Groundkeeper keeps Guards Polo Club in mint condition

Guardo Polo

The Guards Polo Club, which is based at Smiths Lawn, Windsor Great Park has ten polo pitches across 53 hectares and then, four miles away at Flemish Farm, there are more pitches plus stables, paddocks and training facilities in support.

With the playing season running from April through to mid-September, the year majors on a run of prestigious events throughout the summer alongside hundreds of day-to-day games. These leading events include the International Day, the Duke of Wellington trophy and climaxing with the Nations Cup in September - all of which take pride of place on the show pitches around the clubhouse.

Obviously, with130 acres of grass to cope with and hard usage to boot, the season takes its toll and constant preparation, maintenance and rejuvenation of the hallowed sward is very much required to keep the facility looking pristine. With boards to strim and stabling areas to keep tidy as well as the pitches to look after, a fulltime ground staff of 14 headed up by Head Groundsman Peter Svoboda along with a ‘divot’ team as well take on the task with relish, ‘Immediately after a game the boys go in and press back the divots by hand and then this is followed up by a manual repair using 7.5 tonnes per pitch of a top soil / grass seed soil mix pushed into the bare bits.’ explains Mr. Svoboda, ‘What we are always trying to achieve is a pitch that is as near to perfect with good grass coverage plus adequate drainage to improve water infiltration to keep the pitches playable when wet but also we need to irrigate when it is too dry’.

That adequate surface porosity is aided by 6,000 tonnes of sand being applied annually in three applications a year followed immediately by a run with the Verti Drain to ensure some deep down incorporation. Long term then power corers are also used, ‘We have tried many ways to collect the cores but one of the most effective ways has been to use our Amazone Groundkeeper GHS 210 Jumbo mower collectors’ goes on to comment Mr. Svoboda.

And of course there is no shortage of Amazone Groundkeepers to go at with a fleet of three Amazone GHS 210 Jumbos, supported by local Amazone dealers, T.H. White Grasscare, at the disposal of grounds staff. These are used to collect the clippings created by 6 metre rotary mowers as well as scarifying where necessary and are out on the pitches at least every other day. ‘We do use the Groundkeepers to mow as well, but speed is the essence as we are cutting continually on a rotational basis and there are times when we don’t need to collect at all if grass growth is not too excessive and so the wider rotary mowers are more efficient. However, even though they may not be mowing all the time, it is that striped finish effect that the Groundkeepers leave behind them that we can’t do without. We endure high wear and tear on mowing blades generally due to the amount of sand that we use; the rotary mowers can get through a set of blades every few days and the cylinder mowers need a regrind very regularly’. With the grass this year growing profusely, the Jumbo 210’s are flat out picking up and taking the cut material away to a composting area as well as mowing the outer pitch sides.

And as though that amount of grass produced naturally is not enough, Mr. Svoboda uses a mixture of liquid fertiliser applied via a sprayer as well as two passes with a slow release granular fertiliser applied by a 2,500 litre capacity Amazone ZA-M Profis 24m spreader as well. ‘We needed to put the stuff on more accurately than we were and so this is why we bought into the weigh-cell technology of the ZA-M, which not only gives us an excellent spread pattern, but also the correct spread rate down to the last kilogram; its expensive stuff so we try and make the best use of it’ remarks Mr. Svoboda.

So, with July just around the corner and the start of another major tournament, then there is no rest for the wicked and the Groundkeeper Jumbos have to keep on doing what they do best: mowing, collecting, scarifying and rolling.