December 2018

In the last month the climate has certainly taken a turn for the worse, with temperatures getting much lower and producing the odd ground frost in the morning along with higher rainfall figures to deal with. However, with a few extras layers of clothing on we have managed to complete the initial installation of sand to the new bunkers, kept the course leaf free and playable as much as possible and added some definition to the course along with keeping surfaces healthy with continued mowing and maintenance programmes. So here’s a quick insight on what we have been up to lately and what we have to look forward to in the coming months.

The New Bunkers
The end is in sight for Phase 1 of the bunker project with the initial layer of sand now complete, with just under 120 tonnes of sand added by hand to deliver the first part of the process. As mentioned last month, we will be putting in an initial 2 inch layer of sand throughout each bunker, then compact it to produce a firm base for us to install the final layer in the coming months. We compact the sand using a portable whacker plate which you would normally see being used on road works. It is an ideal tool for us to produce a compacted base layer. The difference between a compacted layer and an uncompacted one is huge as it provides a consistent base for the second layer of sand to go down on. We have had a few practice shots out of the “whacked” bunkers to see how they play and the results are fantastic (even I knocked a few close to the pin and I’m notoriously rubbish out of bunkers). With a fresh 2 inch layer on top,we will deliver the ideal conditions for consistent and playable bunkers, For the time being however, the new bunkers and turf are still not open for play. We will let you know of the opening dates in due course.

Whacker being used on the 18th bunkers:
New Bunker New Bunker

In the near future we will be looking to completely finish a couple of bunkers with the correct depth of sand as a trial to see how the bunker reacts to the weather over the winter months and highlight any issues well before the start of the new season. This will give us ample time to rectify any snagging problems before the new season starts. It will also give us the opportunity to try a few different methods on how to maintain these bunkers – basically to find out the best way to rake and prepare these bunkers to provide the best end results regarding consistency and playability.

New turf at 2nd hole getting its first haircut:
2nd turf

The new turf around the bunkers has rooted brilliantly and is growing well, so much so that we have given these areas their first cuts. We will continue to mow when required and also tidy up the edges with a strimmer in future to keep them neat. With the grass being mown and sand in, the end product is pretty much there for all to see and it gives you a vision of what to expect next year. This exciting period in the club’s history is nearly upon us and we are looking forward to getting the fences around the bunkers down and the bunkers into play for the coming season.

R & A Scholarship
Along with the golf course starting an exciting period in its history, I am looking forward to an exciting period in the future also as I have managed to secure a scholarship from the R&A. Since I have been selected for this award I have been asked many times, what exactly is it, howI got it, what does it involve and what will I get from it. I would probably not do the initiative justice by trying to explain how it works and what it entails so hopefully the link below will help you get a better understanding about it (have a look at the video clip and open the pdf at the bottom of the page to get a perfect description of what the R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship Programme is all about).

What I can tell you is that I got the opportunity to apply for the scholarship as I am currently undertaking a HND Course at Elmwood College. After the application process I was invited to attend a rather intense interview with the Head of Sustainability at the R&A, the Head of Greenkeeping at Elmwood and the current Course Manager at Crail Golfing Society. I must have done ok as I was awarded a scholarship the following week and it gives me the financial backing – up to £1000 every year to go towards education, travelling expenses, courses, networking opportunities and anything else that could help my future development. The timescale on being an R&A Scholar is unlimited but I need to prove myself continuously as I get reassessed each year to show that I am using the opportunity to best affects. At the moment there are only 280 scholarships on the go around the globe so I am very honoured to be one of them and I don’t intend to let it slip through my fingers anytime soon.
Another bonus is the unique opportunity it gives me to work at the 28 R&A backed tournaments around the world. In the future I could be off to visit countries like Australia, USA, South Africa, France and Singapore to name a few.I look forward to incorporating some of the new knowledge, methods and techniques I gain from these experiences into the day to day activities at Mortonhall. The YouTube clip below shows you what I could get up to.

Mowing / Maintenance
We have mown playing surfaces all over the course to maintain definition and playing qualities with the height of cut raised slightly on all these areas to mainly lower stress levels and keep turf healthy. That’s pretty much the last cut these areas will get until the new year unless necessary but we will continue to mow and roll greens regularly to produce the best playing surface possible.
The greens have had some maintenance work to them in the last month which has worked well. We spiked the greens to relieve a little compaction in the surface and to allow air into the soil beneath (basically letting the green breathe) and we will continue to do this throughout the winter when possible. This was followed by a light dressing which will help improve the smoothness of the surface from the leftover disease damage. Lastly, we applied a slow release fertiliser which provides long lasting and balanced growth which is ideal for use in the colder months as it provides better resistance to turf stress and improves strength of the turf.
The greens have recovered well from all this work and are still performing reasonably well but most of all, not holding too much water going into December.

The spiker was brought out of retirement to spike the greens:

The fairways have also been given some much needed attention as we have been spiking and verti draining the most compacted and moisture retentive areas. This is undertaken to improve the drainage and improve turf recovery rates. We have also applied worm suppressors to problem areas (5th, 8th, 15th and 18th) which along with the aeration work carried out will certainly help to control the worm cast activity that makes fairways look unsightly, difficult to mow, become muddy and promote unwanted growth.
Finally, we applied liquid iron to all the fairways which will help to harden turf, improve colour, boost root growth and help the general health of the plant. The initial results so far have been very encouraging.

Leaf Litter and Tree Work
Leaf litter is still a major problem at the moment, and we are needing to find more time to deal with the leaf fall on a daily basis. The first thing we do each morning is to use leaf blowers to remove leaves from putting and tee surfaces but unfortunately high winds can migrate leaf litter back onto playing surfaces only a few hours after they have been removed. Leaves on the course are clearly a problem as it impacts playability. They must be removed as they can have a smothering effect on surfaces leading to water retention which can in turn lead to disease outbreak and muddy conditions.
Pine needle removal is also a must on the greens as the dead needles are highly acidic and can damage the soil ecology and they certainly affect your putting. Sadly this task takes a huge amount of time to complete (1st green and surrounds mainly) so we can’t find time to do it every day as it would affect other planned work. Hopefully some high winds along with some frosts will bring all the leaves and needles down and we can get them all cleared and off site.
You will have noticed that there has been some major tree work carried out at the 10th hole, with trees being taken away from behind the tee and green. This work is all part of Mortonhall’s Tree Management Plan that was produced by DR. Bob Taylor of STRI last year. The main objective of this plan is to maintain and improve the woodlands around the course to improve playability, visual interest, wildlife and the health of the turfgrass on the course.
There was a major problem on the 10th with the trees surrounding the tee and green,letting very little light and air to the areas. The lack of air and light seriously limits the process of photosynthesis, which is the basis for all grass growth. If you remember back to biology at high school and the photosynthesis equation, light energy is used to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen and energy. So if we don’t get any light, we don’t get any growth. We are confident that the work carried out will be beneficial to the areas especially 10th medal tee.
It has not been a case of us taking down the trees wherever we wanted, as some of the woodland on the course is protected by the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and The Forestry Commission. All the work recommended to us by Dr. Taylor had to first be analysed by the relevant authorities and permission granted before felling took place. They were happy with our proposals, so consent was given.

Winter Course/Conditions
The sustained wet weather has resulted in the normal areas on the course becoming worn and muddy, so we have been putting measures in place to limit damage, help playability, limit health and safety issues and most of all, keep your new golf shoes mud free. The conditions are not overly serious at the moment but the conditions will get worse when we get deep into winter. Problem areas have now been roped off, all our rubber matting has been put down on the slippery and undulating areas, and we will continue to move the ropes and rubber matting regularly to limit wear as much as possible. We will introduce more roped areas throughout the winter when necessary. Even with these measures in place there will still be areas which are slippery, uneven or soft underfoot, so please take great care when out playing, especially during or after poor weather conditions.
The winter course has been in place for a few weeks now, and all the winter tees are now in play. Also, the lift and drop areas have been introduced again on the 1st and 18thfairways with a slight change to the drop rules at the 1st (drop zones to be used when tee shot lands to the left of the fairway). Could I please ask members to adhere to these rules as it will greatly limit damage to the tees and fairways.

By Shaun Cunningham

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