Enville Golf Club is a private members club founded in 1935. The original layout was 9 holes built by a group of local enthusiasts on land leased from from Enville Estates owner, Sir John Grey.
Over the intervening years the course has been gradually extended to it current layout. Now, there are two 18 hole courses and a large practice facility comprising a range with a 1000 square metres natural turf practice tee and two chipping greens. A third chipping green is scheduled to be built during the coming winter.
The courses are named the Highgate and Lodge and are, predominantly, heathland in character but have a number of holes on each that meander through woodland. The former plays host to the annual Regional Open Qualifier, which Enville are hosting for the period 2007-2011.
The management of both courses is kept very similar, however, given the different environments, small idiosyncrasies in such areas as aeration are inevitable and accounted for in management planning.
We are strongly committed to the traditional methods and practices of greenkeeping and the promotion of the finer grasses. We do have a fantastic site built on a typical heathland soil, however, that has its own pressures. We feel that the sitee demands the reinstatement of turf surfaces dominated with the finer grasses, leading to the required set up for both courses which should be firm and fast, very similar to that of a links course.
We are very keen to enhance the environment in which the two courses are set and actively manage our heathland and woodland. We are currently on a Higher-level Stewardship with Natural England which helps us manage and improve this valuable asset. A large amount of time is spent each year with work such as heather regeneration from our own harvested seed, and also by way of turf stripping indigenous fescue rough, which is then used to add character when renovating bunkers.
We are also working on an area on the Lodge course, which has a pine plantation, and holes 4-12 are dominated by this woodland. It is our aim to remove the majority of the pine and replace it with indigenous broadleaf species, thereby creating a much more environmentally appealing site which will also be in keeping with the rest of the site. We also hope to reinstate heather areas amongst these holes creating an even greater correlation between the other parts of the course.
Each course have a team of five greenkeepers, which includes a head greenkeeper. This structure was implemented shortly after my arrival as Course Manager and has proved a great success in terms of direction, motivation and an overall improvement in conditions on both courses. It has given greater structure to the progression of staff in terms of training, education and promotion. I believe the experience we have here is a great asset, the majority of staff have worked at Enville for more than ten years.
We have a full time mechanic/technician who looks after the day-to-day maintenance of the machinery and the servicing work, which is carried out during the winter months. The machinery fleet is dominated by John Deere equipment but, in recent years, a number of Toro machines have been purchased as part of our ongoing replacement programme.
The majority of greens, on both of the courses, have been built very traditionally (push up), using the indigenous soil. This kind of method has been replicated with the construction of two new greens on the Highgate Course, the 11th and 15th. These have been built to improve the layout and architecture of the holes and also give added yardage. They have been built with soil from areas close to the new sites. This will enable us to create green conditions very similar to that of the existing greens and will be available for play next year.
Fertiliser is kept to a minimum with 32kg N per hectare being applied and included a lawn sand application at the start of the year followed by a Sulphate of Ammonia based 8:0:0. The only other products used on the greens are liquid seaweed and wetting agent.
Aeration is always on the agenda, with star tining and brushing being implemented every week (when possible) during the main season. This operation is perfect as there is very little disturbance, with the added benefit of brushing thrown in.
During the autumn and spring we vertidrain with ½ inch tines and follow this up with star tines on a John Deere aerocore to make as many holes as possible for the overseeding.
We are currently monitoring organic matter levels and will hollow tine if the need arises but, with a programme of minimal inputs, we hope to maintain OM levels at around 4-6%.
During the winter months we conduct slit tining every two weeks or when possible.
Topdressing is applied throughout the season with around 150-200 tonnes applied to each course. We have found this sits very well within our programme of minimal inputs and helps to create the firm, dry surfaces we are after and a good environment for the finer grasses.
Cutting heights for the greens range from 4.5mm in the summer up to 6mm in the winter. We do cut a little closer for competitions but have found rolling, combined with our austere management, does gives us adequate pace.
We have been very to keen to monitor the changes to our swards in terms of grass composition, in light of the management of the fine turf surfaces, so we have completed grass composition testing to create a benchmark and to assess every two years on its effectiveness. This will also be the case for the organic matter testing in the future.
The first grass composition testing was completed back in 2007 and the results this year speak for themselves, with the percentages of Agrostis species rising considerably in 2009. We have also seen the amount of fescue increase. However, we do still have a number of greens with high percentages of poa but this is down to environmental conditions, such as shade, which we will address over time.
Tree clearing and thinning is ongoing through the winter period helping to create airflow around the more shaded greens. We aim to overseed in spring and autumn with fescue and bent, but also try and complete at least one operation during the season, usually towards the end of July, with pure bent.
In our view the change to a more austere management regime has made a great difference and is achieving good results. We believe, given the correct management and approach to improving the sward, we can achieve a predominance of the finer grasses. It is sometimes very easy to dismiss these types of grasses, especially fescue, but the finer grasses can withstand wear and do achieve good quality sustainable surfaces.
In an effort to set up the course with an emphasis on shot making, especially playing golf across the ground (as golf was meant to be) and not through the air to target greens. We apply the same management regime to the aprons and approaches, creating firm surface conditions with a sward dominated by the finer grasses.
Over the last four years we have completed considerable work to improve the grass species in our fairways and improve surfaces in general. Some of our fairways are predominantly fescue, however intensive aeration and overseeding programmes, combined with regular wetting agent applications, have improved the percentages of fescue considerably. It is our intention to continue with this type of work as some of the woodland fairways still need more work to improve.
The majority of our rough areas are amongst the heathland part of the course, which currently is cut once a year when the heather seed is harvested in October and November. That said, we are investigating the purchase of a new front rotary deck system which will allow us to cut some of these areas throughout the year without damaging the heather.
We have noted that, as a result of recent wet summers, some of these rough areas have become very dense, causing problem with retrieving golf balls. More regular management may have to be implemented to thin these areas out.
The formation of the gingerbread group in the Midlands will be a great asset to all involved and has already proved to be successful. We've got our third meeting planned for this autumn and, as usual, we are expecting a good turn out.