Marlborough Golf Club Invests in Ryetec

The UK golf industry makes has a big role to play as a steward of countryside and protector of habitats; but the responsibility is all the greater when a course incorporates extensive common land. That’s very much the case at Marlborough Golf Club, which sits high on the hills overlooking the historic Wiltshire town. 

Golfers and community alike relish the glorious views from the course across the North Wessex Downs. The challenge for Head Greenkeeper Zac Broocks and his team is to manage the site for the benefit of not just those audiences but a profusion of wildlife that includes red kites, buzzards, kestrels and hares. The way in which the greenkeepers look after the course’s long rough is key to that and influenced the club’s decision to invest in a Ryetec P1600 professional flail mower from Dave Patrick at Lister Wilder.

The Rytec serves as both a mower and scarifier, while also serving a very useful function in gathering leaves. It is available in a range of widths from 1.2m to 2m and as a hydraulic low or high tip. It is suitable for use with compact and agricultural tractors and can be fully mounted, semi-mounted or trailed. 

Zac first came to appreciate the Ryetec’s capabilities while learning his trade at another of Wiltshire’s best known courses – Bowood. From there, he went on to work at Chipping Sodbury before coming to Marlborough in mid-2022, initially as Deputy Head Greenkeeper but soon afterwards being promoted to take charge. 

“At Bowood, I recognised the Ryetec as a fantastic bit of kit and when I came here I knew it would have a role to play,” he says. “We could have hired one but I managed to persuade the committee that it would be much better for us to have one on hand rather than be limited to joining the queue for hiring one.

“In autumn, we use a tractor blower to bring the leaves into lines and then the Ryetec picks it all up. Beyond that, we manage our long rough with a cut in around September / October and then a scarifying cut in March or April before the start of the summer season. 

He adds: “If we just left the long rough to its own devices it would become steadily thicker and that would lead to golfers losing balls with resulting long rounds of golf and our members becoming generally fed up.

“The Ryetec is dead easy to operate, relatively manoeuvrable on the back of a tractor to get into tight spaces, and easy to reverse and dump off. With the scarifying blades on the unit we have also been able to scarify the tees for the first time ever. It’s been a fantastic investment for the club. We are using it for a wide range of activities that definitely give benefit to members once its done.”

Managing the rough is also important for the wildlife population while also providing an opportunity to create wildflower areas. Used on its lowest setting, the Rytec opens the way to removing all the grass ahead of rotovating and then planting.

Meanwhile, the five-man greenkeeping team will also typically devote time in the winter months to tree management including new planting. Tied into that is the placement of bird, owl and bat boxes based on the advice of a local RSPB officer who does an annual bird survey.

It adds up to a great deal of diversity for the member owned course, which started life as nine-holes in 1888. Today, its full-size course of two distinct halves – a fast downland experience on the higher common land and a more traditional springy turf parkland on the bottom nine, which were added in the 1980s. With a commitment to achieve 365-day-a- year golf without resorting to temporary greens, the club is considering a capillary rope drainage system on two of its lower greens.