Hever Castle Golf Club

Video Blog - September 2020

This month's topics including the latest STRI report, Fairway Regeneration and leather jacket grubs.

September VLOG

Video Blog - June 2020

Rob has put a video together explaining how the irrigation system works at Hever, where we get the water, how much we can use and when we do it.

Rob's irrigation video

There is a bit of wind noise at first, but this soon stops when he disappears into a shed. Some nice birdsong as well!   

Have a great weekend everyone!

Course Blog – June 2019

I hope everyone is enjoying their golf so far this season, it has as always, seemed to have come with its ups and downs. We had a trying start to the year when you consider we entered   the autumn of 2018 in drought conditions with no recovery for the turf in winter and then a cold dry spring with less than 10mm of rain in April and significant white frosts well into May.

As the temperatures started to rise in early spring so did the expectations of our golfers, quite rightly, with the most critical area for consistency being the Greens, both in visual quality      and putting performance.

Of course, as we have discussed in previous years in the blogs, differences between grass species are a problem for early season course consistency, with putting surface smoothness causing difficulty with pace and ball deviation. Even the slightest nuances in the surface and small changes in irrigation coverage have impacts on species distribution within the Green,      so this combined with the irregular and unpredictable growth patterns at this time of year can give issue. However, spring time growth is, as a rule, short lived usually lasting around four      to six weeks and is generally over around late May, early June once growth has stabilized among all the species.

So, I did the rain dance beginning of June, OMG, really!! 4 inches of rain in a week!!!

Crane Fly Larvae (Leatherjackets)

In the past we have as an industry, had more options for chemical control to manage pests and diseases in the fine turf with the use of soil-acting insecticides and fungicides, this is now    no longer the case. Within the last 18 months many of our “contact cure chemicals” have been removed from use, and many more continue to go. This puts much stress on the Greenkeeping industry, and indeed greater technical/financial commitment from the club, not to mention sleepless nights for me.

Leatherjackets seem to be the latest pestilence blighting the industry with no real blanket cure for the entire course, in fact up until recently we had no legal direct option to protect the course.

Within recent weeks an emergency license has been granted for the use of an insecticide called Acelepryn, but only for use on certain sites.

Airfields (to prevent birds feeding on grubs leading to “airstrikes”)
Racecourses (to prevent injury man/animal root shear unstable turf)
Golf (to prevent significant economic damage)

However, we are still under certain conditions with the use and application of this chemical, we cannot “just buy” our way out of trouble as this chemical is under emergency license from America. It can only be sent out to site (from America) after approval from an agronomist, or the approval of an M.B.P.R (member of the British pesticides register) that is a current and    valid BASIS member (an independent Standards setting and auditing organization for the Pesticide, fertilizer and allied industries).

And even then, we still have legal obligations, only Greens and Tees and a maximum 10 % of our fairways can be sprayed (once a year).

If an approximate comparison can be made between what used to be the case with pest control and with what we now face, it would read as follows;

To blanket spray for Pests on our Golf course (in hectares) with the now illegal chemical would cost £29-hectare which would cost £3,000 (approx.)

To blanket spray for Pests on our Golf Course (in hectares) with Acelepryn (Which we cannot) would cost £800-hectare which would cost £84,000 (approx.)

As we stand today there is no other chemical in the pipeline that we are being told about, but even if a solution were in the offering, it would have a testing period of a minimum 5 years, before release for general sale.

This costings trend seems to follow suit for the Fungicides as well (shocker !!!) so much has changed within the industry within the last 18 months that financial and operational presidents  no longer apply, there may be a possibility of a few years of transition and readjustment as the golf industry fights to get things back on track, which we will!

For more details click HERE

Elsewhere, we are well into our main season mowing regime which see’s us mowing an area of 1,500,000 square meters per week as a minimum, or 184 Football Pitches a week, 14 of which would be our Greens alone!

We are also planning and preparing for our Annual Maintenance week in August which includes the re-development of the 6th Hole, Championship Course matching the bank support work done on the 12th last Year.

Next up will be similar work on the 13th, providing visual continuity from the 12th, along the 13th and to the 6th Green whilst protecting these Greens from erosion for us and the next generation of golfers. 

Further details to follow.

Course Blog Spring 2019

Welcome to the 2019 spring blog.

First of all thank you to all the members for their feedback after the Spring Meeting last weekend. The large amount of positive feedback and the positive criticisms all go into helping us develop our beautiful courses.

For your interest here is a short video of me using the Stimp Meter before the Spring Meeting  HERE

Spring is throwing up a few curve balls already, as we came to the end of Winter with a very freaky February weather pattern!!! Almost like spring had come early with the temperatures soaring and the sun shining!! But we were not lured, as it was not to last but we enjoyed it, as it most definitely made the winter less arduous. The Winter itself was on a whole not too bad, spikes of rain with spikes of cold and of course the incredibly sticky mud we encountered (a knock on effect of the 2018 drought as an educated guess!!).

As welcome as the early sun was with mild temperatures the colder weather was to return, as I write this blog April 3, 2019 we had a heavy frost and minus 2 degrees, in fact the 4th frost in six days.

        Early April Mornings                                       

It is true to say that the heat wave and the drought is still affecting many things, food prices have seen the biggest increase since 2014 this week due to the producers having such a poor yield last summer. This effect can also be seen on the course, with some grass plants failed to thrive last year and failed to catch up last autumn. We have though reacted to these changes and added a new piece of equipment to our fleet in the form of a brand new over-seeder. This machine will give us an opportunity to replace and bolster the missing and thinned out grass plants by reseeding with new/existing cultivars. The machine makes the perfect little space for the seed to grow and drops them in at the correct sowing rate. This operation has already started as we wish to get the seed in ready for the main growing season to come.

Here is a short video to show you it work on the course. Overseeder in action HERE  

Reseeding drought affected areas

Reseeding drought affected areas from 2018

We have an extensive programme of operations at our disposal to maintain and improve the root zones for the grass plants for this season. This includes brushing, verti- cutting, verti-draining, hollow coring, solid coring, fertilizing, disease prevention/limitation, irrigating, mowing, slitting, to name a few. The ground is still so hard after the “deep dry” of 2018 but we shall endeavor to make the rooting systems of the plants to come as happy as we can with a better mix of air/soil/moisture.

The new tees are coming along but with these spikes of warm and cold it is hard to predict when we shall open as I am reliant on the more static and warmer weather patterns to really establish better growing conditions, so as it warms we shall increase mowing frequencies to give a better turf surface.

I wish you all a very enjoyable start to the Golfing season.

Course Blog Autumn 2018

Hello again from the Greenstaff and as usual I seem to begin the blog with a description of the weather patterns we have had so far this year, and what a year of extremes!! January and February arrived with near record amounts of rainfall, with Siberian cold snaps that turned sodden ground into blocks of ice for weeks at a time.

No real growth rates for the grass plants until the end of April, spring was effectively a non-event and then it started, the hottest summer in 40 years, the dry weather exceeded 1976 and was more akin to 1961.

June started off as the hottest in 25 years, so we had to employ our water resources in the form of irrigation very early in the season (considering the wet winter!). July saw the clubs first    no smoking ban on the course as the grass became dehydrated and tinder dry.

The stream that supplies the irrigation had all but stopped running at the end of June beginning of July, (this I have never witnessed before). We hit records of heat with temperatures of  over 26 degrees for more than 30 days.

Contrast in colour from Spring to Summer, as seen all over the country.

As the pictures show the course (and the Greenkeepers) were under considerable stress!! But it was not all bad news as the hard ground conditions allowed us to move forward with      other opportunities for the ongoing improvement on the course.

With the reconstruction (in house) of three Tees which is still ongoing at the time of writing.


Winter TEE, looking onto new Red TEE (12th )                Construction of new Winter Tee

Construction of a more robust and visually appealing water defence for the 12th Green, which now has the soil regraded to fit sympathetically to the topology of the curves and slopes of   the existing area.

We have also had our independent annual Agrominist report from the STRI that has come in very favourably (I am very pleased with progress, and my guys have worked hard this year to get success, well done lads!!!!).

Still some areas highlighted for renovation to improve air and light movement around some greens mainly 12th, 13th and 6th.

But what I have learnt most from this crazy year of weather is the importance of ROOTS, this year has demonstrated the need for an improved root structure for the plants, especially if     the trend from here on out may be hotter drier summers. So with that in mind we shall be initiating a broader aeration programme on all fine turf to, as much as practicably possible,    protect our course for the future by encouraging happier, deeper root systems, giving the plant the best chance possible.

So please try to see through any short term disruption that you may encounter and understand the longer term benefits that these operations can have to enhance and protect our course for years to come.

Rob Peers

Course Blog Jan-April

Well hello from the Greenkeepers shed again, I was hoping not to start my blog about the weather, but as usual it has been again a massive factor in the in the up and coming season.

How best to sum up the winter we have just encountered, wet, long periods of extreme cold and did I mention wet. For some of us work can follow a predictable and fairly static    programme of works, what happened at this time last year should follow along the same pattern for this time this year!

I wish this were the case but I am very lucky to be kept on my toes with an ever changing work environment. For example last April’s rainfall total was 4mm, this year April’s rainfall total nearly 4 inches. So some times when we benchmark where we think we should be, we must allow for Mother Nature, for example this spring. Or to my mind the lack of it, it just seemed      to move from wet to July!!!

This being said the warm weather has allowed a certain amount of catching up in fact for a while the coarser Grasses we have reacted like a grass grenade going off, for a while we struggled to keep up, but things are now calming down a bit. With the new machinery helping, in point of fact the new fairway mowers.

Being lighter than their old counter parts we managed to move out on the course sooner than if we had the old heavier machines on the wet and unstable ground conditions.

Despite this winter’s weather other projects have moved forward, the work to the new pump house has been completed and it is now operational, ready to help with the season to come if drought becomes an issue.

Other areas have also had a lot of work in the way of seed bed preparation for the wild flower meadows, the seeding of which should be taking place mid-May.

The Greens have coped well even with the unpredictable weather, and our monthly maintenance operations are going well, the disease risk was high this winter, but with the ongoing works and preventative strategies have certainly helped us keep things at bay with a happier healthier sward.

So hopefully we shall have a great season for golf this year, things are not looking too bad at present.

Winter Maintenance

During the off-season we run our winter maintenance programme, this is a very site specific and bespoke set of operations that will ensure that we as a club can provide as much care as possible for our fine turf during these inhospitable environmental conditions.

One of the best tools in our bag is the Verti-Draining that we carry out, when the winter rain fall exceeds what the greens profile can comfortably absorb and pass, we have to lend a hand  by putting in additional holes through which the excess water may pass more freely to the drainage carpet beneath, helping to keep the roots in a healthier well balanced environment.

Planning this in advance with any degree of certainty is difficult as this is quite a re-active/preventative approach to maintenance, as such on any given day during the winter maintenance period, you as members may find a Green being treated or recovering from treatment. Please bear with us as we wish to give the club Greens the best start as possible for spring and     Golf season to come.

December Blog

As autumn turns to Winter we have been ‘enjoying’ relatively warm day time temperatures which means the grass continues to grow and mowers will be out on the course. Although we haven’t had a deluge, we’ve had enough rain to give us a slippery surface which is susceptible to damage from the mowers, no matter how carefully we drive.

Funnily enough, we’ve noted from digging ditches, the ground is bone dry a couple of feet down so it seems moisture is currently trapped in the upper layers of the soil profile. You will no doubt have noticed the verti-draining we have done on the Greens to assist in moving moisture away from the surface and down into the lower soil profiles to protect our putting surfaces.

Ideally we would like a prolonged cold & dry spell which means we can stop mowing and the threat from fungus (fusarium etc) is also diminished.

The forecast for the next couple of weeks looks favourable so please bear with us as we work through this tricky period as best we can.

Elsewhere on the course you may have noticed the new Pump House taking shape on the Princes pond which will give us an additional water source in Summer.

We are constantly clearing leaves from the course, a couple of good frosts should see the final leaf drop and we can clear the course once and for all.

We are fortunate that in this part of the UK golf can generally played all year round, we do our best to present a playable course in the Winter but always have an eye on Spring and  prioritise returning the Course to top condition as early into the new season as possible. 

September Course Blog

Hello from the Greenstaff, I believe the saying is supposed to go what a difference a day makes, but for the purpose of today’s item, it would be more prudent to say , what a difference a year makes. This time last year we were welcoming the arrival of a late summer, not so the case at the moment of writing!

With the arrival of the winter’s first storm last week, a possible after effect from the terrible weather patterns left over from Hurricane Irma (Atlantic Jet stream). It just seems to have been     a short summer this year.

This tree seems to have given up on Summer already!

Other signs Autumn is with us.

August's maintenace work went well although it was nigh on 3 weeks before the greens could be said to be well on their way to recovery. As all Club golfers are aware, this work needs       to be done and the rate of recovery can vary according to a wide range of conditions (severity of work, climatic conditions etc).

The wary Greenkeeper is always on the lookout for potential trouble and there are now reminders, if they were needed, that conditions are becoming conducive to fungal growth. As ever, we will be taking a preventative approach to protecting the greens in the hope we can avoid the worst the winter has to offer.

As we move into Autumn, whilst we still need to maintain the grass cutting regime we will need to find time to deal with the leaf fall which will soon begin to accumulate.

Still, its not all bad news, we can look forward to natures late show as the trees change hue to red, gold and brown. 

August greens renovation Kings and Queens 2017

Well, we have nearly got to that time of year again when we have to carry out our annual major renovations on the Kings and Queens.

The decision making process for the appropriate renovations is a very thoughtful affair; many factors must be phased into the equation. For example what preceded it last year? What    might be 2018’s renovation? Have we made net progress in any one area of the greens profile? Have we lost a little ground on another area within the profile? How was the weather for    the spring summer? What is the forecast for the coming winter (predicted?). Occurrences of disease (both historical and predicted). How did the Greens play this season? Increase/ decrease of sword density? Increase/ decrease of preferred grass cultivar (Bent Grass is our preferred species). Trueness and smoothness results. Results for organic Matter, current  labour and skill set, finance, weather forecasts.

The list goes on and on with many factors involved, but basically I make the main decision on the results from the STRI report. This year we had our visit in May, and the results of which were favourable. A couple of points stood out for me, mainly the organic matter being 3% higher than target values in the top 0- 20mm and 4.4% higher than target values in the 20-40mm range within the greens profile.

Combined with all the other parameters mentioned, this year’s renovation scheduled for the week beginning 14th August will be of a hollow core of a depth of 100mm (4 inches) with    12mm tines.

This will be exactly the same format that has already been carried out on the Princes course. The height of cut will increase shortly before the 14th, fungicide applied the week before (as increased nitrogen levels can aggravate the disease pathogen). Hollow core, hole fill (kiln dried sand to achieve maximum hole fill and soil exchange). Fertilise and overseed (Bent Grass), and then regular aftercare (as and when) of top dress rolling brushing etc.

The recovery rate will depend very much on the weather, hopefully fingers crossed a dry to start to the week and then wetter later, we shall see! But this was the case for Princes Greens. So within a two week period, from the 10th of July to the 21st of July (the 10th being hollow core day). We went from a height of cut of 6mm back down to a more desirable 3mm within     this time frame. Still more after care to go but this recovery rate was pleasing (the conducive weather was the main factor).

Fingers crossed for the weather during our August renovations!

​Hollow Core on Princes 10th JUly

​Tine Holes

​Filled, fertilised and over-seeded

2 weeks later

Course Blog – June 17

Again, hello from the Greenkeepers may I first take the opportunity to thank all who wished me well in my new role.

 It’s a new phase of the clubs evolution and the desire to inform and communicate and maybe educate will be my objective for future correspondence.    

 So if I might give a brief summary of where we are currently positioned with the programmes of work and preventative measures  employed.

I know my role incorporates many areas but for the purpose of this item I shall contain myself mainly to the greens. All areas of the     course are important to us and do receive attention, and no doubt as the blog evolves I will get round to addressing the bigger picture.

Greens are high maintenance areas in both labour and routine operations, in the form of cultivation which includes mowing, verti cutting and root development (tines etc.) through to topdressing (sand), chemical applications (fungicide/fertilizer/soil surfactants). Throw into     the mix Biological solutions, biostimulants and not forgetting the application and control of moisture in the form of rain/irrigation and drainage, and as such they are constantly under stress

The Grass plant itself became wide spread during the end of the Cretaceous period (145 – 66 million years ago) and as such has evolved naturally over this time with only the odd Dinosaur to worry about.

Unfortunately the game of Golf has only been around (as we recognise it) for a few hundred years. So as we can see in the evolutionary scale, the Grass as a cultivar is at a bit of a disadvantage. It wants to grow long and lush, enjoy the sun and the rain and spread its seed.

Then along comes the Greenkeepers and effectively cut it to an incredibly low tolerance every day. Imagine if you will cutting your nails to the quick every single day, and then tapping them on a desk for as long as the sun is up.

This cycle repeats for as long as the demand exists, the roots constantly tries to replenish the nutrients removed from the leaf, so the     root structure itself become stressed and as such the natural development can be restricted. All the roots really need is a healthy well balanced root zone, without too much compaction and good air to water ratio. The daily foot fall and daily mowing will cause compaction  so the roots are also under constant pressure.

We're barely into June and we've had drought and high winds already!

Well there must be some good news! Only if you are a weed, pest or disease as with their predatory nature they will take advantage of the weak.

This is when the Greenkeepers steps in, we try to evaluate all the external influences from footfall, cut rate, evaporation rate, soil temperature, air temperature, too little/much moisture, growth rates, different growth rates of different cultivars, available sun light hours, nutrient uptake, nutrient deficiency, disease risk, type of disease, life cycles and possible infestation of pests and so on and so forth.

Things seem to be stacked against the Greens but we have a programme in place to protect and improve. An example of this is when we sprayed parasitic nematodes last September to remove the leatherjackets (root eating grubs) that would otherwise be devastating an already stressed root system this month as part of their life cycle.

The fungicides we employ on an approximate monthly basis (more if conditions are adverse) are both varied in the active ingredient, depending on likely disease outbreaks (different environmental conditions different disease) and also tailored to suit the weather  conditions (the right fungicide for the right temperature) we also avoid building up, as far as practical, any immunity.

The fertilizer programme used compliments the fungicide programme which in turn compliments the soil analysis programme which in   turn compliments the STRI programme.  

So the greens require considerable fore-sight & planning, anticipating what is round the corner both in terms of weather and in relation to the wider environment and what could impact their health moving forward.  


Spring blog 2017
Hello again from the Greenstaff,  as usual I find myself starting another blog with the current and preceding weather conditions, but as we all know spring can be a fickle creature. With the winter having been significantly drier than others in recent years, it was great to take advantage of the more stable ground conditions, the vertidraining and winter renovations went really well and we exceeded the the number of operations that we would normally expect to achieve.

The irrigation system was brought back on line earlier than expected as soon as the threat of frozen pipes had past, we have encountered a number of leaks, probably due to the underlying clay subsoil drying and shrinking putting a strain on some of the many joints and junctions. However the system is now fully operational and will hopefully behave itself!!!

The Lab results have come back from the Greens soil tests I sent away in February and were pleasing! This has lead to a robust and tailored fertiliser program for 2017 which will compliment the fungicide control.

Looking at the constant disease risk the appropriate program has already commenced rolling over from 2016 to 2017, approximate  monthly applications of control, with a preventative approach being taken at the moment as the warm days and cool nights do tend to aggravate the potential of the pathogen activating.

We are also monitoring our moisture levels and nutrient levels as we always do at this time of year, with the continued long term improvement for the condition of our Greens and course in general being foremost in our mind. That being said as I mentioned before spring is fickle and although on the face of it looks like when the sun shines the main golf season has arrived! This unfortunately is not always the case we are currently experiencing a constant drying wind that has been with us for a week or so now with some of the grass species showing signs of drought stress (so I hear you ask, why don't you use the irrigation system to water the stressed grass?), well because the season is still early all the cultivars are at different stages of growth, the plants that would like some moisture are not always the desired cultivars that we would like to see flourish in the fine turf, and the ones that we would like to see increase in Sword density are quite happy sending their roots down into the lower profile of the green to make use of the available moisture further down which makes them happy?

At the moment we are not only dry we are cold, so the cultivar that doesn't have a brown stressed appearance but has a blue/ purple appearance where the frost has scorched the upper side of the leaf, these patches on the greens are not visually appealing but will not leave any damage once the weather improves.

We are as anxious as you the membership to take advantage of the good weather but from a Greenkeepers perspective the summer and the predictable and favourable growing conditions are not quite with us yet but I'm sure they cannot be far away and with that the return to more favourable Greens when the cut rate will increase hand in hand with the growth rate.

You may recall a similar communication last Spring as we wait for temperatures to warm up so the growing season begins proper and we can get the putting surfaces closer to where we want them to be....... can't be long now!

Rob Peers

Still getting frosts this week!

Captains Blog – February 2017

This is my last blog as Captain; it has been a very enjoyable year right from the start with the Drive In (231 yards) through to the Annual Dinner and Prize giving.  My thanks go to      everyone for their support and encouragement.

Congratulations to all this year’s prize winners, but especially those who received their trophies at the Annual Dinner. 

As the year draws to a close and the Putt Out approaches (5th March), I would like to highlight  some of the key contributions over the year:

Lady Captain Gill, for her positive attitude, excellent golf and enthusiastic support throughout the year, it wouldn’t have been the same without her.

On the Course great improvements have been made, I think it’s starting to look and feel like a Championship course as the initiatives of the last 2 – 3 years take effect, this year:

·         All 18 Greens were drilled and filled in August, and 2 months later were rolling true and smooth, but now being receptive as well

·         The “Classic” Green Tee course SSS 69 was introduced

·         Many subtle refinements have been made to the look and playability of the course, for example,  widening the 13th fairway, trimming the trees to the left of the 11th green etc

Well done David, Rob and the team along with Tim Tisdale, our Greens and Rules expert, for an excellent year.

Captain - Pro matches returned, 9 pairs took on Peter Parks and me, of these 6 pairs were successful and qualified for the Final. 

My thanks go to Peter for his superb play and enthusiastic participation, not just in these matches but in all the charity events.


There has been some excellent play, major achievements include:

·         Jensen Hull winning the Weekend Order of Merit for a 3rd time as well as winning the Club Championship for the first time

·         Mike Swan winning the Seniors Cup and The Masters within a week, reducing his handicap from 4 to 2 and becoming our first “Golfer of the Year”.

New competitions were successfully introduced, notably The 27 hole Stableford, The 36 hole Medal and the Winter Greensomes.

In all some 40+ competitions have been run and very successfully managed by our ever enthusiastic Competition Secretary, well done John Twiggs.

Club matches

On the social side it has been my pleasure to play for the Men’s, Mixed and Seniors teams.  These matches have been consistently good fun, friendly and gently competitive.

On the more competitive side; the Men’s team retained its Division 1 status in the Invicta league; the Princes team made its debut in the 9 hole Invicta competition; whereas the Vets won their Division of the Kent Vets League for the first time, and went on to be 3rd in the County grand final (held at Hever Castle GC).

Well done to all who played in the various match teams and my thanks to the organisers; David Hawes-Gatt (Invicta), Allan Chase (Men’s), Roger Lewis (Seniors), Bob Pullin (Vets), Jo Harris / Steve Davey (Mixed) and David Haugh (Princes).

Social side

We had a sell out Summer Party and I am delighted to say we had a sell out Annual Dinner Dance as well.  Paul Sax and his band were excellent and played right to the end, even playing one of my choices, they must be good.

Essential support

Behind the scenes sterling work is carried out to help keep the club running smoothly, well done Richard Hinds (Handicaps) and Ron Judge (Finance). 

We are also indebted to the club staff led by the management team; Jon Wittenberg, Kate Wittenberg, Steve Clayton (Membership) and Matt (Head Chef).

Demelza Charity update:

The Demelza Charity total continues to rise and has now reached £5674.50.

My thanks to everyone for the friendliness and support shown throughout the year.

Martin Taylor – Captain 2016

Course Blog February 2017

Hello again from the Greenstaff! Well here we go into another year! At the expense of repeating myself this years programmed works will follow a very similar vein as last with the Greens being foremost in our minds. As such, even at the time of writing, we are getting the Greens prepared for the coming season.

The weather conditions since Christmas have been favourable so far (from a Greenkeepers perspective) with a fairly dry autumn going into a cold spell, which in turn gave well received respite from the disease which had begun to show on some of the greens (pathogens less active in colder conditions). The permafrost we experienced during January has released from  the Greens which is good news as it has enabled us to carry out some tining and verti draining to the Greens, Collars and Approaches allowing air in and water out of the Greens profile combined with (in the case of the verti draining) the flushing and cleansing of the iron applications made to help the fight with disease late last year (iron helps reduce spore formation on   the leaf, but risks undesirable build up in the soil).

​A bit of Winter work on the greens

We shall wait with baited breath to see what happens next as the not very scary sounding storm ‘Doris’ is currently waiting in the wings with her wind, rain and cold. That being said signs of Spring are making themselves known, a little more daylight, the birds in song and the first snow drops to emerge on the course. Spring and the main Golf season may be just around the corner…….. but let's wait and see what Doris has to say first…………………

Captains Blog – December 2016

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Since I last wrote we have played:

·         The last few friendly matches, ending the season with the last Men’s match away at Redlibbets, this was a closely fought contest played in great spirit which ended in a 3:3 draw

·         Team Hever Day; a tight match between teams comprised of representatives of the various club sides and led by the Captain and Vice Captain, it ended level at 5.5 v 5.5 thus the “trophy” was retained by the Captain

·         The Conker Trophy, the Committee played better ball stableford against the Staff who were ably led by the Green keepers.  It was a great day with some excellent golf being  played by both sides, the Committee narrowly won taking the trophy by an aggregate score of 163 v 156, David Wood is already planning his revenge for next year.

In addition the club has hosted 2 local finals:

·         North Kent foursomes final was won by Cherry lodge, they had beaten us in the semi final

·         Kent Vets Grand final came to Hever Castle for the first time.  The winners of the 9 divisions played 5 pairs each, it was a great event to host and watch; the course played fast and true belying its length off the Yellows.  The result, Hever Castle GC ably led by Bob Pullin came third to the winners Sundridge Park.

More recently has seen the start of Christmas with the:

·         Jingle Jumble organised by the Ladies, this was played as a Par 3 event from the 150 yard line due to fog, never the less the event went ahead and was enjoyed by all

·         Seniors Waltz, which was won with splendid Xmas jumpers on show by Keith, John and Terry (see photo on website)

·         Captains Christmas Cracker played on a warm but misty Saturday, this resulted in an interesting days golf and a win for Steve W snr, Denise, Lindsey and Terry.

Next up golf wise is the Winter Greensomes on New Year’s Eve.

On the social side:

·         The Club’s AGM is at 7pm on Tuesday 10th Jan 2017, your chance to hear the Committee’s highlights for 2016 and the Club’s plans for 2017

·         Annual Dinner / Prize-giving is on Saturday 28th Jan 2017, this starts with bubbly at 6:15pm followed by Dinner, Prize-giving and Dancing to our live band, Paul Sax and Friends, who are highly rated.  Tickets a snip at £34 if bought by 12th January.

Charity update:

The raffle for a Calloway Driver complete with fitting at Calloway was won by Pete Marrero, thanks to all who entered. 

The Charity total has now reached £5350.

Martin Taylor – Captain

Course Blog December 2016

As we move into Winter proper the course remains very playable due to the relatively mild weather, however to the Greenkeeper this is by no means a blessing as the moderate   temperature and moist conditions are perfect for the disease which resides in all greens to become active and produce the patchy areas on the greens we are currently experiencing.

Rest assured we are well on top of our spraying regime and are at the limits of what chemicals can be safely applied to the greens, many other courses in the area are experiencing     similar difficulties but as each has its own micro-climate, green construction and maintenance regime each is affected in its own way. The online forums are full of our fellow     Greenkeepers scratching their heads!

A good ‘cold snap’ would help us all greatly so please bear with us in the meantime.

Looking back we feel the course played well during and well beyond the main season, we have hit our aggregates target for the Greens at 180 tons and analysis from the STRI indicate     we are making steady progress in improving the greens. We have further plans for 2017 which we look forward to sharing with you in the upcoming masterplan including some major     steps towards protecting the course from erosion for decades to come.

Have a great Christmas and New Year from all the Greenkeeping team and we look forward to seeing you all next year.

Dave, Rob & the Team   

Course Blog Autumn 2016

Once again hello from the Greenstaff, we hope you are enjoying your Autumn golf and have adjusted you're attire accordingly, hats, scarfs, shorts and T shirts!

It seems more and more that I introduce my Blog with the weather, but for us it really is a governing factor and a major influence for our up and coming work schedules as well as any possible problems we may encounter. With this years Halloween finding us warmer than Athens it is no wonder that I seem overly obsessed.

The Greens are my main benchmark as to what the grass plants are having to cope with. The cool and damp nights with warm sunny days (although great for golf !) is stressing the      Grass plant, the plant still finds the need to continue to put energy into the growing of the leaf when it should be putting more effort into its roots for the coming winter. As is the nature of   the business we are continuing to mow to give the best product we can provide, thus reducing the plants ability to regenerate though photosynthesis, the sunshine hours available per
day are lessening so the plants find themselves again at the time of year when they are most prone to attack from disease.

Signs of disease

The disease is always present within the thatch layer but as with previous years certain conditions lead it to be more aggressive, all Golf courses suffer from disease, as we all deal with   fine turf, but it is largely a question of what damage to what degree?

All I can say is we have done our best to minimise the effects that you as members see on the course. We now have a robust (fungicide ) spraying regime, but this alone is not a miracle cure, with the fungicide heavily regulated for both the chemical and the frequency per year of applications we have to bolster the effectiveness of what we have available with other  methods, one of these methods we currently employ is this addition of a soluble iron. This is to acidify and desiccate the turf surface which the mycelium does not like.

However the iron can build up within the Greens profile which is not good for the long term health of the plant. So as you can see as we help with one problem we potentially cause   another. So how do we release the iron build up? Verti draining works along side these actions, not only allowing the oxygen in the profile to help the good bacteria break down unwanted thatch and decompacting the soil, it also helps with the water transit washing out and diluting any iron build up. So over the course of the winter you may experience tine holes on the Greens ( hopefully all Greens at least once, love to do it twice!!!  ) but I just want to try to explain why and the importance of some of the works you see out and about.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower!”​

Whoever said that was clearly not a Greenkeeper.

Whilst the Autumn certainly brings with it interest & beauty it unfortunately also brings the leaves!

We will do our best to keep things as tidy as possible and as clear as we can, but until all the leaves have fallen this will be an ongoing battle with fresh deposits daily in all corners of the course!

So whilst we move into the 'off season' we certainly still have plenty of challenges to deal with across the course and less daylight hours to complete them in, we'll be sure to keep you updated as to what we're up to, where and why over the Winter and into Spring.

Captains Blog October 2016

Captains Blog – September 2016

I have been so busy playing golf it is a while since I wrote one of these blogs, so starting in July:

·         Club Championship; this was an excellent competition, well organised and a win for Jensen Hull

·         Seniors Cup won by Mike Swan, though John Dunn in second represents Hever in the Kent Vets

·         Hever Masters also won by Mike Swan after a playoff – tense stuff but a well played 5 from the bunker on the first playoff hole saw Mike home.

As well as the golf we held the Summer Party – a sell out of all 130 tickets.  It was a balmy Mediterranean evening with the festivities carrying on both inside and outside on the patio until late.

The Captain – Pro matches proceeded through the summer, my thanks to Peter Parks for his enthusiastic support.  In total 9 pairs took on Peter and me with some excellent golf being played and all bar 2 matches going to at least the 17th hole.  It was great fun and good for the charity.

The 6 pairs who succeeded in beating us, were invited to the Captain – Pro Better Ball Stableford to close the season.  In a closely fought context Jim Humm and Andy Marsh took the winners honours and the Kent and Sussex (Champagne) for 2016.  Well played Jim and Andy.

August saw a chance for a week’s holiday whilst the green staff worked super hard and gave each green the full treatment, drill and fill to tackle the drainage down to the sand base, followed by Graden treatment (slits with sand injection) to improve upper level drainage and thus link both drainage activities together.  All appears to be recovering extremely well.

The Men’s Invitation day on Sept 10th was a great day, 95 people played and Colin Linsley (past Club Champion) returned as Steve Whittaker’s guest and they took the honours.  Thanks  to John Twiggs and the 2 Pauls (Keen and Watson) for helping make this event such a success.

In September Men’s social matches resumed after a quiet period over the summer with games against East Sussex, Purley Downs, Sundridge Park and Broke Hill.  Two losses, one win + one match called off due to rain. 

We have now had 3 matches either called off or abandoned due to heavy rain / thunder and lightning which is unprecedented – still we mustn’t complain, 3 months of almost non-stop      sun in the middle of the year from Captains Day through to late September definitely makes this one of the better summers in the last few years.

Looking forward to events in Autumn and beyond:

·         Autumn meeting on 1st / 2nd Oct – which comprises the Hever Stud and Autumn Bogey competitions

·         Team Hever day on 5th Nov – open to anyone who played a social club match (Men’s, Ladies or Mixed)

·         Captains Christmas Cracker on Sat 17th Dec

·         Annual Dinner and Prizegiving on Sat 28th Jan 2017, open to all but especially those who won something during 2016.

Charity update:

The vouchers for the best score in the Charity Stablefords went to Rob Piper and Helen Crust.

As a result of this and other activity the Captain’s charity has now reached £4807 and with a little luck should surpass our target of £5000.

Next Captain’s charity events are The Quiz on Friday Oct 14th and the Christmas Cracker on Sat 17th Dec – which is intended to be a fun oriented Stableford event.    

Martin Taylor – Captain

Course Blog September 2016

Hello to all! Well Summer is most definitely here, albeit in time for Autumn. Never mind we shall take advantage of the extended golf season and the conducive growing conditions, that  were sadly missing at the beginning of the season.

Out and about the fairways and rough are looking brown and the grass cover thin partly due to the prolonged dry period and Mother Nature telling the plant to ready itself for Winter.  However last week we experienced an average day time temperature for September at midnight, strange days and even hotter nights!

The August Greens maintenance seems to have been a long time ago now, but we are still working away on the Greens to get them back to where we want to be. The incredibly hot weather at the time was a mixed blessing, it gave great conditions for the physical completion of the job, but hindered the after care programme. We did not get on the programmed top dress as the grass plants already had enough to contend with with all the holes etc, the last thing they needed was the Greenstaff putting more stress on the them.

So we took a step back and just concentrated on keeping the Greens hydrated and the roots moist and cool. We have since caught up with the aggregate targets and the Greens have responded well.​


The August maintenance was in my eyes a huge success. Although I didn't say too much as all works can seem disruptive (but necessary) this was probably one of the biggest stand     alone operations to the Greens since construction.

With the top of the Greens profile showing steady improvement it was time to try to improve some of the lower profile. The Drill and Fill (the holes) with its ability to remove and replace      the soil to 10 to 12 inches gives the profile as a whole the ability to move water and air more freely, this combined with the Graden (the slits) compliments the two actions very well as it   links the surface to the drainage levels beneath on an “X” and “Y” axis.

This in my opinion is not a one shot cure but another tool to be used for the future ongoing commitment to improve the Greens on our wonderful course.
Put in a very simplistic way the operations carried out (albeit that they both also help soil exchange and de-compaction at various widths and depths) will dramatically improve the    drainage, in fact on completion the total amount of drainage incorporated into 19 Greens equated to 250 miles, as the crow flys this is about the same distance as a drain running from London to Paris! So on a personal note from myself a big well done and thank you for all the team involved.


Course Blog July 2016

Can we in all fairness call it a good summer ? The weather has been a major factor for us this season with temperatures soaring this week to hotter than Barbados and then within 24    hours seeing a drop of 10 degrees . So just as we get the hoses out to supplement the irrigation system with hand watering ( trying our best to help cool and rehydrate the grass plants      on the Green) then it's time to put them away again! However we are now just seeing some of the stress incurred from the exceptional short and hot heat wave in the form of   “dry patch”, this is totally normal when the plant feels threatened and will put itself into “survival mode” but with a little TLC things should calm down.

The Princes maintenance that was carried out earlier the month was I'm pleased to say a success, with the weather playing its part with a break in the rain just long enough for us to apply the kiln dried sand via the Graden with an over seed, incorporating with this a 4 inch deep 12mm tining and top dress. The Greens were the given extra feed and the height of    cut raised, thus giving the grass plants the best opportunity for a speedy recovery. Over the next couple of weeks the “after care” will be carefully monitored, the height of cut slowly reduced to provide a more acceptable pace, with a few light top dressings when needed, as usual the grass plant and environmental conditions will dictate the speed of recovery.

With this in mind it is always a prelude to the on coming maintenance scheduled for the Kings and Queens mid August, with a similar look feel and process to the Princes and     hopefully similar recovery, this being said we shall wait with baited breath to see what the weather will do next.

Princes Greens 1 week after annual maintenance

Captains Blog – June 2016

With the golfing season now in full swing, Allan Chase established in his role of Vice Captain and golfing events happening thick and fast, last Sunday we held Captain’s Day.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2 Captain’s Trophy events, the weather was kind and we had a marvellous day.  Both events were close contests decided on count back,   and congratulations go to our winners Annette Hards and David Hepburn, and to all who played and helped make it such an enjoyable day.

Looking back over the last 6 weeks we have seen a variety of golfing events take place against the normal backdrop of Medals, Stablefords and Club Matches, including:

Kents – Yorks match, which saw a closely fought contest won by the owners Yorks team.  Congratulations to them on winning this match for the first time
Founders Trophy played in good weather and won by Stuart Hilton on count back from Lindsey Pring, both had 42 pts.  Jensen Hull shot lowest gross with 71 and I managed a creditable 36 pts coming 12th

In early June we hosted the Interclub Captains Trophy, a competition between the Captain’s / VCs of the various clubs we play friendly matches against, it’s a better ball event won      this year by Nizels GC with a combined total of 84 pts

Seniors Invitational Team Trophy was again a success with the honours going to Worthing GC

Unfortunately the weather intervened in June resulting in 2 weekend Men’s matches being abandoned due to Thunder and Lightning

Fortunately though the weather relented sufficiently to allow the Midsummer magic event to take place in hazy sunshine.  Some 30 golfers enjoyed an early morning round of golf, starting at 5am to the sound of a Nightingale.  The event was won by Karil Greenhalgh with 41 pts

The Captain – Pro matches are underway, and Mark Sayell / Viv Graham are the first pair through to September’s final.  Dates are still available if you wish to challenge Peter and me.

The Ladies played brilliantly to reach the final of the prestigious Pearson Trophy, but unfortunately faced heartbreak yet again losing a very close contest 4:3.

Looking forward to July and beyond:

Club Championships are next, the Men’s on 9th  10th July and Ladies on 23rd 24th – good luck to all

Hever Summer Party is on Saturday 16th July – Hog roast followed by dancing to a Live Band - £20 / ticket.  All members and their guests are welcome

Men’s Masters is being held this year on Saturday 30th July, earlier than usual with the aim of playing with the course in tip top condition.  Entry by qualification only
Sunday 31st July sees the reintroduction of the summer Texas scramble, this is a mixed event involving golfers of all skill levels competing as a team

Looking further ahead Men’s Invitation Day is on Sat Sept 10th – your chance to bring a guest to play competitive golf at Hever Castle GC.

Charity update:

Captain’s Day saw £742.50 raised from the Raffle and Beat the Pro, our thanks to Peter and Elliott for their time and enthusiasm and to all of you for your generosity.  The running     total now stands at £3655.50.

Next Captain’s charity event is the July Charity Stablefords, entry includes an additional £3 which goes to the Captain’s charity Demelza – adding life to days where days cannot be added to young lives. 

The best Men’s / Ladies scores, whether achieved in the Midweek or Weekend competitions, will receive a voucher for a golfing four ball to Royal Ashdown West for the Men or to  Surrey Downs for the Ladies.

Martin Taylor – Captain

Course Blog 13/06/16

It really has been a tough start to this years golfing season, with the grass growing far longer into the Winter than usual, using up a lot of its stored up energy in the process.

What we really didn't need after the Winter growth was a cold late Spring! However as luck would have it we got exactly that, this meant that the already tired grass was still to face an upward battle before the air, soil and moisture conditions became  more stable and predictable.

Again we encountered wildly fluctuating spikes of heat for a few days and then the cold windy days thrown in with a few thunderstorms!

Despite this the Greens have responded favourably, I know the greens got a little hard on the top early on but we had to let them dry out as much as we dared so as to reduce the percentage moisture content.

This year as last we saw the return of the green spots on our early Spring greens, this will be an on going feature on the greens during the transitional period between Winter and Spring.

But why the spots and why did he say the greens have responded well. Take a look at at the image below this is a side view of a “Green Spot”.

Please note the happy and healthy tubular shaped root system in the centre portion of the core sample throwing its roots down though the Greens profile gaining an early advantage on its immediate surrounding neighbours, these spots are indicative of the beneficial work carried out on the Greens!

The tine holes with sand provide a better environment in which the plant can thrive, the other plants in turn will catch up as the more stable growing conditions improve. Over time more and more volume of the greens will have been tined leading to much healthier and robust playing surfaces.

Cutting heights have now been reduced and the mowing frequency increased but we can only do this when the grass plant can “as it were” stand on its own feet. To push too much too early would be detrimental to the health and sustainability of the up coming golf season as Charles Dickens wrote of March “it was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Access to drone images allows us to see areas where there may be drainage/irrigation concerns which we can move to address.

That being said now Spring has sprung we will endeavour to keep all areas moving forward, this for us may mean looking at the course from a different perspective!

Course Blog 10/05/16

Course Blog May 2016

Well Summer has finally arrived, only 2 weeks ago I was dusting snow off my jacket and yet this weekend Hever was hotter than Ibiza!

So we’ve had a wet, warm Winter followed by a dry, cold Spring. Confusing as this is to us, it is even more so to the grass plants on our greens. But slowly but surely the greens are coming to life, we are still only cutting them once every 3 days and even then we are not picking up much growth, in high season we cut them every day.

So although it may feel like high Summer at times, the greens are in a state of transition. At this stage we have to be careful not to over water the greens as we want to encourage  strong root growth which occurs when the grass plant has to go looking for moisture, this means the greens are at the firm end of the scale at the moment but the middle to long      term benefit of this is healthier more resistant greens.

Having said that we had a power failure on Friday evening which meant the sprinklers did not activate Saturday morning so they were firmer than we would have liked this weekend.

We are now starting to see seed heads appear and this combined with the inconsistent growth are making the greens less smooth than we would like, but this is the same situation      we faced this time last year and every other year along with most other Parkland Courses. Once we are into the Summer cutting regime which is only a matter of time we will see a return to the quick, smooth putting surfaces we all enjoy.

Elsewhere we are carefully bringing the 7+ miles of irrigation pipes back online after Winter, wary of any blockages caused by pockets of frozen water in the system. The Blue Bells   have been enjoying there moment of glory, particularly along the left of the 13th where they are finally free of the invasive Knot Weed and Giant Butterbur with which they had been fighting a losing battle over the last few years until our Greenkeepers kindly intervened, they should go from strength to strength over the next few years.

So, we are in a state of readiness for that moment when everything explodes into life and nearly all 250 acres of the golf course will require mowing daily and those damp, cold Spring rounds will be nothing but a distant memory!

Course Blog 07/03/16

Hello to all, well we find ourselves with Spring waiting in the wings yet at the time of writing this blog the threat of snow is looming!

So as you can see, course maintenance plans made last Autumn are very much at the mercy of the weather, the first scheduled monthly operation (baring snow, frost, flood!!) will     have been Monday 7th March. The soil temperatures are still low so we shall be applying a light top dress and small solid tine.

This year's course maintenance program will be almost a mirror image of last year's. We hope we achieved the correct balance of necessary improvements with the minimum of disruption to the state of play! Excellent progress was made last season we hope to keep that momentum going forward for the future.

Currently a lot of work has taken place in the woods by the 13th hole, this will be an ongoing project with hopefully many advantages. These include being able to monitor and       eradicate with cultural practice's the unwanted knot weed (as spraying chemical would be our last choice of control), to encourage and re-establish the indigenous ancient woodland (those bluebells will put on a magnificent show) and the inclusion of many bug castles will encourage the wildlife to set up home. The general appearance of the hole we also hope to improve, whilst providing a new and cared for habitat. {cke_protected_1} {cke_protected_2}

Clearing and burning!

Average temperatures tend to pick up nicely as we move through the end of March into April and barring any prolonged wet period we feel the course is in good shape for the season ahead. 

Clearing the Knotweed to make way for indigenous plants & flowers

Captain's Blog 05/03/16

Captains Drive In

The weather was kind, there were some periods of sun but no rain, though it was cold.

At the Drive In Gill went first and hit a very reasonable 159yards.  This was great, it took any nerves I had away.

Then it was my turn, I took my practice swing and all was quiet.  I set up to the ball, and I could hear the camera shutters clicking.  My thought was “is this what it’s like to be a professional”  I turned, set and committed to the swing, to my surprise and delight it was a good solid shot, right down the middle.  It was measured at 231 yards which with no wind assistance on a cold day was more than reasonable.  I was delighted and thanks to all those who congratulated me just afterwards, I was made up.

Now it was on to the competition, Gill and I played the 12th with the groups playing the back 9.  We started well but faded later as it became colder.  It took 6 goes before I found the water, during the preceding 5 attempts I made 1 birdie and 3 pars whereas Gill played superbly making par on 7 consecutive goes.

With the golf over it was back for lunch, the curry was great.  The speeches seemed to pass off well and I hope everyone enjoyed the day, I know I did.  The winners were:

Front 9: Stephen Whittaker Jnr, Glenn Steward, Phil Herman, Simon Connolly

Back 9: David Hawes-Gatt, Alan Wright, Neil Harrison, Bobby Groves

Thanks to all for attending and making it such a great start to our year.


The captain’s charity Demelza was launched with £1120 being raised on the day. 

This charity is for hospice care for children (up to age 19), it’s a local charity with the goal being to add life to days when you can’t add days to life. 

They help the children live a more normal life through access to special facilities, including music and art rooms, a sensory room which is amazing, a specially adapted swimming pool, various gardens and play schemes as well as a bereavement facility.

This is all backed up by accommodation for 10 children and rooms for families to stay as well.  All the care is one to one.  We visited the main centre in Kent, there is another centre in south east London and a care in the community programme for East Sussex.

It all costs money to run and is largely charity funded, hence our wish to do what we can to help them.  As our next step we have launched a blind auction to raise funds.

Blind Auction:

Please check out the courses on the board at the club or shortly on IG.  There are 8 courses left.  Bid what you can and advise Gill or I of your bids by email, phone, ... 

The auction will close on 30th April after which vouchers will be awarded to the highest bid for each course, provided a small reserve has been met.  If a bid over £200 is received this will secure a particular course for immediate release. 

Please remember this is for charity, there are some brilliant courses up for grabs.

Martin Taylor

Course Blog Jan/Feb 2016

The weather remains the dominant factor as we move into late Winter, we could do with a bit less of this;

We had nearly 2 inches of rain last week alone.

We would actually like a bit more of this;

Frosts have been few and far between this Winter.

The upshot of all this mild wet weather is the fact that the grass has continued to grow all Winter which means we have to take some heavy machines onto saturated ground.

The Fairways and Greens have held up pretty well, but we have to weigh up whether we’re doing more harm than good by attempting to cut the rough as with the very soft ground       we can leave quite a mess in our wake.

So as the days get slowly longer and eventually warmer and drier we are balancing the needs of our members against the needs of the course to ensure we can present it in a    playable condition without causing unnecessary damage which may impact it as we move into the season proper.

Elsewhere we have done some work to tidy up the 8th and weather proof the path as much as we can, we have also been thinning out the vegetation around the 13th green to     improve air flow and allow more sunlight to hit the green.

Work on the 8th

Clearing out around the 13th Green.

Fingers crossed for an early Spring and some drier weather !

Course Blog December 2015

As marvellous as it’s been to see golfers sporting short sleeves in the middle of December we the greenkeepers would much rather see the cold, dry weather typical of this time of    year.

We should not be mowing anywhere near as frequently as we currently are, this is not a problem in itself but the frequent rain leads to a loss of stability in the soil structure which   means we inevitably leave a bit of a mess whilst mowing.

We have even taken the unprecedented step of trying to time our mowing before heavy rainfall so the fairway surface is ‘washed’ behind us!

Putting the trials of Winter Green Keeping to one side we are happy to report we are already preparing for Spring & Summer with a facelift of the 17th tee (forward) featuring newly planted heather.

The 17th Tee receiving a facelift

The 12th is getting the ‘Augusta’ treatment with the planting of Azaleas whose flowering should herald the coming of Spring and a new season of golf!

Bedding in the Azaleas around the 12th Green

Also competing for our attention in Spring will be the Bluebells around the 14th Tee, in preparation for their display we have been clearing away dead bracken.

‘Seeing off’ the bracken around the 14th Tee

The longest day is now behind us and with the days slowly but steadily getting longer we have our fingers crossed we avoid the worst that Winter has to offer and optimistically look forward to an early Spring and a return to golfing glory!

November 2015 Update

Once again Mother Nature is throwing us a curveball with some unseasonably warm weather which is now turning ever more wet.

Not a great combination for us as the grass is still growing and needs regular cutting but the course is soft which means using the machinery required to do this leaves its mark.

The high winds have at least removed much of the remaining leaves and a couple of sharp frosts should see off the rest. We would hope to have the course largely free of leaves by   the run up to Christmas.

Winter mats are now in use on the 6th, 8th, 12th & 14th with a new mat on the 5th being trialled.

Getting the alignment just right!

Princes Members will be pleased to see a new path from the 8th green to the 9th tee which means a wet area of low lying ground can be avoided as well as moving those in transit     from green to tee out of the line of fire. 

Path between 8th Green & 9th Tee, Princes

So in conclusion we are still busy mowing and are endeavouring to clear up as many leaves as possible as quickly as possible whilst keeping a vigilant watch for any disease which     has already got a grip of a few courses in the area.

Bagging up those nuisance leaves.

Autumn update

Greetings from the Greenkeeping team,

Summer has moved into Autumn which in turn will soon turn into Winter.

We have been spoilt by the weather so far, indeed it’s been a very pleasant Autumn. Unfortunately every silver lining has a cloud when it comes to course management, warm days   and cool autumnal night’s means this is a high risk time for disease on the Greens and we need to be ever vigilant with both the preventative and curative measures we take.

Don't be mistaken, we are at risk for most of the year but at the moment, with the soil temperatures still relatively high and the cool nights leading to heavy dew on the grass sward      this creates a perfect micro climate for the disease to thrive.

A lot of thought goes into our spraying programme, there are similarities to the medical world where bacteria becomes resistant to penicillin/anti-biotics, in that the disease ‘lurking’   within the green can become resistant to the chemicals used to control them.

We are embracing cutting edge practices in adopting a more “organic/natural” approach which involves complimenting the existing chemical practices with the use of plant &      vegetable extracts such as garlic, cayenne, nettle, vinegar and lime which when combined we hope will prove to be effective and ‘greener’ over the long term.

Drainage is also a firm focus and the process of clearing ditches & drains has begun and continues in earnest, we will also be verti-draining the greens which is similar to hollow tining although the holes themselves are bigger (12mm) and deeper (9”) but spaced further apart so there are less of them.

This should ease water through and away from the Greens much more quickly during wet periods providing more stable and healthier greens through the Winter.

We have raised the height of cut on Greens to 5mm, this will allow the grass plant to make the most of the sun during the short winter days throwing as much energy down into its    roots as possible.

It is now very clear that the work we have done clearing vegetation from the more sheltered Greens is paying dividends with increased ventilation and sunlight and we will continue      this ensuring we only remove trees where we consider it absolutely necessary and favouring raising the level of the canopy where that is a valid option.

So in conclusion this update has mainly focused on some of the practices that we employ to try and ensure that the Course remains playable for as much of the year as possible even following adverse weather conditions.

Or to quote Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, “In times of peace, prepare for war!”

Course Blog - 2nd October

The greens have recovered exceptionally well following the Greens Maintenance week in August. For once the weather was helpful with a very wet period followed by a dry and warm couple of weeks. We were pleased to see the greens holding up well and remaining firm even in the height of the deluge.

We even managed to apply another 10 tonnes of sand to the greens at the end of September and we are well on top of STRI recommendations. 

Work on the 11th and 4th has now been completed with the freshly seeded area by the 4th green designated GUR until growth is established.

A Maple tree to the right of the 15th hole has been removed. It was diseased and the top of it was rotting causing a threat to users of the footpath as well as to golfers straying in that direction.

Moving into October we are not lulled into a false sense of security by the current good weather and are working on ensuring drains are clear in anticipation of the coming Winter, in fact we had our first frost this morning, along with the Castle we are constantly monitoring the weather forecast as Weir management (at the 12th hole for example) plays a large part in ensuring we get water off the course as quickly as possible during wet periods.

You will also likely see us around the course with chain saws as we continue our strategy of improving air circulation and sunlight onto and around the greens by cutting back under growth and vegetation.

You can see a good example below of work carried out on the 5th hole allowing sunlight to flood onto the green at dawn.


Below is the 11th after remedial work.

The course is currently in excellent condition especially for October but rest assured we remain vigilant and committed to ensuring you have the course as playable as possible during the coming, darker and wetter months. 

Course Blog - 3rd September

The dust has settled following our Course Maintenance week so we can look back on the work completed and look forward to some good year round greens.

Key points;

  • Work began at 6.00am Monday 17th August
  • 3.5 million holes, 13mm in diameter & 101mm deep were made on the Championship Greens
  • 7 low lying greens were 'drill & filled', 20mm diameter holes to a depth of 250mm
  • 60 tonnes of dried sand applied during the maintenance week
  • 20 tonnes of dried sand applied subsequently

The benefit of this work is multifold, much better drainage during wet periods, reduction of organic matter in the greens, reduction in 'compaction', oxygenation of soil around grass roots all of which means we have a healthy grass plant all year round which results in better playing surfaces!

The greens have already recovered very well and are improving daily.

Additionally the area right of the 4th green is being prepared for seeding, the large mound is being reduced in height and the surrounds graded down to the fence so it can be mown safely.

The soon to be improved area to the right of 4th Green

Some of the 3.5 million holes being filled with sand

   Some of the green keepers assisted by Castle staff

Course Blog - 3rd August 2015

Course Blog August 2015

Again hello from the green staff, this month we would like to elaborate on some of the whys and wherefores of Course Maintenance Week which commences on 17th August.

To put it simply, we will be putting many thousands of holes in the Greens, then putting many tons of sand on them, then raising the height of cut which will make the green surfaces long, fluffy and slow.

To the golfer, this can be very hard to comprehend. Feedback from the membership is that the greens have been delivering golfing satisfaction so why can’t we just leave them alone!

We think it's fair to say that we have seen progress made, but now is NOT the time for us to take our foot off the pedal. We are working to a long term plan developed in conjunction with the STRI which aims to deliver quick, true and consistent greens all year round and fundamental to this a yearly, aggressive renovation of the greens comprising Hollow Coring and Drill & Fill.

A sample of cores recently removed from the Princes Course, note the long, healthy root network

The hollow coring carried out on princes consisted of a 50mm by 50 mm square pattern at a depth of 75mm, so in reality this will only disrupt just under 5% of the surface area, but it is not the top (that is visible) that we are trying to reach, it’s under the surface!

The main reason for hollow coring is soil exchange to help with the reduction of the organic matter, decompaction and drainage. It took nearly 25 tons of sand and a lot of hard work from the team to fill in the holes, this is best achieved by hand, each green to approximately 1.5 hours of brushing by eight men to get the desired result.

Drill and fill is another form of renovation with what will be in essence lots of larger an deeper “drill” holes on the Green. This will be carried out on the 2nd,4th,5th,6th,12th and the 13th. These seem to be our wettest holes in the winter months, the auger of the machine will allow us to penetrate to a depth of eight inches pushing though the unpredictable and undesirable top soil layer which is then refilled with dried sand. This will allow us to link the upper profile of the Green to the lower sand (drainage horizon).

A Drill & Fill machine in action

When to undertake greens renovation is a key question, it needs to be done when the weather is warm so the greens can recover as quickly as possible, like most Clubs we think August is the best option as the weather is conducive to the quick recovery of the greens and it’s the quietest summer month on the course with many members away on holiday.

Impact - With the maintenance work on Princes course having been completed and being almost identical in the renovation (with the exception of Drill and Fill) we have a good comparison of impact to golf and the approximate recovery times (weather dependant). So taking this as a working example we would expect to see a return to normal, with conducive growing conditions, in two to three weeks.

Please expect the pace to drop during this time as the after care for the grass will include raising the height of cut and feeding the greens, this will stimulate the growth and increase the sward length, giving a more receptive turf surface to accept the light top dressings which will help to make things smoother before we gradually bring the height of cut back down. The putting surfaces will likely be ‘bumpy’ during the recovery period, more so the closer to the renovations having been completed.

Rest assured we have the very best intentions towards the long term health & condition of the greens and we need to endure a little short term ‘pain’ for a lot of medium/long term gain!

Thanks go to all members for your continued support during this time.

Course Blog – 27th June 2015

Once again hello to all, since the last update Summer has arrived!!

As such, I would be a good time to look at irrigation.

I always say our irrigation system at Hever seems to be "alive", constantly throwing problems my way.

Question - does it have problems because it's a bad system? Answer no! Although like all of us it's not getting any younger, and to be honest it has to work in a very hostile environment. In parts over a metre deep in a mainly clay soil, constantly shrinking and expanding, although at almost imperceptible increments, this puts the system under constant stress and strain!

All parts of the system need regular maintenance and attention and this can sometimes be a daunting task, as the brief overview below of the irrigation system shows its size and scope.

3 industrial pumps
7 miles of pipework
4 miles of electrical cable
550 electrical junctions
134 green sprinklers
153 tee sprinklers
37 approach sprinklers
130 decoders

Water comprises of 80 to 85 percent of the weight of a grass plant, so supplemental water is needed during prolonged periods of dry weather to maintain the turf quality.

When to irrigate is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make and as a rule we make the decision on a daily basis due to the various turf surfaces and their location on the course.

Fixing a leak behind the 2nd Green

The greens still being foremost in our development programme come under most scrutiny, with many expecting a lush green golf course at all times. However such a turf surface is not always the most healthy or playable, with the result being soggy and wet conditions (not ideal for bringing down our organic content levels), a more controlled irrigation strategy will encourage healthy growth.

We currently operate a "pop up system" this is to say the computer in the Pump House runs a predetermined program for whatever area we require supplemental water. This being said such greens like the 15th that have high spots and low spots will sometimes need a more accurate " topping up". This action will be achieved with hand watering, this works hand in hand with our regular aeration and wetting agent (a spray application which encourages moisture uptake within the soil structure).

The computer runs a program at night, for example if we wish to run a Greens programme the decision for how many minutes each station should run will be based on wind, humidity, temperature, evaporation and moisture readings, then we can increase or decrease the amount of water applied, depending on all these variables, will determine the grass plant receiving its supplemental water without being over or under watered.

The water source in our case is the 11th pond (well really the source is a spring further upstream). The pumps abstract from the 11th pond and even with the surrounding Farmland and road water runoff, the quality of the water is good with the pH being around neutral and the proof of this is the vast amount of fish and amphibians and indeed reptiles that we have on our course, in particular the snake species swimming around is always a good litmus test of how good or bad the quality of water is.

Question- the Fairways are brown and dry, why can't they put any irrigation on them?

Answer- water is fast becoming valuable resource, with aquifers running low and drought conditions becoming the norm. The water management of any Domestic dwelling or Leisure facility is now under greater scrutiny and control, so the reason we just don't put more water on is simple, we have no more water to put on! 

As a tributary to the river Eden the environment Agency allow us only a certain volume of water per year and more importantly only a certain volume of water in any 24 hour period. We cannot accrue or store any water for dry periods when the drought enforcement order comes in we have to divert the water around the 11th lake. The only water we then have is what is retained within the pond, at this point we then have to manage the water wisely, this is a worst case scenario and as a rule we have enough water but only enough to successfully irrigate the fine turf surfaces.

This makes it of the upmost importance to irrigate effectively and on target as much as possible, to demonstrate this fact even our choice of sprinkler and indeed nozzle with its litre per minute application rate is a serious consideration.

The management of water as a resource is of great importance for the sustainable future of the golf club, this is now a very widely discussed topic within the golf course industry with many seminars and think tank meetings going on all around the South East, our club has attended such a meeting this week and suffice to say that water management strategies will be very much part of our future.

Last month’s ‘Where was I?’, imagine yourself on the 5th Green, look down the stream past the stone bridge and you will see some bamboo growing along the Water course, hidden from sight but most definitely there! We can see glimpses of the historical heritage we are lucky enough to have on our course. The Weirs would probably have been built at the same time as the castle gardens and  lake, between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and son. It just gives a little insight into the hidden and fascinating history of the Castle Estate.

Now where am I?

Golf Course Update - 12th June 2015

As some of you may have noticed we are currently experiencing a north east wind with very low humidity, this ‘drying wind’ is causing some of the approaches to have the appearance of being browned off, next week they will receive a wetting agent application with a liquid fertiliser which should ease the situation but some assistance from mother nature in the form of a good soaking would help us greatly.

We are essentially already in a semi-drought situation, anticipating this we have treated the fairways with a long lasting organic fertilizer which will help with drought stress and recovery, they are currently in great condition and we are considering raising the height of cut on the Fairway Mowers to prolong this and further protect against drought stress.

We are ‘maxed out’ in terms of how much water we can apply to the course in any 24 hour period and we of course have to prioritise the Greens & Tees which with the recent higher temperatures are starting to come on nicely.

Despite the plethora of tools available to the modern Greenkeeper, playing conditions remain largely dependent on the local climate and during dry periods the course will play firm and fast.

Golf Course Bulletin - 28th May 2015

Hello from the Green Keeping Team. This monthly bulletin will evolve over time. It is our aim to provide an informative, fun to read article that will give an insight into our working environment.

What can we say about the weather so far in 2015? Suffice to say that as usual, Mother Nature is dictating how far we can push!  Talking to colleagues at other golf clubs in the South East of England it would appear that we are all currently three to four weeks behind where we would normally expect to be in terms of “normal” growing conditions for the time of year. Frosts are still being experienced late into the spring, and that impacts the growth of fine turf.

That being said, we as a department are happy with the progress made so far this year.  We know (at the time of writing) that the greens may still be a little “bumpy”. This is indicative of the current low soil temperature causing the different species of grass on the greens to grow at different rates. As temperatures rise and stabilise this will encourage a more uniform growing environment.  We are seeing what we are affectionately calling the green spot disease. Please don’t worry as this is not an outbreak of disease such as that experienced last autumn.  As Turf Managers, we are pleased to see the green spots. This is because each spot is a tine hole that was made during aeration work, where the grass plants are sending their roots down into the lower greens profile seeking out moisture and nutrients. It is excellent to have thousands of healthy roots taking hold, as healthy roots = healthy Greens. The aeration during the winter and more recently are paying off, and we are now reaping the benefits.  

However, we still have a way to go to provide a more uniform putting surface. What are we doing to enhance the appearance and play to the greens? During May an application of fertiliser has been made with slightly higher nitrogen content than before.  The higher soil temperatures allow the grass plant to utilise nitrogen more efficiently, and this will encourage more uniform growth and will give a more consistent playing surface.

A lot of the work we do is highly visible, but much goes on behind the scenes. An ongoing task is the sharpening of the mower units. This is done “in house” using our own grinding machine. Ensuring that the cutting units are as sharp as possible at all times,  means that we can mow at maximum efficiency, to give good quality playing surfaces.

Just for fun, can you identify where on the course this picture was taken? 

Answer in next update!



As part of the ongoing commitment to improve the greens as advised  by our Agronomist, Stella Rixon, there have been some changes in the way that the greens receive the correct amount of water.

Previously too much water has been applied beyond that required to keep the grass plant alive.  This contributed to the excessive levels of organic matter that were identified. It also leads to a higher moisture content in the greens that promotes shallow rooting of the grass plant and increased disease incidence. It also made the greens softer, prone to deep pitch marks, foot printing, compaction and poor anaerobic conditions.    

One of the ways in which we can measure the firmness of greens.

Stella  recommended that a more judicial approach was made in the use of irrigation, as detailed  on page 5 item 7 of the Golf Course Masterplan presented at the AGM in January.

So far in 2015 automatic Irrigation has been reduced as advised, and the areas on the greens that are prone to drying out have been hand watered. The recent dry spell has given us an excellent opportunity to see how far moisture levels can be reduced whilst having the correct firmness.

Based on measurements taken today, we are happy that moisture levels are within the target zone of 20-30% levels recommended for a parkland type golf course albeit we are at the firm end of the scale. The results also highlighted the wide range of moisture levels and firmness that can be found on one green. This issue will ease as more sand is applied to the greens, aeration continues and the organic matter and clay levels are reduced. The irregularities in readings will level out, providing a more consistent surface.

 Moisture levels may vary considerably within different areas of the same green, we are manually targeting the drier areas.

We are continually assessing the impact that this new irrigation regime is having on the greens. Soil moisture levels and firmness are being regularly monitored to find out what works best at Hever.

We want to provide a firm surface that is receptive to a well struck shot, whilst not being too hard.

We thank you for your patience as we fine tune this process. 

This week evidence has been seen that the work on the greens carried out during the winter and spring has already started paying dividends. They have been a lot more tolerant of the dry weather and the roots are much healthier and deeper than have been seen before. 

By restricting moisture levels within the greens grass roots are forced to search deeper for moisture resulting in a healthier plant and ultimately better playing surfaces.

In conclusion, we are now better able to understand the volume of water required, especially during dry periods, to meet the target firmness levels we have for the greens at Hever.

We will continue to keep you updated on our journey to continually improve the course and greens at Hever via these newsletters and Intelligent Golf.

If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to email or contact your Fairways & Greens representative Tim Tisdall, Course Manager David Wood or Head Green Keeper Rob Peers.

The 2015 Course Masterplan is HERE

COURSE UPDATE - 13/03/15

Work on the Greens - March 2015

This week all of the greens have been tined using knife tines (see below).

These tines were chosen as they allow more surface area of the soil to become oxygenated after the Winter. This promotes a healthier grass plant. 

The Cross Tine, Mini Tine and Knife Tine...... Hole Punch for scale!

All 3 tines will be utilised throughout the year. Using different tines ensures that the sand applied is ameliorated more efficiently into the top layer of the green whilst providing maximum drainage and aeration.

In addition to tining, 20 Tonnes of sand has been applied to the 29 greens (inc practice & chipping green). The greens have been rolled to work the sand into the surface of the green to help restore levels.

An application of nitrogen has been applied to aid recovery although with soil temperatures still low after the Winter this will taking longer than it would in high season.

30 Tonnes of sand have now been applied to the greens so far in 2015 and we are on course to hit our target of 180 tonnes.


COURSE UPDATE - 10/02/15

Any work undertaken on the greens this time of year is entirely weather dependant. This week we have been fortunate to be able to solid tine the greens to a depth of nine inches and apply a light dressing of sand.

The dressing is not intended to fill in the aeration holes. The quantities that would need to be applied to achieve that at this time of year would smother the grass plant and cause damage to the green. The sand that we have applied will help to make the greens smoother and forms part of the total annual application  of 180 tonnes for 2015 with particular reference to reducing organic matter levels.

COURSE UPDATE - 06/02/15

As one of the items discussed at the AGM and referenced in the Course Masterplan the issue of a small number of greens having their own 'micro-climate' due to heavy foliage & tree cover is being addressed and I am pleased to advise that the Greenkeeping Team have already tackled the 12th opening up the green to the prevailing South Westerly breeze as you can see in the before and after photos below.

Right side of 12th green.



And the left side of the green before


This work should allow much greater airflow to the green which should assist in reducing excess moisture, encourage more growth and help make the green more resistant to disease.

This is part of an ongoing plan to improve the greens and course and we'll keep you updated on progress right here! 


It is now two months since the outbreak of Fusarium Disease on the greens, which has been successfully treated.  

After several thousand pounds worth of remedial action recovery has been positive and no further disease has been seen.   

There is some way to go and there are still bare patches on a few greens.  The worst of these are being plugged. This involves replacing the damaged turf with undamaged turf from the edge of the green. The damaged plugs will be seeded in the spring.

Grass growth is slow at the moment on the greens, but as soon as soil temperatures start rising we will be pushing  growth on the greens as much as we can. We are confident that playing surfaces will be restored to their previous standards as early in the spring as possible.  We also have new equipment and development plans ready for 2015 to further develop our greens, which will shortly be shared with the club membership at the upcoming AGM.

David Wood (Course Manager) and Rob Peers (Head Greenkeeper) 

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