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!