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Down at the Downshire – a DnF success story

Drill n Fill operation in progress at Downshire's Golf Course’s attractive course near Bracknell.

Downshire Golf complex on the edge of Bracknell, Berks, has 19 pop up greens built on clay 40 years ago and in common with many in these times of record-breaking rainfall, was struggling with flooding.

“We were at best a 10 month of the year golf course,” says general manager, Simon Cottee. “The compaction and drainage issues on these old greens meant they were like a sponge and the consistently wet, mild autumn and winters compounded the threat of disease”  The first two inches of Downshire’s greens soil profile was unable to drain properly, resulting in a shallow and thatchy root base and poor grass growth.

Simon knew that the thousands of pounds required to relay the greens was not an option: “ as a pay and play course, the outlay and loss of business just wasn’t viable”. Instead, he looked around for an affordable process that was aggressive enough to get down through the clay seam and compaction without causing major closures and disruption.

The club turned to Ecosol Turfcare’s Drill n Fill aerator which went in last autumn on all 19 greens. And the result? “The greens improved almost from Day One, the repair has been excellent and I can honestly say this is the first year in over twenty that we haven’t had to close the course due to flooded greens. Despite it being one of the wettest winters I can remember, we are in a good place we have never been in before.”

And the players are delighted about getting more for their season tickets. “No footprints on spongy greens, no closures and our golfers have a real sense of positive expectation for the season ahead,” says Simon.

The Downshire took a punt employing DnF in November 2019, out of the growing season, but nonetheless reports that repair has been excellent. The greens were drilled to a depth of 310mm with 20mm diameter drills and backfilled with an 80:20 mix of kiln-dried SP30 sand: Ecosol Sportslite soil amendment. They are now anticipating that the free draining greens will have an improved root profile with roots going in search of water, not permanently sitting in it. Sportslite is also very effective at improving nutrient retention and plant establishment and increasing CEC capacity in the rootzone.

The Downshire wouldn’t hesitate to recommend DnF to other clubs with similar problems. Simon adds, “I’d say just contact me or turn up and ask one of our golfers – we are all amazed at the improvement.”

And there’s an additional benefit of the procedure. The excessively wet winter means that getting other maintenance machinery on to the course would normally be a struggle but The Downshire’s team have been able cut and roll the firmer greens with a ride-on mower. “Tyre marks are seemingly a thing of the past!” he concludes.