Clubs closed more for than twice as normal due to winter weather

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 2, 2024 11:32

Record rainfall and high winds over the last six months has seen ‘unprecedented’ course closures and one club even fearing for its future.

A survey carried out by the Club Management Association of Ireland (CMAI) reveals that clubs stayed closed anywhere between two and four times more days this winter than in previous years.

Major flooding and waterlogged sections of courses have slowed grass growth and encouraged the spread of fusarium disease, which diminishes the quality of greens and fairways, the survey finds.

This comes after a very wet autumn and winter in Scotland as well, in which Peter Smith, course manager at Bathgate in West Lothian, recorded that between October 2023 and January 2024, 611mm of rain fell on the course – the equivalent of 2.5 average-sized swimming pools.

CMAI chief executive Michael Walsh said these ‘most unusual’ conditions are having a significant impact on clubs.

He said: “A couple of clubs have had anything up to 20 days wiped out between Christmas and now.

“Courses have been flooded that have never been flooded before, and then [once water recedes] you can’t really work the land because it’s too sodden.”

He added it has been a “very, very difficult” period for most golf clubs, with even some links courses – which are built on sand which drains water away more quickly – experiencing flooding for the first time.

“It’s been horrific really from the golfing management point of view and from a golf club member’s point of view,” said Walsh, the former manager of Killiney Golf Club.

Almost all of the respondents to the survey said they have implemented or are considering measures to protect against extra rainfall going forward, from adding more sand on courses to major drainage overhauls.

Alnmouth Village Golf Club. Image from X

Meanwhile, members of Alnmouth Village Golf Club in Northumberland say they are “very concerned” after coastal erosion caused sections of turf to fall into the sea.

Alnmouth Village Golf Club is the oldest nine hole links golf course in England and its low lying location next to the coast means it has often been flooded.

But this most recent impact of the North Sea has seen damage to a part of the course which has not been affected before.

Club secretary Ian Simpson said: “We will eventually lose the golf course if nothing is done.”

“We are very concerned and need to look at new ways of dealing with it,” he added.

“Perhaps we can use boulders to prevent further erosion.”

Treasurer John Graham, who has been a member of the club for 65 years, said: “We had a big problem in the early 1960s near the boathouse. The sea got in and it destroyed about 15 yards.

“There was more trouble in the 1990s, but we had some pipes buried and we had marram grass planted and that stabilised that area.

“But where the problem is now – what we call link end – we’ve never had an issue there before.”.

Earlier this year Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club said it is crowdfunding to raise more than £100,000 to combat the erosion that has taken place around the course over recent months, while Royal Dornoch Golf Club captured the ‘Sustainable Project of the Year’ accolade at the Golf Environment Awards for its commitment to halting coastal erosion, which has been threatening an area of its Struie Course.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 2, 2024 11:32
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  1. Peter April 14, 17:21

    Check with Golf Course Superintendents Association for help and advice on water and turf management. Today the experts on both.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Craig April 4, 08:07

    Our local course has been closed over 40 days in the last 3 months! Should we expect a refund as members?

    Reply to this comment
    • Hywel April 4, 08:50

      The club still has to pay staff, council tax ,gas, electric etc and has probably lost significant takings over the bar. Most clubs need every penny of subscriptions in order to survive. It’s a tough time for all involved.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Toptracer April 3, 11:05

    Your driving range should be a crutch during periods of prolonged course closure. Make the range a club within the club and provide members with friendly competiton and social time.

    Reply to this comment
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