Last week was a washout. I can’t recall us being closed for 5 days in a row other than for snow and ice since the gravel banding was put in. But this autumn is well on it’s way to being the wettest on record, nationally. We were not alone - other Chester clubs were similarly affected. In earlier times we used to log how our closures matched other local clubs but abandoned it when it became clear that some other courses began to try and stay open under almost any circumstances because they were losing members. Gavin is very keen to keep the course open as much as possible but trolley and foot traffic on really saturated ground can break the grass surface which will cause damage which won’t recover until well into spring.
The gravel banding was put in at the beginning of the century and continues to be remarkably effective in clearing surface water. But it can only deal with water, not saturated soil. Our impermeable clay prevents moisture moving downwards to the water table, meaning in winter we are dependant on atmospheric evaporation to dry the surface. That needs lower humidity and a decent breeze. In recent weeks we’ve had neither: humidity has been very high, assisted by heavy dews or the occasional ground frost - when it is not actually raining, that is.
There comes a point when we just can’t fight nature. Short of altering the composition of our subsoil by spreading inches of sand across the course, which would be ludicrously expensive, we must just wait for the weather to turn. Last year we had a prolonged hot dry summer which we survived better than many. This year we are getting the other side of the coin.
Next year’s budget includes funding to replace the computer that controls our greens irrigation. The old one is life-expired and irreparable: if it failed we could have major problems. The new model will allow a much more precise delivery of water to specific parts of the course, and can be managed remotely. We will also replace our old sprayer. In recent years Gavin has made meaningful savings by doing all our spraying rather than getting in a contractor, but the old machine now has significant operational problems and needs to be pensioned off.