Tynedale Golf Club's Kevin Thompson provides an update on the state of the course following last December's devastating floods which submerged pretty much the whole of the nine-hole facility in Hexham. Back then, the members, local clubs and his employers rallied round to help out. In this article, he provides an update on how he managed to get the course back into a playable condition
Tynedale golf club is a 9-hole parkland course on the banks of the River Tyne at Hexham in Northumberland. It is a council run facility, and has been for many years. Kevin Thompson, who is employed by the council's Neighbourhood Environmental Action Team (NEAT), is the sole greenkeeper.
On Sunday 6th December 2015, after days of continuous rain, the Tyne completely burst its banks, and ninety percent of the course was completely flooded, along with sand, silt and plenty of other debris that the river was spewing out.
Kevin commented at the time that; "the scene that greeted me on Monday morning was one of utter carnage and a complete disbelief in what I was seeing. There was water all over the place, silt and sand laying thick on the greens and fairways, whilst debris from the river was snagged around many of the trees which line the course."
NEAT provided Kevin with an extra pair of hands, whilst the golf club also rallied round and a working party was set up, comprising mainly senior members, and even the vice captain from the neighbouring course turned up to help.
In this 'catch up' article, Kevin explains how he eventually brought the course back to life.
"I finished my last article about the floods that hit Tynedale Golf Club back in December 2015 by saying it was only four weeks to Captain's Drive 2016 and the only machinery I had was a greens machine.
The county council moved quickly, bringing in local firm Turfcare who verti-drained the greens for us, which would help allow them to breathe.
Our Senior NEAT team leader, Geoff Cairns, secured a deal with Greenlay to hire in a fairway machine and a John Deere 7700 was delivered.
The county council then purchased a John Deere 2653B tees and surrounds machine. A new Stihl strimmer and a Hayter rotary machine were also purchased very quickly. Things were moving fast and beginning to look up on the grass cutting front. I also have access to a new Ransome MP493 wide area rotary mower, which helps to make the cutting of the semi rough a lot easier.
However, as well as the grass cutting which needed to be done to get the course into shape, there were still mountains of sand which needed to be removed, mainly from the fairways. I used a rotary brush which moved the loose sand into a hopper, but this could only be done when the course was not busy. The dust was horrendous.
For the beginning of the season, we managed to get the course into a 'playable' state. As the weeks passed, the greens began to show signs of growth and the sand was being removed slowly but surely. There didn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get all the usual jobs done as well as brushing the sand around. As if we didn't have enough to cope with, the course was now covered in Himalayan Balsam seedlings - hundreds of them! I first removed all the seedlings from the bunkers and then set aside one hour a day to hand remove the rest of them.
Weeks went into months and things began to grow and flourish on the course. However, at £300 a week to hire, the fairway machine had to go back. We simply could not afford this luxury. So, at the minute, the fairways are being cut with the JD 2653B tees machine, which is not ideal! They are now taking two days to cut which, in turn, means I have less time available to get other jobs done. Currently, the county council/golf club have not been able to source a fairway machine for the money that is available.
I have recently been informed that the county has bought a Verti-Drain 7215 demo machine. This will certainly help to spike the greens a lot more regularly.
At the time of writing, we are now seven months down the line since that awful day back in December 2015. Tynedale Golf Club survived everything that the River Tyne could throw at the course.
To be honest, I have been very lucky because most things I have asked for, Geoff Cairns (my boss) has tried his best to make happen to allow me to get the course back to an acceptable playing state.
To all the committee members of the golf club, the playing members and county council management, I would like to thank you all for your help and understanding in what has been probably the hardest task that I've had to deal with since I started work.
To be truthful, there were days when I honestly thought that the golf course would never recover, but it is now looking very well and continues to get better and better by the week. I don't know what lies in store for the future of Tynedale Golf Club but, if we can recover from this, we can recover from most things.
Thank you everybody who helped get us back to normality."