Change makes for big improvements at Skipton GC
By David Markham
Robert Clare took on a big job when he became Course Manager at Skipton Golf Club last June after a year as Head Greenkeeper.
For, the picturesque course in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales was, in his own words, in poor condition and had been in that state for several years before that.' So, his main task in the last 12 months has been to put that right. He said: "We had five inches of thatch on every green in the recent past and we have been concentrating on relieving this. Now, there is just over an inch and we can turn our attention to other neglected areas. The greens were generally of poor quality. They had not been fertilised or looked after. I made the greens my priority and, after attending to the trees, my other priority was to bring some organisation into the club. The plant and machinery was in poor condition. I had to bring that up to standard and recruit good staff willing to be motivated."
"Although everything needed attention I put the bulk of my efforts into the greens with micro tining as well as hollow tining, top dressing, scarifying and grooming. At the same time as looking after the greens, we tried to tidy up the course and to improve the quality of the fairways with better drainage through slitting spraying for broad leafed weeds and some fertilising. We have also re-shaped all the tees and given them much more attention than they had been getting before."
"The club were investing money in new tee constructions but the day to day management of the course was neglected. Our new greens chairman Rodney Lunn and I decided to consolidate what we had and get the course back to its former glory before embarking on new projects. We also wanted to run the course more economically."
Rodney Lunn added: "The club has been putting financial management on to a sound basis. We must live within our budget. We set out what we wanted to achieve on the course over the next five years. We have room for new members and we want Skipton to be a desirable course on which to play."
Robert Clare said: "We have appointed new staff. We have gone for enthusiastic though less experienced people who we are training in house. We have turned ourselves round from scratch and have five full-time staff and a sixth in the summer."
The course has many wooded areas and the Eller Beck runs through the middle. The trees can of course cause problems to the golfers. Rodney Lunn said: "We have had to raise the canopy of the trees because, if you landed in the trees you also lost your ball because it had not been possible to mow previously which was a bit harsh. So, we have mowed under the trees and grooming in that area has been comprehensive. We are doing woodland management and helping with a tree survey. We have done that in consultation with The Countryside Partnership and Craven College students. The students have been helping us with the control of tree growth."
Robert observed that 'the relationship between members and greens staff has not been great.' "I have tried to improve communications between golfers and greens staff," he said. "I write a monthly newsletter to members to explain what we are doing on the course and why we are doing it. I also encourage staff to be friendly with members. Sometimes members see greens staff as being lazy and sometimes greens staff see golfers as being too demanding. It is all about communicating."
"We use John Deere and Jacobsen machinery at Skipton. On the greens we use a Jacobsen mower and thatchaway scarifyer, a John Deere Aerocore 800 tiner and SISIS Slitter that is mounted on a Kubota compact tractor and on the greens we have John Deere mowers and groomers. We use a Jacobsen LF3800 on the Fairways. We have verti-drained fairways in the past, but we don't own a machine to do the job so the last time we did it we hired a machine."
"We have got fusarium at the moment because of the warm moist conditions. As soon as I see the beginnings of it we spray the greens and we to keep the disease under control. I advise rotating fungicides with different active ingredients so the disease cannot develop an immunity or resistance."
Rodney said "We would like to re-construct some of the greens and some of the tees. We would like to expand the tees to relieve heavy wear and, perhaps if the club wish it, extend the course so that par equals standard scratch. We are generally happy with the condition of the course now. Everything is neat and tidy.
Robert said "The company has put in good drainage and an irrigation system and built a new clubhouse over the past 12 years. The members have the right to expect a course in prime condition which is how I see my job"Robert, who comes from Dublin, trained at Myerscough College near Preston. He worked on golf courses in the Ireland, England, USA and Australia before moving to Skipton.