The storms may have come and gone but the aftermath of Storm Babet and Storm Ciaran has been nothing short of stressful for those in the turf care industry. Golf courses and their managers are under constant pressure to achieve ideal moisture levels to promote good healthy turf growth. Pitchcare spoke to Head Greenkeeper, Alex Newenham at East Cork Golf Club about how the recent extreme weather has caused carnage for the course.
Alex started by outlining how the storms have affected the amount of rainfall at East Cork: "The average rainfall for East Cork Golf Club in October is 103mm. Before storm Babet hit on the 18th of October we already had 67mm recorded. Over the two days of the initial storm and its aftermath, we had 110mm and 14mm respectively. Since then, from Sunday 22nd to Tuesday 31st we have had another 104mm of rain."
He continued: "Our total recorded rainfall for October 2023 in East Cork Golf Club is 299mm. This comes on the back of an extremely wet September where we had 147.5mm. So far in in the first week of November, we have had a further 44mm. This kind of rainfall on top of already field capacity soils has made any transportation on the golf course near impossible, even walking in some areas is difficult. The day of Storm Babet saw the two rivers that border the course burst their banks. Our 12th, 13th and 15th fairways were under 0.5m of water. Our 12th and 15th greens were completely submerged as the two rivers joined forces and ran down the road which dissected the course.
How much damage has the extreme weather taken on the course? Do you have the resources and budget to try and save it?
Alex replied: "Four weeks after the storm due to continued rain, our course is still closed for golf. Ground conditions remain waterlogged and as soon as the top part of the profile shows any sign of drying, we get another band of rain. As a result, our Tee boxes and our greens are by far the driest part of the course. But all areas in between are nearly impossible to access. Neither our budget nor resources provide the aeration or sanding of these other areas."
He expands: "Drainage on the course is only provided by what's natural on the course. There is no drainage on any fairways except one which was addressed a couple of years ago. It's not all bad news, the golf course will survive and be playable but we're just not sure when. We hope to open the front nine holes this coming week and have put ropes out to manage traffic in the event that we do open."
In terms of the damage that has been caused by the extreme weather, how much time and work will this take to get back to normal?
Alex is determined to keep moving forward despite the struggles with the storms: "Our methods don't change due to the storm. However, our ability to get tasks completed can differ. As a result of the course closure, we have been able to aerate the greens more than usual and that has alleviated a lot of pressure on the greens as they are able to breathe and dry out more than usual."
Alex explained the importance of carrying on with work despite the conditions: "This process has been vital in the recovery of the two greens that were underwater during the flood. When the flood waters abated those greens were deposited with slimy mud. Unable to do much in terms of clean-up we were left to aerate and create millions of deep holes. We repeated this numerous times until the greens were mostly clear."
It's a keep calm and carry-on approach: "We have taken the opportunity to aerate the Tee boxes which have had similar results to the greens, but we top dressed the tees with sand, which should help firm them up during the winter months."
With us now being in the winter, will this have an effect on your methods?
Alex hopes that he is at the light at the end of the tunnel: "As previously stated, we hope to reopen in the next week with reduced holes in play. Some of our course is traditionally wet in the winter months anyway so reduced holes would be expected at this time of year anyway. At this time of year, we continue with winter jobs of leaf blowing and foot traffic management in the course as conditions allow and dictate. Where possible we put sand out on heavy traffic areas to reduce the wear."
Have you got any tips for others who might have had the same situation?
"In terms of advice, I cannot offer much. When we were initially closed from the floods, I got lots of advice from well-meaning people and industry contacts. However, like most things in Greenkeeping, every issue is site-specific. Also, everyone will have access to different resources and varying budgets. We operate in the winter months with limited resources, so we make the most of what and who we have."
Alex advises to trust in the people and the process: "The best advice I think I could offer is to invest in the team, and the people at your disposal. We work hard to develop and promote a great team spirit here at East Cork Golf Club. It is a team comprised of highly motivated course staff and willing member volunteers who genuinely care about the course and the club. If solving a problem is within our joint capabilities, we will find a way because there is a strong desire to do so. By putting people before projects, the people will complete projects. People matter in all areas of life and work."