Floods and prevention at Ilkley GC
By David Markham
Number one problem at Ilkley Golf Club is flooding. For, the club, which nestles in the lovely Wharfe Valley, is situated in a flood plain
Duncan, who has worked at the club for 21 years since leaving school as a 17-year-old, said: "We are in a flood plain, but as luck would have it we have had no floods this winter - the river has never overflowed once. This has allowed us to get on with our winter programme without any interruptions for floods. We have never known a winter like it for lack of rain. We had a wet autumn, but the river never came over.
Last winter we had to clean out eight times after the river flooded on to the course. In fact, a year last February we had six inches of water in our workshop. We have done a lot of river bank work. We have taken a lot of trees from the river bank on the advice of the Environment Agency. Their advice was then to plant willows to stop the banking from falling away. They say that when the willows grow to ten feet high you can make a banking from a light thorn hedge. When the willows grow the club will end up with a strong banking.
The Environmental Agency say that in years to come we will get willows growing to create a light protection - that is protecting the river bank from washing away. The first step is to nick existing willows and fold them over so they don't fall and float down stream. They then grow like a hedge. Having said all that, we have to accept flooding. Flooding is part of Ilkley Golf Club - if we didn't accept that we should build a course on Ilkley Moor."
As well as flood protection, the club have also embarked on tree planting.
Duncan said: "The 40 oaks we planted had grown to ten feet. So, we decided to re-plant them. We hired a Bobcat tree planter and re-planted 32 trees - we had already re-planted eight of them some time earlier. The 40 oaks were in an area of rough ground given to us by a member of club. The Bobcat machine can excavate shallow trenches, dig out tree stumps and transport and load trees quickly.
The club have also extended the first tee by 50 yards in length - it is now 92 yards long - and doubling its width from four yards to eight yards. Duncan said: "The bigger the tee the easier it is to mow. Machinery is big nowadays. Gone are the days when you cut the tees by hand. We also reduced two bunkers in size before Christmas."
The club have embarked on a spending spree for machinery in the last 12 months. Duncan said: "In the previous two years we spent only £2,500, but in the last year we have spent £22,000." The machinery bought includes a Toro 1000 hand mower, Toro 660 green spiker and Proquip semi-rough mower.
Duncan, who has been head green keeper for four years, has four permanent staff with some casual staff when needed. All of them play golf so that they know about the state of the course from the golfer's point of view as well their own viewpoint.
Duncan said: "The club encourage the staff to play golf. That doesn't happen at many clubs, but they know that it is important that the greens staff see the course and understand when people ask questions about the conditions."