Let’s cut back on course water usage
t has been a tough two years for the members of Steenberg.Their Peter Matkovich golf course, which for the last 20 years has been associated with exceptional conditioning, has seen its greens and fairways deteriorate alarmingly by the high standards that had been a hallmark of this prestige Cape Town golf estate.
Such has been the indi erent quality of the course since late 2014 that Steenberg fell 19 places (No 31 to No 50) in this year’s Golf Digest’s Top 100 course rankings, and there wasn’t a peep of complaint from anyone at the club.
Irrigation problems, drainage issues, and poor quality water from a sludgy holding dam, were among the original reasons peddled in 2014 for patchy greens.A year ago, Steenberg set about a series of “upgrades” to x the problem, and closed each nine for three months. However, when all 18 holes were reopened at the end of 2015, the grass on the greens again quickly gave up the ghost.
Steenberg are now biting the bullet once again in search of a positive long-term solution.Their members will endure temporary greens for the next 6 months, until the end of November. Course construction specialists Golf Data have been appointed to ensure the success of the project, which will entail all 18 greens and surrounds being re-surfaced, and greenside bunkers upgraded. New sand will be used to rebuild the sub-surface. Golf Data have taken over the course maintenance from Southern Turf Management.
The Steenberg saga brings up an old hobby horse of mine. I have long been convinced that golf clubs in the Western Cape are overwatering their courses in order to create the lush green “Augusta e ect,” particularly during the hot, windy summer months. Grass does not react well to being drowned with e uent water year after year. It isn’t a healthy
Iagronomy practice. The result? Golf courses with carpets of thatchy fairways, and soft greens where balls impact the turf like mortar rounds. Steenberg is not the only course which has been plagued by diseased greens.All this watering also helps poa proliferate in the Cape. It’s one of the worst fairway grasses.
There is at least one course superintendent in the Cape who agrees with me. Gaeren Wilkinson (formerly Goose Valley) took over at Royal Cape from Vern Whitson, who went to Steenberg, and is now at Arabella, and his rst move was to “starve” the course. He’s reduced water usage by as much as 50-60 percent, and Royal Cape has seldom looked better from tee to green.There’s hardly any poa in the greens.The course is returning to how several Cape layouts used to look in the 1980s, fast running, with sparse, sandy rough, and the members are happy with how it’s playing. Excessive watering the last 25 years has turned the likes of Royal Cape, Clovelly and Westlake into grassy parkland, rather than the unique layouts they used to be, built on sand where seashells have been found at shallow depths.
More watering means more mowing and more fertiliser, adding to the cost of maintenance.This is madness at a time when budgets are going through the roof. Golf courses need to apply some austerity.
Soft-playing golf courses – with only a few exceptions – di erentiates South Africa from much of the rest of the gol ng world, where rm and fast conditions are more common and desirable.We admire these type of courses when we see them on TV hosting tournaments, yet seem loath to recreate and play them in our own backyard