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Course Manager Blog January 2024

11th January 2024

Course Managers blog January 2024

Happy New Year to you all from the Sand Martins Greenkeeping team.

2023 Review

Last year was an incredibly wet year for the course and unfortunately, in 2023 we broke a record that we didn’t really want to. Sadly, we received 952mm of rain making it the wettest year on record by over 120mm.

Our 2nd wettest year on record was in 2020 Where 826mm fell, it certainly felt like we were going to break records with the volume rain days, especially when our driest month on record was February (7mm).

Almost every month with the exception of April and May we received above average rainfall.

This only really became a challenge for the course in the last 6 weeks of 2023 (when the water table reached capacity), with closures and restrictions enforced at times.

Unbelievably, we have already had 55mm of rain in the first part of 2024. We are grateful for the dry period currently…

With that said, 2023 was another great year here at Sand Martins – our major tournament month, June was great with warm and well-timed rainfall, we were able to present the course to a high standard with it playing very well.

July and August on the other hand, were uncharacteristically wet with both months hitting 3 figures on the rainfall chart, in between the showers it remained warm with the course still playing very well.

This resulted in fantastic growing conditions for grass, with all surfaces producing amazing density and grass coverage. Our mowing regimes intensified so we could stay on top of growth rates, fairways for example required 3 to 4 cuts per week. We utilised PGR (Growth regulators) as we normally would but with growth rates being so high PGR efficacy and longevity were greatly reduced compared to what we would normally expect, this meant that reapplication was required sooner – to give you an idea – it costs around £1,500 (per application) to apply a PGR, iron, and urea on our fairways alone.

18th Fairway

15th Fairway

Greens performed very well throughout the summer with consistent speeds and smoothness.

This was achieved through regular mowing, top dressing, aerating, brushing, and rolling. The transition to a more disease tolerant grass species (overseeding with Bent Grass) is going well, the challenge is to maintain smooth surfaces, true ball roll and speed throughout the year whilst we complete the process. Conditions in July & August (as mentioned above) increased disease pressure (especially on poa annua – which we have) at a time that we would not normally expect – another reason why we are completing this process.

The first week of August we completed our summer renovation process on greens and collars. We hollow cored greens with 13mm hollow tines to a depth of approximately 65mm or 2.5” to remove excess OM (organic matter) from the profile. Organic matter is a combination of grass clippings & debris left over from mowing. It also builds up via water & fertiliser applications.

Some organic matter is important within the profile, too much has a negative effect and is where nutrients & water get trapped/locked up, not enough OM and the profile stability is affected, and leaching will occur.

We target between 5 – 6% OM within the top 25mm of our greens profile. Soil samples were taken in the Spring, our results indicated that we had between 5.2% – 6.5% OM across the 21 greens, which is the reason we managed the greens in this way. Regular top dressings throughout the year are vital to dilute organic matter, as well as keeping the surfaces firm, free draining and smooth.

We plan to top dress weekly once again through the playing season in 2024 – little and often is the key.

1st Green

To complete our renovation, we overseeded greens as we have in the previous 3 years with Creeping Bent Grass – Pure Distinction has excellent disease and drought tolerance. It continues to be harder to manage disease and drought conditions (chemical strength & efficacy and water restrictions).

We will continue to ‘future proof’ our greens in this way. When we overseeded, the weather was in our favour and the seed germinated after just 6 days (wet and warm does have some benefits).

All in all, a very successful renovation week – many thanks for your patience during the process.

Overseeding Lines Visible (Top putting green)

We have completed repair works to bunker tops that perished during the start of the year (April & May) when ironically it was reasonably windy and warm.

We plan to continue repairing bunker tops until the early part of 2024.

The weeks/months ahead

We will replace steps on the 7th tee in the coming weeks and we will (as in previous years) canopy lift all the tree plantations throughout the course.

We will be installing new ball washer and bin consoles; this will be completed in stages during the year. We will be re locating these to more convenient positions to aid the flow of golf through the course.

During the depths of winter, we swap from our shallow aeration machine (Procore) to a verti draining greens, deep tine aeration – the first pass was completed in late November. We will complete this process again, week commencing 22nd January, and then again during our Spring maintenance.

This vert-drain machine creates a similar diameter hole to the procore but penetrates much deeper, usually down to approximately 8 inches. This process helps infiltration of rainwater through the profile whilst also releasing locked up nutrients and oxygen.

12th Green

All greens, tees and approaches have had an application of a winter granular fertiliser which included Iron – this will help keep these areas as healthy as possible until the spring when temperatures begin to rise.

The Iron provides a nice green colour to the turf and will help stunt any growth of moss from these wetter months.

In the coming weeks, we will be taking soil samples and creating a nutritional plan for the season ahead – this will also be used to plan for what process’s we use during course maintenance weeks.

The Machinery fleet is being serviced, sharpened, and prepared for the season – we have placed orders for our new machinery, these will be delivered in the Spring. We have ordered a tractor and a dedicated sprayer to replace like for like in our current fleet – this investment exceeds £150K.

Machinery prices have increased substantially since the pandemic – we are very fortunate that our owners support our plans regarding machinery and course improvement projects.

Course Improvements

The excess rainfall highlighted a couple of areas that have sat exceptionally wet, the 3rd and 5th fairways. We have begun investigations into fixing the current drainage and have also begun the process where we have contacted drainage contractors should we require new drainage in these areas.

In February our construction projects are set to begin, Profusion who we have worked with for many years now will be rebuilding bunkers on holes 9 and 13 following the plans drawn up by our architect David Jones, which are in line with our 5-year vision.

Profusion will also be installing 3 more Lifetime tees, the plan is to build these tees on the 1st, 7th & 9th holes, completing the front 9’s Lifetime tees.

With favourable weather Profusion will be improving the 2nd pond – the pond will be reshaped, have a sleeper edge on the greenside installed, the surrounding area will be regraded, and a new pot bunker will also be installed front right of the green making for a superior playing experience – this is very ground condition dependant.

Whilst all works are carried out there will be temporary greens and potentially hole closures in operation to ensure safety for the contractors – we will communicate this through golf operations.


Last month we said a sad farewell to Michael Georgel – our trainee Greenkeeper. Michael began with us in August 2022 and was fantastic in the team learning his role quickly having never worked on a golf course prior.

We wish Michael all the best with his future endeavours.

Michael’s replacement is a gentleman called Sam Hubbard. Sam started with us on December 18th and has settled in nicely. We will continue training Sam on all daily tasks, when ground conditions allow, we will start training him on machinery use.

Sam Pusey – our trainee Mechanic/Greenkeeper has started his Land Based Engineering course at Berkshire College of Agriculture. Cameron, also a trainee Greenkeeper, will be starting college in the new year.

It is fantastic to see so many of our team on college courses developing their skills.

We wish you all a very happy new year and look forward to seeing out on the course soon.

Keep up to date with course news via our Instagram page – Smgc_greens

Many thanks

Stuart Job
Course Manager

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