How does the weather affect a golf course?

2016 has been a pretty unusual year, weather-wise. June, in particular, was incredibly mixed, with sunny, warm days followed by torrential downpours and localised flooding.

Statistics show that most areas of the UK may have only seen just above the monthly average in terms of rainfall. However, because much of this was showers, some regions had little to no rainfall, whereas others had more than twice the average you would normally see in June.

This is certainly true when it came it came to Essex. According to the Met Office, Essex came close to recording its wettest June since records began in 1910. We saw 111.9mm, with much of this occurring in the first half of the month. And then, as quickly as it arrived, the rain disappeared, and the last two weeks of June saw barely any rainfall at all.

So why are we so fixated on the weather? Well, it’s simple – it can play havoc with a golf course. And as we head towards the colder, wetter season, the weather must always be at the forefront of our minds.

Not enough rain?

Tees and greens are constructed to drain quickly. So without some rain, these areas of a golf course will be left with virtually no water and dry out.

The grass you find on a golf course is not the same as your garden lawn. It needs to be irrigated and to be treated with special chemicals in order to create the best tees, greens and fairways possible. A sudden influx of rain followed by near-drought conditions can leave the grass patchy and growing at different rates.

It is rare that we have to close Warley Park Golf Course due to excessive rain, but if we experience unprecedented levels of rain, there isn’t much else we can do. And the main reason for us closing the course is to ensure our players’ safety. Certain places such as exit paths and the sides of greens can get extremely slippery and we really don’t want anyone falling over. Particularly not if you’re also carrying a golf bag. 

Here at Warley Park Golf Club, we have made considerable investment into our maintenance programme, which has seen us increasing the number of days we remain open throughout the year. For example, we only lost seven days in winter 2014 in comparison to other courses, which may have to close for up to 60 days.

Our greens are well constructed and sand-based, which means that any puddles will quickly drain. We spray environmentally friendly worm deterrent chemicals, which reduces surface mud, which can otherwise lead to mud-covered fairways and inadequate drainage.

Our course, with its natural streams, provides a natural means of drainage. Plus, every autumn the entire golf course is verti-drained, using a specialist machine that punches thousands of deep yet tiny holes into the turf.

What else do we do to avoid closing the course?

Our team of greenkeepers get to the course at first light to check the rain gauge, which gives us an immediate picture on what state the course is going to be in.

We will put down additional sand in areas such as the exits from the greens and around the tees.

We inspect and improve drainage channels to allow any excess water to disperse as quickly as possible.

During the winter, we don’t need to cut the grass very often, but it does depend on the temperature. Below a certain temperature and the grass goes dormant but if we experience a mild season, it will continue to grow. The important thing is to treat the course very gently – the ground needs to be firm or our greenkeepers will more damage than good!

And if we do decide that we need to close the golf course, we will set a time to re-inspect it – and reopen as soon as possible.

Here at Warley Park, we are very proud of our golf course, come rain or shine. Time, design, money and the incredible work of our greenkeepers are responsible for exceptional record for staying open no matter what the weather.

So if you are thinking of joining an Essex golf club and are of a hardy disposition, we’ll see you bright and early in November, December, January, February…

Please click here for more information about becoming a member of Warley Park Golf Club. 

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