in Haste - Fell at Leisure
by Jim Arthur
events, in my experience, raise as big a hullabaloo in any Golf Club as do proposals
to fell some venerated tree - long since outgrown the area allotted to it - or
to clear scrub and saplings. These 'tree-huggers' fail to understand an immutable
law of nature, that everything grows and if not kept in control by natural methods,
then managerial control is essential. The plea "Woodman, spare that tree" (Hoagy
Carmichael fans, please enlighten the less well-informed), at least had the merit
that the slippery elm in question, up which its defender could climb just like
a healthy squirrel, was his last resort from matrimonial strife !
is all too rarely accepted by preservationists, as opposed to conservationists,
is that change is inevitable and only by positive management can a reasonable
status quo be maintained. Just look at photographs of our older courses taken
at the start and at the end of this century. The spectacular growth of trees is
all too obvious, proving the 200 year old adage, 'tall oaks from little acorns
grow'. Look also at our erstwhile heathland courses, not a tree in sight seventy
or more years ago, now with fairways flanked by coniferous plantations and rough
infested with birch scrub.
is a game of windswept open spaces. It need not be screened from critical or inquisitive
onlookers. Most golfers would assess links and then heathland as epitomising the
best golfing conditions. Gloomy avenues of encroaching conifers, wet and dark
in winter and often fly-ridden in summer, are not appreciated by the majority.
To maintain such open conditions demands ruthless management, not only the clean
felling of trees which have out-grown the space available, but also the clearing
out of scrub, brambles, rhododendrons and the topping of heather and gorse, thus
increasing light and air. When you can feel the breeze in your face on approaching
an erstwhile dank, stagnant hole, it is not just the golfer who appreciates the
change but the turf itself.
planted (or allowed to remain) close to greens and tees do not just increase disease
or create soft wet putting surfaces or interfere with play, but also their invasive
roots travel in search of water under irrigated playing surfaces. Sea-buckthorn
(an invasive alien planted to stabilise coastal dunes a century ago) joins the
scrub white poplar, as enemy No. 1 on golf links. The latter created a chronic
problem at Royal Birkdale, until large areas were ruthlessly eradicated, with
the blessing and guidance of true conservationists.
of the culprit trees were planted decades ago and are a self-inflicted wound.
Many too are of the wrong species. Poplars, planted to define fairways simply
because they grew so quickly and optimistically to protect golfers from stray
balls on parallel holes, always have to be removed, using heavy machinery to extract
them, roots and all, like giant molars. They often bring up surface spreading
roots encased in broken tile drains for the full width of the fairway - no wonder
the fairways become water-logged.
times I have criticised the planting of flowering cherries or similar out-of-character
ornamentals on golf courses. If you must plant, look around and see what grows
naturally. Few conifers and certainly no Leylandii !! Envisage what will be the
size of the selected species in say, 25-50 years time. Will their roots, let alone
their branches invade greens, will they block the line of sight from the tees
? If you ignore these rules you will condemn your successors to the rage of tree-hugging
members when the culprits have to be felled.
three areas of concern regarding tree invasion are first and foremost on heathland
courses; second, individual mature specimens causing problems with visibility
as well as shade; and lastly, courses planted years ago with coniferous plantations
between fairways, leaving dark gloomy tree-girt avenues and total sterility between.
In the first case, virtually every tree should come out of the rough, roots and
all, together with all sapling birch and pine. Make sure the roots are cut off
with a mattock or use stump grinders to convert the more obdurate boles to sawdust
in quick time. Heather hates three things; traffic, anything alkaline and grass.
Divert the first, avoid the second and spray the grass (in February) with an approved
overgrown mature trees, it always pays to remove them completely, including the
stump, (blowing them out in extreme cases) rather than subjecting them to brutal
tree surgery - some tree surgeons have never heard of chloroform! In wooded courses,
there is a tendency to neglect management beyond a very narrow fringe. Yet dramatic
results can be achieved by wholesale removal of brambles, scrub, etc, backed by
spraying the re-growth in winter and the thinning out of mature trees to 15 m
spacing. In one case, such work carried out against vociferous protests, produced
in a very short time spectacular drifts of wild daffodils and later primroses,
wood anemones and bluebells. It was not just the trees and flowers that benefited
but the fairways which throve on the improved light and air.
this work a large tractor-mounted flail is ideal - it will deal with even mature
rhododendrons (another invasive pest) leaving only a few of the larger boughs
to pick up, with the resultant pulverised mulch acting as a haven for plant and
animal life alike. Stump grinders can deal with even the largest boles and the
visual improvement has to be seen to be appreciated. The moral is to carry out
this work in winter not just because this is the best time plant-wise but because
there are less fair-weather critics about, but remember to clear up each day when
most members will never see what has been done !