Plane-ly different at Horsforth GC
By David Markham
Horsforth Golf Club has a noisy neighbour. The course adjoins Leeds-Bradford airport and golfers are used to the noise of low flying aircraft as planes take off and land next to the course four miles north of Leeds city centre.
However, the proximity of the airport has caused one of the holes to be re-positioned.
Head greenkeeper Graham Hollingworth said: "Our 14th green is near the airport, and the airport authorities needed the land to fly over - they said aeroplanes flying over would make it dangerous. We had no qualms about it being so near the runway but the issue was down to new safety regulations.
"The airport authorities gave us £80,000 to make a new green and surrounding areas, including new tees and bunkers. The dog leg green is now straight and has been constructed according to USPGA specifications, which means it is 80 per cent sand based.
"All the other greens are clay based with top soil and they have to be aerated and top dressed regularly. We have also done a lot of worm control over the last few winters to get rid of worm casts.
"Drainage has been a problem. The site was a catchment area for the water. Three reservoirs lie in the valley bottom and we found some fossilised trees which indicates the area was a river or glacial.
"We use a gravel banding machine to improve the drainage. We lay the gravel eight inches deep in trenches one inch wide on top of the existing drains - these drains are 18 inches to two feet below the surface. This work has not only brought about a big improvement in drainage but it also breaks up the top soil.
"The club celebrates its centenary in 2006 and we are trying to get some major tee renovation done work in time for that anniversary, and we shall tidy up the place in general. Some of the tees have been down for 30 years so we are levelling and extending them - the main work is being done by an outside contractor."
Graham will have been at the club for 36 years in January. His first assistant, Simon Bond has been there for 21 years and another assistant has been at the club for 12 years while the other two assistants are trainees. Horsforth also boast a woman greens chair - Christine Greenhalgh.
"The changes I have seen at Horsforth have been incredible," said Graham. "When I started we had two pedestrian 18 inch cutting machines. Now we have two triple mowers, one of them new this year, one Jacobsen and the other Torro, which give a 60 inches cut, and three pedestrian 22-inch greens mowers. We also have a john Deere ride-on fairway mower and four Kabota tractors from 17hp to 40hp
"At one time it was a three-man job to cut the greens - now it is a one man job because of the bigger machines," says Graham.
"This is a very busy course and membership is rising. Usage of the course has vastly increased over the years, including a growth in the number of older members - people are retiring earlier and living longer. The fact that more golf is played on the course is reflected in the amount of aeration work we have to do.
"Golf on television encourages people to play and players demand better standards because of what they see on TV, especially after the USPGA event in April, but we cannot match it. We call it the Augusta factor. We have to accept it."