Devil's Bit Scabious
Work is underway to re-establish heather across the golf course as part of a broader landscape restoration. The course is managed in such a way as to promote the heathland characteristics encouraging native flora and fauna including fine fescue grasses. Acidic grassland is a rare habitat of value that can support a variety of invertebrates and birds. Recognised wildflowers such as the Devil’s Bit Scabious (Bracknell Forest Biodiversity Action plan species) and native Harebells can be found amongst the heather and roughs. A tree management program is vital in re-establishing the heathland. Over time the course has been colonised by more trees as part of natural succession. Birch are naturally pioneers colonising the ground in the early stages and followed by pine and oak. Many examples of this can been seen around the course. The golf club is working in partnership with The National Trust in sourcing heather turf and seed from a nearby heathland site to supplement the heather expansion on the course. Two donor sites, Simon’s Wood and Finchampstead Ridges have been ear marked. As part of their ongoing management of these areas heather must be stripped allowing the natural regeneration of heather.
Cutting Heather Turf
Heather turf harvested from areas of the course has been placed around the new bunkers creating an established look and feel. The carry in front of the 9th tee has been stripped to allow this area to regenerate from seed. A small fence will be erected along the edge of the path and through the bottom of the new ditch or ‘Haha’ short of the front bunker. This is not a drainage ditch as many people have suggested but will (hopefully) stop people from entering the area with trolleys. It is important to note the heather will take a few years to establish and is not a ‘quick fix’ – nature can not be rushed!
Work to the 11th fairway
Work to the bunkers has progressed well with the contractors having completed shaping and soiling to the 9th, 10th, and 11th fairway. They are scheduled to move to the 12th green on Friday, with the aim of completing this work by the end of the weekend. Once again the weather will play a crucial role in all of this! Heather has been placed around selected bunkers along with 700 squared metres of turf which arrived at 630am on Wednesday. The turf is delivered to site from Grantham (Lincolnshire) and laid within 24 hours of being harvested. The organisation and planning required should not be underestimated!. The 7th has now been tufted and marked as G.U.R. These bunkers have also been roped off to protect the areas untill the turf has rooted. A small opening has been left as an entry point to retrieve golf balls.
- Completed bunker
Some people have asked why the turf is not trimmed around the inside of the bunkers. The answer to this is as the turf establishes and roots in along the edge it shrinks slightly which would result in the new edges crumbling. Once the turf has settled in the remaining turf will be cut back to a neat edge. The plan for next week is plant heather around the 9th bunkers and complete another 7oo squared metres of turf by Thursday. Elsewhere on the course the long rough has been cut and debris removed using our leaf vac. This is an essential part of grassland management which encourages wild flower regeneration and indigenous grasses, whilst removing the coarser grass and thus keeping the rough wispy. As we have experienced a sharp drop in temperature ( -4 last night) and several early morning frosts growth across the golf course has dropped off reducing mowing frequency.
Aeration is essential in managing and producing decent playing surfaces throughout the year. With higher demands and expectations from members golf is a 365 day a year sport come rain, snow or shine. Here at East Berkshire we have old traditional clay ‘push up’ greens which were built to hold onto water in the summer.
Drainage performance was not vital as little golf was played during the winter. By its very nature clay is prone to compaction which results in poor soil structure. As the soil structure deteriorates pore space is reduced and this has direct consequences on air/water movement and root growth. As compaction increases a downward spiral develops: bents and fescue grasses diminish, the rate of surface drainage decreases and greens sit wet in winter. Waterlogged conditions create further problems for growth of the desirable species. It is worth noting that roots grow in the spaces between soil particles and not ‘in’ the soil itself. There are various forms of aeration which include hollow coring, solid, star, slit and chisel tines. With the advancement in modern machinery regular aeration can be carried out quickly with little disturbance to the putting surface.
Questions have been received asking – why hasn’t the ‘Rolling’ watering system been in use during the prolonged spells of dry weather.
There are a number of reasons so the answer is divided into two parts –
Part 1 – Watering System
a) The ‘rolling’ unit is over ten years old and some of the valves have seized up. We also do not have the pipe connectors any more and due to age it would be difficult to source replacements;
b) It is unable provide a structured watering system that is conducive modern agronomy techniques – see Part 2 below;
c) Over watering will kill off new ‘fine’ grasses and encourage the wrong grasses (broad leaf);
d) It is not generally a golf course method of watering. It is more intended for farms and open area sports fields, therefore not fit for purpose;
e) It might be regarded as unacceptable to use watering during a drought when we are all supposed to cut right back. We are on public view to people who walk across the course;
f) Our water comes direct from the mains supply so the costs to the Club are prohibitive;
g) It is intrusive to players on the course if it was in operation and there are no controls if it was left on overnight;
h) It would have made little difference to the fairways and the overriding factor is, we did not want to upset a carefully planned programme of developing our new grasses which are now making good progress – refer to Part 2.
Part 2 – Fairway Seeding
We have continued our work on improving the grass coverage on the fairways through overseeding, using pure fescue seed. We have chosen a mix of 3 fescue species each of which provide different beneficial characteristics.
• Festuca rubra ssp. Musica (Chewings fescue) – Very high wear tolerance, high resistance to disease and adapted to drier, infertile soils.
• Festuca rubra ssp. Herald (Strong creeping red fescue) – Due to its larger rhizomes an excellent grass for colonising barer areas of fairway.
• Festca rubra ssp. Helena (Slender creeping red fescue) – Medium rhizomes which enable this grass to spread and cover barer areas whilst maintaining a high wear tolerance.
The optimum time for overseeding is mid September, while the soil temperature is still high but the chance of heat stress is reduced. The early morning due will produce enough moisture in the ground to enable seed germination and the odd shower will also help. A common cause of failure or unsatisfactory establishment of seedlings is “damping-off”. This is a seedling disease which is usually most common when the soil is too wet, too cold and a deficiency in plant nutrients. Again the weather in September “should” be ideal.
Improving the sward on the fairways is an on-going process through introducing more and more desirable grass (Fescues) that are much more wear and drought tolerant. This will not only improve the quality but also reduce the need for watering through wetting agents implanted into the ground. This overseeding programme coupled with the hollowcoring work in early April are essential to top high quality playing surfaces year round.
We have made a significant investment in new modern technology when it comes to seed and fertilisers. It is also the reason for carrying out tree work as part of our tree management programme to give more light and air flow to encourage these grasses. It takes a little time to see the real benefits but you can be assured the fairways will recover and continue improving.
The third and final phase of the bunker work started last Monday. The contractors have made good progress with the shaping work being completed on the 7th and 8th. This is in no small part due to the decent weather we experienced over the weekend, fingers crossed it continues!. The 8th has seen some major changes with a number of trees being thinned/removed, the green complex remodeled and pond created to the left of the fairway. The comments and feed back so far has been positive.
Elsewhere on the course it has been business as usual keeping the course mowed and presented nicely. The fairways have responded to the over seeding and folia feed applied in September with many areas having filled in well. Again the weather has helped with decent soil temps and moisture aiding seed germination. The tees have received a feed this week which will keep them tickling along as we head into October.
7th Greenside Bunkers
8th Greenside Bunker Complex
Pond on 8th