Agronomic assessment leading to the planning, design and installation of golf course drainage and future improvements at Cleobury Mortimer.
Cleobury Mortimer is a 27 hole parkland golf course situated in picturesque Shropshire countryside between Kidderminster and Ludlow. The club is a thriving proprietary owned course which has grown from the original 9 holes Deer Park course built in 1993. The additional 18 holes were developed in two phases with the opening of the Badgers Sett course in 1996 and with the addition of the Foxes Run course in 1998.
STRI has a long history supporting the club at times of development and more recently with an agronomic audit setting out the requirements for continued improvement as the club invests in the future under new ownership. The aspirations are very clear, ‘to invest and secure the year-round playability of the courses as an initial phase of development throughout the club’.
The club managers Tom Pain and David Pain lead the course development programme building on the foundations of brothers Robert and the late Graham Pain who built the club to what it is today. STRI Head of Agronomy Paul Woodham explains, ‘It was Graham and Robert that paved the way for a review of the course conditions. Their desire to take the club to the next level is clear to see and both knowing the land and the industry so well, they agreed with need to strengthening the drainage systems across the courses. Golf courses are seeing the impact of climate change pressures with longer periods of wet conditions and the challenge of managing courses with increased constraints limiting the use of pesticides. Addressing the issue of drainage is a pressing requirement for so many courses but where to start’.
Stage 1 – Agronomy audit
The agronomy audit set out clear goals for improvements and the sequence of actions needed to forge a plan and sell the vision. The report highlighted the need for drainage in addition to potential future redesign of bunkers, cart paths and other areas where design improvements can be made.
Stage 2 – Review of course design
The next step was to build on the information in the audit report and add in a review of course design from a leading course architect. A design masterplan was subsequently reviewed by STRI working with the club to develop a phased plan which will meet the requirements for course management and playability.
Drainage was the priority but this needed a more comprehensive design than simply picking up locally wet areas with in house drainage work. The three courses, like many parkland courses, had some drainage in place but these had aged and struggled to meet the demands of course usage and climate change. Paul explains ‘all too often clubs see a solution of installing localised drainage and missing the point of intercepting the run off and lateral groundwater flows which are the cause of problems. Tapping into old drains has its limitations as many become overloaded or have or outfalls which could add to water management problems off site’. The club realised the project was much bigger than their own time and equipment resources could manage.
Stage 3 – Designing a drainage scheme and selecting contractors
Next was to select contractors and design the drainage layout and pipe sizing. The drainage project was broken down into two phases commencing with Foxes Run and Badgers Sett. Green drainage design options were presented, with agreement to install PCD (passive capillary drainage). This would be a 4-week install to 19 greens by DJUKE with works monitored by STRI. Fairway drainage was a wider operation spanning 7 fairways in full with topographical surveying undertaken by STRI’s design team. This informed the layout and design of compliant filtered outfalls, check dams in ditch systems and attenuation swales which form sustainable and responsible drainage systems. Carrick Sports was independently commissioned by the club to install the fairway drainage schemes. Club and Contractor CDM compliance was checked with the aid of support from STRI’s project management department.
It was important to identify a trusted contractor capable of taking on such a big project and one with a suitable inventory of equipment capable of installing the correct drainage depths and designs needed in this parkland setting built on largely heavy texture soils. Carrick Sports were delighted to be considered & then awarded the drainage project. Project manager Toby Grace said “We like to pride ourselves on having a very experienced team with a ‘can do’ attitude. Coupled with the continuous investment in the latest equipment & technology. It was also great for us to be able to work ‘hand in hand’ with the design & agronomy teams at STRI.” Club manager Tom Pain goes on to say “having the right equipment and skilled operatives has been essential especially with keeping the works on track. The installation of drainage is neat and tidy especially with the shaping up of the spoil into new mounding and course features”.
Stage 4 – Installation
Work on both the green and fairway drainage installation commenced mid-May with weekly monitoring visits conducted by STRI agronomy reporting back to the club management team documenting progress and any additional instructions for the contractors. The drainage design installed over 12,000 meters of piped drains and network of outfalls. All spoil was used to shape new mounding which would complement the design of the courses. Work on green drainage was completed as planned within 4 weeks and the fairway work finished by the start of July.
The success of the drainage work has been well received by the clubs’ members and visitors explains Tom. ‘It was critical that we approached the projects with a clear plan setting out accurate budgets, schedule of works and responsibilities for environmental and risk controls. It was our job to sell our vision to the owner who is equally committed to the development of the club for the benefit of the membership and our local community. ‘This is just the start of our ongoing commitment building the history of the club and getting to the next level. This is just the beginning and other projects are already in the early stages of planning such as the reconstruction of bunkers, linking new bunker drainage into the new network of drains around the courses and improving the design to protect the bunkers from wash out contamination of the sand and improve the course design, aesthetics and playability. Our members and guests are delighted with the work to date’. Dave Pain adds ‘There has been significant investment during Phase I and II works alone, having the project plans and work monitored by STRI has taken the pressure off with regular reports feeding into our weekly meetings with the owner and providing all of the answers for our members’.
The success of the installation inspired the club to press ahead with the more challenging phase of works across Deer Park. The design would need to be intensive across this course especially though some of the more secluded areas where winter playability is often challenged. Topographical surveying was again the starting point for the fairway design and to set out where green drainage outfalls would tie into the wider system. PCD drainage was installed during a two-week period commencing mid-September. Fairway drainage covers 8 of the 9 holes across Deer Park installing 13,000 meters of pipe and 200 meters of ditching. Work would also be extending into the autumn months and inevitably encountering softer ground conditions so the care and attention of the Carrick Sports team would be critical and frequently monitored by STRI.
Drainage is already making an impact and is designed to be added to with secondary drainage as and where needed for future maintenance
Rotation of construction works resulted in minimal disruption of the course
Users of the golf course are incredibly pleased with the works
Existing strong relationship between STRI and Carrick Sports (part of STRI group) meant smooth communication and therefore no delays while conflicts were resolved between the parties