Let’s cut back on course wa­ter us­age

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Stu­art McLean, Ed­i­tor

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

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