Haggs Castle Golf Club & The STRI Programme
Haggs Castle Golf Club has a history of strong greenkeeping teams and, keen to preserve this heritage whilst also addressing new concerns over the condition of the course, they turned to STRI to assist in the recruitment of a new Course Manager at the club in 2008. An STRI consultant supported the club through the entire process, including the interview stage and the final selection of the successful candidate.
Development of The STRI Programme
During 2008 to 2010, STRI agronomists and research specialists were looking at the creation of a more objective agronomy service that would quantifiably measure the performance and agronomic condition of a golfing surface. Having developed a relationship with the new Course Manager during the recruitment process and through previous advisory visits to the club, STRI was aware that the team at Haggs Castle were open-minded in their approach to greenkeeping methodologies. A decision was made to ask the club to become one of six clients to pilot the new service and offer feedback on their experiences throughout the development phase. Happily, the team at Haggs Castle agreed and below is an overview of STRI’s experiences at the club over the last few years.
The greens at Haggs Castle had a significant problem with Organic Matter (OM). This was leading to soft, wet and slow greens that performed poorly throughout the year and during wet periods of weather. To tackle this issue, playing performance and agronomic levels had to be measured using a range of objective measurement tools. Regular testing would be undertaken to establish progression made towards improving targets. All measurement data would be retained and analysed on a regular basis to inform all maintenance work required, which could then be used to compare data taken on the course at future intervals.
- To improve the overall condition of the course.
- To significantly reduce OM and improve year-round playing quality.
- To establish both the value and viability of the STRI Programme by conducting a series of surface measurements over a number of years and analyse the resulting data to successfully validate improvements in surface quality.
Following the OM readings, taken in combination with the Clegg Impact Hammer (for firmness) and soil moisture measurements, the club began to address the OM problem by implementing an aggressive programme for reduction, which involved four hollow coring operations undertaken each year over a period of two to three years.
The subsequent results of the objective testing informed the need to implement a greens specific maintenance programme by the club. This resulted in extensive aeration and top dressing work (200 tonnes/ha per year), as well as three Verti-Drain operations. The decision was also taken to install new pipe drainage to selective greens.
Fusarium was found to be present on the greens and a preventative fungicide programme using modern fungicide technologies was implemented to reduce the occurrence of disease.
Installation of new pipe drains
By the third year, green playing qualities had vastly improved and the playing season had successfully been extended as a result. Organic matter reduction and strategic pipe drainage installation had laid the foundation for the production of high quality and free-draining putting surfaces that performed better throughout the year and during wet conditions. Greens-specific maintenance programmes had been implemented to improve the inconsistencies between greens. Feedback from the membership was superb and everyone commented the course and greens had never been better.
- At the end of Year 1, Organic Matter accumulation had been reduced and surface drainage had improved which resulted in firmer surfaces.
- Measurements assessing the quality of ball roll on the surface (smoothness, trueness and speed) illustrated the improved quality of performance.
- Disease incidence was reduced.
- Excellent feedback was received from the membership.
- At the end of Year 3, the surface recovered well in a short space of time despite challenging weather conditions and the overall quality and consistency of play has significantly increased.