Course Management with 1000 deer as Neighbours
By Peter Driver
Unique amongst golf courses in the United Kingdom, Knole Park Golf Club is located within 1,000 acres of outstanding ancient parkland, home to the finest deer herd in the southeast of England. With public access via a myriad of footpaths and the location within National Trust boundaries also being a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), you can begin to appreciate the unique problems faced by head greenkeeper Gavin Kyle and his team of four.
Gavin joined Knole Park four years ago, following five years as course manager at Hendon Golf Club. His remit was to improve the presentation at the rolling parkland course designed by J Abercromby in consultation with James Braid, which opened in 1924.
"One of my first tasks was to prepare a 10-year plan for the course, which included an extensive machinery upgrade and we are well into this", he said.
His latest purchase for this season is a Jacobsen G-Plex III triplex greens mower, which was purchased from local dealer, Ernest Doe and Sons. The team trialed it for a week and agreed that this was the machine for them. This followed on from the purchase last year of a Jacobsen LF3800 fairway mower, which resulted in striped fairways at Knole Park for the first time!
"We have 800 members here and I think they were surprised at first, because it hadn't been attempted due to the deer issue. However, I have a supportive committee and they backed my judgment totally. In my opinion the LF3800 is the best fairway machine on the market, the presentation is fantastic and the package from Ernest Doe's certainly met our needs", he added.
The deer herd comprises of between 800 and 1,000 Fallow and Japanese Sikka deer and they range freely across the park. In winter they nibble at any new growth on the greens and this can be an issue. Also, the use of fertilisers and similar products has to be limited due to their presence.
"I wouldn't want to change anything regarding the deer; we have to live with them and manage the course accordingly; they've been around long before the golf course was built here", he concluded.