I’m going to do the very British thing and start by talking about the weather. The summer months were generally favourable, but there’s no doubt that climate change is causing increasingly heavy rainfall periods, between sunny spells.
We’ve seen 128mm of rainfall in the first half of this month alone. To put this into perspective, the UK averages 123mm over the entire month of October, so I don’t need to explain the impact this has on our maintenance efforts.
Green means go
Golf courses typically carry out major greens renovation work twice a year. This happens in the ‘shoulder’ months at the start and end of the summer when grass is at its strongest, which makes recovery quicker.
Our second renovations programme took place in September and I’m pleased that the greens generally responded well. There are a small number of greens that have taken longer to recover, but we’ve taken care of these with additional overseeding. Temperatures are still high for the time of year, which will help speed up their recovery.
While we carried out the renovations we also took the opportunity to carry out multiple passes with the overseeder around the edges of the greens, in preparation to combat a phenomenon called ‘green creep’. This is part of the ageing process of every golf course where 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, so we’ll be gradually increasing them back to their original shape.
We’ve also carried out aerating of the greens playing surfaces, using a technique called solid-tining. This helps with winter drainage and reduces the likelihood of temporary greens when conditions get wet.
Sowing the seeds of success
Talking of overseeding, following a great result from last year’s seeding programme, this the second year where we’ve carried out supplementary seeding of fairways, tees and greens surrounds. This is an expensive task, but essential if we want to continue improving the quality of our courses – and has already been incorporated into our 2024 planner.
Our four-legged ‘friends’
You may have recently noticed animal damage to areas around tees and greens. This is caused by badgers who feast on grubs that live just below the surface of the ground.
Pesticides used to control grubs are now prohibited, which is why we are seeing an increase in badger activity. Badgers are protected by law, which means our options are very limited. We are looking at some badger-friendly control initiatives used by other golf course operators, which will hopefully reduce the amount of damage.
Taking the rough with the smooth
One reason why Richmond Park is so special is that it contains the largest area of lowland acid grassland in Greater London. Their characteristic grasses include bent, wavy hair grass and mat grass (the latter being particularly rare). It is the beauty of these grasslands that help attract over 5 million visitors each year to Richmond Park.
While these grasses provide a stunning vista, they also need regular maintenance, especially within golf course rough areas. This work includes an annual ‘cut & collect’ using specialist flail mowers to thin out the grasses, meaning it grows back much finer – ideal for finding your Pro V1 when it inevitably doesn’t find the middle of the fairway.
We’re also adding wildflower seed to some of these freshly mown areas, so they’ll pop with colour next season.
We’ve had a few concerns that we’re making these areas worse by cutting them – that’s simply not the case, and they’ll grow back looking better than ever.
Getting set for the winter
We have several improvement projects lined up over the winter. The first will be bunker renovations and topping up sand, followed by repairs and upgrades to buggy paths.
We’re also reviewing the cutting routines for fairways and semi-rough in preparation for next Spring. Adding contours & shaping the fairway edges can have a dramatic impact on the aesthetics of a golf course. Furthermore, it provides a hint of strategy for the golfer on the longer straighter holes, while bringing back into play some of the classic course features.
Finally, we’ve just signed off our machinery purchases for the start of 2024, underlining the company’s commitment to continuous investment and improvement. Some of the goodies arriving early next year include additional rough mowers, bunker trikes and utility vehicles.
We currently have an opening for a Assistant Course Manager within our team. This is an exciting opportunity to head up one of the 18-hole courses at Richmond Park. The ideal candidate will have previous golf or sports turf experience. Click here for more information.
So you’ll see we have lots planned over the next few months. Why not make it one of your winter goals to improve your game. Remember winter golf is better than no golf!
Catch you on the fairways soon.