April 2019

April 2019

By the time you read this update, we will have cut the ribbons and cracked open the champagne as the full course will be back in play and the new bunkers in use. The changes to the course over the last 6 months have been nothing short of spectacular and the finished product is certainly something Mortonhall GC can be very proud of. The greenstaff feel honoured to have played a part in the improvements and have thoroughly enjoyed learning the new skills we acquired along the way. I hope you will enjoy the new features just as much as we did creating them.

This month’s update, as promised will focus largely on the bunker project, with hopefully some interesting facts, information, and a few photos and videos thrown in for good measure. I will also cover another extremely important task we undertook last month, namely the Graden work that was carried out on the greens.

Bunker Project

Before and after photos of right bunker at 17th

The two pictures above is the perfect example of what has been achieved over the winter.  The new bunkers will deliver improved playability, better aesthetics, no stones or spoil, superior drainage capabilities and improved positioning. There are a few numbers below to highlight what we got up to during phase 1 of the bunker project.

  • 28 original bunkers replaced with 23 new bunkers.
  • Average size of bunker increases from 45m sq. to 61m sq.
  • Excavated 150 tonnes of infill material from right side of 16th
  • Laid 700 metres of new drainage inside and around new bunkers.
  • Installed 1300m sq. of capillary concrete (15 cement lorries).
  • Laid 5000m sq. of turf (80 pallets)
  • Installed 150 tonnes of high spec bunker sand.
  • Lifted 500m sq. of turf to create revetted bunker edges.

Capillary Concrete

A Capillary Concrete Bunker gives you total drainage control and keeps bunker moisture at optimal levels to eliminate washed out bunkers, soil contamination, plugged ball lies and other bunker maintenance and playability problems. It not only rapidly drains after heavy rainfall, it moves moisture back up to the bunker sand during drier weather through upward capillary action to restore moisture to the bunker sand to provide more ideal playing conditions.

During the process of identifying the ideal bunker lining for Mortonhall, this product kept coming to the fore and after reviews from the clubs that had already used it (Gleneagles, Loch Lomond and Bruntsfield Links) we chose this product to be our bunker lining. The installation was quite simple, although at times hard work, but with good teamwork we managed to get a high quality final product. The initial results have been fantastic and we are certain that we chose the best product for our objectives.


Click on the link above to see how the concrete copes with 20 litres of water

Turf and Mowing

The turf has wintered extremely well, even though we experienced a drought spell for a month after it was laid (turf required watering regularly during this period). It has taken very well during the times we have mown it and we couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out. Obviously it is not as mature as the other areas on the course, so it won’t be as hard wearing as these areas (could take up to 2 years for areas to develop strong rooting and wear resistance), so could I please ask everyone to take great care and replace divots when playing from the new turf.

The new turf is looking stunning for the start of the season

The newly turfed areas that are due to become aprons, run offs and parts of fairway are not yet ready to be closely mown down to desired heights (8 – 12 mm), as lowering height too soon will greatly affect the overall health and development of the turf. We will gradually lower the height of cut in future weeks and start to incorporate these closely mown areas around the bunkers and bring them into play when possible.

Raking and Sand Depths

After all the hard work that has been put into the design and build of the bunkers it is crucial that we maintain them to make sure that the time spent has been worthwhile. The initial gradients that were excavated and shaped into the faces and back edges of the bunkers prior to concrete installation were extremely important to how the bunker works (all the bunkers slope into the centre of the bunker where the drains are) and these initial gradients are also extremely important to how the bunker plays (all golf balls should roll into the centre of the bunkers). This means the greenstaff must maintain these bunkers by raking to a standard that gets the best results regarding playability and to limit the chances of your ball coming to rest on a bunker face or back edge

The way we are going to achieve the best results is to deliver firm faces and edges by flat raking and regular firming in, then fluffing up the bases with the use of a springbok rake. The smooth, firm faces and back edges will in time limit the chances of plugged balls and  balls coming to rest near the bunker edges (although this will not be 100% effective in stopping poor lies and uneven stances). The greenstaff will produce the sand to the desired depths (4 inches base, 2 inches face and back edge) but we will also need some help from our members. We have made a short video on how we would like you to rake a bunker after playing your shot (video clip is certainly not as entertaining as the out-takes. The plus point however, is that I will definitely make £250 from You’ve Been Framed in the future).


Please click on photo above to view “How To Rake A Bunker” video

End Product

As already mentioned we are delighted with how Phase 1 turned out. We started this work way back in the middle of September relative novices on the art of working with outside contractors, bunker shaping, concrete installation and all the aftercare that comes along with this type of work. But by the end we have come out with new skills, knowledge and now form part of a very cohesive team with expert contractors, a great architect and fine suppliers. The same team goes into Phase 2 with a high degree of confidence and focus to do an even better job.

We welcomed along a group of Bigga East Section Greenkeepers

News has been spreading of all the bunker work we have been carrying out, so much so that we had a request from the East of Scotland Bigga Region to pay us a visit to see all the improvements we have achieved. Sixteen greenkeepers turned up for a course walk.  We gave them some insight on the methods we used, the planning that went in to it and the aftercare that continues on the new bunkers. We thoroughly enjoyed showing off our new bunkers and as a whole, the guys who came along all seemed deeply impressed with what we had achieved.  Getting such high praise from our fellow peers proves we are on the right track.

Since Phase 1 is now complete and open for business.  I have put together a YouTube video of the work we undertook to get where we are today. The video is  largely down to me not needing too much of an excuse to show off my new found skill in video editing, but hopefully it highlights the amount of effort the team put into the project and the enjoyment we got from it.


Click on photo above to view Phase 1 Bunker Video


Graden Work and Top Dressing

After being delayed a few times due to machine breakdowns and wet weather, we completed the Graden process on the greens. The end result was perfect, with huge amounts of dried sand applied to the top 0 – 20 mm of the greens. I will admit the greens surfaces are not at their best at the moment but they have had some serious, but much needed work carried out on them in the last month or so.  They will only improve from now on. We have fertilised the greens and the water system is now turned on after its winter shut down so we are now expecting growth in the future when the temperatures rise a touch (a daily average of 8 degrees provides ideal growth conditions). We will continue to cut and roll the greens to provide the best surface possible in the meantime – they are getting better every day.

With the work carried out over coring and Graden, we have already improved our goal to lower thatch levels. We are trying to lower thatch levels by lowering organic matter and applying top dressing –the plan being to apply 160 tonnes of dressing throughout the year, with the expectation to lower thatch closer to our advised STRI agronomist percentages.

We have already applied 70 tonnes (Coring 30 / Graden 40) to the greens, with an expected 40 tonnes to be added during the autumn renovations. This leaves us 50 tonnes to be applied through the season to reach our desired total. We will do this by regularly applying light dressings every 2 weeks (3 tonnes at a time). These light dressings will hardly be noticed on the surface, with possibly a slightly slower green speed as the only negative during these times. However, it will continue to dilute thatch levels, level surfaces, improve firmness levels and most importantly get us closer to the possibility of lowering the frequency and aggressiveness of green maintenance in spring and autumn renovations.


Practice Nets

We have completed major renovations to the practice facility by installing new nets, astroturf and in general giving the whole area a good makeover. It took David and myself a bit offtime to complete, with us losing a fair amount of blood in the process (we are currently held together by plasters) but the end product was certainly worth all the hardship.

Before, During and After of the Practice Nets Renovations

The roof has been raised to limit damage from iron shots and hopefully the re used baffle netting will take the brunt of all golf shots. We will regularly monitor the nets in the future to look out for signs of wear and rectify when necessary.

By Shaun Cunningham