Hanbury Manor, the flagship of Marriott Hotels' twelve UK golf and country clubs is riding the recession by adhering to the highest standards and a strict attention to detail. Nowhere is this strategy more evident than on the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Junior designed golf course run by Andrew Howarth, Golf Course and Estate manager.
"We've noticed some effects of the recession but it hasn't impacted on us much and on the golf side nothing has interfered with the quality of the course," he says. "We do a lot of corporate business with blue chip companies hiring the facility for the day. They demand a good product with good surfaces and we've kept their business." Hanbury has also kept its membership and the fact that such a high quality course is attached to the hotel and available for guests, boosts bookings.
Andrew and his team of eleven get the best results by attending to the bulk of their autumn maintenance in the middle of August. "We need to get the greens in top condition for September, which is a very busy month," he explains, "and by doing our major maintenance - hollow coring, scarifying and top dressing at this time we enjoy good recovery conditions." Andrew shuts nine holes one day and nine the next for one week so that work can be completed but the course is always open.
Having worked with Headland Amenity's Claire Kilmurry since he was promoted to his present position, Andrew uses an integrated pest management programme that includes a selective herbicide and a preventive fungicide tank mixed with a plant elicitor. "This autumn was bizarre," he says. "It was still mild in October with warm soil temperatures and plenty of growth.
" For this reason Andrew applied Headland's Cabadex selective herbicide at the end of the month, and he'll use it again in spring mainly on the tees. "Yellow suckling clover is a weed we suffer with along with mouse ear and common chickweed," he explains. "Cabadex has given us good results and we use it almost exclusively, sometimes augmenting it with a combined selective herbicide and moss control product."
When it comes to dealing with fusarium Andrew takes a preventative approach. "I like to get to it before it gets to us," he says. He uses Headland's Throttle tank mixed with TeMag HPE. "I find that the two products used together balance out nutritional levels, boosting health and encouraging the grass plant to take in the fungicide. I started using these products last spring and found that we had no fusarium problems other than a few little flecks. Our greens are all USGA specification (the course was opened in 1990) and golfers expect to play all year round."
Situated in 200 acres of Hertfordshire parkland, the golf course at Hanbury Manor can experience heavy dew and again Andrew takes preventative measures to stop these conditions encouraging the spread of disease. He applies DewCure, which he says not only deals with the dew, stopping the spread of fusarium, but can also keep the frost off. "Christmas is always a very busy time for the hotel," he explains "and what often happens is that the wife will spend time in the spa while the husband plays golf."
Andrew aerates throughout the year, varying the depth and tine size depending on conditions and vertidrains the greens and tees to a depth of 8 inches as part of his spring preparation programme.
According to Claire Kilmurry, Andrew's nutritional programme is a comprehensive mixture of granular and liquid feed, which he augments with ProTurf liquid iron as and when he sees fit.
"Business is as competitive as ever with lots of courses offering special deals," Andrew concludes. "Our product has to be tip top. In the current climate guests might opt for a lunchtime snack rather than a three course meal, but they always want to play golf."
For further information on Headland Amenity contact the company on Tel: 01223 597834 or visit their website at: www.headlandamenity.com