Although rainfall this month has not been exceptional (barely 2”) it’s the frequency which prevents the course drying out and makes the course vulnerable to heavy falls such as we had overnight Friday.  We have rarely been so wet so early in winter.  Eaton lies on very heavy clay which is completely impermeable to water.  Even now, 4-6” down it will be like cement.  We only have a thin covering of topsoil, and when that becomes saturated any pressure (e.g. from feet, tyres) on it squeezes the turf/soil layer against the clay, leading to squidgy mud.

Land dries through a mixture of processes.  On normal ground drainage is mainly by percolation down into the soil to the underlying water table, but as already mentioned that doesn’t happen at Eaton.  Another factor is evaporation, either directly or via transpiration (where the growing grass transports water in the soil up into the leaves and thence to atmosphere).  That’s an important aspect in the summer but much less so in winter when the grass is dormant.  ‘Normal’ evaporation needs lower atmospheric humidity, preferably with some warmth and wind - plus short grass to expose the ground.  Another mechanism important to Eaton is where water migrates across the surface to streams or, as in our case, to the gravel banding.    It follows that in winter Eaton is reliant on the banding and atmospheric evaporation, which we encourage by trying to keep the fairways mown.  The banding is extremely effective in clearing heavy rain quite quickly, but we need evaporation to firm up the ground.

The good news is that we were able to get almost all of the heavy earthmoving work around the bunkers and 14th tee completed more or less as planned, despite the ground conditions.  The tracking damage on the course is not too bad and will mostly restore itself over the next few weeks.    However, we can’t repeatedly run a 5 tonne trailer over very soft ground, which is why the spoil from the 10th bunker work has been temporarily tipped between two nearby copses and several ponds are yet to be cleared.  

All the planned bunkers have been dug out and reshaped, and now await some topsoil and turfing - when we can move the materials.  The 14th tee has been moved and the original turf relaid. Until further notice all these areas are classified as Abnormal Ground Conditions (= ‘GUR’ in old money), and relief must be taken.  That will be most important once the new turf is laid.

Alan Wood

21 Oct. 2019