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Weather Delays

Wednesday 21st of March 2018 06:18

Initially when the 'Beast from the East' came in we experienced frozen ground conditions with daytime temps down to -2 and then the snow that followed meant it was another 4-5 days until the course returned to normal.

What do i mean by normal, well over 50% of bunkers needed snow shovelling out of them, the track to the maintainance shed had drifted snow approaching 4 feet across it and grids and drains on the main driveway to the club had to be cleared too.

Once that was all done we then had 123mm of rain from 5th-15th March, this is above the monthly average! and then the second lot of snow fell last weekend.

All this has caused significant delays, we were due to lift and level the 2nd & 15th white tees (these will now be done post Duncan Putter) we also have the 8th tee to complete and fence off.

Long range forecast is indicating that we have the potential to experience another blast of cold air from the east around Easter time. Please be patient at this time of year, although the daytime may appear bright and pleasant in the afternoon it is still winter, there still isn't any growth happening on the course.


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Spraying the Greens

Friday 23rd of February 2018 09:14

The products that were sprayed onto the greens on Tuesday are of an organic nature, the first was a Biomass sugar which helps the grass plant by supplying essential carbohydrates. The second product was a light winter feed of Nitrogen/Seaweeds and some Iron, again these elements will help us retain the grass cover we have and keep us disease free for the rest of winter.


When these products are applied it is good prceedure NOT to cut or roll the turf following the apllication for at least 24 hrs, this gives the products time to enter the plant and soil so it can do it's intended job. Apologies for any disturbance caused over the 24 hrs but with the incoming colder weather it was important to get these products down.

Unfortunatly due to the wet weather over the last two months the tractor carrying the sprayer left some light tyre marks, these had gone by Thurs when we were able to cut & roll the greens. Evidence of the softness of the greens has been visable all winter in unrepaired pitchmarks that will take until the early part of summer to heal now.



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Hydraulic Leak on the 1st

Wednesday 17th of January 2018 09:49

Late on Tuesday afternoon we experienced a hydraulic failure whilst rolling the greens, the oil has discoloured the affected turf but hopefully the wet conditions we have at the moment will flush it through the soil quickly. The turf at this time of year is dormant so I’m hoping very little of the oil has been taken in by the turf, only time will tell. We will monitor the area over the next 2-3 weeks and plan a course of action if it looks like the situation isn’t salvageable. The damage is purely cosmetic at the moment and the area is still usable.

It is rare to get a sudden burst like this and luckily the operator realised what had happened straight away and moved off the green as soon as possible and the machine has now been repaired.

Unfortunately this is the downside to hydraulic driven machines (most of the turf maintenance equipment operate this way) and most machines will suffer from this in their operational lifetime.

Andrew Mannion - Course Manager



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Bunker base construction

Friday 22nd of December 2017 06:56

Over the last few weeks we have rebuilt the bases of some of our bunkers (around 12) this is to increase the angle of the bunker base to 33 degrees where the base meets the face, also the rear section of the base is now 25 degrees. This is done to encourage the golf ball into a more central lie (i will stress the word encourage....not guarantee)

The plan was to wrap the work up by finishing on the 10th before the Christmas break, however the recent wet weather has stalled progress, this is because the area around the bunker is very tight to manouver machinery and the underlying soil is mainly clay so difficult to work with once wet.

I felt it best to leave it GUR until the New Year when hopefully better conditions will allow us to produce the best result.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone from everyone on the Greenstaff.


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Course Forum

Wednesday 22nd of November 2017 12:31

The EC will be holding a course forum on Wednesday Jan 10th at 5.30pm. A detailed agenda will be issued closer to the date!


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Course Policies

Hi Andrew,

Do we have any policies that we adhere to regarding proximity of gorse bushes to fairways and greens? I know that there are vastly differing views as to the merits of, and abundance of, gorse on the course (personally I am in favour of keeping a significant amount as it helps define the course) but if we don't already have one, would an agreed policy (agreed by the membership and relevant committees) stating how much distance should be maintained between gorse bushes and fairways and greens be helpful? For example, a policy that there should be no gorse within 15 yards of a fairway and 10 yards from the edge of a green (yardages open to discussion obviously!).

I've also noticed recently that there are some signs that have appeared guiding trollies away from greens on some holes (3 and 10 for instance) which is a great idea. I think all greens and surrounding areas could benefit from this protection, so again could we have a policy of no trollies within a certain distance of the greens, with signs advertising this on all holes? This would hopefully improve the quality of greenside lies and the playability of the course.

Wednesday 14th of February 2018

Thank you for your interesting question regarding Gorse on the course. In 2007 Donald Steel recommended that we follow C.H.Alison (Colts partner) advice and stick to the rule of thumb "gorse must not enchroach any closer than 10 yards to any fairway or green" obviously with the lack of rough at Southerndown it can often appear that the fairway has been cut right upto the gorse, this is not the case. With reference to using signs/lines/ropes to help improve lies around greens, i don't think we have any playability issues with greenside lies. The signs & ropes in question are put there to divert traffic away from pinch points on pathways to the next tee. I hope this has answered your questions.


Gorse and sheep.

Would it be correct to observe that, compared with say 50 years ago, there is significantly more gorse on the course (and consequently less grass for grazing) and there are significantly more sheep which also happen to be bigger and heavier breeds?

Might there not be a case for removing large swaths of gorse in the vicinity of the fairways, which do not add anything to the playability and quality of the course, to create more grazing and bedding areas for the sheep, to take them away from the playing areas and the greens and so dissapate the consequences of their grazing?

Perhaps by addressing the steady intrusion of the gorse and other invasive species, which we can control, we can reduce the impact of the sheep presence, numbers and type which we appear to be unable to control.

Friday 8th of December 2017

Thank you for your question regarding gorse on the course. I have to agree with you on every point you have raised, yes the gorse coverage has increased considerably over the time span mentioned. In certain areas we could remove it to produce alternative areas for the sheep to feed and rest. I have on a couple of occasions floated the idea of a rotational gorse managment program at course forums however, it is usually met with resistance. This Autumn we have cut the grazing areas on the common alongside 13th and the 5th valley, these had been left for a couple of years, but in my opinion we could do so much more more but without the full support of the membership we simply can't push on with a program of removal of gorse. You are also right with regards to the breed of sheep, they are bigger now and i'm led to believe fed a hormone supplement to encourage the birth of twins in spring, an easy way to drastically increase yield from the flock. Obviously with simple maths if we start the spring with 300 sheep by the time they have given birth the numbers triple. This is why we see so much damage in a short space of time over summer, once the sheep are removed for special occasions the turn around is fairly quick with better conditions achieved in a matter of weeks. It is a very difficult situation to manage on a daily basis as we have to deal with sheep mess and damage before we can address the greenkeeping jobs.


Course Forum 10th January 2018 17.30pm

thank you for a date to the next course forum which I am sure will be interesting and informative. Can you clarify how you would like questions to be tabled on specific points reference to the course, would the club prefer questions emailed prior to the forum, questions on the night or a mixture of both.

Wednesday 29th of November 2017

Hi Paul, I'm sure a mixture of both would be fine. However, submitting questions in advance, especially if they require accurate dates or figures ensures that answers can be given at the meeting.


Heights of Cut on Turf

Thursday 2nd of November 2017 14:42

The turf on a golf course is cut at different heights of cut depending on where it is situated and how we want it to perform. I will deal with greens height over 12 months for the bulk of this item but just for reference here are the heights of cut for all areas at Southerndown GC.

Greens – 6mm>3.5mm depending on time of year.

Tees & approaches - 9mm-10mm depending on time of year.

Fairways - 10mm all year round.

So as we can see the greens have the most variation in length of turf on them over the year, this is for a number of reasons.

During the summer months (June – Sept) the greens are cut at 3.5mm, this is because at this height the greens can maintain a fair pace throughout the day and growth is at it’s strongest and the turf can recover from the process of cutting before it happens again the following day.

Cutting turf at such heights does place some stress on the plant, the plant needs to be able to make its own food through photosynthesis and removing too much leaf area will compromise this.

Also the roots of the plant will shrink in accordance with the height if cut, so in the heat of a dry spell the root system will dry out quicker than surrounding longer turf. The image below illustrates how longer turf has a deeper root system and therefore access to more moisture and nutrient in the soil.



As we move into the late autumn early winter period the height of cut will start to rise at half millimetre increments until we reach a maximum of 6mm in the depths of winter.

Once the turf has reached 6mm in winter we feel it has the best chance of photosynthesis during the shorter daylight hours and also the increase in root mass and depth will give the turf access to beneficial nutrients to help it through the winter period, we do continue to feed the turf in the winter but because of the colder temperatures it is more to retain what cover we have rather than add to it. Also in winter we may choose to just roll the greens to present them; this produces an acceptable surface for winter golf without removing material or placing the turf under unnecessary stress.

Obviously turf that is cut at 6mm is going to perform differently to turf cut at 3.5mm but it is vital to offer this protection to our greens as Southerndown can be just as busy in winter as it is in summer.

When spring/early summer arrives we look to reduce the height of cut, again at half millimetre increments, until we reach 3.5mm. Alongside this we increase topdressing to help restore levels and smooth the surfaces for the main part of the season and competition period.

I hope you have found this short article of some interest and continue to enjoy the year round golfing experience at Southerndown GC.


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I was invited by the visiting Falcons Golf Society to play with them today, and during the meal afterwards, their captain and all members, expressed their delight at the condition of the course and how well it played. They haven’t played here for 20 years but will be returning next year. Well done Andrew and team! Club Captain

Friday 3rd of November 2017


Work to commence on reshaping our bunker bowls

Wednesday 4th of October 2017 10:44

The Executive Committee have agreed and instructed work to commence on some of the bunker bowl’s this month with three bunkers being used to trial three new products, those being;

7th - Front green-side rght

14th - Front green-side

17th - Front green-side left 

Figure 1. shows the bunker shape prior to our recent work where we have been using upturned turf to create the bowl shape as shown in Figure 2. We have all experienced and wintnessed over the past 18 months that this method is subject to deteriation through either sheep damage or natural erotion of the turf itself. As a result the first third from the face, which is meant to force the ball to roll down to the base of the bunker, either through damage or in some cases lack of angle on the slope, did not perform as expected and the ball would stick to close to the bunker face.



The trial period will last between 6 and 12 months, after which time the club will decide which product suits our course best and whether this approach should be extended to the remaining bunkers.

In the meantime, Tim Underwooed (Director of Course) has produced a survey highlighting bunkers in need of immediate attention whilst the trial period is being carried out. The green staff will repair these bunkers with the current procedure using upturned turf in an effort to alleviate the current poor performance of these bunkers. The ones chosen for immdiate attention this month (October) are as follows;

  6th greenside front  right x 2                                                                                          
  6th greenside left
15th greenside front right 
15th greenside front left

To aid with the speed of work there will be a temporary green put in to play for each hole during the procedure.

It is the Execitive Committee’s hope that, through these trials and repair work, we can develop a more consistant performance from our bunkers to match the current improvement being seen on the greens. On top of this, there is a maintainance programm being carried out on our summer tees with over-seeding having just been carried out and this is to be followed by a number of top dressings over the coming winter period.

We hope you find the report useful and informative.

Members feedback is very important, so please feel free to use the communication platform avaiable on the course blog.



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Following the extensive over-seeding grass coverage on the greens has significantly improved. However, I notice that many of the greens are now subject to this fungus causing damage which is very disheartening. Please correct me if I am wrong about the decaying circular spots in the turf.

I believe that prevention is possible unless I am mistaken?


Tuesday 31st of October 2017

Thanks for your enquiry regarding disease on the greens. You are right in your diagnoses, we do have Fusarium on the greens at the moment. I would like to start with a short explaination as to why we have it for those who are interested. The pathogen that causes Fusarium is present in the soil all year round but it is only when conditions are perfect that it develops into small orange scars that we are seeing now. Once we start to loose daylight length and temperatures start to drop the disease develops rapidly. It does this by utilising the thin film of moisture (dew) to move from plant to plant and infects each one through the cut that is made by the mower. So how can we minimise these attacks, well we can make sure our cutting equipment is as sharp as possible (which it is) and we can also apply certian nutrients that will lessen the effect (not stop) of the disease, which we have also done, this was applied in early Oct and had a high Potassium content which thickens the cell wall of the turf thus minimising infection. Without this application and freshly sharpened cutting units we would be looking at much worse damage. Although there are chemical controls out there because of our situation and having grazing sheep on the course we cannot apply these incase the sheep ingest the product. Although it looks slightly disfiguring the turf will recover, especially as we still have good active growth. One more thing to consider is the type of grass plants that are effected by Fusarium. The primary target is Annual Meadow grass and this is a grass we are looking to discourage from our turf and the other suceptable grass is Bent grass. Once we reach this time of year and there is thick dew on the ground for longer periods it is inevitable we will see disease activity, also being elevated and by the coast means a sea fret/mist can roll in and linger all day which adds to the situation too. We will be applying a spray soon which will contain Potassium and Iron, these two nutrients will help to harden the turf through the rest of the winter period. I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions.


Sheep on the course

Wednesday 23rd of August 2017 15:43

Sheep as we all know have been part of the landscape as long as the golf course has been in existence. In the early years they probably helped Southerndown GC to develop into the course it is today with little rough and tight low growing fairways. However these days’ members & visitor’s expectations are much higher and although the sheep are a unique and fascinating facet to our course, the damage and mess they create is challenging and very time consuming to manage.

This summer and autumn in particular has seen some of the worst damage to our greens. There were few sheep on the course in the spring due to the lack of grass caused by the late onset of growth. However, the very strong growth of grass that we have seen this summer into autumn has provided a plentiful supply of food and hence high numbers of sheep.

Here are some FAQ and answers relating to the daily management of sheep activity on the course.

How often is the sheep muck cleared?

Clearing sheep muck is a year round task, but through the months April-November it becomes a daily job, which we list as one of the priority tasks.

Sheep numbers can fluctuate throughout the year but ultimately there are always certain areas of the course that are soiled each day/night and require cleaning up.

How do you clear the muck away?

We use a number of techniques and each is time consuming. On the fairways we need to clean large areas quickly so a chain harrow is used behind a tractor, this often takes one man 4-6 hrs every day, even on weekends.

Tees and greens have to cleared by hand due to the fragile nature of the turf and limited space before mowing. Often the process of clearing the mess takes longer than the greenkeeping task of mowing/top dressing/overseeding or aerating that follows. For example cutting greens should take around 3 hrs but if there is a significant amount of sheep mess to clear this can extend the job to 4.5hrs.

Clearing the tees of muck can take twice as long as actually divoting and moving the tee markers (see photos below)



Is it costly to clear up the mess?

Yes, if you use the figures from above and multiply it by the greenstaff hourly rate, then it’s clear to see that it becomes almost a full time position and cost the club in excess of £10K per year in man hours, fuel and associated sundries.

Has EcoBunker helped with sheep damage?

The introduction of the EcoBunker system of construction has indeed transformed the look of our bunker faces; no longer do we have scruffy hollowed out bunker faces that need constant attention. The old turfed faces could not cope with the pressure from sheep activity alongside golfing activity, it caused too much inconsistency as well as looking very untidy and creating problems during a round of golf with poor lies etc we have 10 bunkers to complete this winter and the whole course will be done. Unfortunately, we still have the problem of separating muck from the sand.



Can we do anything about urine damage to the greens?

Sadly no, by the time the damage appears it’s too late. The urine damages the soil so much that it becomes a very hostile environment incapable of supporting any grass cover, the only way to repair it is to plug out the damaged area and replace it with new grass plugs, however this can only be done during winter/spring, having tried over many years to carry out this type of repair in summer it just doesn’t work, the turf plugs can’t survive the low mowing regime and drier conditions.

Limited success can be found by overseeding each individual sheep scald and the new seed will germinate initially, however once the roots develop and go deeper into the effected area a large percentage of the seedlings will die. Repeated overseeding of these areas will eventually see them recover but it can be painfully slow through the summer months.

Can we put a fence around the course?

Well as you know, we rent the land that the golf course is on and part of the lease agreement stipulates that we can’t erect fences on the common. Even if we could get consent from the Duchy, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, we would need to seek approval from the Welsh Government, which would certainly entail a public enquiry. Having looked at the results of previous attempts to gain consent for fencing common land and taken specialist advice, it seems that we would be highly unlikely to reach a successful outcome.

Could we erect temporary fences around the greens?

Even if we could gain the required consent, our past experience of fencing the turf nursery on the practice ground showed that this would not be a simple matter. Any fence capable of excluding sheep would have to be well supported and tall enough that golfers would not be able to step over it. Some form of controlled access point would need to be provided, both for players and for machinery. Most importantly, consider the effect of a fence on the playability of the hole.

We have considered the possibility of electric fencing. People say “well they do it at Clyne”. They don’t have sheep! The following extract is from an article by an American who makes his living designing fencing solutions:

Controlling Sheep with Electricity

“One important point for how to raise sheep is that sheep are the most difficult to control with an electric fence. Any homesteader who has installed electric fencing for horses and cattle doesn’t realize how easy they have it.

A horse can get zapped by less than 2,000 volts and will almost never try the fence again, whether it’s turned on or not. 2,500 volts will easily turn a cow but you better have a good 4,500 volts to even get a sheep’s attention.

For much of the year, wool sheep have a thick coat of wool that helps insulate the animal from shocks and the heavier coat that hair sheep wear in cold weather and early spring is equally effective.

In addition, if one sheep makes it through the fence, herd mentality demands everyone else follow, whether they get shocked or not. Think of lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff and you’ve got the idea.

Compounding the problem is when sheep go under the wire, the hair or wool winds itself around the wire and creates a very effective insulator, which lessens the chance of anybody following getting zapped.

Worst of all, it seems both sheep and goats will try the fence daily to see if it’s operating. I know cow people that leave their fence turned off for weeks at a time but if my energizer fails today, I can rest assured knowing sheep will be out tomorrow”

4500 volts provides a very significant jolt! There are significant implications associated with installing these around our greens, especially as the land is shared with the public. These fences would each require a portable power supply. Given the problems that we experience with people stealing 25p range balls, it seems likely that these would be stolen regularly too.

We hope you have found this information useful; it is just a snapshot of the issues livestock create on a golf course. To cover every aspect of the subject would take a much larger article.

Thanks for reading.

Andrew Mannion. Course Mnager

Tim Underwood. Director of Course




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Course Forum

Gentlemen just in case my previous email (sent 21st October) has been lost in the clouds, i re-iterate the point raised previously.
Email of the 22nd September asked about a course forum date. The club blog reply was an agenda and a date would be announced.
Has the club been able to agree an agenda and date yet

Thursday 2nd of November 2017

Thank you for your enquiry ref the course forum. EcoBunker have run into some difficulties with the firm that was supposed to be installing the rubber crumb for our third trial bunker on the 7th Hole. They have asked a different company to do the work, but there is a time delay before this can be scheduled. Whilst we appreciate that the course forum agenda will have other items for discussion, we would prefer that members have an opportunity to try out the different trial bunkers prior to the forum. We have just had notification that the bunker base could be installed by the middle of November, following which the club will announce an agenda and date.



Played yesterday and very impressed with improvement in the greens, well done all! Found most of the holes crowned over though and also hard to focus on. Any chance of having the white plastic cups nearer the surface which would maintain the integrity of the hole and also be clearer to see as a target? Or maybe a coat of white paint inside the hole?

Sunday 1st of October 2017

Thank you for your kind comments regarding the greens, they have responded well to the well timed application of an Autumn fertilser. With reference to the depth of the hole cups we have to follow the R&A rules and set the cup at a minimum of 25mm below the surface of the green, ruling can be found in section (5) item (j) in the rules of golf. The member of the greenstaff who cuts the holes must make sure that the Rules of Golf are observed, especially the requirements that the hole must be 4.25 inches (108mm), must be at least 4 inches (101.6mm) deep and that wherever possible the hole-liner must be sunk at least one inch (25mm) below the putting green surface. If a plastic cuff/rim is used, it is considered to be part of the holeliner, so it too must be sunk at least one inch (25mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so. As you can see if we were to raise the hole cup to support the soil at the surface of the hole we would make the hole set up illegal and any competitions scores would be null & void. During wet weather (which we experienced over the weekend in question) the top of the holes can become soft and prone to damage. Pin positions are moved twice a week at this time of year to keep the holes in good order, unfortunatly staffing levels at the weekend wont allow for the moving of hole positions. I hope this has helped to answer your question.


Course Forum

When can the members expect a date for the next course forum.
i am sure you appreciate that although the blog gives a conduit for information, a meeting would be worthwhile for the members to hear first hand on what has been done in the past 12 months but as important what will be done in the next 12 months. What has worked and what hasn't. Next plans.

Friday 22nd of September 2017

Thanks for your enquiry, we are in the early stages of planning the next Course Forum and hope to release a date/time once the content of the Forum has been decided, thanks again.


Keeping Sheep Off The Greens

I recently played Kington Golf Club in Herefordshire that has the same issue that we have re sheep on the course (which is National Trust land). I played with a member and commented to him how their greens were far better than those at Southerndown, with very few (very few!) scald marks on any of their greens. He said that their greenkeepers applied something to the greens that the sheep didn't like and that kept them off. There may well also be other tactics used that have been mentioned in previous responses on this topic (eg making other areas of the land more attractive to sheep etc) but I think it could well be worth contacting Kington greenkeeping staff for a chat if this hasn't already happened. If it has and all knowledge has been shared then feel free to ignore me!

Tuesday 19th of September 2017

Thanks for your enquiry/information about KingtonGC I have looked at many courses over the years (including this one) that have livestock on them to see if they do anything different, most of them are unfortunatly in the same position as us. I have emailed the chap at Kington in the past to find out exactly what they do and he didn't (or wasn't willing) to pass on any tips on products/substances they put on their greens. He came across as a genuine guy so took his word for it and it was backed up by the article that you can read by clicking on the link at the end, a good peice and you will notice halfway through he mentions 'alternative areas' created for the sheep, as you have said this is something we will be reinstating over the next 12 months. Thanks again for your interest on the subject and i hope you enjoy the course despite the current sheep da Link below.




Monday 11th of September 2017

Thanks for your courteous enquiry. I'll start by dealing with some facts, the land has had sheep on it for well over 100 yrs and looking at historical documents lots of other animals too, however in 1905 a golf course was created on the land and so it became a patch of shared land with the golf club paying a rental fee to use the land for golf, that agreement still exists today and with it come lots of restrictions. In an ideal world we would errect some kind of fencing to protect the whole course or parts of it but that's just not has been investigated many times over the years. The sheep numbers fluctuate as the months and seasons pass, at this time of year we see the maximum amount of sheep as the commoners know the common (which includes our golf course) will provide high quality grazing for large numbers, some of the sheep will then be sold on at farmers auctions in the late Autumn and the numbers will drop again, This year has seen particularly high numbers of sheep which has resulted in more damage being caused. The greens have never been sprayed with seaweed to deter sheep, it is used as a soil conditioner! it feeds the micro flora organisms in the soil which help to promote healthy soils and finer grasses, the sheep do not graze on the greens as the length of turf is too short so the taste of it is irrelevant. We have experienced another wetter summer this year and the sheep have had a regular 'good soaking' courtesy of mother nature, depite this they have still used the greens and other areas to settle on at night, to suggest that the irrigation system could be used is clutching at straws i'm afraid. Couple it with the fact that our water supply is from mains and therefore expensive we would see a significant rise in the water bill. Another aspect to consider is the application of extra water to soils that don't need it would be detrimental to the playability of the course. I agree with you that areas around the course should be managed to provide alternative grazing and this was being done up to 2014, however i was instructed to stop this program of work by the Executive Committee. As of this Autumn we are going to be managing these areas again and possibly opening up other areas too, i firmly believe this will help us going forward however it will take a couple of years to reverse the 3 yrs of neglect in these areas, again i will emphasise this was an EC decision at the time. On a personal note i have worked at the club for 23 yrs now and the sheep and associated damage has always been a hurdle, it's not an current problem!! for the last 7 weeks the course requires chain harrowing 7 days a week (5-6 hrs per day) this equates to around 245 man hrs, if we didn't have the sheep those hours would have been used for greenkeeping jobs, if you add to that all the muck that has to be cleared by hand before any mowing can start you are looking at a significant drain on resources before we can start to do the job we are employed to do. When conditions don't meet everyone's expectations then it's best to deal with facts first so we can see if anything can be done or changed to help the situation, right now out on the course we are fighting a loosing battle and i know how disheartening it can be, the ultimate solution would be to remove the sheep but again we all know that's highly unlikely so unfortunatley we have to accept what we've got and make the best of it. When the sheep are off for short periods of time we can all start to see the potential of Southerndown GC....for now it remains a dream. I hope this reply has helped in some way.


Sheep management

How to keep sheep off the greens and avoid the scald damage:
Has anyone looked into attaching a sound emitting device to the green flags? The sound would be one that is intermittent and is perceived by the sheep as a threat. The sound wavelength could be adjusted for distance - and possibly only audible to sheep and other animals?

Sunday 3rd of September 2017

Thanks for your enquiry regarding sheep deterants. This is something i am currently looking into however we do need something more than the usual bird/cat/dog scarer. We will be conducting a trial with some ultra sonic devices that are used to repel deer in the USA, these devices also flash a strobe light when the sensor is triggered (by movement) and are solar powered. Unfortunatly they cannot be attached to the flagstick but will be placed discreetly around one of the greens. If this proves successful then it is something that can be deployed on each green. The damage to our greens is very bad this year and we will be carrying out some localised overseeding to the sheep scalds and hope to see some recovery before winter.


Summer Review 2018

Wednesday 16th of August 2017 10:52

Summer Review

 As we find the year passing by at a fair speed I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the things that have gone on this year and also some of the work that is coming up later this Autumn/Winter.

 Greens Overseeding

All the greens were overseeded much more this year to try to improve the turf density and also repopulate the greens with better types of grasses (fine leafed Bent & Fescue)

These grasses produce better turf to put on and will produce better greens for longer periods of the year, it really is a case of ‘reaping what you sow’. Because our golf course is used as much in winter as it is in summer the greens will loose a percentage of turf cover in the depths of winter, essentially the turf can’t recover from the amount of play so it’s up to us to reinstate the grass cover in spring and early summer.

The addition of Bent seed into the overseeding program is very welcome and we hope to see the benefits of this work through the winter and into the early part of next year, Bent grass is a robust grass and will start to grow earlier in the season than other grasses so it should give us a better start to the season.

Here are a few facts and dates about the overseeding so far this year.

12-13 April first Bent overseed done 150kg of seed used

2-3 May first Fescue overseed done 600kg of seed used

12-13 June second Fescue overseed done 600kg of seed used

27-28 July second Bent overseed done 150kg of seed used

We will be carrying out a 3rd Fescue overseed 29-31 August again using 600kg of seed.

After that we will be carrying out a 3rd Bent overseed again using 150kg of seed.

There is a possibility of a further Fescue or Bent overseed in Oct.

The Fescue seed is a large seed, around the size of a grain of rice and therefore requires a large hole to be deposited into, this is done using a solid tine machine and the seed is then brushed into the holes where it germinates, all greens are topdressed following the work to amend levels.

Bent seed is much smaller, around the size of a granule of caster sugar. This makes the job of sowing much more difficult but because the hole size required is much smaller the recover period after the work is much shorter, again all the greens are topdressed after the work.

I will take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your patience whilst we carry out this important work, the greens team will do their best to minimise the disruption and we generally finish this work on time as planned.

Sheep on & off the course!

Anyone who plays Southerndown or knows about it knows it’s synonymous with the presence of sheep on the common and the course. The sheep are part of an ancient landscape of which our golf course occupies a decent sized area.

There are some benefits to having sheep grazing around the place, they keep the rough down so we never have to cut it, they also graze areas around the greens producing tight lies that we can put off as well as chip from too, there is also some nutritional benefit in the dung which goes towards feeding the fairways, however that’s about it.

As we saw this year, as in previous years, once the sheep are off the course the transformation is almost immediate and the course starts to look and play like it really should. Once the sheep had been removed the greenstaff could go about overseeding all the sheep scalds on the greens so they looked and performed uniformly.

It freed up greenstaff to carry out the job they are employed to do without having to clear sheep mess out of the way first, this does add hours to any task over the year for example if a green is covered in sheep muck it can often take longer to clear it than it can to cut & roll it, the same can be applied to tees, fairways & approaches. We spend on average £10k+ on cleaning sheep mess away, this is mainly man hrs and fuel, and during the summer it is virtually a full time job and needs to be done 7 days a week.

It can be soul destroying as a greenkeeper to witness the destruction caused by the sheep but we generally accept it is shared land and realise as long as they are present it limits what we can achieve on the course.


Now that the sheep have returned to the course we can expect to see sheep related damage to all areas of the course. They regularly settle on the greens at night and urinate so we will see lots of fresh urine scalds, they also settle in the bunkers like to walk around the edge of the sand, this destroys the bowl shape of the bunker and the turf liner disintegrates, there will be more on this later as we look for a product that the sheep can’t damage.

Winter tee improvements

Over the summer we have looked at the winter tee situation, our golf course is used a lot in winter and some of the current tees cannot withstand the levels of play, having said that they are sacrificial pieces of land that allow to play on turf all year. Given the increase of winter golf we would like to look at providing better winter teeing areas for members and guests.

This year we will initially start with the tees we currently have and look to reinstate some unused tees on certain holes, then next year we hope to rebuild the smallest tees so the wear can be spread over a larger area, as we start to plan this work more details will follow.

Bunker Bases

As we have all seen the current method of lining the bunkers cannot cope with the sheep activity, once the sheep start to use the bunkers for shelter etc the bowl shape that is installed quickly becomes damaged, this lessens the chance of your golf ball moving away from the face and into the central area of the bunker, so what can be done? Well as we know we can’t get rid of the sheep permanently so we have to look for a product that the sheep can’t damage!

Luckily there are a few options we can choose from and we are currently in the process of selecting and viewing some of them to see which one will suit us best, both financially and aesthetically.

The first of these products is granulated rubber that is bonded with a flexible resin, much like the material used on children’s playground. It is mixed on site and poured into the base of the bunker where it is shaped to the desired angles and left to set, it is very porous and will not impede drainage and is a permanent base.

There is another product called Capillary Concrete, this is very small balls of concrete that are bonded together with resin and applied to the base of a bunker to form a permanent base, again it is very free draining.

These products are supplied and fitted by separate companies, there are examples of both at various golf courses in the UK and we will visit some to gauge feedback from real time users of the products. Once this has been done we will arrange some trail work to be carried out in a couple of our bunkers so we can assess their performance and see if the sheep cause any damage, we can then make an informed decision and start to plan any work.


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Course Condition

Andrew, firstly the course is in great condition.
With regard to the sheep a few years ago we cut back the long grass/bracken in the valley to the right of the 5th tee to encourage the sheep to graze on short grass, short grass contains more sugar. This seems to have not been undertaken now for a few years any reason why.
For some reason we have the concept of playing a full length course in the winter why don't we revert to some of the old winter tees like the 3rd, 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th playing as a par 4 and the 15th it would give you time to undertake any maintenance on our main tees plus move the wear areas around.

Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Hello Colin, thanks for your kind comments regarding the course, please accept my apologies for my late reply, I have been off for the last week. I'll start by answering your question regarding grazing areas around the perimeter of the course. Back in October 2014 it was decided at EC level to stop cutting these areas, so during the last 3 yrs no work has been carried out. These areas were valuble to the course as it kept some sheep (not all) off certain areas of the golf course during the main season. In more recent EC meetings it has been agreed to reinstate this cutting regime, starting this Autumn. It will take us around 2 yrs to restore the land to a palatable state so the sheep start to graze there again. We have to go back to 2008 to answer your question regarding tee positions. When I took over from the previous Head Greenkeeper it was decided (at EC level) that all tees would be left on the summer tees for as long as possible through the winter, this was thought to maximise the marketing of the course as a winter golf venue, which it did. In the years between 2008 & 2016 we have seen a steady increase in winter golf and there are two reasons for this. 1. The improvement in wet weather clothing. 2. The success of the marketing strategy and introduction of second club membership. The financial aspect of winter golf cannot be ignored, so with this in mind we will be starting to renovate some of the winter tees you have mentioned to help relieve the pressure off our regular tees. As the work progresses we will enlarge some of the tees and carry out more intense managment in the summer so the winter tees are in much better shape in the coming winters. I hope this answers your enquiry, if you need any more info please feel free to ask me anything out on the course.



Thank you for an informative and interesting report. It might be a naive question but why do we have more sheep 'trespassing 'on the greens than we did 30 years ago? They would gather around but only on the fringes . Is it anything to do with pesticides , European legislation or general greenkeeping policy.? There was often a chemical smell associated with the greens which is no longer there.
It is obvious that the breed of sheep has changed due to the overseeding and quality of grass available--- a vicious circle. I have the greatest respect for your efforts but I did enjoy the course this summer, --if only! Regards , Diana

Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Hello Diana, thank you for posting a intersesting question and please accept my apologies for not responding asap, i've been off for a week. The sheep that we share the land with have always used the greens to settle on at night, this is because they are free draining and the turf is shorter therefore their fleeces will stay drier, they basically want the same as us, a safe comfortable bed for the night. The damage we are seeing at the present time and in the previous years is because there appears to be higher sheep numbers these days, also the UK climate has changed over the years with wetter summers producing lusher more vigorous growth. With regards to chemical aroma on the turf there have been some changes to products due to tighter legislation over the years. Product manufacturers recognised the need for some chemicals to be less noticable to golfers after their application so made them less smelly, personally i don't think the smell has ever put off sheep using our greens, having worked on the site for 23yrs now i can't think of any product or substance that puts them off. I hope this goes some way to answering your question and you continue to enjoy the course.


New Communication Platform

Saturday 24th of June 2017 13:21

Welcome to the Green Keeper's Blog. This site is designed to keep members informed of the course maintenance being carried out, along with a schedule of work planned for the calendar year. We have also introduced a communication platform, where members will be able to send in their queries / feedback directly to the Course Manager and receive a response for all to view.  




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15th Tee

Would it be possible to move the yellow box tee from it's existing location to an area say 20 yards further away from the adjacent 14th green?
There are three positives:
1. Removes the danger of being hit by players teeing off on the 14th tee.
2. Speeds up play - no need to wait to tee off on the 15th tee.
3. Improves the look and feel of the 15th hole by introducing a dog leg to the fairway.

Thursday 24th of August 2017

Yes, we are currently looking at this option. The ground falls away considerably at the suggested relocation area and will need a lot of land fill to raise the tee to its current height, not impossible and as I said is under consideration for the very reasons you have raised.


At the Sharp End of things

Thursday 15th of June 2017 11:09

Having sharp cutting cylinders is a vital part of keeping sports turf healthy, when we cut the grass plants that make up the turf we are creating an injury that the plant must recover from. Just like or own skin a cut made with a sharp instrument will need less energy to repair and also less time, this is why it’s vital to run sharp mowing blades. The next few photographs and paragraphs will hopefully explain the procedure and time scales involved in sharpening a set of cutting cylinders.

First we start by removing the cylinder one at a time from the tractor unit, this has to be done carefully as there are motors and hydraulic pipes to consider, whilst doing this a visual inspection of the machine in general is carried out looking for wear & tear around the machine.

Once the cutting cylinder has been transferred to the work area it has to be stripped down, essentially we separate the rotating cylinder from the bed knife so each component can be sharpened separately. Again we are taking the opportunity to check bearings and seals around on the unit, also the condition of the cutting surfaces as any abnormalities can point to a fault elsewhere.

Now that we have split the cylinder we can mount them onto the grinding machinery, the cylinder and the bed knife go onto separate machines as they require different techniques to sharpen. The picture below shows the cylinder being sharpened with a spinning cutting stone, at the same time the cylinder is driven in the opposite direction by a motor; this process creates a sharp angled edge to each of the 11 blades on the cutting cylinder and will take between 20-30 mins.

Following this the bed knife is sharpened too, now this has two surfaces that need attention. Firstly the top edge must be sharpened at 6 degrees; this has to be absolutely parallel to the cylinder or it will not cut, then the second surface called the leading edge has to be sharpened and all the same rules apply to that too. The pictures below show the bed knife being sharpened.

The final job is to reassemble the unit and set the correct height of cut (this will vary depending on the time of year) and adjust the unit so that it cuts correctly. When we set the unit to cut it is set to cut with the minimum amount of contact between the cylinder & bed knife, this reduces friction which means less stress on the hydraulic system of the machine, all manufactures require their cylinders to be set this way, it is known as none contact cutting.
The picture below shows the cylinder being set up at the current height of 4-5mm and then the cut set too.

With our three cylinder machines used for cutting greens/tees/approaches it will take approx 3hrs to complete this type of work, our fairway mower has 5 cylinders and will take approx 5hrs. Once a year each cylinder has the bed knife replaced (these are consumable parts) so this adds to the time scale when work is carried out.

I hope you have found this article of interest and I look forward to seeing you out on the links.



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How Wind Effects The Sand in Our Bunkers

Wednesday 29th of March 2017 11:34

How does wind strength and direction effect sand distribution in our bunkers, well the following short article will hopefully explain what happens.


During spells of windy weather the sand in our bunkers gets moved around, you only have to go to the beach on a windy day to see the effect on a larger scale.

Wind direction plays a pivotal role in the process, if the wind is from the West (off the sea) then it is usually moisture laden so a percentage of moisture is retained in the sand making it heavier so it stays in place. However if the wind is from the East (over land) then it is a very drying wind which evaporates any moisture in the sand making it lighter and easier to move around.


The simple diagram above shows that when wind blows into a bunker face it hits the face and starts to vortex inside the bunker, this picks up the sand from the front of the bunker (when the wind is strongest) and deposits it at the rear (as power drops from the wind) this can happen in a very short space of time with an easterly wind because of the drying effect.



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Course Condition

Played today for the first time in 3 weeks. Course was in great condition.
The issue with the sheep muck was not as bad today as it as been over the time when I played last.
On the first I counted 60 sheep on the fairway on the 5th another 80, surely the commoners who keep sheep around the golf course are bringing them back into gain the benefit of the lush grass.

Wednesday 13th of September 2017

Thank you for your kind words, yes it does look like we are over the worst of the sheep damage, the sheep dung is getting less and less so it's easier for us to have it all cleared in the morning. You will still notice a lot of scalds on the greens however these have lost their bright orange colour and faded to a brown colour, this indicates that the toxicity levels have dropped in the soil, this now gives us the chance to overseed the scalds and hopefully get some recovery before we enter the winter period. There appeared to be more sheep this year and they stayed in larger groups too, the commoners do look to fatten up the sheep at this time of year as some will be off to the cattle markets and the rest need some reserves for the winter.


New Overseeder

Friday 24th of March 2017 10:42

The Blec Multi Seeder is a specialist piece of equipment designed for introducing Bent grass seed into greens turf, following the advice from the STRI agronomist we will be carrying out regular overseeding through the summer months.

Bent grass seed is very small, like very small grains of sand so it requires a specific set of circumstances for it to be successfully incorparated into our greens turf. This new overseeder will make very small shalow holes in the greens surface and then the seed is distributed across the surface where most of it will find a hole and germinate. Because the hole created by the machine is so small it should be barely detectable on our greens and golfers can carry on enjoying their round of golf without disruption, we will of course be starting the season with our pot seeding with Fescue grass, this is a welcome return to this practice as it gives us the best chance of producing better greens throughout the summer. 


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I think this has worked wonderfully and would like to compliment Andrew and his staff on the greens. They're much improved!

Friday 30th of June 2017

Thank you for the positive comment, it's clear to see where the majority of input has been focused so far this year. See you out on the course.





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Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea
CF32 0QP

01656 880476