Soil biology reaps rewards for Harpenden Common GC

A greens team has seen its maintenance budget double and recruitment rise after introducing soil biology methods across the course.

Harpenden Common Golf Club swept aside its existing greens renovation programme in favour of a less intrusive, environmental one based on applying compost teas, fertilisers, trace elements and zeolites.

“The old system of digging up our waterlogged greens twice a year to try to improve drainage had failed,” reports head greenkeeper Sean Brocklehurst, “so we invited an agronomist specialising in soil biology to take a look at the problem.”

Soil Biology Ltd's Hillery Murphy recommended an extensive programme of boosting the microbial count across the 18-hole private members parkland course in a bid to reduce thatch and strengthen the rootzone.

Now in its fourth year of the soil biology strategy, Harpenden Common is reaping the benefits inside and outside the clubhouse, states Sean. “Poor drainage on the greens made them unplayable sometimes, forcing us to close the course and risking loss of members. Playing surfaces have improved so much that we can stay open year-round, which is great news for everyone here.”

General manager Terry Crump said: “Our key priority is to deliver the best possible course conditions and clubhouse facilities for our members. They will go elsewhere if we cannot provide golf whenever they want it.

“It’s no exaggeration to state that the club might have struggled if we had persisted with our existing maintenance strategy, which relied heavily on chemical and physical treatments.”

Year-round course playability has helped the club double the greens team’s maintenance budget, allowing it to introduce improvements across the site.

“We are raising standards off course as well as on to boost presentation around the playing areas,” says Sean, “and we have been able to recruit an apprentice greenkeeper to increase the team to seven. “

Harpenden Common applies Soil Biology products right across the course to raise quality throughout. “The zeolites add structural integrity to the turf and retain then release nutrients over time,” Sean explains, “also encouraging a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the rootzone. Members agree the state of the course is the best it has ever been.”

Hillery Murphy says: “Harpenden Common is a great testimony to soil biology.Zeolites deliver more consistent results, creating a honeycomb in which beneficial microbes can thrive and metabolise nutrients for the grass plant to take up. This is the future for course maintenance practices.”

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