WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
COURSE DOCTOR ARTICLE
Q. 1) At our recent AGM the decision was taken to introduce an 'environmental awareness' programme on our golf course. The problem is that we do not really know where to start, we want to amend our maintenance schemes to be more ecologically sensitive and also to try to educate our members and guests as to the importance of our golfing environment.
Ingrid Eichler: Not an easy task by any means, a golf course architect or agronomist who is 'green' would
be a good start but they are few are and far between. It is more a matter of 'interest and belief' rather
than professional background so referral is bound to be a better method of finding the right person.
Initially you should steer clear of the ecological pressure groups because there is a danger of your
hands being tied before you really know what it is you are trying to achieve.
Stuart Ashworth: Firstly you need to announce officially your intentions to
members via the notice board or a more formal 'letter of intention'. In the same vein you must also document
all decisions and intentions of the committee meeting.
David Kidd: This is not really my area of expertise at all - I design golf courses and let experts deal with the other jobs! However, I know that at Gleneagles they set up a committee to deal specifically with the environmental issues on the golf course. Such a committee should consist of just four members - the course manager, a representative from the local community who has nothing to do with golf and two advisers from specific areas of expertise, e.g. a geologist and an ecologist. The initial undertaking of this committee is to identify the most fragile habitats on the course and carry out a thorough monitoring of these areas with the use of grid squares etc. The results will provide a snapshot from which all ongoing schemes and initiatives can be measured. Really though I must refer you back to an expert, an environmental specialist for example, he would be the best person to approach in the first instance.
Q. 2) Over the last few years our golf club has become 'easier', for want of a better word, due mostly to players hitting the ball further. We do not have much room to lengthen our course so what can we do to reintroduce a greater challenge to our elderly golf course?
Ingrid Eichler: The possibilities are immense and well documented. In short the
options should include: greater definition of fairways through contour mowing which will increase the required
accuracy, improved fairway bunkering strategy, reshaping of greens and the re-introduction of strategy over
brute force which will encourage the elements of risk/reward.
Stuart Ashworth: Instant answer has got to be the fairway cutting regimes.
If you introduce more complex fairway shapes that narrow the further you get from the tee then you will
be introducing an element of risk to a bigger hitter without penalising the shorter hitter at the
David Kidd: First question: do they really hit it that much further?
I don't think so. But if you want to make your course harder the immediate response is to ensure that
the higher handicap golfer is not crippled by the attempt to 'squeeze' the single figure player.
Easy way to achieve this is to contour mow the fairways and introduce more widespread semi rough
that is not too long but long enough to restrict the good golfers ability to 'work' the ball. Pinch
the fairways in at the greater length to increase the need for accuracy from the bigger hitter - if
a higher handicap player gets into semi rough they will be quite pleased; the ball is easy to find
and often sits up nicely to allow them to make a good contact. The low handicapper hates it though
because he will be unable to impart and backspin on the ball and thus he loses control. Similarly
if the best approach to a green is from the left side of the fairway for example then introduce semi
rough on that side, wherever advantage is to be had introduce an element of risk. The only real
problem here is the potential backlash from the real high handicappers who are playing against their
game as much as the course.