Another day, another round of wet weather for the maintenance team at Royal Lytham and St. Annes — site of this weekend's Open Championship — to wrestle with. Warren Bevan, a volunteer on the maintenance team this week, has been offering his inside perspectives on the comings and goings this week in the UK, and today reports on how the course was prepped prior to today's second round and a subsequent conversation with Royal Lytham's head greenkeeper, Paul Smith, about the club's overal water management strategies:
The second day of the Open Championship started on time at 6:30 a.m. This was an incredible feat as two hours earlier, Royal Lytham and St. Annes was flooded, with 13 mm (more than a half inch) of rain between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. The staff stood in the doorway of the greens facility and just watched as the rain came down. This was unexpected, as the Met Office had said the rain had gone through and the forecast was to improve. There was standing water everywhere, a complete wash out. It was a repeat performance of Wednesday morning. Paul Smith, head greenkeeper, inspected the course and looked at his options. The R&A had only one wish and that was to get play going as soon as possible and avoid any delays.
The greens, as usual, performed fantastic, and the greens cutting team went out and were able to double cut and roll the putting surfaces. The greens were running true at a speed of 11 on the Stimpmeter. This was great given the conditions. The rest of us took to the fairways with pumps and squeegees to try and remove as much water as we could. Because of the rain, fairways, and greens surrounds were not cut this morning.
Working our way around the course in hole order, gallons of water were pushed into the rough, or carried far away from play by electric pumps powered by generators. As I said, by 6:30 a.m. the first players were on the tee. The very wet summer here in the UK has kept the water table very high. Although the course drains well, the water table was now up to the base of some bunkers meaning they just wouldn’t drain away. Every effort was made to make them playable. It was mainly low-lying bunkers that caused a problem.
While out on the fairways pushing water, it seemed ironic that Smith and I should end up discussing irrigation needs of the golf course. He told me that water use on the course is generally low, averaging about 5,000 cubic meters (about 1.3 million gallons) per year. The water is sourced from underground aquifers rather than the local supply. The Rain Bird irrigation system allows water to be applied with precision to allow the turf to be healthy. Evan with a fully automated irrigation system, Smith says there is a vital role for hand watering. Even this week, staff were out on the Monday and Tuesday night treating localized spots on the greens.
The on-site weather station informs the irrigation system to replace the moisture lost through evapotranspiration during the day. This loss can be around 4 to 5 mm (.16 to .17 inches), but Lytham recognizes the rates only need to be 2 to 3 mm (.07 to .11 inches) to maintain healthy turf. All the water is applied with monthly treatments of wetting agents, (greens and tees only) to help ensure that water penetrates down into the soil profile where it will be available to the grass.
Tonight’s blog will be a little shorter, as I have hazards to mark out here at Lancaster Golf Club for tomorrow’s club championship. We have had 2 inches of rain here in the last 4 days, and our parkland course is struggling after such a wet eight weeks. My staff have been excellent this week and delivered a great course in superb condition despite the weather. Our greens are running at 11, as well, so our members will have championship conditions for their annual Gold Cup.
I sure hope you are enjoying these blogs of my experience at Lytham this week and the insight into how Smith and his team are delivering a course fit for any championship.