1. Why do our bunkers flood?
Bunkers are in affect holes in the ground which as anyone who digs in their garden will confirm “holes collect water”. Without effective drainage bunkers will always collect water and become susceptible to flooding.
This is particularly prominent when bunkers are surrounded on one or more sides by high banks of grass from which water will naturally run downhill and into the bunker.
In the case of our club look particularly at the first bunker on the left when playing the 3rd. Here the steep grass bank collects rainfall channelling it downwards and into the bunker. This like many other of our bunkers is a consequence of how the course was built.
To reduce this flooding several bunkers on the course have been removed or re designed to channel water away from the “hole” and into nearby ground. Examples of which are the new bunkers further up the 3rd on the left. Here the bunkers have been reduced in size and re shaped with raised lips to help reduce the amount of water naturally flowing towards the sand.
Additionally we are always replacing and reviewing the drainage systems within our bunkers. There are various ways of removing water from bunkers with the quickest and most labour intensive being to take a pump and pipes to the bunker to manually remove the water. This is most often undertaken after heavy summer storms to help the underlying drainage system
Drainage systems such as underground pipes however have a “lifespan”. By their very nature they remove water from the bunker when the water also contains tiny particles of silt. This silt builds up over time and eventually blocks the pipe such that the bunker must be dug up and the pipes replaced. A labour intensive process.
Finally the position of the bunker in relation to lower ground affects our ability to drain water away. Bunkers on a slop make the removal of water easier as gravity plays a significant part. Where bunkers are on flatter ground this is more problematic and drainage will be slower.
2. How do you select pin placements?
Flag placements as a general rule will be 6 easier, 6 medium difficulty and 6 difficult thereby challenging differing aspects of a golfer’s game.
In selecting those positions we must also consider a variety of other concerns.
• The condition of the green itself. For example wet areas need to be avoided to minimise unnecessary wear and tear, areas of shade may need to be avoided in colder times when grass growth is slower and the playing condition is not ideal.
• Future planning may require that a pin placement identified for a specific event such as Captains Day should be avoided in the immediate run up to the event to prevent over use.
• Finally we must take account of the greens overall health and seek to place flags in differing positions to equal out usage and foot traffic.
3. Why do you hollow tine just as the greens become good to play on in the spring and again at the end of the summer but before winter?
Firstly let’s look at what we mean by hollow tining. This is the physical removal of cores of turf from a playing surface. The holes are generally 13-16mm in diameter and of varying depths depending on the reason for the tine. The cores are ejected, swept up and removed.
This is necessary as course traffic causes the ground to become compacted and hardened. This means drainage is less efficient and the grass’s roots are prevented from absorbing oxygen. Hollow tining allows the compacted turf to expand and air and moisture to be more easily absorbed.
The coring helps address the problem of thatch. (Thatch is a layer of grass stems, roots, and debris that settle and accumulate over time.) A thin layer is acceptable but too much thatch will hold water like a sponge.
Tining also removes accumulated fiber in the grass’s root zone. It allows for the exchange of a poor soil for a better one through top dressing. That’s why the greens are normally covered in sandy top dressing immediately after they’re cored.
Hollow tining is generally done outside of the main playing season: often in early autumn. It’s important that the tining is completed before the weather turns wet and cold so there’s time for growth and for the holes to seal up. So the best time to hollow tine is late August / early September, but as this also coincides with the playing season at most clubs. It’s a difficult balancing act for greenkeepers. Some clubs will look to hollow tine very early in the spring season.
4. How is the speed of our greens decided?
Speed of greens has and no doubt always will be a point of discussion amongst golfers. After all Golf is a sport and what would sport be without debates.
On the one hand our greens are amongst the largest in the area and as such it could be argued need to be quick to allow long putts to be stroked rather than punched. On the other hand many of our greens have some of the most severe slopes and borrows in the area which if cut to be too fast could become very difficult or unplayable for all but the very best putters.
To take account of the above dilemma the greens committee have directed that our greens be cut to a desired length of 5mm in winter producing a stint meter reading of around 8. During the height of summer our direction is that they should have been progressively cut to a length 3mm producing a stint meter reading of around 10.
These are of course general guidelines which allow the greens staff to take notice of prevailing weather conditions and in particular growth levels as the season changes and greens need to be cared for.
We must at all times be aware that greens when cut too low creates stress for the grass which is a living plant and may become susceptible to disease and failure when left in this condition for long periods of time.
Finally as golfers we must be mindful of how putting surfaces vary during the day. Dry greens rolling faster than wet surfaces and of course as the day progresses grown will occur and greens naturally become slower in the afternoon and evening in comparison to when first cut in the mornings.
5. Why do we not have rakes in all our bunkers?
We always seek to maintain at least one rake per bunker throughout the year. However our course is located with a public bridleway and footpaths passing over our land. Sadly some of our visitors to the course take home a souvenir or elect to throw items of golf course furniture into our woods and ponds.
Replacing these items is an ongoing task which we as members incur throughout the year. During the year 2014/15 for example we as a golf club purchased 50 rakes, 30 flags and made around 50 replacement tee markers
6. What are we doing about drainage on the course
Drainage of our course and any other course is a problem primarily during winter but can create problems during heavy rainfall at any time of the year. Here at Normanton we are located on predominantly clay sub soil. This affects us all year round. Firstly during the winter when we can become very wet and boggy in many places. Secondly during the summer when our ground becomes hard this does not immediately absorb heavy rainfall which instead flows above ground to lower levels where it stands and then becomes heavy under foot.
To address this problem we constantly review where we encounter problems and where possible look to manage the flow off the key areas into streams and away from waterways.
Additionally we seek to reduce footfall around the wetter areas thereby minimising damage and allowing a speedier return to better playing conditions.
7. What can we as members do to help improve our course
Golf courses are very labour intensive to maintain especially during the summer when grass growth is at its peak. To help relieve time for your green staff to concentrate on the course we would implore you to consider the below basic care steps.
• Please replace your divots taking care to ensure they are firmly stood in place. Divots not replaced quickly soon become dried out and even if replaced the following day may not bind with the soil leaving a poor lie for a fellow golfer and look unsightly.
• Please repair your pitch marks. Pitch marks repaired immediately heal in only a few days whereas pitch marks left in greens for over a day take weeks for the grass to repair itself.
• Please retain your litter and place in one of the bins provided around the course. A full bottle of pop weighs considerably less than an empty bottle and we have bins on holes 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and, 14
• Rake your footsteps in bunkers. Making better lies for your fellow golfers. Greenkeepers rake bunkers on a daily basis. With 70 bunkers on the course taking only ten minutes a bunker this would account for almost 12 hours or alternatively a full time job for 1 ½ members of staff every day (Greenkeepers will undertake this task but please note raking sand back up slopes rather than downwards into the bunker is particularly helpful)