As the first puddles start to appear on the green after two days of continual rain it serves as a reminder that we have survived the rigours of the temperamental early season end of last winter, enjoyed a reasonable summer, though patchy, and had a pleasant September into October where golf at its most enjoyable was still possible.
However, mother nature might be suggesting that whatever we have done to our golf courses to prepare for a wet, windy, frosty, frozen (or maybe even dry) winter will hopefully pay dividends and allow members to spend their time on the golf course at their leisure, instead of looking wistfully out of the window with the only golf being on the TV.
From the visits around the country, it was clear that many clubs had works planned for further or greater drainage, lots of tree clearance which seems to be the popular though expensive trend at the moment and further laying of pathways. Most agronomists will agree that tree reduction, removal of lower limbs for ease of maintenance, clearance of overgrown or scrub areas but with sensible allowance for natural areas to remain for the benefit of all sorts of wildlife, is of extremely high value to allow the circulation of air and opening up surfaces to light. Greens fairways and tees especially will benefit from this. The managers and captains that I have played with throughout the year have all pointed out the works being done on their courses, showing where the tree or scrub line was only a few years ago and is now several yards advanced. The fight back has started with a vengeance!
I have also seen many courses where heather redevelopment is taking place, and the final result will in some cases be startling. Severe groundwork was often showing results even early season, and the delights of trying to get the ball out of well-developed heather bands will give cause for some interesting conversations in times to come.
For the record, it has been a real pleasure to play at the many courses where regions have held their meetings this year, and also several others on my way back and forth from Hastings. I wish to give a huge vote of thanks to all managers who have willingly invited me, sometimes accompanied by my wife, to play their wonderful courses. The variation of styles of courses in this country is what makes golf so interesting – I have played 48 different courses to date. I am pleased to report that with those still to play I shall have played at least 52 since March 1. To be lucky enough to say I played over one course a week in 2014 is something I shall never forget. I cannot believe that my handicap actually came down this year from 9.0 to 6.9 at present. Quite how that happened is a mystery!
As we move in to the more social scene at most golf clubs, I hope that all members fully support your efforts to provide them with excellent service and entertainment, and that the hard work put in by managers and committees alike is well rewarded and reflected in good returns on bar and catering, but above all by excellent word of mouth reports by members to others who might be interested in joining your club. This cannot be beaten for its effect. If there are grumbles or discontent by members, it needs us to sort out who, when and why, and try to eradicate the cause. Let’s face it – we need to work in and enjoy a happy environment in the club, and it can certainly only be achieved by seriously looking at all aspects we can improve. Just imagine – all members with a smile on their face!
By John Smith