Frilford Heath Golf Club is a 60 hole private members club located in south Oxfordshire within a nature rich heathland environment. Three courses regularly host championship golf and aspire to continually present the standards befitting of hosting Open qualifying, R&A Championships, European Tour qualifying and England Golf tournaments. The most recent course project includes construction of a six hole artificial green and tee academy course.
STRI was appointed as course agronomists in 2011 and is charged with providing independent agronomic consultancy with measurable monitoring of course improvement using STRI Programme.
- The club was seen, in their own eyes, as a sleeping giant and lacked the drive for agronomic improvement largely due to the fear of disrupting the surfaces and upsetting the membership.
- There was no benchmark for existing conditions and performance. This was a key objective required by the General Manager and Courses Manager to demonstrate the need for adjusting maintenance practices.
- The irrigation system is ageing and in need of replacement. The distribution of irrigation was poor and leading to inconsistencies in the performance of the greens.
- As installing a new irrigation system requires significant planning and funding, the club needed to demonstrate the importance of sustainable water management to the membership to seek funding.
- The environmental stewardship of the site is closely monitored by Natural England as a site of SSSI.
- STRI benchmarked the performance of the greens. Six greens are monitored on each of the three courses twice per year using STRI Programme protocols. The club’s management team use the information and STRI reports to communicate more effectively with the Board.
- Change in greenkeeping practices. A change in aeration strategies was advised, switching to lighter weight pedestrian aeration equipment for more frequent but less disruptive maintenance. The key change was scheduling ‘maintenance weeks’ in the calendar to allow major renovation to take place. The change in practices has afforded opportunities for increased volumes of top dressing to be applied.
- Irrigation management. Plans to install a new irrigation system are in place. In the short term, ongoing monitoring of soil moisture content helps to support and direct hand watering programmes to control previously occurring turfgrass stresses and disorders.
- Construction solutions. Introducing new methods for green construction surface establishment using harvested hollow cores with overseeding to produce a matching sward type on the practice greens.
- Ecological management. The club works within the guidelines set out in an Ecological Management Plan written by STRI and agreed with Natural England. The club has an active ecological and social outreach programme. STRI has contributed towards this policy producing a wildlife guide and with a planned review of the Management Programme for the next five years.
Progress is continually made achieving organic matter reduction with improved ball roll qualities and authentic heathland characteristics for green firmness.
Ongoing maintenance is accepted by the membership and carried out so as not to interfere with a busy fixture list. The aeration treatments are increasing root depth and development.
The club has adopted a process of regular in-house monitoring of soil moisture to ensure turfgrass stresses are proactively controlled.
The most recent conservation project focused is ongoing fen restoration. The progress made was recognised by Golf Environment Awards with the club winning Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year 2017.
The club achieved Golf Environment Organisation certification in 2016.