Storms leave trail of destruction at golf club

STORMS Arwen and Barra caused considerable damage at Saddleworth Golf Club.

And it left head greenkeeper Dave Roberts, who heads a team of seven ground maintenance staff, to spearhead a massive clean-up operation.

An estimated 200 trees were blown down or damaged beyond repair, the majority by Storm Arwen which left tens of thousands of homes in the North of England and Scotland without power, some for more than a week.

The reason why Storm Arwen caused such mayhem was that trees’ root growth withstands usual winds from the west or a south westerly direction whereas Arwen was from the north, a rarity.

Saddleworth was shut for three days through snow and then for a fourth while groundstaff cleared the 30-40 trees that fell within the course with many blocking paths and fairways.

Dave, 38, described the destruction they were confronted with, explaining: “The course was a mess with branches everywhere.

“We put in a big shift to remove the trees on the course so it could reopen, but it is going to take all winter to remove them all.”

Dave explained they will probably enlist the help of club members with the clean-up operation, adding they can attract 20/30 people when they have working parties.

Such is the scale of the extra workload that Dave added that other course maintenance work, which groundstaff usually do in the winter, may have to be put out to contractors.

Dave, who has been head greenkeeper for the last three of the 15 years he has worked on the grounds’ team, said: “This is the worst storm I have ever experienced.

“The Beast From The East caused a lot of damage a few years ago, but not on this scale.

“We must have had 100/120 trees blown down by Storm Arwen and another 30/40 snapped in half.

“Then Storm Barra came along and damaged more trees, but nowhere on the same scale as Arwen.”

Most of the trees felled or damaged were pines which were among thousands planted following an extensive programme in the late 1970s and early 80s which changed the characteristics of the moorland course.

Dave added that during the last 15 years he can personally vouch for a marked change in climatic conditions.

He said: “Weather patterns have become far more extreme that when I started when they were not names for storms.

“With climate change, we are having more of these storms which are of a higher intensity than they used to be.

“Heavy storms and high winds are much more frequent now compared to when I began at the club.”

Dave added fortunately flooding is not an issue.

“We are on the side of a hill and one of the best drained courses as surface water runs away,” he said.

Dave explained it has been so wet this winter that it impacts of work done on the course and they have to be wary of the damage heavy machinery will cause.

“The golfers won’t like me saying this, but I would prefer it to be cold and dry. The groundstaff can handle that, but there is nothing worse for us working than when it is wet and mild,” he said.


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