It’s been another week in which we could not get machines on the course. The improvements last week were all undone by 12 mm of rain overnight Sunday (the 24th). It has been more or less dry since then but there has been little wind, and then came the frosts. The greens are now frozen more than 3” down, which is significant. One of the (only) two circumstances that moves us to winter greens is when they start to thaw and the surface softens but deeper down remains frozen. Foot traffic can move the thawed layer over the frozen zone: this shears the grass roots (our grasses can reach down up to a foot) and kills it. It can take days for deep frozen greens to fully clear. Moreover, if it rains at this point the greens will flood because the water can’t get away. As a precaution the team have cut winter holes.
It’s been some time since we’ve faced serious frosts. We have reviewed and confirmed our frost protocols, viz. in the event of a major cold snap Gavin will close the tarmac car park and grit the roadway from the blocker to the bottom of the slope past the first tees to give players and teaching staff access to the tees and the practice ground and protect the public using the right of way. Warning notices are put up by the first tee. All artificial (red-track) paths are inspected, and should they prove to be iced over Gavin will close the course on safety grounds. Otherwise, members play at their own risk, as is the case for other natural slip and trip hazards e.g. rabbit scrapes.
More than one member has complained about the problems finding balls amongst fallen leaves, although this had not been raised as an issue until last autumn. It may be that this has been a particularly still season, meaning that leaves simply accumulate where they fall whilst in normal times they would be blown around and mulched by the mowers: this year we can’t get machines out to do that. However, we are assessing possible remediations. A full answer would be to acquire a machine that actively collects the leaves, but they are expensive (>£15k) for such limited use. Occasional hiring is unlikely to be an option - it would need to be done more than once, and such machines are likely to be in high demand at this time. A simple tractor-mounted blower (perhaps available second-hand) could pile up leaves to be lifted into a trailer manually, but collection is very time-consuming.
For now Gavin has put a couple of men out with hand blowers to clear the hot spots and lift the leaves onto one of the small runabouts. It’s easy to find the resource for that at the moment when much else can’t be done because of the ground, but that’s not always going to be the case. We are fortunate that we have not planned any major project work this winter, having already lost more than a month's working opportunity due to the weather.
As a bit of light relief Gavin has been to see a trial of a robotic mower, which navigates by GPS. His verdict is that these machines will certainly be part of the future, but more development is needed. Nevertheless, it’s good to keep in touch with evolving technology.
3 December 2023