We have been closed for almost 2 weeks and from today’s forecast of another inch of rain Friday and Saturday, it is likely to continue. This is unprecedented, even in the days before we were able to drain the fairways after discovering gravel banding.
As has been noted before, at Eaton the deep impermeable clay which underlies the course prevents water draining down to the water table – it stays at the surface. The gravel banding quickly clears standing water but with no grass growth in winter the (thin) layer of saturated topsoil is reliant on evaporation to dry out. Since it rains nearly every day at the moment the humidity is too high for that to happen very quickly.
It’s scant consolation that others are similarly affected, although many are less protective of their course than Eaton. Today (Thursday), for example, just walking on the fairways causes quite deep footprints which fill with water – ‘casual water’, in old speak. When the ground dries these leave uneven fairways. Or, the turf slides and tears, leaving bare patches which need to grass over. Off the fairways the situation is much worse – ‘boggy’ is the best word for it.
Previously we experienced a range of wet and dry winters and, other than supplementing the drainage in problem areas, we felt able to live with it. There have been winters without a single trolley ban. However, this is the second winter running that we have been severely affected by rain and we need to respond.
With the amount of rain that has fallen and continues to fall, there is almost nothing we can do short of adding several inches of sand to the course, which would be absurdly expensive. We do have plans to re-band some of the fairways where it appears that the existing banding is beginning to fail, like the left side of the first fairway. More experimentally, we also think we have a way to access the original course drainage system that had been laid too deeply to be of any use. The hope is that this will improve the cut rough areas. The cost is significant but not prohibitive since the work will be done by our own team – including the new man who has just been appointed. Weather permitting we should make a start on both these ideas this autumn now the current development project is nearing completion.
More immediately, we are looking at creating a short winter course which will keep to the drier fairways. Off piste you will have to take your chances. The idea is to play 10, 11, 12 then cross to the 5th fairway and play to the green as a shorter version; then play from the 6th tee to the 7th green and then down 8 and 9. Only 7 holes but better than nothing. With the current rains even that can’t be put into action, but as soon as it can it will.
Watch this space!