Change is the word at Kirby Muxloe Golf Club, after completing a full reconstruction of the 16th tee Complex, plus much more. Over the past couple of months, Head Greenkeeper Mark Yates and Matt Gilks from MG Turf Limited have teamed up to give the Leicestershire course an updated and fresher look.
Mark explained what had been done so far. "We've done a couple of projects now, including building a new tee on the 16th. Due to health and safety issues from the houses on the left-hand side, we agreed that altering the angle and doubling the playing the size was the best option. I've worked with Matt from MG Turf in the past, so we got him in to give us some advice and it made sense to instruct him to undertake the work."
Matt commented: "We rebuilt a complete tee complex on the 16th and remodelled the green surrounds. It was a total redesign of the tee complex; we built the tee, reconstructed, drained and turfed." When asked about the challenges of the project, Matt added: "Typically, when work commenced, the weather was against us and it absolutely smashed it down, then we got hit by storms, which obviously caused a few problems."
The work didn't stop there though, as Matt explains: "In the early part of this year, as we were finishing the 16th tee project, we had a conversation about where we wanted to go next. Mark wanted to add a feature to the 10th hole, so we have subsequently built a new lake on the 12th and channelled water into it from the new feature on 10. Before work commenced, we had to have an emergency meeting with the Club President because of the removal of a tree, so the design I had in my head would work. In general, when planning construction works, the vast amount of trees around the course can prove awkward and it meant getting permission from the council, which can take time."
Left: Head Greenkeeper - Mark Yates Right: Matt Gilks - MG Turf Limited
Mark then outlined the work that has gone on behind the scenes. "It took me three days to dig 150 metres worth of drainage (due to the dry summer and how hard the clay was) - which I thought would take me a day, however, I understand that being flexible is key when undertaking projects like this. If things need doing at certain times, then we will try and do it, but it's swings and roundabouts."
But, what are members thinking about all of the recent changes around the course? "They have been really happy with the previous work, so it was a no-brainer to get Matt back in to help with additional projects," Mark replied.
Matt then went on to explain further work that had commenced on the 18th tee and the benefit that members would have from this. "The tee was on two different levels in a funny shape and members were consistently talking about struggling with their balance. So, we decided to move it back a little and create a bigger tee area. We looked at the levels, set it out and everyone was happy." Mark then jokingly summarised: "Putting a digger in the middle of a green or fairway can be quite an eye opener however, the feedback within the last eighteen months has been really good."
"I strongly believe that this perception is also down to teamwork and how hard the guys work - obviously on a daily basis, but even more so when construction work is ongoing. We are a very strong team. I believe that I can't ask my guys to come in at 5 am if I'm not doing it myself."
The importance of controlling budgets throughout all the projects was paramount and the decision was made to undertake the new resin pathways internally. "Part of the reason we did all of our own construction work for the paths was due to the price point," Mark added. "We completed all the training (at a cost of £450 each for myself and one of my team) and we purchased all of the materials."
Budgets are due to affect many in the industry, however, Mark and the golf club have come up with a plan to manage the expected pinch. "Some projects may be slowed down, however, if things need doing and we can do them ourselves then that's the way we will go. The Greens Chairman has been really good in terms of how big the scope is and our mission is to build something which suits both us the greenkeepers and the golfers alike."
When discussing the size of projects, Matt suggested he has welcomed the smaller projects as an introduction to working for himself. "I have been given a great opportunity here at Kirby. It has been a good project to kick on my new business and develop the ability to jump into construction, irrigation, drainage and advise on many aspects of renovations." However, Mark interjected, saying, "You deem them as small, but we as a golf course look at them as massive improvements and changes." As seen at Kirby Muxloe, despite a project being small, the bigger picture is quite large.
Over the Christmas period (six weeks) work commenced on the 18th green.
It was drained, we added in four new bunkers as well as adding run-offs around the green and added 75 metres of drainage into the green itself.
We have now completed draining the four worst greens on the course (all in-house), as well as redesigning and constructing four greens surrounds projects. With the two tees MGturf have built, it means we have have fourteen greens and sixteen tees to go.
Quick fire Q&A with Mark
How did you get into greenkeeping?
I started greenkeeping in 2005 at The Belfry, however I initially joined the club as an avenue to turn professional - working part time in the golf bar. As time went on, I began to take on more responsibility and understood that making money in golf needed to be achieved in a different way. One Saturday afternoon, I was in the club house at Atherstone Golf Club listening to members moaning about the course.. I had a light bulb moment and I decided, there and then, that I wanted to get into greenkeeping. I did my Level 2 and Level 3 at the Belfry, which took four years and I've now been at this course since April 2016.
How many competitions do you have?
We tend to have competitions every Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with most club matches then taking place on Wednesday or Thursday. This runs from the first or second week in April until the end of September.
Quick fire Q&A with Matt
How much mess accumulated from the work?
We made minimal mess considering the work we have done and earth we have moved, in fact, a golf buggy made more mess than we did. Everything is pretty much done, just a couple more things to do.
How long has it taken, who else has helped?
All in all, the tee reconstruction took four weeks, but we managed to get everything constructed and in the ground in the requested timeframe. Knowing the size of the project, I asked PQuinn Construction Ltd to come in and help.
Founded in October 1893 as a nine hole course which became 18 holes in 1926.
The "signature" hole has got to be the 5th which, from about 1940, has been played from a tee situated some 100 yards off the course in a field. From this tee, the ball is played back onto the course. This is one of only three such tees to be found in the country.
Drone footage courtesy of: