It’s quite something to watch. The annual Verti-Drain operation on the two championship golf courses at Foxhills Club and Resort near Chertsey in Surrey runs with near military precision. Even heavy rain fails to halt an overall programme that sees each course close for two-and-a-half days while a team of 11 greenkeepers blankets the greens, approaches and tees in sand and then mechanically punches it into the surface.
The club achieves its late summer drainage routine with support from Lister Wilder whose hire department lined up a Verti-Drain 7521 and a 75hp Kubota M4072 tractor to take on the challenge.
Course Superintendent David Wyborn is a big believer in applying the Verti-Drain to his greens while the ground is still dry. “The timing is important because we are on push-up greens with quite a heavy underlying soil,” he says. “If we do it while the ground is drier we can get more cracking into the soil profile, which allows us to put a total of 60 to 80 tonnes of sand over the greens, approaches and tees. Push up greens become compacted, so the little flick of heave that we get with a Verti-Drain is good for opening up the fissures and letting air in as well as helping the drainage.”
He adds: “This year we have been more aggressive, using one-inch tines and going in 200 to 250mm. Push-up greens are always a challenge but we have done quite a lot of drainage work ourselves over the years and they are performing really well.”
The proof of the pudding lies in the fact that the Foxhills reputation with golfers at all levels (including professionals) is a big one. The resort hosts PGA events each year and has been selected to host the PGA Cup for the second time in 2021.
In Golf World’s Top 100 golf courses in England, the Longcross has made an impressive move up the standings to achieve a new ranking of 95 – a rise of four places from the last edition. With an overall score calculated on categories of design quality, setting, playability, presentation, memorability and hole consistency, the Longcross was praised for its ‘intense desire to continually improve’.
“It makes good economic sense for us to hire.”David Wyborn – Course Superintendent
While the drainage work is key to achieving such recognition, it is also vital that disruption is minimal and recovery rapid. The August 2019 programme saw the Longcross closed from only 6am on a Monday to midday two days later when it was looking good and ready for play. Despite some heavy rain during the week, the same speed was then achieved on the Bernard Hunt course, so making good sense of a week-long hire.
“It makes good economic sense for us to hire,” says David. “We also know that we will get a totally reliable service from Lister Wilder. The machinery arrives when they say it will and in tip-top condition, and if we have a problem they are there. It’s all very seamless with Lister Wilder, and that applies to the wider parts service they provide to us.”
The process used by the Foxhills team sees each green covered with a blanket of sand ahead of the Verti-Drain. The surface is mechanically brushed before a second run over with a smaller tined machine, followed by further brushing and finally the use of a sand filler. With rolling to follow, total recovery is achieved in about a week.
The club has also called on Lister Wilder’s hire service for a Sisis Javelin Aer-Aid 1500 which was used for an October campaign across the greens. Its technique for injecting air into the profile brought about a noticeable improvement in drainage after heavy rain.
Foxhills ensures that its 3,000 members are kept fully informed of the Vert-Drain process and why it is important to the quality they expect. The short-term loss of one of the courses is well compensated for at a unique 400-acre resort where facilities also include a 70-bed hotel, four swimming pools, four award-winning restaurants and a health spa. In addition to the 18-hole courses, Foxhills now has a nine-hole Manor course designed for the short game and for those discovering golf for the first time.
Having played a key role in the resort’s evolution for some 33 years (he played there as a junior member), David relishes the commitment to continually invest in making Foxhills even better. “It’s hard to believe I have been here that many years,” he says. “Time does fly when you are enjoying yourself – and this is such a unique place to work.”