Top of this week’s news is to let you know that Tony Wellings, our long-standing senior greenkeeper, has retired - rather earlier than he had planned, but sadly his arthritis had become quite disabling.  It was clear that coming in to work before 07:00 in the middle of the winter to sit on a mower all day had become just too big an ask.  Tony has been with us for more than 26 years.  Hard-working, capable, hugely experienced, strong as an ox, he will be much-missed,  A fuller appreciation of Tony will be included in next month’s Eaton Outlook.  Meanwhile we are doing our best to see him off in style.

 

On the course the temperature has dropped and the team are now coming in to ground frosts some mornings.  Growth has slowed, not stopped, but the team are no longer fully occupied with mowing and can get on with the winter projects.  Thus far they have reshaped the 11th bunker and started on the 1st left greenside, to be followed next week by the practice green bunker.  They will be ready to be returfed next week.  It takes 3 months or more for the new turf to root firmly enough to take foot traffic.  This is the immediate priority:  the work has to be done by the end of November to be in play at the start of next April.

 

Some members have questioned the wisdom of furloughing some of the course team when we could be blitzing the course with improvements.  It’s not that simple:  manpower is often not the limiting factor.  Much of the winter work we are planning relates to drainage:  we intend to reband 2 fairways where the original work seems to be losing effectiveness (when we did the original work it was suggested it might need redoing after 5 years:  the areas we will repeat are more than 15 years old).  It’s a costly (>£2,000 per fairway), and it takes the full team and specialised bits of kit.  Apart from Gavin none of the current team have ever done this before so the work needs to be supervised quite carefully.  In other words, everything is tied up and not available to start other things.  And ground conditions are the major factor - if we chew up the course it costs a fortune in topsoil to restore it.

 

Other than a new greens mower, virtually all of the planned course expenditure this winter is on drainage.  In addition to the banding we are going to explore ways to extend the fairway drainage into some of the soggy areas in the cut rough.  But, there is only so much we can do about drainage.  Our fundamental problem is the ground.  We have a thin layer of topsoil on top of impermeable clay.  Water cannot penetrate this to drain down to the water table - it can only run across the surface down into the banding or evaporate.  The banding clears surface water quite efficiently but once the topsoil layer is saturated we are reliant on evaporation.  When the grass is growing much of the moisture is wicked away (’transpiration’) from the leaves quite rapidly, but this stops when the grass goes dormant.  No amount of money will make a radical difference, but we keep looking for solutions to problem areas.

 

Alan Wood

 

07 November 2020