Latest news from Greens Committee

February reports from Greens Chairman & Course Manager.

Irrigation
My main efforts have focussed on the irrigation challenges the club faces. The pumps are in a critical condition and in desperate need of replacement, prior to inevitable dry spell that will come in the spring. I alerted the committee to this matter and am grateful for your unanimous approval to invest in new pumps. This investment will secure the huge strides Tom has made with course conditioning in the last 12 months.

The irrigation sub-committee has met with the two main contractors Arden Lea and Irrigation Control. Both appear to be highly regarded in the industry with CV’s to match. Both have been advised (19th Feb) that we are in a position to move forward with the pump installation (referred to as phase 1) and we await final clarifications. Once received I will of course advise the GCM. The irrigation is going to be the most important investment in living memory and I am extremely grateful to Stuart Tilley and Ross Harrison in particular, who are using their industry experience to manage the procurement process in time for the new season.

Greens
I am delighted with the condition of the greens, the comparison to last year is extraordinary. The only benefit of NOT having play is that Tom can be gentle with the cutting regime and I am extremely confident this process will allow us to push the greens a little harder in 2021 and transfer this into smooth, firm, true surfaces that will be a step up from 2020. This allied to the investment made in a new purpose tees/surrounds cutting unit and the fitting of 58 new 360 degree Hunter sprinklers really will provide greens complexes that will be amongst the best in the area.

Practice nets
Are now fully operational and a wind break has been erected and stained to match the studio. This should ensure the member experience is much more enjoyable.

Flooding
Having been a member for over 40 years, I have never witnessed the flooding the course has experienced these last few months. This appears to have been down to two issues; a year’s rainfall in four months and blockage of a culvert which has only just been discovered. This has meant a higher than normal water table going into winter. Please see Tom’s notes for further detail. A dry couple of weeks, which is forecast, should see some welcome relief and any member walking the course over the last few days will attest to this in action.

I would note that Tom has requested that his title be changed from Head Greenkeeper to Course Manager, as it is more befitting of his skill set. His terms and conditions remain unchanged and I have happily agreed to it.

Health and Safety
Eddy I’Anson has undertaken a review of all procedures and agreed with Tom where weaknesses in processes have been identified and addressed. Thank-you Eddy.

Philip Cain
Greens Chairman
Seaton Carew Golf Club

Course Manager's Report.

Dear Members
I write having experienced what is the first dry-ish week we have had at Seaton Carew in what feels like 4 months. The reality is that the golf course has had to absorb a huge amount of rainfall in recent months, on top of what was a beneficially wet summer which meant we started the Autumn period with a higher water table than usual. The following months of rainfall have left the water table extremely high, with wide-scale flooding across the lower lying areas of the course, ie bunkers and low lying fairways.
The raw numbers help explain some of this, we received 70mm rainfall in October, 104mm in November, 205mm in December and 143mm in January. This means that with an average annual rainfall of around 600mm, we have essentially received almost a years’ worth of rain in 4 months. The problem was compounded by the fact that for large stretches of December and January, the turf was frozen, so surface water would not drain through.
In mid-January I began carrying out some investigative work on the drainage route of water out to sea, as it leaves our land, flows through the stell on the Snooks and eventually to the power station where the water flows through an underground culvert. I walked the stell with waders on and there is some clear restriction to water flow due to a lack of maintenance. It is clear that Natural England would prefer to impede water flow as much as possible to the benefit of some of the birds, so we may face difficulty getting these water courses working as they were designed to.
Upon wading through this water course, I eventually came to the concrete culvert beneath the zinc works road, and found it to be heavily blocked up with vegetation/debris that had deposited itself on a collapsed iron grate that had fell in-front of the culvert. I managed to remove this and a huge amount of water suddenly began to flow down the culvert. It is a shame I was not aware of this issue in the summer, as this would have allowed the summer water table to fully lower itself, and give the land more capacity before a rising water table would be seen in bunkers and low lying areas of the course. We will be better off next winter for this discovery.
As things have panned out, there has been no golf to experience this, but the uncertainty of when golf will actually return is frustrating, as there are clearly things I’d like to carry out on the greens for example, that I could do if I had a date of when golf will actually return.
In the absence of golf, the green-staff, despite working shorter hours have ploughed through a considerable amount of work.
-All the new bunkers have had screened sand from Able put in them, that will be shaped and consolidated once water has left.
-We have installed 58 new sprinklers to the greens complexes, which will better able progression in conditioning on, and around the greens this spring and summer.
-Various re-turfing jobs have been carried out, obviously we cannot do everything in one season, but we will keep chipping away at it , and with improved irrigation, re-turfing of worn areas will no longer be a requirement
-All the machinery fleet has been fully serviced and the cutting units set up so that when growth permits, intensive mowing can be carried out.
-The greens have received another 8mm pencil tining, and with no golf requirement, the heave this produces can be left and the soil is full of air space, which makes it easier for plant roots to penetrate. The greens have essentially been left alone, and will really be benefitting from the rest.
-Iron Sulphate has been applied to the greens, as this helps keep disease under control, and a dark coloured sward warms up quicker than a pale one as it absorbs more heat, and will help the greens wake up sooner
-A light topdressing has been applied to the greens and depending on Boris, we will put a heavier one down if we have the time before golf returns
-Over seeding is planned on several areas of the course, we will hire a Vredo seeder to achieve this
-Despite no golf, a lot of divots are showing up, thanks to the Crow who likes to lift them, we will remove and divot these fairways over the next few weeks
-Steps were installed to the 3rd bunker and the 16th bunker
-Essential repairs to the existing irrigation system have been carried out, with multiple breaks in the main pipework repaired, and a couple of tee solenoid valves which have been broken for several years
-A scanning company came in to accurately locate and record the positioning of the oil pipe line that passes through the 2nd and 17th fairway, this was essential work to dictate what can and cannot be done with future work on bushes and irrigation
The plan going forward is now to fine tune the course ready for opening, and to have the course in prime condition for the summer of 2021, where we hope that golf can finally be played

Tom Coulson
Course Manager
Seaton Carew Golf Club
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