Winter woes

A wet summer has continued into a wet and mild start to winter – and we need your support

It has been a frustrating couple of months, hasn’t it? We’ve seen record levels of rainfall here at Ganton and the course is greener and lusher than any of us have ever seen.

With a few weeks of 2023 still to go, we have had more than 800mm of rain, significantly more than normal, and the Scarborough weather station seven miles away has recorded more than 1,000mm. Please try to bear that in mind next time you’re not happy that the course is closed.

This extended period of wet, and unseasonably mild, weather – which goes back all the way to late-July – has been extremely challenging. Even courses like Ganton with its sandy base, and the links courses along the coast, are suffering. It’s not just the rain and closures though, when courses are open we’re seeing high levels of play, which creates mud and causes turf damage. The wet and mild conditions are also perfect for disease. While many will be out moving moisture daily, it’s a battle we’ll lose when the rain continues to fall.

I’ve been greenkeeping since I was 16, that’s 26 years, and things are certainly changing. A decade ago, we knew the frosts would come and cutting operations would end. This year, if it was dry enough, we’d be cutting regularly.

We’re also seeing more extreme weather. This year has been a record-breaker for rainfall, but we’ve also seen it in huge downpours rather than a spread-out pattern.

This prolonged period of wet weather is not good for any of us. Greenkeepers never want to see the course closed, and certainly don’t want to see hard work undone as water and disease make inroads. We also aren’t playing either.

Try to bear that in mind next time you’re at the golf club. If you’ve driven on flooded roads, or your local Sunday league football is off, there’s a good chance the course is closed. If you’re one of the lucky ones and the course is open, try to temper your expectations.

I have little doubt this year has been an abnormally wet one. I hope we’ll see rainfall return to an average level in 2024, though we must be willing to work and prepare for more extreme weather and change our long-held beliefs about seasonality. Being able to adapt to the weather will be vital in the years ahead. Greenkeeping teams need to work on long-term planning – both to tackle the wettest areas with drainage projects where applicable, and on better managing traffic and damage through winter rules or by reducing play to the driest parts of the course in the worst weather.

There are lots of things we can’t change or fight, and the weather is the most challenging one for greenkeepers. Try to bear that in mind and follow any rules which are put in place for your safety and the long-term health of the golf course. With a bit of luck things will dry up and we’ll have a much better year on fully recovered courses in 2024.