Friday, 12 December 2014

New Tee added to the front of the 11th

Over the last two weeks we have added a small front tee to the 11th teeing area. Installing a new tee always seems like a simple task, but it is time comsuming and implementing it correctly is a must. The new tee has been added to provide the laides with a slightly forward teeing position and to help wear in this area. A suitable teeing area on a short par 4 should be between 300 and 400m2. Before this tee went in we only had 170m2 and in the winter the tee used to look very tidied. This addtional tee wont get us up to the required size, but it will help to relieve the pressure.

When you are installing any new feature in to a golf course the number one priority is to make sure that it fits in to the landscape. If it doesn't it will look out of place and silly. As we wanted to achieve this we went down in to the ground so it fits the eye nicely. We installed drainage and irrigation systems to make sure it is suitable for both winter and summer. Another thing that we did was that instead of buying turf from outside for the teeing ground, we took the turf from an area on the golf course. This means that the rooting will take immediately and the turf has been maintained to tee standards for many years. It will speed up the process of getting it in play very quickly.

Some of the trees to the right will have to be felled but we will do this at a later date. As you can see from the pictures below, the roots of these trees go all over that area and in to the drainage channels. If we don't remove certain ones, then the condition of this tee will deteriorate very quickly. The ones further up will be 'root pruned'.

Below are a few pictures of the process that went in to installing a new tee.

Tee getting graded

Drainage added
Roots in drainage channels

Rootzone being installed
Roots over teeing area

Wes checking levels
Area levelled

Teeing area turf taken from an area on the golf course

The finished product. 7 days in total!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Tournament Preparation at The London Club

Two of our Greenkeepers attended the World Matchplay at The London Club last week to prepare the course for the tournament. Below is the experience of one of them. Quite a two days!

If you had said to me two years ago that I would have been cutting greens at The London Club on the Volvo World Match Play tournament, I would have wondered about your sanity, but that is exactly what happened!

Here’s my story… Day one: Saturday 18th October. After a very early start to the day (4 a.m. and I’m not even going away on holiday!) My deputy at Ealing Wes Lenihan and myself arrived at the London Club for the team briefing at 6 a.m. It was my first time doing something like this, but Wes has previously worked on a few of these big competitions. Wentworth being one. So expecting nothing more than being allocated bunker raking and blowing duties, I was given my jobs and set out to get my first look at the course, which I have to say was a real eye opener.

The quality and the hard work that the lads had put in prior to the event was clear to see and it looked amazing. A few things that stood out on the day but one was using fresh dry grass clippings spread over fairways then brushed in to colour up the slightly discoloured parts due to the heavy rain that had fallen. The weather that week, and leading up to the competition, had not been fair on the boys in preparation. So much so I heard that they tried to get the helicopter pilot that was flying the players in, to fly over the course to try to move the standing water off the course with his downdraft. This may be a great idea in theory (and maybe this is something we can use at Ealing) but didn't quite work so well in practise!

After a nice pleasant start to the day, things took an interesting turn. I heard after two cuts that the greens were running below 11 feet (which is not where the tour and the London Club wanted them to be), so this involved the greens being cut again. After a discussion over the radio, it was decided to send a 7th two-man team out to cut the greens a third time. This is where it started to get a bit scary as I got asked if I would mind cutting greens. My head was saying ‘don’t do it’, but somehow I managed to say ‘yeah! For sure!’. My confidence wasn’t helped when a colleague, Ollie Hook from Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, kindly reminded me that it was the World Match Play covered by Sky!

Martyn on the Greens
Suddenly, there I was on a Toro fairway Mower, towing a Toro Flex 21 thinking ‘what on earth have I let myself in for?’. I was cutting greens but the Stimp was still coming back below where they wanted it to be. So this led to another cut, and another cut and after that three more cuts, totalling five!

With more cuts meant that stripes were getting very difficult to see by this stage and after the 5th cut they were running where they wanted it to be, just above 11. My morning ended by cutting three greens 10 times! That was the morning over with and back to the yard, which I have to say was a fantastic set up. We were well fed by the London Club and looked after brilliantly.

Day 2 Sunday 19th October: After coming down from what can only be described as a high after cutting tournament greens, I was back for my second day ready to prep the course for the semi finals and final. So there we were, sitting in the team briefing which was taken by course manager Peter Todd and Head Greenkeeper of the International Course, Paul Kennedy. We were allocated jobs and I was surprised to find that I had been put on the greens team of 8 pairs. When we set out in monsoon like weather the words, ‘what am I doing?’ did come to mind. The greens were cut twice Sunday morning, then rolled and were running at 11.4.  Everyone seemed to be happy with that, so no need for any more cuts before the first groups.

The greens were cut one more time ahead of the final. I am happy to report back that the cutting and course set up went smoothly and it was a pleasure to be representing Ealing Golf Club.

What can I say! I had a very enjoyable two days and would like to thank all the London Club boys for making us feel really welcome. Peter Todd and Paul Kennedy for giving us all this opportunity and looking after us so well. The course you would admit looked fantastic on TV and even more stunning when you were there. It wouldn’t be surprising to see even bigger competitions held there in the future.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Drainage Project Recommences - 2nd Hole

Our drainage project recommenced a couple of weeks ago where we tackled the 2nd hole. Right from the tee, through the fairway and on to the green were trenched, piped and backfilled. All playing areas had turf cut off so that the finished product would be a lot cleaner. In one week we managed to install 2000metres of drainage. That was the easy bit. Over the next couple of weeks we will be picking up snagging areas which can slow things down!

Below is a picture of the area by the 5th tee this morning. It is after 20mm of rain overnight and has come off the 2nd fairway that has been newly drained. The easy bit is moving water off playing areas but the hard bit is then getting it to go somewhere. All our drainage goes in to existing drainage by the river Brent. This is where things can slow down as these areas are generally hard to work around.

Once we have finished the main snagging later this week, the remainder of the month will be working on 'secondary drainage'. We have always said that secondary is as important as primary. You obviously need primary to take the water away but if it can't get there in the first place it will be pointless. From next week all the areas that we have drained over the past 3-years will be aerated and top-dressed. We will also be installing 'gravel bands' with our Shelton bander to new newly installed drainage. 

We are now half through our 5-year drainage project for the fairways and things have gone very well. With the 2nd hole completed, fifteen of our fairways will have been drained to an acceptable level in extreme weather. Sitting on London clay we will never have fairways like a link course, but our aim is to have a playable course for 12months of the year in all weathers. 

Below is a slideshow of the work done so far!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Chipping Green Opens!

Last Saturday we opened our new Chipping Green and it was a roaring success. From start to finish it took 16 weeks, with the grow in only 12 weeks. It was a great project and much needed as we have been without a chipping green (good or bad) for a very long time. The green was built to a top specification but instead of using traditional seed or turf, we used 'poa cores' from our main greens to act as a seedbed. It was very successful and allowed us to push the green to the limits very soon whilst retaining the same characteristics as the main greens.

The first cut took place two weeks after the cores were laid with the height set at 6mm. We then feed, watered and top-dressed on a regular basis until we had gained full coverage. With 3 weeks to go we switched the maintenance plan from a 'grow in' programme to a normal maintenance one. This meant that the frequency of cut increased but water and fertiliser decreased. We opened with the height of cut on the green at 2mm and stimping at 10 feet. Not many grass species that can do this in such a short amount of time.

All the greenstaff played a part but special mention should go to Olly (our shaper), Keith Buckingham and Wes Lenihan, who was responsible for the grow part. As well as the green we widened the path, moved a gate and installed new nets besides it (thanks Sukhdev). All this from previously undeveloped waste ground.

It is now open and there for the enjoyment of our members and guests. Special thank you must go to our Captain Mike Shilling (who drove the project forward) and Ricky Willison, our club pro who designed it. Below is a slideshow of each stage taking place. Enjoy!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

We are going Green!

Last month we commissioned an ecology report by James Hutchinson BSc (hons). His brief was to look at how we do things from an ecology side and what we can do in the future to improve this area. Over the years the 'green' side of the industry has taken a bit of a back seat but in todays market if used correctly can become a powerful tool. We have always tried to do everything correctly at Ealing but when budgets become tight everything has to be justified. We believe if you can get turf maintenance and ecology working together, then this gives you a great product to market.

Over the years we have done many things to try and improve our ecology. For instance our pesticide usage has been heavily reduced over the past decade. Another area that has been introduced are certain 'Hay' areas around the course which has given a nice backdrop to an urban environment. On top of this it has created definition and increased golfer challenge. What it has also done is reduce labour requirements and fuel. Before a lot of these hay areas were introduced the rough cut used to take three days to complete. Now our rough mower is only out there for one and a half days. The challenge then becomes to try and make these areas not to penal so that it slows up play with golfers looking for golf balls. Not an easy thing to do on a parkland, meadow land environment such as here at Ealing.

Hay left of the 14th fairway
What was also good to hear is that the new chipping green that has been implemented was thought by James to be very sustainable. The fact that we used 'poa cores' from our own greens is a much better way of implementing a new green than trying to import new seed or turf off site. Actually he was quite impressed with our greens, which in some peoples eyes are thought of as a weed. Good ball roll smoothness was one thing that he commented on.

James having a putt on our 18th
Poa Cores used as the seedbed

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Controlling moisture during dry periods

Now that we are in to a nice dry period controlling moisture in our greens becomes a priority. During a hot, dry period it is very easy just to switch on the irrigation system and overwater the greens. If you did this not only would the agronomics be affected but from a playability view point, the ball tends to 'snake' along instead of rolling smoothly. At Ealing we have a number of tools such as a weather station that gives us the information to allow us to make informed decisions on watering. However there was a tool that came out several years ago which really changed the way we water. It's called a moisture meter!

Our Fieldscout TDR300
We use the Fieldscout  TDR100 and 300 to measure moisture content in the greens. Our Course Manager was out this morning measuring every green to see how each is performing. A Fieldscout uses Time Domain Reflectometry technology. It basically sends a signal between two probes which then converts to a percentage. The higher the percentage the more resistance which means more moisture.

At Ealing because our greens are clay based (fine particles) we will have a lot higher readings that say a sand based green (medium/coarse particles). The figure that we are trying to reach are between 30 and 35%. If they go below the greens tend to get crusty and hydrophobic. Above and they get soft with the ball plugging. From the figures below 12 greens were in the correct zone this morning with 7 under and none over. We will now tweak those 7 greens to try and bring up their percentages slightly. During periods such as this we will take a single green reading daily (2nd green) and all 18 three to four times per week. Another tool which allows us to maximise our greens performance!

Moisture Readings Saturday 21st June
Watering some dry areas

Friday, 30 May 2014

Construction to the Chipping Green begins!

Over the last 2 weeks we have been working on our new chipping green project. So far all the trees in the area (apart from the Yew tree) have been cleared, rootballs removed, green has been shaped and drainage,gravel carpet and rootzone added. It has been an intense period and the weather hasn't been to kind, but we are quite happy with progress so far. Constructing any new project takes careful planning and all stages has to go in sequence. As the area is tight manoeuvrability can be hard, so taking our time making sure everything is done right is our number one priority. It pays long term to do so.

Over the bank holiday weekend drainage was installed along with a 'gravel carpet' at a 100mm depth and rootzone at 250mm. It is the backbone behind the greens performance and allows water movement to be controlled. This weekend we will be adding the irrigation system and shaping the surrounds. Once this is completed we hope to apply the poa cores on Monday, with turfing of the surrounds following soon afterwards. We then enter the 'grow in' stage when the count down begins to our opening date of early September. It will be intense but well worth it!

Trees to be removed

Tree Surgeons felling trees

The Church appears!

Spoil added

Green is 'cored out'

Ricky and Olly 'shaper' discussing design

Drainage added

Gravel Carpet at 100mm depth

Rootzone at 250mm depth

Friday, 23 May 2014

TP Tour Comes to Ealing!

Last Monday the TP Tour came to Ealing to play the 2nd London Pairs Tournament. This was held for the first time last year and features up and coming pro's and amateurs, as well as established tour processionals. It was a fourball better ball tournament with 38 pairs playing 18 holes, with the top 6 scores going in to a 4-hole 'shoot out'! Defending Champions James Heath and Adam Gee successfully defended their title. It was good to see as they are both former winners of our Ealing Scratch Open and always good supporters of the golf club.

For the agronomy team it was a good chance for us to show off our golf course. Many long hours went in to this event and the feedback from the players was excellent. The course was well defined and greens were running at 13.25 feet. Our own Course Manager and Director of Golf played as a team. They even complained that the uphill putts seemed fast!

Greens running at 13.25feet

Attention to detail
Even the ducks liked it!
Greenkeeping team hard at it

It was a beautiful day

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Chipping Green Project Commences 19th May

Last week it was confirmed that our new chipping green would proceed with construction set to start week commencing the 19th May. Over the last few years it is a project that has gathered pace and we are keen to implement this straight away now that funding has been agreed. The design has been jointly done by Weller Design and our own Pro, Ricky Willison. The area that has been agreed on is the new clearance on the way to the 9th tee. Space is tight with the whole area only totally just over 600m2, but we feel with careful thought and design we will get a top playing surface that we desire!

The project is being managed by our Course Manager Greg Evans and underwritten by our present Captain and immediate past Captain. Because the area is tight and light will be an issue we have decided to install it to full USGA specifications but with a twist! Instead of the industry norm of turf or seed being used we will be 'coring' a couple of our existing greens and using those cores as the seedbed. It is something that we did a couple of years ago with our turf nursery and worked a treat.

The aim is to construct and build mid-May with the cores going down early June. As we plan to open the area for the autumn meeting in September it will give us 3 months to grow in and open to a top standard.  The specification for the area is as follows:

  • Green size 296m2
  • Surround size 331m2
  • Green to be built to full USGA specifications which consists of a 100mm gravel carpet with 300mm of predominately sand sitting on top
  • Whole area to be fully irrigated and drained
  • 50mm 'sand cap' will be used on the surrounding area, with rye turf
  • Path to be widened from 1 to 2metres
  • 9th gate to be moved from its existing position 5 metres further up the footpath making the walk from the 8th green to 9th tee straighter
At present we are thinking of adding a small bunker but there are some safety issues attached to this. We will decided once rough shaping has taken place.

It is a small but exciting project for us. As usual it has many challenges but is something that we enjoy. Our aim is to produce a chipping green which is of the same standard as the main greens if not better. We will do update blogs throughout the project. All that we hope for is that the weather is kind!

Friday, 2 May 2014

First Major of the Year - Spring Meeting!

As we approach our first major of the year the course has really taken shape over the last month. This is always a funny time of year for the greenstaff as we are finishing winter snagging jobs whilst getting the course ready for the playing season. In April our cutting regimes intensified with greens going from two to three cuts up to daily. Also other areas such as fairways have increased from once a week to three times. Heights of cuts have come down with greens now cut at our summer height of 2mm. We are getting lots of compliments at the moment which is always nice to hear.

For the weekend the main focus will be on the greens. Instead of just cutting they will be rolled as well. It will increase the speed from a daily stimp meter reading of 11 feet up to 12 or beyond. Smoothness will also increase and having just done a smoothness test we are happy that we have hit our first 10 out of 10 for the season. Pin positions will be a bit tougher and it will certainly feel like a major. It's always nice when the spring meeting comes along as for EGC it signals the start of the playing season!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Spring Drainage Works at EGC

The last two weeks have been very intense at EGC. Last week all the greens,tees,approaches and collars were given their spring renovations. The main focus of the week was aeration and sanding with the greens receiving 40tonnes on their own. This week the intensity went up another level and 380 metres of drainage was installed in to the 15th fairway and snagging areas on the 1st,8th and 11th holes. This is part of our overall drainage programme which is into its second year now. With this work completed we now have 13 fairways and approaches which we consider 'acceptable' in extreme weather. Work is planned to the second fairway in the autumn and in year 4 all fairways should be up to standard.

The pictures below give you an idea of the work which took place. We did 850metres over the week and with the 800metres last autumn, it has been a good winter. The work consisted of turf cutting the turf off, trenching out the drain lines, backfilling with sand, consolidating and finally putting the turf back on. It was a great team effort and once these areas settle down secondary drainage will be installed with a gravel bander.

Marking out the 15th approach
Gully pots going in to the 15th fairway

Turfcutting the areas

Trenching away
Checking levels

Pipe laid
Nice clay sub base in 15th green

Sand backfilled
Finished product

Gully pot installed
Marking out irrigation lines

Turf back on

Trenching across the 15th fairway

We needed some help!

382metres installed in the 15th fairway in 3 days

Marking out the 8th approach

View up the 1st fairway

1st fairway finished

Turf cut off the 8th green
Nice to know the aeration/spiking programme is working!

Typical greenkeepers!
Trench finish on the 8th green

Consolidating the sand

It's not suppose to be enjoyable

8th Approach all finished