It’s apparent to all of us that the condition of our course has gone backwards over the last few weeks and I thought it important to communicate quickly, clearly and frankly with all members on this topic.
Firstly, I’d like to offer my thanks to those members who have taken the time to offer feedback in the last few days, both constructive and negative. It’s very encouraging to see such active participation amongst our members and please be assured, that although it’s impossible to answer every communication individually, all communications are read, noted and assessed by relevant Club Management, Council Members and Trustees.
Please forgive the length of this document, but it’s an important matter and there’s a lot to cover.
Let’s start by talking about the weather, because it impacts on almost every aspect of what our greenkeepers try to do with the course.
I’m pretty sure we’re all thoroughly fed up with the poor weather and the amount of rain we’ve suffered these last two months. It’s been a horrible summer and the rainfall has been excessive. We don’t have a links course; so, whether we like it or not, drainage will be an issue when it rains so hard and for so long. Personally, I could probably count fewer than 6 or 7 occasions when we’ve been able to play a full day this year without some form of rain interruption.
It’s been so heavy and persistent in recent weeks we’ve had to ban buggies and even have a temporary green at the 16th for a few days. We know it’s tough if you depend on a buggy, but we have to take decisions for the long-term good of the course and all members.
Whilst the rain has an impact, it seems there have also been aspects of decision making this season that require checking and the club will be reviewing to see how this can be improved.
Let’s Turn to a few specific subjects:
We cored the greens a couple of weeks ago in line with our annual course maintenance plan. It’s obvious they haven’t recovered quickly and the lack of any sunshine at all in the 2 weeks since coring makes it impossible to predict when they will be back as good as we’d like to see them for this time of year.
With the Scott and Labinjoh Medal Finals being scheduled to play after the coring; hindsight suggests (and we all have 20-20 vision with hindsight) the coring would have been better to take place after the finals. Then again, we’ve cored at that time of the year previously and the greens recovered quickly because the weather was better. Core later, and we run the risk of it taking even longer for them to recover.
It’s not an option not to core, our greens would suffer in the longer term and I believe we can see the benefits of this programme which has been running for 11 years. We have more ability to play golf all year round.
That said, discussion will take place with the Head Greenkeeper, Course Agronomist and me in terms of the timing of next year’s maintenance.
Staying with the greens, I wrote to everyone some weeks back after carrying out an experiment with our Head Greenkeeper and our agronomist, Ronnie Lumsden.
Whilst the experiment was a success, and I believe we did the right thing in keeping everyone informed, the harsh reality is that with the amount of rainfall since then, our greenkeepers have not had an opportunity to implement the revised cutting regime for the greens.
In summary, for as much as the greens have struggled since the recent coring; when taking a balanced view throughout our entire season, our greens have been pretty good, sometimes excellent and the subject of much praise; at least up to the point where the levels of rainfall started to influence what Scott and his staff could do.
This seems to have been a popular topic this year amongst members. You cannot fail to have noticed that the rough has been allowed to grow longer in some areas of the course.
For example; the entire area to the rear of the 8th green and 9th tee was left to grow wild. In addition, the area on the left hand side of the 8th (at the bottom of the slope and before the trees) and which also borders the 9th was also left to grow longer. There are issues along the right hand side of the 2nd, 4th, 11th, 14th, 16th and 17th.
Other areas of rough were also allowed to grow thicker and longer than in previous seasons.
This was a conscious decision and the time saved in not cutting these areas regularly was devoted to shaping the course in greater detail in areas such as the approaches to, and, the fringes around the greens.
However, the constant wet weather has meant the rough has turned out to be more penal than envisioned.
Recent (and valued) feedback from members would suggest that some of our members were happy with the decision to allow some areas of the rough to grow like this, however, a large number of members were not.
This decision on the rough will be reviewed in detail now that our season has all but ended as it’s vital we retain an overall balance throughout the course and not just certain areas. I will let you know the plans for the 2018 season.
By and large, our fairways have stood up well throughout the summer relevant to the amount of water they’ve had to cope with.
The 9th and 10th at present are struggling and undoubtedly look scruffy at present. This is an area that historically has always struggled and it’s being assessed at the moment with a view to doing additional drainage work as part of the winter programme.
In the immediate short term, we’ll be asking our greens staff to do everything they can to help the greens recover from the recent coring work and even today, we’re seeing an improvement since the weekend, it’s great what some dry weather can do!
With regards the rough, instead of waiting for Autumn to take its course, the greenkeepers will be cutting back some of the excess rough in the next few days and they are also working to better define the first cut area between fairway and rough. The constant wet weather means we should not continue with the rough as it has been.
In the next 4 weeks or so, details will be released of the planned winter maintenance programme with a view to keeping all members informed.
With regards the longer term, our Greens Convenor Alan Douglas is working to prepare a document for release to the members that will lay out, in advance, the plans for the course set up for the 2018 season. This is not something that has been done previously but will be released as soon as it is completed.
Beyond that, Alan has also formed a new sub committee that is working to assess and dissect a proposed 10-year plan for Harburn from the agronomist and course architect Ronnie Lumsden. The committee comprises representatives from all sections of our club and includes our Club Champion Sid Curran, our Seniors Captain Gordon Cameron, our Ladies Captain Janet Hardie, our Vice Captain Jim Stewart and Head Greenkeeper Scott Ramsay. The B and C Class champions have also been invited to participate. I will also now take an active role within this subcommittee in my role as Club Manager.
This committee aims to prepare and release a document that will set our plans and ambitions for the course for the next 5 to 10 years and will cover items such as course standard scratch, visual aspects, hole improvements and health and safety. It will also work to standards created in a Course Policy Document.
In closing this particular communication, I would again reiterate my thanks to those members who have taken the time to provide their thoughts and feedback.
There has been a natural sense of disappointment of late that the course condition has reversed somewhat, but be assured, it’s noted at all levels of Club Management and our greens staff share the same sense of frustration and will be doing what they can to battle the weather and get things a little better.
I promise nobody will shy away from the work that is required to bring the golf course back to the standard we all deserve.
Our greenkeepers take enormous pride in their work, some of them also play regularly and they too acknowledge the standard is not to the level they are normally able to prepare the course to.
I have had conversations with the greenkeepers over the last two days and have set in motion change which will hopefully see the start of improvements.
You should start to see areas of semi rough throughout the course, the greens improving in terms of aesthetics (i.e. less sand) the tees becoming tidier and the approaches and aprons improving. The only caveat I will put on this is the weather holding for a few days to allow this work to make these improvements.
If anyone has any other comments please contact me by email, telephone or personally at the club where I will be more than happy to listen and take your points on board.
Please don’t vent your frustration at the greenkeepers, it’s unfair on them and my shoulders are broad enough to take any feedback, good or bad.