Some areas of the course are suffering more than others, I have documented that we have had the worst winter for some time but the issue at this time of the year is the grass isnt growing to recover from any damage. The greens are a real point of contention at the moment, understandably so as golfers are keen to play golf and take advantage of the lengthening days. Play on the greens has and is heavily restricted at the moment due to the incredible amount of wet weather we have had. There are several points to consider when deeming the greens fit for play and the factors which effect the condition of them during wet weather.
Drainage- Drainage is one of the most important areas for consideration when trying to maintain and present good playing surfaces, good drainage gives firm and dry surfaces which are easier to maintain but also satisfy golfers demands and expectations. The greens at Malton and Norton have no drainage installed, are built of the natural soil and are irregularly shaped leading to collection points. When the course was built, the demand for a 12 month golfing season was less, there would have been less demand for quality playing surfaces during winter and therefore the maintenance needed was less. Unfortunately the current weather patterns, coupled with the demand for golf at this time of year is not a great combination for over used, wet soils. To improve the general use of the summer greens during poor conditions we could install a comprehensive drainage system to each and every green on the course, unfortunately this would be very expensive, and something that is simply not affordable at the current time. Some greens are blessed with more free draining soils from the site, such as the 26th, however some like the 16th and 17th are constructed of very heavy soils which will not drain at all well. These greens are only 40 yards apart, however their characteristics are very different.
Shape-Shape has less significance than drainage however can be a factor which leads to detrimental wear if the wrong conditions prevail. Such as the 10th green, it is shaped poorly, leading to collection points where water tends to sit. Excess water and high frequency of 'wetness' will deteriorate the turf, if wear from maintenance or foot traffic was added to the equation the turf would be damaged permanently Other factors, such as access to and from the green/ tee has to be monitored, traffic management aids are used help us spread wear and increase safety.
Weather patterns- The weather obviously is what makes or breaks the condition of the course, the staff plan and implement the maintenance as best practice on an annual basis, however we often have to adapt our strategies to suit the weather. The weather will do what the weather will, annually we monitor the condition of all aspects of the course and focus on the areas which need priority. The greens are of highest priority and have the most money and time spent on them. If the weather is wet we need to protect them from long term damage. The soil needs to have a balance of moisture and air for the grass to grow healthily. Too much moisture during winter the soil reaches saturation point ( where there are no air air spaces and physically cant hold any more water), leading to surface puddling. Foot traffic on the turf at this point would create instability and damage to the root structure. This is why we use the winter greens. If that moisture in the soil then freezes, there is a high chance of permanent root and/or tissue damage, caused by root shear or crushing of leaf tissue during play.
I appreciate this means very little when when golfers simply want to get out on to the course to play and enjoy Malton and Norton. However the decision whether to play on the greens or not is not taken lightly, we more than anyone want the course to be at its best. The decisions are based on the long term playability, and plans are in place to improve the drainage characteristics of certain areas. In the meantime we are going to continue to use the winter cups when necessary. As these are being more common we are putting more work into improving the areas where they are placed. This is going to come at a cost. Time and materials will have to be used, as we do on the greens and surrounding areas. Aeration, sanding and fertilisation will be needed to ensure the turf can withstand the winter wear that they will face. This will not change them dramatically this winter however we hope over the next few winters they will show some improvements. I will stress and reiterate previous comments I have made on this blog, the winter cups are only a means to keep the course open.
There are some areas on the course which are really deteriorating due to the poor conditions, fortunately these are well out of normal play areas, generally between tree lines and at the outer edges of tees and green complexes. The time and money that would be needed to improve these areas isn't an effective use of the resources we have, when the areas I have previously spoken about, need work first. Below are a few examples of areas we are struggling with the most.