My association with Mannings Heath golf club began in 1978 when I joined as a junior member.
In those days the fairways seemed vast, the greens vaster and the trees that border many of the holes were mere saplings. With youthful naivety, summers were endless and the game seemed easy. But as I have aged, the course has too; I believe that time has been kinder to the course than me.
The saplings have matured into magnificent monolithic giants rising haphazardly into the sky shielding the course from errant shots. The fairways have narrowed - either that or my shots have become more wayward; individual holes are now bordered by indigenous flowers, whilst delightful, yet far too tame wildlife occasionally dares to trot across the grounds in front of golfers who are now accustomed to seeing them.
It is this mature course, the jewel in the crown of Sussex golf that I wish to nurture and help age gracefully. All too often we see estates over-manicured and artificially so. Golf equipment has improved over the years and average golfers are now able to bomb the ball prodigious distances, so I intend to use nature to protect the course from the modern game.
We have stripped back the grass on the banks of the brook that wends its way through 13 of the holes on the course. This not only enhances the beauty of the course but makes golfers think twice as they play their shots towards targets bordered by this babbling beauty.
Grasses have been encouraged to grow freely in areas where balls would previously have been easily found and brackens encouraged to flourish. We intend to reintroduce the heather and gorse to Mannings Heath which was stripped out by Captains past, hoping to curry favour from those golfers who were indiscriminate with their shots and lost many balls as a result.
The net result is a more natural looking course which has allowed nature to gain a foothold. The exception to this ‘eau naturale’ approach are the greens which are manicured to perfection and are billiard-table smooth.
And there we have it.
As custodians for the next generation, we wish to allow mother nature to look after the course as she knows best with some gentle coercion here and there - and so we will not only have a challenging place to play our beloved game, but a glorious walk in between when things are not going quite our way.