New owners spend to improve

David Markhamin Golf

New funding improves Cookridge GC

By David Markham

Cookridge Hall GC, five miles north of Leeds, has taken on a new lease of life in the last 11 months since it was taken over by American Golf UK Ltd.

The firm have already financed a £70,000 drainage scheme and there are plans for a £75,000 improvement to the irrigation system.

Jim Brown, who has been at Cookridge for four years and is now course superintendent, has no doubts about the benefits that have flowed from American Golf's ownership.

Jim, who is chairman of the northern section of the Green keepers Association, said: "I believe American Golf's expertise has helped Cookridge Hall to realise its true potential.

Karl Litten, an American designer, better known for designing the Emirates Course in Dubai, designed the course.

It was constructed in 1990 and opened in 1992. The club went into receivership for a short time and the First Leisure company, who then became Esporta plc, a huge leisure and fitness firm, bought it in 1997.

American Golf UK Ltd, an internationally known American Golf Corporation, who own about 330 properties worldwide, then acquired the club last August.

Since they took over, we have had a £70,000 drainage scheme and there are further plans for a £75,000 irrigation upgrade and we are 50 per cent through putting in new paths with a view to bringing buggies on the course.

The drainage system had been constructed on very poor clay land and because of the make-up of the land the system had become capped.

We invited the Sports Turf Research Institute at Bingley and they advised on what kind of drainage system we should install.

So, we brought in a Derbyshire firm, J Pugh-Lewis and they put in a new system. It has been hugely successful and they have been invited back to do some more drainage.

Our old irrigation system had a lot of faults and we didn't have the control to look after the pure sand greens because they dry very quickly.

The course is next to the highest point in Leeds, not far from Leeds-Bradford Airport, generally the aspect is very windy and the course, very dry.

We have had some new pipe work installed on all the greens and some extra heads which we needed. We also had new pipe work and new heads installed on all the tees.

The whole course has been re-wired which was needed to give us the control we required.

We have pure sand greens that the owners wanted to USGA specification. I like American greens, but the pure sand greens are difficult to look after. They require a lot of fertiliser and a lot of water. The water flushes straight through, leaching the nutrients - there is little or no holding capacity.

We use plenty of top dressing to keep down and dilute the thatch and keep the greens in good condition with aeration and hollow tinning. Because we use plenty of fertiliser, the greens require lots of water and we get a lot of thatch.

Our object is to keep down the thatch, but it is a thin dividing line between keeping the thatch down and keeping the greens healthy.

Before American Golf came on board we maintained the course with a lot of second hand machinery because of the lack of funds, but since they took over there has been investment in new machinery.

We operate as efficiently as we possibly can which is reflected in the presentation of the course. They have made the course look much better.

We have just got a new greens mower, the Jacobson Greens King 1V, which has since been superseded by the mark V and V1. We have gone for tried and tested machinery though to give us good results.

We also have a Jacobson 51-11 for cutting the semi-rough, which has been a great addition to our equipment. And we are in the process of having our sheds redeveloped."

Jim, who has six full-time staff with one casual worker in the summer and a 20-hour a week gardener, said: "We treat the club as a business and I have taken on more of a manager's role since American Golf took over."
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