West Hill Golf Club

Summary of Thursday’s golf course presentation to members of West Hill

The presentations made by the STRI Agronomist, Stella Rixon and Course Manager, Ben Edwards on the greens as well as those made on the bunkers (Phil Edwards) and the
14th hole and Practice Ground (Guy Shoesmith) are available  by clicking on the links below.  What follows is a summary of the challenges with the greens, the programme of works
scheduled to put it right, how the club is dealing with the financial impact and lastly some frequently asked questions.

The Challenge : The two main issues that have impacted our greens this winter are the poor soil profile and the thatch.  The profile of the soil is very compacted and of generally
very poor quality and not free draining at all; whilst when you dig down 18 inches or more the soil is much more friable and takes water away quite quickly.  The three and a half
years of hollow coring and 1000 tonnes of top dressing has not been in vain; our thatch has decreased by 50% but we still have some thatch (marginally above the recommended
levels), which has continued to build up over this last very wet year (during the winter 2013/14 in this area we had 250% of the normal average rainfall). The poor profile of the soil together with the thatch have resulted in a perched water table which has meant the greens have been unable to perform properly and move the water away from the surface. 
This is a simplification of the problem and for those members who are interested I recommend that you read the agronomist’s presentation which can be found by clicking on the link below.

We have one hundred year old greens built from soil from unspecified sources.  Course Managers over the years will have carried out various maintenance procedures and one
might expect at some periods of their lives they may have gone untreated.  We understand for a time the greens used to be dressed with a peat-based material.  Add to this of
course the record amount of rain in the last twelve months and we find ourselves in the situation we are now.  There are many other clubs who are suffering similar problems,
although we have been particularly unfortunate in the number of greens which have been affected.

The way forward : We are planning to install primary drainage in the eight worst performing greens (most of them with pipe drainage -already being installed on the first green- and
at least one green to have rope drainage installed as a trial).  Sand banding (linear drainage) will be used on all greens to join up with the primary drainage i.e. at an angle so that
it takes the water to the primary drainage, effectively bypassing the soil.  The majority of this work will be carried out in house by Ben and his team with the use of an hourly
contracted digger driver, so this will help us control the costs.  We are also planning to remove some of the trees which currently shade the greens during the winter.

As the weather gets warmer we will be helped by evapotranspiration, the greens will gradually dry out and we will be able to play on them again, though overseeding of the ones
which have lost grass cover will take place primarily during the April maintenance week (now scheduled for week commencing 30th March).  Once the greens dry out, whilst
drainage is going in to the greens we would expect approximately two to be out of commission at any one time.  However we have already commenced drainage work on the worst

Maintenance is ongoing ; thatch will continue to build up every year; more so when we have wet years and good growing years so it will always need addressing.  This year we
intend to carry out maintenance in April and August.  Maintenance is carried out to remove thatch and to improve the profile of the soil. There are several different methods used, gradening/scarifying with sand injection, hollow coring, top dressing, vertidraining, tining etc.  The type of maintenance carried out will vary depending on the weather and the
amount of thatch present at that point.  Disruption period will depend on the type of work being carried out and the weather during and after but is normally between two and three
weeks. The Agronomist, Stella Rixon will be back in early July to carry out further testing.

The cost of the works and the loss of visitor income (including the Father & Son) is estimated to be approximately £90K.  The finances of the Club are such that over the last
three years we have generated sufficient cash that has helped us reduce our reliance on bank finance when it is normally needed, only during the last quarter of the financial year.   
We therefore have more than sufficient headroom to meet this additional cost.

To see the presentations on the greens from the Agronomist Stella Rixon and Ben Edwards click here .

For the presentation from Phil Edwards on the Bunker refurbishment click here

For the presentation from Guy Shoesmith on the update on the 14th hole and the practice ground click here


Q              Is there any correlation between waterlogged greens and woodland clearance?

A              No – trees are dormant in the winter and don’t take in water during this period

Q              Why did we hollow core and top dress instead of gradening/scarifying?

A              We have used gradening as well but the hollow coring process has been used more frequently as it is done in an attempt to improve the profile

               of the soil as well as remove the thatch.

Q              Why does the maintenance work need to be carried out in April and August can we not do it in October?

A              Whilst we have soft greens and poor soil no, as we can’t get the sand into the holes if there is moisture in the greens. Once the greens improve over

                time and are firmer then maintenance can be carried out at different times of the year.

Q              Could we not dig up the greens and start again.

A              At approximately £30K per green and with them being out of play for 12 to 18 months this is not considered a viable option.  Plus new greens are not

               trouble free and take probably five years to settle.

Q              Could the import of the soil for the practice ground have had an effect on the greens?

A              No the water table is not an issue with the greens

Q             What is the impact on visitors, societies and the Artisans?

A             We are not currently accepting visitors or societies but the Course Manager and Secretary are keeping this under review on an ongoing basis. 

Gina Rivett
February 2015

Created by intelligentgolf version 10.1.2.