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Harris hawk swoops in to aid Bury GC

Bury St Edmunds Golf Club is experimenting with an unusual solution to the problem of the damage resulting from the presence of chafer grubs under the surface of its fairways and greens.

The grubs (the larvae of the chafer beetle) feed on the roots causing the grass to die.

Worse damage can be caused, however, by animals such as badgers, foxes and rooks digging up the turf in pursuit of a tasty snack.

Pesticides containing the active ingredient Imidacloprid were generally used for the control of the chafers, but last October these pesticides were banned by the EU following concerns about their wider impact on the environment.

Locally, the major issue is the damage caused to golf courses by the large colonies of rooks that inhabit the Suffolk countryside.

Bury Golf Club have therefore engaged the services of local falconry expert Kevin Byford and his handsome Harris hawk (see photo).

The hope is that the hawk will deter the rooks from visiting the golf course. A couple of years ago rooks caused considerable damage to the football pitch at Fornham St Martin and destroyed the putting green at The Suffolk GC in their hunt for chafer grubs.

Harris hawks have a history of successful bird scaring, with Wimbledon famously using one to keep pigeons away from their tennis lawns.

Director of Golf at The Suffolk, Steve Hall, told me they currently have a resident kestrel circling the skies above their course and that there has been a noticeable reduction in rook damage since it arrived.

If the kestrel is responsible for deterring the rooks, then it bodes well for the Bury Golf Club experiment with the Harris hawk.

Thankfully, the kestrel does not appear to have disturbed the water birds at The Suffolk. Last week on a photo mission at the club I spotted numerous coots and moorhens, plus two swans and two white egrets.

There were also four very attractive Egyptian geese, but these are not the greenkeepers’ favourite birds anyway.

Bury GC General Manager, Mike Verhelst, announced to members by email and via Facebook and Twitter last week: “We have a new way of speeding up play! Due to the ongoing problems with chafer grubs we are flying the gorgeous Harris hawk today.”

Good luck to Bury and Mike on both of those fronts — let’s hope it works out.

Thetford GC

Jess Dixon, now playing off a handicap of three, won Thetford Golf Club’s Chisholm Trophy which is for winners of medals, Stablefords and trophy competitions over the past 12 months.

Jess returned 80-3=77 to beat Carolyn Beaumont (93-16=77) on countback.

Iain Maxwell won the October Midweek Stableford with 41pts.

The 20-handicapper finished two points ahead of nine-handicap James Camilleri.

Bury St Edmunds GC

Bury GC’s Georgia Parker is enjoying a very successful year in junior competitions at both club and county level.

Last week she beat Charlotte Gregory (Purdis Heath) in the Suffolk County Junior Matchplay Championship quarter-finals.

Her next opponent will be Fiona Stokes (Haverhill) in the semi-final.

Her father said: “Georgia started the year with a handicap of 12 and has managed to reduce it over the summer period to 9.

Her best gross scores of the year were a 79, nett 68, in the Bury GC Junior Bone Trophy and a gross 79 at Newton Green in the Eastern Region Junior Trophy, where she won the 0-9 Scratch Division playing against some excellent low handicap players.”

This year she has also won the Flempton Summer Open, the Under-16 Suffolk Schools Scratch competition at Diss and the Ipswich Junior Open at Purdis Heath.

In the Junior Suffolk County Match Week Georgia played at No 2 for Suffolk against players of a match higher standard, winning two matches and losing another on the 18th.

Good luck to Georgia in her forthcoming semi at the Suffolk County Junior Matchplay event.

The Suffolk GC

Alan Horne took time off from his mole-catching duties to win the latest Senior’s Stableford competition at the Suffolk GC.

In tricky windy conditions Horne scored 35 points to beat David Frost and Ray Keil on countback.

Roy Bance has completed his year as seniors’ captain at The Suffolk and the new captain is Mike Downs.

I partnered Mike in the Winter League at The Suffolk 18 years ago and then amazingly bumped into him in a Nike Shopping Outlet store in Vegas the following August.

Mike had a very successful career in general management before he retired.

He is a true gentleman and will be an excellent seniors’ captain at the club.

Stowmarket GC

Stowmarket host the fourth event of this year’s Suffolk Winter Alliance on Sunday (November 5).

Trevor Golton and Bill Darling came third in the last event held at Newton Green.

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