Course at its Best in Years Say the Members

After all the trials and tribulations of the roller shutter door needing medical attention last week and our greenkeepers not being able to get out any of the machinery for four days, I’m happy to say that the team worked tirelessly from Thursday onwards to get the place back in shape for the weekend.

We received many messages on the weekend about the condition of the course and that people couldn’t tell we had had such problems, which is a testament to the green staff here - especially when we have a small team compared to most other courses.

The only thing that didn’t get cut last week was the rough, and to be quite honest it made the course look fantastic.

Our rough is mainly fescue grass which at this time of year looks absolutely stunning with the long, whispy tops surrounding each fairway. We have had many of the better players asking us to keep the rough that way all year round but after an online survey of the members it was obvious that most of the players (especially anyone above about a 10-12 handicap) thought it was beautiful but just too difficult, and slowed play down due to looking for balls too often.

It sparked a lot of conversation though, and has given us reason to think about where we take the style of the golf course in the future.

Greenkeeper's Report April 2019

As we enter the new season we’d like to give our members an update of what has been happening at the club over the winter months and what we plan to do going forward.

He’s Back!

Welcome back Ryan Oliver to the team, after 18 months away from the club, including a year at the world famous Harbour Town Golf Links. Ryan is back to work with the Greenkeeping team for the Summer!

We look forward to having Ryan back working at the club and we’re sure that with the extra knowledge and experience he has gained on his travelled, Burstwick will quickly benefit and be in great shape. Welcome back Ryan!

Weeds in 2019

As we have discussed in our previous report, we decimated all of the clover and other broad leaf weeds on the course last year, after more than tripling the weed-killer budget. This was very well received by members and in 2019 we aim to continue progress and do the same again.

What we are doing different in 2019 is we’ve also fertilised the fairways early Spring to give them a boost of growth before any weeds begin to take hold, this should mean that the weeds don’t get chance to spread on the fairways like they have done in previous years; a form of prevention rather than curing. But don’t worry, any weeds that do appear will be killed again by our team.

Hollow coring the greens

Greens

We have recently cored our greens for the third time in just over 12 months, and this is done to improve the growing profile of the turf, which in turn leads to better, more consistent surfaces all year round.

We took extra care when coring this time to avoid any issues that we had previously with some holes being left unfilled with sand, and already you can see a massive difference. The greens are coming back nicely and are showing great signs that in 2019 they will be the best they have been in years!

Our focus now turns to trying to increase root growth as we have had issues in the past with shallow rooting on some greens which can cause disease and other issues, so we will keep members updated on how this is doing.

Bunkers

We have been continuing to top up bunkers throughout the winter with around 40 tonnes of sand and are confident that right now they are the best they have been in over 10 years. We still have improvements to make but the positive comments that we are receiving from members tell us a story that progress is being made.

Fairways & Tees

As discussed above we have fertilised our fairways for the first time in around 5 years to give them an early boost into the season, this will mean that the fairways should have an increased thickness of turf throughout the course, which will produce a more prominent stripe when mowing too.

We have began putting in some new irrigation to two of our competition tees on holes 2 and 18, and aim to have these completed by the end of April. This will help the turf on these tees continue to grow and resist wear through the summer months, producing a better playing surface and presentation.

Rain bird Sprinkler

Irrigation Repairs

We are continuing to conduct a number of irrigation repairs on the course as we still have a few leaks, but with increased research from the Rain Bird website and advise from our Golf Course Constructors MJ Abbots, we are aiming to have all of these solved within the next few weeks for a stress free summer of irrigating the course!

Conclusion

In 2018 we made massive steps towards improving the greens, bunkers and fairways, and in 2019 we aim to continue pushing forward for a better golf course. Obviously with a small team we will never get everything correct all of the time but hopefully our members will agree that we are making improvements in the right areas.

Greenkeeper's Report August 2018

Around one year ago we prepared a Greenkeeper's Report which talked all about the problems we had faced with the course in 2017, and how we weren't happy with it's progress. Below we have made comparisons to last year's report in order to evaluate what has changed in 2018 and how we hope to move forward next year.

Clover.jpg

Operation #CloverKill was a success

In 2017's report we talked about the fact that clover had all but overtaken the course last year and how we wanted to increase the herbicide budget by a factor of two to combat the problem in 2018. We are very please to say that this year we were determined to absolutely wipe out the problem by spraying every single fairway and 80% of the rough areas to completely get rid of clover for the year.

We actually didn't double the herbicide budget to do this, we more than tripled it! We had to do this to show the members we were serious about improving the course.

This doesn't mean that the problem will go away for good, and we're not naive enough to think that. In 2019 we will need to more than likely spend a very similar amount to keep the clover at bay, and we aim to do just that.

Greens

Last year our words were that the greens weren't "where we wanted them to be". This was because the thatch level of the greens had grown too deep, meaning the surface was holding too much moisture and the grass roots became much shallower which was a haven for disease, weeds and everything else you don't want on your greens.

Sweep and Fill

As part of an ongoing process we promised to begin working hard on remedying this by putting in place a more aggressive aeration programme which would take away more thatch and introduce more sand into the surface to get them back to how they used to be. In Spring we cored with 10mm diameter tines instead of the 8mm tines we used previously (which also go about 30% deeper), and this has had a noticeable effect over the summer, with our greens being slightly firmer and better draining than last year. This is not an overnight remedy though, we will be coring again in a month's time to further progress the greens.

Another change we have made is the introduction of a Wetting Agent programme in 2018, to help the roots have access to water deeper into the profile of the rootzone, promoting healthier growth in drier times.

Over the course of 18 months to 2 years we should see a vast improvement to the firmness and drainage of the surface, aiding better gaseous exchange for the roots which will lengthen them, and the greens will then become more resistant to disease and be a much better, year-round putting surface.

As many will notice we are still suffering with disease on some of the greens (mainly 6, 8, 11), but we will be monitoring this in the coming days and spraying with fungicide if it worsens. As the greens get better due to our new aeration regime this should become less of a problem each year.

When we core the greens in September we will be hiring a Sweep & Fill machine, which will disperse the sand into the cores much more evenly then our previous methods, and get rid of any excess sand on the surface, meaning the recovery time from the aeration will be MUCH quicker and the greens will be back to normal a lot sooner.

Bunkers

Over the past month we have been receiving a lot of compliments about the difference in the bunkers since we topped up around 40 of them in June. We have opted to begin topping them up on a little & often basis, rather than our old method of waiting for a full renovation when a bunker gets too bad. 

Previously we felt that full renovation of the worst bunkers each winter would lead to eventually having a full set of 70 bunkers that are better than the year before, but in actual fact this hasn't happened. Instead of chasing the "perfect" bunker by taking out the old contaminated sand and renewing the drainage before adding new, we are instead now going to keep the old sand in and continue to top up with new sand on a more frequent basis.

While this means that the contaminated sand will still be in there so the bunker may not look as white as it would with 100% new sand, but the levels should be more consistent and there should be a nice firm base of sand with an inch of 'fluffy' sand at the top where your ball will sit. This method should be a much easier way of maintaining consistent sand levels because it's much less labour intensive.

Overall, our bunkers right now are the best they have been in the last two years due to the much better sand levels particularly in the greenside bunkers. We have paid more attention to the bunker edges this year too and they are a lot better presented than in 2017.

There are a couple out there that at the moment have a little too much sand in and these should bed in once we get some rain. This coming winter, we aim to get all of the bunkers topped up that we didn't get done in June, so around another 30 bunkers will receive various amounts of sand.

Driving Range

As discussed in the News Blog a few weeks ago, we have doubled the amount of new balls for the driving range in 2018, from 6,000 to 12,000. We have also invested in four new Truestrike mats which are a much more realistic surface to practice from, reacting like a fairway to your swing and strike. We have also added new flags to the range and introduced a map in each bay to detail the yardage of the targets. All these little additions help you get the most from your practice.

Fairways

Our fairways have been very brown this summer due to the huge lack of rain since May, and while they don't look as pretty without the stripes, they have still played well this year. As we begin to get more rain in the back end of the season the fairways should green up nicely going into winter. Going into 2019 we aim to give them a feed to get the turf more full and lush, something we have to do because they are built on ex-farmland and do not have enough natural nutrients in the soil.

Irrigation Repairs

We have conducted quite a few irrigation repairs (three replaced sprinklers, 7 replaced decoders, one replaced valve) this summer to get the system back up to spec, we still have a few small lefts from seals on sprinkler heads which we hope to get to within the next month or two.

Conclusion

2017 was a big learning curve for the greenkeepers and management of the club. Lessons were learned with regards to keeping the course moving forward, and hopefully members will see that money has been put where the proverbial mouth is in regards to killing weeds, and improving greens and bunkers. We still have some way to go but hopefully members and visitors alike will agree that we have made inroads in 2018.

Playing around with a drone at Burstwick

A couple of weeks ago Richard Cook of Humber Highcams Ltd brought his DJI Inspire 1 professional drone to the golf club one evening and he got some fantastic shots on the course. As time was limited and the sun insisted on going behind the clouds intermittently we didn't get as many as we'd have liked, but we're over the moon with the results for a first attempt.

As Richard is a fully CAA approved drone pilot with all the required insurance, he went through the necessary checks beforehand including risk assessments, identifying sensitive areas, checking local flight plans etc, then we headed out for take-off.

Limited by time and weather conditions we got straight out and took some videos and stills with this fantastic piece of kit, it's amazing to see the perspective the drone achieved just a few metres in the air.

It's amazing to see how the course has progressed in the last few years, and these drone shots give a great view of the trees maturing around each hole.

Below is one of a few short videos Richard took of the course, you can view the rest by going to the Burstwick Country Golf YouTube channel here.