WILL SOMEONE please change the record? The last two weeks of December were the wettest ever, followed hard by the wettest January and most recently the worst February. Weather records are there to be broken but surely not annually?
For golfers and golf clubs alike it has been maddening. Caerleon Golf Club in Newport recently announced that, since December 22nd, it has received £2.50 worth of income following the sale of one bucket of balls for its driving range. The famous Aberdovey course in North Wales has lost some 20’ feet of its 12th green as Britain’s battered coastline suffered more coastal erosion than was expected to occur in a generation.
At Ashdown, at the time of writing, the Old Course has been open for eight days in 2014. The problem has been that we have simply had so much rain that the soil has become totally saturated (see photographs above and below.) Even on rare fine days there has not been time for the soil to dry out and even a light overnight shower soaks it all over again.
Some clubs that have opened and are not on fast draining soil have been doing untold damage to their course as footfall only pushes the turf down into the soil during these sodden conditions. Very soon the soil has worked its way onto the top of the turf and the grass dies. This plays havoc not only with the greens but soil lying on top of fairways has a detrimental effect on drainage as well as becoming slippery and dangerous to walk on.
Different areas at Ashdown are affected in different ways depending on the clay content of the soil, which can vary greatly from one area to another. In the winter months the roots are taking up very little, if any, water so that it takes less rain to cause a problem than it would in the drier summer months. Factor in the deluge hammering down since mid December and it is easy to see why closure has been sadly inevitable.
And there is some good news! Because there has been no footfall wearing out the old grass the greens will certainly be in a better state than last year. What we must all hope for now, given the mild temperatures that have promoted growth sufficient to warrant the Old Course greens being mown on February 24th, is that the bitingly cold East winds often experienced in March are infrequent.
However, even when both courses are open again, it will be a while before trolleys are allowed as the ground is still extremely treacherous- the green keepers even had to dig out a wheelbarrow when clearing out a ditch on the West Course, that became lodged in the mud.
And, as Chairman of Greens, Ted Rose says, ‘Rest assured that the green staff are just as impatient to have both courses open as much as all the members are.’ For all of us that cannot come too quickly.