Ashridge Golf Club
By Laurence Gale
Ashridge Golf Club is a private members 18-hole golf facility with a current membership of about 700. The course is situated at about 600 feet above sea level in the Chiltern Hills, an area recognised as an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). The course was originally designed by Sir Guy Campbell, C.K. Hutchinson and S.V. Hotchkin and was laid down as an undulating parkland style 6580 yard course. The club opened in 1932, with the club securing the services of Henry Cotton, the leading professional golfer of his day who won the first of his three British Open titles in 1934.
Ashridge has something of a reputation for 'flattering' golfers. You are certainly encouraged to play well with several fairways running through valleys, which tend to gather tee shots - the first couple of holes being prime examples. Among the outstanding holes at Ashridge are the 2nd, a very handsome par five; the 9th, where the green is perched on a shelf of land overlooking the clubhouse; the 14th, which is often described as a miniature version of the Road Hole at St Andrews, and the rollercoasting 18th, with its vast, two-tiered green.
Ashridge's course manager is Jim Cassidy who has been in charge of maintenance and development for the last 14 years. Jim enjoys the natural beauty of the course, but dreads the autumn when all the leaves begin to fall. Jim has seven permanent staff and takes on two additional seasonal staff during the summer. Jim reports to a committee team of eight who are responsible for running all aspects of the golf club. Jim is responsible for all matters concerning the course. His current staff have over 122 years of golf working experience at the club and hold relevant greenkeeping qualifications. Most of his staff have obtained NVQ level 2 Greenkeeping awards, three staff are sprayer certificated, and four staff hold current chainsaw certificates. Other staff qualifications include manual handling and first aid and fire safety. Jim recognises the benefits of the staff being trained, coupled with several years' service at the club, thus enabling the staff to have an affinity with the course and expectations from its members.
Poa annua) with a small amount of bent; fairways are a mixture of bent and fescue grasses. The course is fairly free draining due to the flint content in the soil coupled with the good management practices carried out.
Some of the main problems experienced at the course are leaves, shade and air flow; recent pest problems have been leather jacket and chafer grubs damage to turf areas. Jim has had a major problem with moss this year, which was the result of last year's hot weather, when areas of grass on the fairways were burnt out and has now become populated by moss. Jim has initiated a programme of spraying, using Dichlorofen on all the fairways followed by overseeding, fertilising and topdressing.
The bunkers tend to get a lot of attention from deer who run through them causing damage and erosion. This winter Jim and his staff have renovated bunkers on two holes, using Sandtrapper materials to cover the drainage sumps and using finer compacted sand as a base before putting in place Kingsley fine washed sand.
Future projects include a new green and surround to be built on the 13th hole, clearing trees for a new 5th tee (extra 45yds when completed) and clearing trees for more light and air on others places on the course. Most of the construction work is taking place because of the advancement of golf club technology that is affecting the original architecture of the course. This is happening on many courses and is something Jim sees as a problem that will affect most course managers.
Jim has been very pleased with the performance of his fleet of Toro machinery, with over 17 items of machinery being employed to keep the course in good condition. He also has the use of Kubota and Aebi tractors, and is able to keep the machinery in good repair by having his own mechanical workshop enabling all maintenance and servicing to be completed in house, thus reducing machinery down time. However, one future headache concerning is the new wastewater regulations now being brought in. Having to regularly wash down machinery, the discharging of wastewater into public drains will come at a cost!
Jim is also concerned about the future loss of efficient chemical products as they begin to be taken off market. He recognises that the only way to achieve an acceptable level of weed and pest control without chemical use will be by the employment of additional staff and the implementation of cultural practises.
Finally, the expectations of the members and paying customers are getting higher each year. They expect the course to be in tip top condition twelve months of the year, some thing that is difficult to achieve when soil temperatures and light levels are low. However, these are the challenges and pressures that all Greenkeepers face and expect whilst working in a golfing environment.
Course Information and details:
Ashridge Golf Club
Little Gaddesden, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 1LY.
|Ashridge card of the course (Par 72)|