The all new Midlands Golfer also has an all new team of local greenkeepers (The Sodfathers) who will be contributing a regular monthly page in the magazine and here too in feature length all about their roles and the trials and tribulations that only this most vital of golf related roles can face them with.

We’ll have detailed and seasonal analysis about the on course work that goes on daily, the challenges that this ever changing profession provides and not to mention the vagaries that the weather throws up too and how our guys cope with that.

The concerning effects of the WHS Recommendations

 

With Dale Housden – Course Manager, Drayton Park GC

(These articles were written at the end of Feb 2022)

The new World Handicap System recommendations are that the golf course has a measured course all year round.

It recommends giving the golfer the ability to register a single complete round (either 9/18) each time they play the course, not just for competition golf but also for social/casual golf too.

Further requirements stipulate that each set of tee markers can be no further or closer than -10/+10 yards from the measured point on each hole with a maximum of 100 yards throughout the entire course. 

How does it affect the golf course set up? 

Tees that are too small are receiving wear that the tee cannot withstand during the winter period and therefore creating worn teeing surfaces. 

When greenstaff are trying to work on a particular area, the pressure has grown to reinstate the area with zero disruption to ensure no length is lost. Temporary rulings/ratings of up to 300 yards can be put in place for a period of time, yet unforeseen circumstances can’t always allow golfers to be notified in advance of the occasional work to be carried out without reducing the course in length for a period of time.

Therefore it may result in a couple of groups who are unknown to be registering their casual card to inadvertently play a lesser course than the measurement suggests. 

How does it affect the golfer?

 

In theory the new WHS requests that everyone registers every round that they play on a course. This would give a truer reflection of their handicap. Some golfers choose to register every round, and some don’t. If a course is not of a measured length, then a returned score of 42/44 pts may not be an accurate reflection of their performance but of a shortened/easier course than suggested by the measurement. 

It’s worth remembering that registering a card for general play has always been possible (for those outside of a category 1 handicap) yet with the new WHS, the EG app and a golf club’s computerised software, it is far easier to enter a score each time you leave the golf course. 

How are golf courses overcoming the consistent ‘measured course’ issue?

 

A measured course can be from anywhere on the course and doesn’t have to be from your main summer tee areas. Ideally yes that would be the case but in most situations summer tees need rest and a separate winter tee needs to be provided, thus creating a ‘measured’ winter course. 

Some courses do not have the luxury of 18 grass tees that can host play 365 days a year. Plus it’s worth adding that even those that are blessed with large grass tees are finding that potential tee areas outside of the recommended -10/+10 yards of the measurement cannot be used, (top picture) Which offers the question, why build a tee larger than 20 yards long? 

Some courses are opting for 18 winter mats from their measured area, but 18 playing mats are not everyone’s flavour, and understandably so. The most proactive of courses have 18 grass tees in an area that is normally vacant and that can host play from Oct – March.

Increased size/amount of teeing areas results in an increase to the greenkeepers budget (top dressing, seed, top dressing and other maintenance procedures.) 

Golf used to be a summer sport with the minority heading out from Nov – Feb. Now with the shift in weather patterns, the sport needs to be accessible 12 months a year which gives very little time for areas to have vital rest & recovery.

So whichever club you are a member of, ask yourself, would you rather register constant rounds from a worn area or register less frequent rounds from a clean, recovered surface? 

The answers will be divided…. Who would be a greenkeeper hey! 

Image 1 – Worn tee area around the measured point. Area at front of tee is further than 10 yards from measured point, so gets little use.

Image 2 – Sign of continued wear at the measured point – Area at the front of tee clean due to little play

INTERLUDE

A kind of relaxed area in our Sodfathers section where we’ll add a few quirky bits of local turfie info and some personal items too, maybe even a bit of news on job vacancies. We’ll see what we get going forward, but this section will always have lots of great images too, as you’ll see here.

Greenkeepers are up with the lark every day as we know. Not easy, but they do get access to the best light conditions of a golfing day, weather permitting.

Therefore the turfies take the finest course shots it’s possible to find, day in, day out. MG scrolls through social media regularly to find the best ones, from the Midlands, and beyond too. Below are a few examples.

A Sodfather on Tour – San Diego, 2022

With Chris Low – Head GK, Walsall GC

February 2022 offered the opportunity for me and nine other turf managers from around the UK to be part of the BIGGA/Bernhard delegation in San Diego.

It gave me a chance to meet new people within the industry and take part in educational seminars which will help me in my career. Day one offered the chance to visit two golf courses (The Crosby Club and Torrey Pines), it really opened my eyes to the scale of operations across the pond. Seeing Torrey Pines the week after the Farmers Insurance Open was a real opportunity of a lifetime.

Education seminars on days two and three gave me chance to audit an irrigation system and increase my knowledge on sand and bunker liner selection. Something which will help on returning to project work back at Walsall Golf Club. Following the education days, the opening ceremony was hosted on the USS Midway with a large scale meet and greet for turf managers. It included a skydiving show and full access to the ship and all military aircrafts on board.

Show days arrived fast with one and a half days to see new equipment and products which will be arriving in the UK soon. Whilst at the show the delegates took it in turns to represent BIGGA on the trade stand. This was a proud moment and gave us the opportunity to tell visitors what the industry was like in the UK and offer membership opportunities.

Once the conference was over, we had some time to attend events hosted by Bernhards, BIGGA, John Deere and Jacobsen. These gave us the chance to catch up with the other delegates and other turf managers from across the world. The final day gave an opportunity to play golf at St Marks Golf Club, followed by an evening watching the San Diego Gulls Ice Hockey team.

All in all, a fantastic experience that I would highly recommend to anyone within the turf management industry. A big thank you to Bernhards and BIGGA for the opportunity.

NEXT TIME – ‘Augusta Syndrome’ – Managing  member expectations vs spring climate with Jon Merchant

Plus – The effect of rising energy costs on running a golf course – with Mal Mitchell 

Our greenkeeping feature is open to all local turfies to contribute to. If you wish to take part email editor@midlandsgolfer.co.uk at any time.

Visit https://www.bigga.org.uk/ for an industry overview and the latest news and greenkeeping job vacancies.