Thursday, 2 June 2016

Jeff's first experiences of greenkeeping. . . . . .

As most of you will know, we recently took on a new member of staff in Jeff Peace. Jeff has written a small entry for the blog to relay his first experiences in the job.

'Since joining the green keeping team on 21st March, I thought it would be nice to share some of my experiences.
I have to say what an eye opener it has been, and not just being up and ready to start at 6am every day.
I have seen first-hand how late the growth is, compared to my own lawn, something those of you who know me will realise I never previously believed could be true.
We have hopefully turned the corner now that there is some warmth in the soil. That is why we are now seeing good growth, and we now have a continual process of mowing greens every day, tees and aprons twice a week, and fairways (which take over a day to complete) once a week.
There are always other jobs that need to be done as well, and we are making good progress on improving the appearance of the course by raising canopies etc.
This means there is no time to relax, this makes the days fly by and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying my time working here.'

Also here are a few recent photos of the course for you to enjoy. . . . .

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

May/June 2016

Is summer finally upon us??
After weeks of asking for warmer weather, it would seem we have turned a corner and we finally have some growth to help smooth out the greens.
Our spring renovations were carried out during April and, after the application of granular fertilizer there were signs of a good recovery. . . . . .until we were halted in our tracks by a succession of frosts and cold nights. The result: bumpy greens and the usual frustrations of differing growth rates between the Poa and Agrostis grasses. To help alleviate the symptoms of this we have been gently brushing the greens and we have also carried out another topdressing application, along with another feed. We feel that now we are seeing better growing conditions that we are now through the worst and we look forward to producing some smoother surfaces.
Applying Topdressing

Away from the greens we have been busy lifting tree canopies, this helps to speed up play and also generally looks tidier..
Tree canopy lifted by 14th green
We recently held a divot party, which was well attended so thank you to all that volunteered to help.
It was a very fun evening and this really helps to present our course at its best, there is nothing worse than having to play out of a divot.

Following the divot evening, we have set up a divot bag system. You may have noticed a big black container that has been moving its way around the course at different tees, inside this container are our divot bags. We would be very pleased if when you are playing, you could pick out a divot bag and fill in your divots as you enjoy your round. There is another container for empty divot bags on the 18th, near the flagpole. Thanks to those who have started using them they are already making a difference on the fairways.
Divot Party
Divot Bags

Moles are becoming an increasingly regular nuisance on golf courses these days, and we have our fair share! Despite being a very elusive animal, we have been able to catch a few in the most affected areas. This may seem cruel but they are classified as agricultural pests.
On a lighter note you may have noticed that we have recently purchased a set of flags with our logo embroidered onto them. These were sponsored by a member so again many thanks. The flags will be used for major competitions so that we get the best longevity out of them.

Our tees and aprons continue to improve with the use of our old greens mowers. With brushes and groomers fitted, these mowers have really improved the texture and presentation of these surfaces.

The 18th
In the coming weeks we will continue to encourage growth on greens surfaces and we will be brushing and grooming to discourage lateral growth of our Agrostis grass species, standing the leaf blade up to be cut by our new mowers.
Efforts to top up sand in bunkers are ongoing and we are now using a coarser sand in our green-side bunkers due to issues with sourcing the sand used previously. The sand we are now using is the same as we use in the fairway bunkers so the bunkers will also be more uniform.

Let’s hope for more nice weather and a good season of golf!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

March/April 2016

Its amazing what can be achieved as the weather turns for the good! Over the last month or so we have been very busy trying to catch up on our winter projects after a horrifically wet winter.
Storm Imogen took down a very large tree on the 11th hole, which we managed to cut up and burn on site.
 One half of the tree blew down, and the other half had to be cut down because the storm damaged it so much that it was deemed dangerous.
The storm also took down a number of small trees and branches and also created alot of unsightly debris. Fortunately we have been lucky enough to have had the help of some volunteers to help clear up some of the debris, and for this we are very grateful, thank you.
If anyone else would like to do some voluntary work then please get in touch with us.

Projects completed in the last month include:
  • Renovating steps and pathway by 16th tee, and up to 15th green.
  • Cut back hedges behind 5th, and 7th tees.
  • Cut back hedge behind 15th green to open up view of valley down to Farway.
  • Renovate path between 11th green and 12th tee.
  • Renovate and widen path between 12th green and 13th tee.
  • Renovate path around 1st and 4th tees, to 3rd green and 4th fairway, making a trolley park by ball washer in front of 4th tee.
  • Replace drain on 10th fairway.
  • Replace steps to 5th ladies/winter tee.


In the last few weeks we have started to cut some grass again, with presentation and definition slowly improving as the growth increases. The greens have had 2 feeds of low amounts of nitrogen with some iron and seaweed, this is to encourage growth and to harden the plant, the Iron will also blacken off the moss and stunt its growth.

We have just taken delivery of 2 new John Deere greens mowers, these will allow us to 'demote' our 6 year old greens mowers to tees and aprons mowers, improving the finish on both of these surfaces, the old tees mower was nearly 15 years old!

In the week beginning Monday the 4th April, we will be carrying out our tees and greens maintenance. This may include solid/hollow tining (weather dependant), and scarification of the greens and tees, followed by overseeding, topdressing and fertilisation.
We encourage all golfers to give way to machine operators in this week, and we appreciate your patience.

Some sad news also, this month we have lost our Apprentice Lewis Arscott. Lewis had the opportunity to join the greenstaff at Woodbury Park, and he saw it as an opportunity that he could not turn down. We would like to thank Lewis for his hard work and dedication whilst being with us at Honiton Golf Club, and wish him all the best for his career in greenkeeping.
Lewis has been replaced on the greenstaff by Jeff Peace, a member of our club for 20 years and a golfer with a current handicap of 7. Jeff has joined as a trainee, we hope that he will enjoy his time with us and with his golfing experience we are confident he will be able to adapt to the job very quickly.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

February 2016

A happy new year to you all.

We are all still waiting for the weather to break and for a few consecutive dry days.
December saw 237mm of rain, and January 352mm, this is a huge amount of rain when you consider that the monthly averages are 121mm and 112mm respectively. This has taken its toll on the course, nonetheless we try to get the course open as soon as possible after the rain ceases.
The nutrients have leached out of most of the greens, and they have been waterlogged and starved of oxygen, leaving them looking very yellow and poorly. As soon as they dry out enough to be able to withstand the weight of our sprayer and/or aerator we will be out to treat them and hopefully perk them up a bit.

The drainage on the sixth hole is getting a real test, and is standing up to it well, intercepting most water on the fairway before it reaches the temporary green.
6th Drainage working effectively

We have stayed busy despite the weather, completing a few jobs on our winter programme.

The steps on the 18th tee (men and ladies) are now finished, complete with ‘gripstrips’.

New Ladies steps
New Mens steps

We have now made a start on the steps on the 16th tee, the steps to the medal tee have been made deeper so that they are safer, ‘gripstrips’ will be installed, and the path will be tidied.

The greens team admiring their work on the 16th steps.

We have lifted the canopy on the large tree to the right of the 7th fairway, this lets light into the area, speeds up play, makes cutting operations easier and generally looks tidier.

Tree canopy lifting on 7th

 We have started clearing scrub from the woodland area behind the 4th green. This will allow fresh growth, whilst letting more light and improved airflow over the green and also the 5th tee.

We have trimmed back some of the trees to the right of the 18th ladies tee in order to open up the view of the 18th hole from the mens tee.
We have also widened the path which leads from the tenth green, toward the 11th tee, installing a drain and raising the path to stop mud washing across and causing the path to look unsightly.

Renovated path leading from 10th to 11th
Other winter jobs that we have been undertaking are clearing ditches of debris, and also renovating tee furniture.

Due to the wet conditions, we have been unable to cut areas of the course which are still (unbelievably!) growing strongly, but we were able to get out and cut the greens and also some approaches with our hand mower. 
Hand mowers are great in wet conditions because they can be used when it is too wet for a triple mower, they leave no wheel marks, they stripe the grass and leave a lovely finish, and also the large roller leaves a nice true surface.
I believe that this was well received by most members and visitors,  unfortunately it is not something that we can repeat on a regular basis as we only have one of these mowers, and it is far too labour intensive to carry out in the summer when we are stretched at the best of times.

Hand cut 15th green
In the next month, we will be carrying on our scrub clearance, replacing steps, renovating paths, and we will hopefully also be laying 2 new tee mats. These will be placed on the 6th and 10th holes. All of this work is weather dependent, and our biggest hurdle at the moment is getting materials around the course without making a mess. We try to pick the driest routes, but it is inevitable that we will sometimes leave some wheel marks on the course.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

November 2015

A short winter ahead it seems!
With the days growing shorter we are usually slowing up with our mowing operations and undertaking our winter chores, but this November that has certainly not been the case. With growth still strong on the course we have been able to remain on grass tees until the second week of November.

These mild and often wet conditions have brought with them an attack of Fusarium patch (Microdochium Nivale). This is a fungal disease that attacks and kills the grass plant. It survives in thatch or soil and is generally dormant in temperatures above 20oC or in dry conditions. In Autumn, under cooler, wetter conditions spores may germinate and mycelium may grow from thatch or soil and infect leaves, turning them orange and then brown, causing the patches which you see on the greens. The spores may be carried by surface water and wind to healthy leaves, infecting large areas of turf. They are rarely transmitted by foot traffic.
In our case the timing of our renovations did not do us any favours, fixtures forced us to carry out our works late in the season. With the top dressing that we applied holding moisture on the leaves of the plant and with the mild and wet weather, conditions were perfect for the disease to strike.
There are expensive chemicals on the market to treat this disease both preventatively and curatively but although prevention is better than a cure, you never know if you are going to suffer fusarium so it is a costly and often unnecessary practice. Whatever action we take now will not change the condition of the greens until the spring and it is encouraging to see new growth in the middle of the disease patches.

We have however already planned our renovation works for next year and they will be carried out in August, so that the timing should not clash with conditions suitable for disease outbreak, and if there is a disease outbreak then we will have adequate time and growth for recovery before the onset of winter. Events will be planned round the work rather than the other way round.

We have had a few people ask about our renovations, and a question that keeps coming up is ‘why haven’t you filled the holes up to the surface?’
We carry out our hollow coring for two main reasons:
  • ·        Thatch removal
  • ·        Soil Exchange

We hollow core down to a depth of around 6 inches, this is so that we remove thatch from near the surface and also the soil beneath. In most areas we have a reasonable depth of rootzone, but in some areas it is very shallow and clay is removed with the cores. We then topdress and mat as much of the dressing into the holes as possible, we do not intend on filling them right to the top as this is not necessarily required. We aim to replace any clay that is removed with the sandy topdressing, increasing the depth of rootzone and so improving drainage.
Leaving the holes open improves air content in the upper soil profile, encouraging the activity of soil biology to degrade thatch whilst also ensuring that the soil dries out as quickly as possible, I’m sure we’d all prefer to play on an ever so slightly bobbly surface than to not play at all due to the course being closed.
The 6th drainage project is starting to drag on now, purely due to ground conditions but we are nearly finished. A couple of dry days would be nice, so that we can get the turf down and finish the job neatly. We would like to thank you for your patience during this project, it has taken a while, but we must do the job properly rather than rush it in wet conditions and make a mess of the course.
We have recently ordered 2 new greens mowers. These are due to arrive in the spring. Our current greens mowers which are 6 years old will be ‘demoted’ to tees and aprons mowers to replace our current mower that is now around 15 years old.

Plans for the coming month (weather depending) include:
  • ·        Finishing the 6th drainage project
  • ·        Clearing leaves
  • ·        Replacing steps
  • ·        Aeration of walkways, greens etc.

And finally to finish on a bright note, our apprentice Lewis Arscott has now passed his level 2 qualification!
Lewis joined Honiton Golf Club in September 2014 and has completed his course ahead of schedule, we are very proud of his achievement and hope that his progress continues, well done Lewis!

The View from behind the 17th green.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

October 2015

As am I am writing this we should be coming to the end of our greens renovations. Due to poor weather conditions we had to postpone our renovations by a further week, and if that wasn’t enough we suffered machinery breakdowns to delay us even more. Fortunately we could carry out the repairs ourselves so the delays were frustrating rather than catastrophic.

During the originally proposed week (Monday 21st September) heavy downpours made hollow coring operations almost impossible, and despite a hectic fixture schedule we had no choice other than to postpone. We didn’t however write the week off totally, we proceeded to scarify some fairways with our new Amazone machine (see below), this machine is new to us so we did see some scalping in some areas, which is inevitable on the first use. It is always a learning curve with new kit and we were very pleased with the results. We also set about lifting the canopy on some tree areas and this will continue as time permits, we would still welcome more volunteers to help as clearing up after the work is what takes most time. Let Adrian know if you can help if your name isn’t already on the list please.
You may lift and drop on any fairways that have been scarified, although we are happy that the fairways will soon rejuvenate.

With better weather the following week we pressed on with greens renovations. We hollow cored, scarified, seeded, fertilised, and top dressed the greens. We were set back as I mentioned by a few mechanical breakdowns, but this is to be expected with old machinery. We are already seeing some good weather to encourage a quick recovery, how long for is another matter!

We have installed some ‘gripstrips’ on some of our steps recently. This is a new product which we are trialling to see if it would be a better option to put on our steps instead of astro turf which tends to hold moisture and rot the steps.
Any feedback would be appreciated.

We will be continuing with renovations, both on fairways and also tees.

We have a large drainage project due to start very soon. We are going to be digging up and renewing the drainage on the 6th fairway, and this will start on Monday the 19th of October.
This work will help to keep the fairway and apron drier through the winter months, so that when the main green is unplayable due to wet conditions, we can still use the apron as a temporary green instead of closing the course.
We hope to have the work completed within 2 weeks but with changing weather conditions and with other work to complete that we will run on into the following week.
Whilst the work is being carried out, there will be a short par 3 of 145 yards set up so that play will not interfere with operations and so that there are still 18 holes available for play.
We ask golfers to adhere to any signage that we put up, and to follow directions from this temporary green to the next tee, your patience is much appreciated. Please see the plan below for details:

Thank you for reading, any constructive feedback is always welcome.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Work Week/Greens and Tees Renovations

Work week is due to start this coming Monday the 21st September. Due to the weather forecast and a hectic fixture schedule the work will almost certainly carry on into the following week also.
We will be hollow coring, scarifying, overseeding, topdressing and feeding the greens, tees and approaches so there may be some temporary greens and some occasions where tees may be moved forwards or perhaps play may be held up.
 Your patience is much appreciated and if you could give way to greenstaff whenever possible we would be very grateful.
Lets hope for some good weather and a speedy recovery for our greens!