"It's like when someone has asthma. Difficulty in breathing makes them feel thoroughly run-down. As soon as they get a better supply of oxygen they feel better. Turf reacts in much the same way. Our AER-AID
breathes life into our turf - sideways."
That's the comment by David Barling, Director of Upchurch River Valley Golf Club in Kent. Constructed on 120 acres of farmland, the views over the River Medway and Thames Estuary add to the quality of the two 9-hole and one 18-hole courses, designed by David Smart. Every standard of golfer is catered for.
Brothers David and William Barling purchased the farmland in 1989 as a diversion from their previous business of builders and developers. With construction commencing in March 1990, 27 holes ready for play by June 1991, and the construction of a club house, was a remarkable feat using predominantly local labour and consultants. They had the foresight to recognise the need for "value golf" within a relaxed country club environment and over the next 5 years added a swimming pool, an extra 9 holes, additional restaurants and poolside bars open to the public. 150 lunches on a Sunday is not unusual.
SISIS maintenance machinery has been used here since 1993 with the purchase of a vertical action aerator, Twin 25 tractor, Variseeder, slitter and scarifiers, all of which are still in use.
However in 2005 they decided that the greens needed a natural boost. The SISIS AER-AID was demonstrated and almost immediately a few lethargic greens started to recover. The AER-AID was purchased, and over the past 12 months steady progress has been seen. The depth has been varied from 25mm to 125mm to allow fracturing of the soil at different depths. Using the same machine, 7mm pencil tines have been used from time to time to complement the programme. Other tines are also available. The AER-AID's fast working speed and a 1.5m working width means that all 27 greens can be aerated very quickly.
One of the biggest advantages they have found is that regular air injection has allowed a reduction in water usage, without the greens suffering. Indeed they have improved both visually and physically. During the very hot summer weather this year the height of cut has been increased from 3mm to 5mm, and as there is little disruption to the putting surface, aeration with the AER-AID could continue.
Both the Barling brothers are very "hands on", from physically supporting the 9 greens staff to be being available in the club house each day during the busy lunch hour. It says a lot that some of their staff have been with them since 1980.
Upchurch River Valley is a busy, convivial club, where customers invariably leave with a smile.
David & William Barling with Head Greenkeeper Jason Eldridge.