How to Save Your Golf Course This Winter
Your golf club needs your help. It goes without saying that winter can be a pressured time of year for clubs as they look to maintain revenues, presenting an acceptable product for members and visitors, while ensuring that their course is ready and in great shape for the main peak season to come in the summer.
We should always be mindful of doing our part to maintain the course, but this is especially true for winter, when the weather conditions become challenging across the British Isles. Quality cold weather apparel and a desire to get the most from annual memberships has encouraged more golfers to continue playing for 12 months a year, but that raises vital questions for our clubs as they look to find the right balance.
The added difficulties of winter for golfers have often been featured, but what about the greenkeepers and those charged with looking after your local course?
There are commonsense things that we can all adopt, changing our habits and being even more considerate of the environment around us. But what are the specific points to remember?
For a bit of added insight, Adam Matthews, the Course Manager at Moor Allerton in Yorkshire, has kindly shared his thoughts on ten things that we can all do to protect our precious golf courses throughout the winter months.
Carry If You Can
Carrying your clubs reduces the amount of wear created by trolleys, especially around greens, tees and walkways where the ground is often raised. This saves a lot of time and money in the spring having to repair and often re-seed and turf damaged areas.
This is important all year round, but even more so during the winter months where often surfaces are a little softer than they are in summer and pitch marks become more common. With temperatures reducing recovery, if not repaired straight away the marked area of the green will often die, and this creates the perfect space for moss and disease to encroach.
Using Winter Mats
Many courses will ask golfers to consider using mats on fairways and certain tees that are particularly open to divot taking, like many par 3s. This is purely down to the lack of growth and recovery in winter months. Again, it’s a huge time saver in the spring for the green staff and also allows the surfaces to be the best they can be earlier in the season. It can also help playability for the golfer when playing shots from a waterlogged surface.
Obeying Traffic Management
Greenkeepers will often direct golfers away from certain areas of the course that may have become waterlogged or unfit for play. This can be done by roping/fencing off areas or simply painting lines on the turf. It’s really important these are followed not only to protect the golf course but also sometimes for the safety of the golfer.
The hardest part of a course manager’s job is making decisions that benefit the golf club and the golfer. We’re all on the same team and in winter our job is to provide the best possible playing conditions we can while also protecting your asset, and making sure the course will be ready for the next season.
Greenkeepers can be affected as much as golfers, and sometimes the ground conditions limit the amount of machinery and equipment we can use. Many jobs take longer than they do in the summer and often course set up can be delayed due to heavy ground/frost/fog etc.
While the ideal time to get any course upgrades/improvements done is the summer, it’s often counterproductive for a golf club having areas of the course closed off during the season. Many greenkeepers are forced to carry out vital maintenance/projects throughout the winter months.
Support the Club
While the golf window is reduced in winter, many clubs take a hit financially if the course is forced to close due to the weather. Golfers can still support the club by still using the catering and pro shop facilities.
Knocking off any excess debris from your shoes before walking into the green is really helpful and stops any damage to the green and greens mower. Bunker management in winter is extremely difficult so please bear with your team as sometimes bunkers are GUR or not raked due to a wet forecast.
If your greens team have a blog or a social media account, then follow them to get an insight into what they are doing daily to manage the golf course. Greenkeepers don’t drink tea and play darts in the winter! They are often maintaining and servicing a vast amount of machinery that your club own or planning ways in which they can reduce and limit turf diseases in a climate whereby many products available in the past have now been taken from the market.
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