Bexhill club makes largest ever investment

Highwoods Golf Club general manager Austen Moran (left) and deputy head greenkeeper Jamie Melham at the entrance to the club. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Highwoods Golf Club general manager Austen Moran (left) and deputy head greenkeeper Jamie Melham at the entrance to the club. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Highwoods Golf Club is making its largest ever financial investment to take the condition of the course to the next level.

The Bexhill-based club is investing a significant six-figure sum into a state-of-the-art contemporary irrigation system for all 18 greens, tees and green approaches.

Moran (left) and Melham alongside the 10th tee at Highwoods.

Moran (left) and Melham alongside the 10th tee at Highwoods.

Highwoods are working with Stella Rickson, an agronomist with STRI - the largest agronomy consultancy in the world. The board of directors has been considering the project for some time, and the introduction of Stella and her recommendations confirmed the need to upgrade an ageing existing system.

Highwoods general manager Austen Moran said: “There’s a whole list of reasons why we’re doing this and a lot of planning has gone into it. We’ve never had greens approach watering before.”

The system is produced by German manufacturer Perrot - a European market leader in irrigation which has just agreed to install an irrigation product at Chelsea Football Club - and will be installed by Uckfield-based firm Lakes & Greens. Highwoods will be only the third golf club in the UK to use this design.

Highwoods’ project management team, including Moran, Andrew Castle, Jamie Melham and Richard Jordan, recently travelled to Essex to get a first-hand look at one of the other two.

Highwoods staff have also been offered the opportunity to see Perrot’s factory in Stuttgart, and Melham described Perrot’s engineering and support package as ‘second to none’.

The system will be far more intelligent and sophisticated, not to mention environmentally friendly, than the club’s existing irrigation system which, after years of repairs, has lasted more than double its anticipated lifespan at the time of its installation 40 years ago.

Boasting a built-in rain sensor which knows how much rain has fallen, the new system will provide a much more efficient delivery and even distribution of irrigation to all the areas that need it, helping the management of the tees, greens and approaches.

The system is computer controlled (and can also be operated via a mobile app), enabling the operator to go through each sprinkler and tell it how much water to deliver. The quantities can be changed on a rolling basis and there are 150 different delivery options available.

As well as improving the condition of the course, the new system will be far better from an ecological standpoint.

The club will be putting in 150% more sprinklers, but may even use less water than it currently does because it will irrigate in a more efficient and intelligent way. It will allow less chemicals and fertilisers to be used too.

What’s more, with the skills and modern machinery available to contractors of this type, the disruption to the course will be minimal during the installation process. The bulk of the work will be done from October to December, minimising disruption to the golfing calendar.

An EGM was held at Highwoods relating to everything associated with the new system, including raising the required finance.

Members were invited to vote on the proposed introduction of the system and the votes cast comfortably exceeded the 75% majority required for it to get the go-ahead.

“Our greens are in absolutely pristine condition at the moment - the best I’ve seen them in the 12 years I’ve been here - but this will bring about an all-round improvement on the course,” added Moran.

“We’re bucking the trend hugely in relation to other golf clubs in the UK with our membership holding strong. We’re absolutely going from strength to strength in all respects of the club.

“Our green staff not only have a passion for the course, but they have introduced a wild flower planting programme for bees etc, log piles for insects to flourish and multiple bird boxes which are now home to some of our feathered friends.

“The club atmosphere, membership and, most importantly, course improvements are all part of a flourishing club.”

Established in 1924, Highwoods is a well-maintained parkland course situated in Ellerslie Lane.

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