Firstly the team would like to pass on their best wishes to all our members, we hope everyone are staying home and remaining safe during this worrying period, secondly I wish to personally apologise for the lack of communication direct from the Green Department over the last few weeks. These are extremely challenging and worrying times and I am sure that it is understandable that everyone currently has their own personal challenges both at home and at work. Unfortunately the result of this was a delay until time could safely be allocated to create an informative blog update.
I do hope the following report puts everyone’s minds at rest, providing some clarity of our ongoing situation out on the course along with the absolute reassurance that your course is safe and actually in excellent condition ready for your return, due to the efforts of the greenkeepers team.
Coronavirus staffing situation
Over the first three weeks of lockdown the desison was made to furlough all but two of the Greens Team. This was a tough desison but the correct one as at that point there was uncertainty of the situation, timescales and even potential damage to the game of golf world wide. Mark and I managed to maintain the course at a level which resulted in no lasting damage or reduction in longterm performance. Long hours were required and no time off over this period, however on appraising this with Mark we are both proud of our achievements. To give this some scaling the reduction in resources over the 3 week period resulted in 500 man hours lost against a routine year.
On completion of the initial three week furlough cycle two further staff have now been reintroduced to work taking the total staffing number currently to four. This current level of staff has been determined still to provide the absolute minimum staffing levels to undertake essential maintenance only.
Robust and regular review of our situation monitors Staff welfare, Workload along with the demand on staff. If it becomes necessary for further staff to be reintroduced this will be investigated and addressed following the second phase of furlough.
Work are we permitted to carry out
Following lockdown industry guidance has been provided restricting some tasks and restricting the frequency of even essential maintenance tasks.
For example areas such as bunkers are not permitted for maintenance. The result of this is these areas being in a poor state. To try and control this all bunker bases have been sprayed with total weed killer and grass growth is being maintained when ever possible.
The team will continue to follow goverment/ industry guidance and if and when staffing levels increase, this will allow more work to be carried out around the course.
To ensure staff safety while at work a robust system has been introduced to minimise any risk. This includes various areas such as: Daily cleaning and sterilisation of machinery, equipment and facilities, gloves worn while at work, staggered start times, staff allocated their own tasks and items of equipment.
If tasks require more than one person staff may work in a maximum of two team members. Individual transport would be used along with face masks and adhering to socal distancing guidelines.
I am confident that even when golf courses reopen these precautions will remain in place for quite some time and socal distancing will be with us for the forceable future. This has the potential to effect work patterns restricting what is actually achievable, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Dry Weather: These days weather conditions seem to go from one extreme to another very quickly. After a lengthly period of very wet weather in 2019/20 conditions have changed and ground conditions have dried fast after on 7mm in the last 6 weeks. The result of this is a need of increased applications of moisture management products to maintain a healthy environment for grasses on fine turf areas and a member of the team hand watering for around 2/3 days per week.
Grass Growth: Grass growth is an area that has the potential to create us some issues out on the course due to reduced staffing. A systematic approach back up with the use of growth regulators should mitigate any negative results.
There are some real positives here, improvements and development over the last 6 years have created a sustainable environment which now thrives on this temporary period of closure. The fundamentals of the course are in better condition than ever before and I am confident that if we can get staff back on site quickly at the time of reopening in no time conditions/ performance will be better than ever seen before at Whitley Bay.
Extending this years golfing season
When your course reopens I feel it is vital that members are able to enjoy the best possible playing conditions for as long as possible to try and replace some off the time that has been lost during closure. With this in mind the decision has been made that any disruptive maintenance which may be required will be delayed until winter (November/ December) as a one off for 2020 allowing summer standard golf to continue throughout.
I am confident that the current health of the course will cope with this and as a one off and will not create any lasting damage for the 2021 season. If the weather behaves then summer conditions could achieved throughout with little if any reduction in performance to fine turf areas throughout.
Finally to finish, speaking for all the team we would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support and all the kind comments have we received during this extraordinary period of our lives. We look forward to greeting everyone back at the club when all this is over and will ensure that your course is in the best conditions possible. Stay safe
Simon Olver: Golf Course Manager
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