This Month I’ll Be Mostly...
Conducting winter course maintenance and renovations
Jim McKenzie MBE is Celtic Manor's Director of Golf Courses and Estates Management
The winter months are vitally important on the golf courses because the maintenance programmes carried out now determine the condition of our golf courses for the entire year.
Now is the time when we undertake any major renovations because we will be disrupting less play than in the summer months. Then, hopefully we’ll have some good growing weather in the spring for any new areas to bed in.
We’re not making many changes this winter but one thing we will be doing is extending the yellow tees at Holes 15 and 17 on the Twenty Ten Course. As we know, most visiting golfers like to go for the green on the driveable par-four 15th because that’s what the pros did at the Ryder Cup. So we’ll be extending the tee forward to increase their chances of making the carry to the green. We’ll also extend the tee at the par-three 17th simply because, at the moment, it is a very small tee box.
The biggest thing we will be working on is renovating the bunkers. Thanks to a new piece of greenkeeping equipment, we’ve been able to make our top-dressing operation on the fairways, tees and greens much more efficient and keep the golf course open on days when even some links courses in the area have had to close because of this incredible run of wet weather we’ve been having. But the one area where we’ve not been able to totally withstand the rain is in the bunkers. The sand washes off the face of bunkers and exposes the soil which then mixes with the sand and contaminates it, affecting the drainage. So we’ll be scraping out the sand, putting in fresh drainage systems and then filling them back up with new sand. This will take place across all three courses but will be done gradually – a hole or two at a time - so that the general quality of a round of golf will not be seriously affected.
Usually at this time of the year we’ll already be thinking ahead to the ISPS Handa Wales Open in late May but, for the first time in a decade, the date has been changed to late August which is when the course is usually at its best. May is still so early in the season but, by late summer this year, the course will have had a much longer growing season and, all being well, we’ll be able to let nature run its course.
We do have another event in May this year with Golf Live and the Celebrity Cup. This event will be using holes from both the Montgomerie and Roman Road courses so it will be an opportunity for us to focus our attention a bit more on those courses during the spring this year. All in all, we’re in surprisingly good shape considering all that wet weather – 2012 had the wettest Quarters 2, 3 and 4 since we opened the Roman Road course and started keeping rainfall records back in 1995.
We’ve had some very good feedback on how well all the courses and especially the greens have coped with all the rain. It’s only when you get in the rough that you realise just how wet it’s been... but, of course, none of us hit it in the rough!
After all the rain, we’ve been hit in the last week by some significant snowfall. The sustained cold weather has meant the courses were closed for several days because the snow would not thaw. There’s no rest for the greenkeeping and estates team, however, because our attention turns to clearing the roads and walkways on site so other resort business can continue unhindered. It’s another busy time for us and we’ll all be on our toes in case of any more snowfall in February.