Grass Clippings

All change

Autumn has got to be my favourite time. The changing of the seasons is illustrated by a kaleidoscope of leaf colours and there have been some spectacular sunrises recently. Due to the mild temperatures, the grass surfaces still seem to be growing strong with no cessation of mowing in the short term possible and may well last into November.

Like the changing seasons, the course and grounds team also is experiencing change, as we prepare to say adieu to Head Greenkeeper Ashley Allpress, after six years with the Club.  Ashley is departing to head up the golf greenkeeping team at Guildford GC on a new journey to help them improve their course presentation.

We interviewed several replacement candidates from the region, but, after due consideration, his replacement came from closer to home, as the best candidate turned out to be Ashley’s understudy, David Howe. David is a local lad who has worked for several local clubs as well as internationally at a number of high-profile clubs in America. Notably the Robert Trent Jones GC in Gainesville, Virginia and also Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland, where he helped prepare the course for a PGA tournament. Previous expeditions to the States have seen David working at the well known Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida, with the championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio. David has also cultured a friendship with the management team of The Dutch GC which was designed by EGD in association with Colin Montgomerie. The Dutch is an ultra-exclusive club and David has been invited to help the team for three successive years the tournament setup when they have held the Dutch Open. Outside of work, David spends his time looking after a menagerie of pets and hopes to be able to bring his handicap down on the course in the next season. His been a keen sportsman in his youth and still plays for his local rugby team at Feltham RFC. The gap left by David’s promotion has meant we shall bring in a new deputy to assist him with the course presentation

Jamie Wright, our new Deputy Head Greenkeeper, comes from the Willie Park Jnr inspired course near Henley-on-Thames, Huntercombe GC. Jamie, like David, brings experience of working home and abroad for some of golf’s most prestigious courses. He has spent a large stint of his career at Sunningdale GC, working also at Queenwood Club, Surrey. Like most aspiring course managers of the future, Jamie has done his journeyman training in the USA and worked for a year at Pebble Beach in California and has had the envious position of working as a volunteer for the US Open there due to his connection with the club. Out of work, he is also a competitive sports man, enjoying golf at his home club – Temple GC and is a mad keen footballer; playing to a high standard in his formative years. David and Jamie are a great fit in terms of experience but also aptitude in wanting to create the best of conditions for the course to thrive and improve in the future and I for one, will be looking forward to working with both of them to continue the work we have done with Ashley, in raising the bar for our Members.

It’s not just on the course that changes are happening as our gardens team will also be revitalised in the coming season by new blood joining the department. Steve, our current Head Gardener, is remaining as part of the team but due to family commitments has opted to reduce his responsibilities and hours. From November, Sam Cumber will head up the gardens section and assist in driving the gardens and the landscaping of the estate in the future. Sam began his career in the Royal Parks apprenticeship scheme and managed to attain the prestigious George Cooke Award for outstanding performance. He was part of the crew who won Gold for Richmond-upon-Thames through the Britain in Bloom horticultural competition, three years concurrently. Sam was promoted as Gardens and Landscape Officer for the Mortlake Crematorium complex, with the specific remit to revitalize and bring a sense of place to the horticultural aspects of the property. This he has achieved over the last eight years, adding new garden elements for those visiting the site which has secured investment in the gardens for the improvement that serves the community. Sam has boundless energy and outside work is a Scout Leader and District Explorer Scout Commissioner which sees him lead a programme for 10-18 year olds in his local area. Sam will bring with him a passion for planting and bring in new ideas on how we can cherish the best traditions of the architecture of the gardens as well as a flair for creativity around the Club.

Making the most of it

It’s time to grasp the nettle and get out into the garden while the weather is being kind to us. It’s just about bare-root hedging, roses, trees and shrubs season and it’s a good time to source your material before the weather turns really cold. Bare root stock has many advantages over container material and there is usually a big price difference, meaning bare root is more economical to plant out larger areas. Clear faded sweet peas, morning glory, thunbergia and other annual climbers from their supports. It will help them on the bounce back in spring and revitalize them ready for warmer weather. Cut down faded perennials that are looking tatty, then mulch the surrounding soil with garden compost. Gather up and dispose of the fallen leaves from roses affected by blackspot, so they don’t carry the disease over to next year. For climbing roses, reduce them by a third now and prune in spring before the sap start to rise. For rambling roses, allow this year’s growth to remain so the carry the flowers in the next year. Move containers of alpine plants under cover to shelter them from winter rain. Protect plants that are borderline hardy, such as agapanthus, with a thick mulch of straw or garden compost. If they are pot bound, chop the root mass into half or thirds and replant. Put stem protection guards around young trees and shrubs, if rabbits are a problem. Above all, remember the mantra, feed the birds!

Peter Bradburn, Course and Grounds Manager –