PLAYING AREA OF THE COURSE
In 1986 specified areas of the course were deemed to be "SITES OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST." This was confirmed in 1990 by the ENGLISH NATURE CONSERVANCY COUNCIL. From 1992 these areas have been extended to encompass the whole of the course apart from the 1st, 2nd and 18th and parts of the 8th and 17th. An agreement was entered into with Natural England in 2007; therefore any proposed changes to the course on the areas of the S.S.S.I can only be done with the approval of Natural England. This also applies to the application of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and irrigation. Therefore the areas of the course deemed to be S.S.S.I, must be managed under strict control.
The reason for the site to be deemed S.S.S.I is the ancient rig and furrow workings on parts of the course and about twelve lowland heath land grasses that are extremely rare and unusual to be surviving together. A rare Least Minor Moth which only breeds in this part of the country is also present on the course.
There are three essentials to a good golf course, a well designed layout, being in good condition and well maintained. The course was designed by a well respected golf course architect, James Braid, and has proved an excellent challenge to all levels of golfers. It is formed on soil varying from loam humus to clay and generally overlaying a clay substructure. Due to the fact that the course is relatively flat, these soil conditions cannot stand up to extremes of heavy rainfall and certain areas are prone to water-logging if the drainage system is not maintained. Some areas are adversely affected by traffic and heavy use, particularly golf trolleys following the same path through the narrow walkways.
Therefore compaction does occur on many areas of the course, especially around the greens and the walkways to the next tee. The policy being pursued is to relieve compaction by an intensive aeration program and to avoid further damage in the winter months when the ground is wet or frozen and the grass has stopped growing, by limiting the use of trolleys. Pathways will be created wherever practicable. These paths will be constructed with an under-laying of ash and a cover of red track.
Due to the introduction of the five year plan of replacement machinery, we are now fairly well equipped with modern, efficient machinery; therefore there is no reason why the course should not be well maintained. The introduction of expensive machinery and equipment brings with it expensive maintenance costs; these must be controlled, monitored and budgeted for, and then there should be no major problems. It is essential that the policy is not allowed to lapse.
The course is gradually improving and by following a course management policy, it will continue to improve year on year.
There is a continuing program of maintenance to the tees which involves extensions, where required, leveling and top dressing in order to ensure the best possible conditions are maintained to accommodate the demands of increased traffic.
It is essential to have winter teeing areas and if necessary to resort to man made fabric tees. The winter tee areas have all summer to recover but are essential to preserve the main teeing areas for the main golfing calendar.
The particular aspect of the fairways is the rig and furrows. The Conservancy Council calculates that these have been in existence since the 17th Century, hence their special interest, and they will not allow this feature to be altered, only maintained. These rig and furrows do create a drainage problem which will have to be eliminated.
There are several varieties of grasses in the fairways; the aim should be to encourage only the better quality finer grasses to flourish. This will be achieved by following a program of verti-draining, hollow-tining and sanding each year after the main playing season. Over-seeding will be practiced as needed to maintain a good level of growth and definition.
A similar situation exists as for that of the fairways. Some areas will improve with verti-draining, scarifying, hollow-tining, over seeding and fertilising.
SEMI-ROUGH AND ROUGH
We will not be allowed to fertilise these areas. Therefore, again, an ongoing aeration program will have to be followed.
A number of bunkers are prone to ponding and some fairway bunkers are now misplaced. An ongoing program is in progress of re-draining and re-shaping. It is essential that this is continued. It is also essential to attain consistency of grade of sand in order that an acceptable uniformity of reaction can be expected. (See Bunker Report) Appendix 6
The greens will be presented in such a way as to provide a good standard of putting surface for as long as possible throughout the year. This will be achieved by gradual replacement of the broad leafed grasses with bent and fescues. In normal circumstances hand cutting of greens will take place twice each week.
It may be necessary to come off the greens in extreme wet periods, especially during severe frost and snow. This decision will not be taken lightly and will only be implemented if it is considered the greens will be damaged unduly. Build in the potential to be able to produce a very high standard of a true putting surface with good pace throughout the summer months.
The present greens have a number of problems: being small they are much harder to maintain than larger greens, due to the concentration of play over a limited area, having less space for alternative pin placement and the walk on and off areas become concentrated and compacted, leading to successive damage in specific areas.
Soil greens such as we have may be out of play due to water logging more than average. They will also hold frost longer. Poorly drained greens tend to carry an annual meadow grass component, which generates excessive thatch, which in turn inhibits drainage (leading to foot printing and plugging) whilst in dry weather they will be hard and unreceptive. They will be more prone to disease scarring, uneven growth and seed head development and pace will be difficult to control.
To overcome the conditions outlined above a program of regular aeration of the greens is essential. Application of top dressing to greens on a frequent basis will help build a more receptive base for the promotion of the fine grasses mentioned earlier; it will also dilute the organic matter, thus reducing undue water retention.
Greens surrounded by trees suffer from dampness (slower putting surface and disease), leaf coverage in autumn and droughts in summer (due to competition for moisture). They will also hold frost longer in winter.
New methods and additives need to be looked at, as and when available to improve this important part of the course.