth came much later than expected, creating a huge challenge to set up the courses for the season ahead.

By contrast, June’s weather was similar to last year’s drought conditions, with parts of the course quickly drying out.

We supplemented the automated overnight irrigation with daytime hand watering. We combined this with an application of wetting agent, a treatment that allows water to penetrate into the soil, helping to strengthen grass and promote growth.

Irrigation on the Duke’s 7th green

What’s really made a difference this year is the overseeding programme that was carried out last autumn. As a result, the fairways and approaches have much better grass coverage. Richmond Park typically ‘burns’ out during the summer, but this programme has kept the course much greener.

Overseeding a 36-hole golf course is a very expensive and time-consuming process, but as we can now see, the benefits outway the costs and I’m pleased to confirm this task is now part of our annual maintenance programme.

Together, everyone achieves more

So we’ve made some good decisions in terms of course maintenance. However, it’s the people that really make it happen and I’m pleased to say that we have a strong team.

Team Richmond Park!

One of the biggest changes we’ve made is the creation of two Assistant Course Manager roles, each taking responsibility for managing one of our 18-hole courses; the Duke’s & Prince’s. Congratulations to Joe Gachet who was recently promoted from Greenkeeper to Assistant Course Manager, while we’re currently recruiting for the other position.

Further changes to our team including the appointment of Jean Wessels as our Greenkeeper/Mechanic. His valuable expertise will help keep our machinery and irrigation systems running smoothly.

Spot the difference

Moving into July and from a golfer’s perspective, it’s not quite been the summer you’ve wanted so far. We had a few dry and sunny spells, but in typical British style, we also had some downpours.

However, greenkeepers love summer rainfall – it keeps the course nice and green! It’s also aided the quick recovery of renovation work we’ve carried out on the tee platforms.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some fine grooves recently cut into the greens. This process of ‘verticutting’ helps keep them healthy by removing old organic matter and dead grass. Combined with regular rolling using our new turf iron, the quality and pace of the playing surfaces has improved dramatically.

Verticutting to remove unwanted thatch

Taking advantage of the rainfall, we carried out ‘pencil tining’. This helps get air into the turf and unlocks the slow-release fertiliser applied recently.

Those that have been playing Richmond Park for many years may have noticed a phenomenon called ‘green creep’. This is part of the ageing process of every golf course. Little by little, mowing changes can result in several feet of change over time. In the case of our golf courses, some of the greens have slightly reduced in size.

To combat this, we have started to extend some of the green collars in preparation to enlarge them. Not only will this improve course aesthetics, but it will help speed up play by encouraging more free flowing golf.

Using a turf roller to condition the greens

We’re also making good progress with bunker renovations. Several bunkers have been marked as GUR, while we replace old compacted sand with new. This will be an ongoing project, as we work on one bunker at a time.

Looking ahead

A lot has happened in the few months since I started as Course Manager, and there’s lots more to come!

I hope you’re all still enjoying the course and hope to see you around. Please feel free to ask me any questions when I’m out on the course.

I’ll end this month’s Course Manager’s Blog with a quote from the late, great Ben Hogan:

“As you walk down the fairway of life, remember to smell the roses, as you only get to play one round.”

Roger Mills
Course Manager

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