The main focus point in the last month was certainly Championship Week, which the greenstaff always look forward to each year as it gives us the chance to showcase our work to a greater audience and gives us added enthusiasm to prepare the place to its best possible condition. It wouldn’t be Championship Week without the weather getting involved and causing major disruption, which resulted in the loss of two days due to heavy rainfall. We got there in the end however, and I’d like to congratulate all the Ladies and Gentlemen who were crowned Champions of their different categories.
This month’s edition is going to include hopefully some useful information about how the course performed during Mortonhall’s most important week and a few other interesting things that have been going on out on the course.
The greens were very consistent from the qualifying weekend running into the first rounds of the matchplay, and were very much on par with our agronomists (STRI) target ranges in regards to tournament green speed (between 9 and 9.5ft), trueness and smoothness levels. Overall we were extremely happy how consistent the speeds were throughout the course, even both putting greens were almost identical with the rest of the greens.
Above is the speeds from 3 greens (Holes 1, 5 and 12) during the week
The extremely heavy rainfall we had on the Wednesday afternoon between 1 – 3 pm caused the greens to flood. This combined with the flooding on the fairways and water damage to the bunkers left little chance for the scheduled matchplay ties to go ahead. The course can handle the amount of rain that fell (10mm) easily but the problem was that this amount fell in 2 hours (including 6mm in 30 minutes). No course could have withstood the amount of rain and damage we experienced in this short period and be playable to a reasonable standard a few hours later.
On Thursday 13th we had to deal with more consistently heavy rain (30mm), which again caused problems with flooding on the greens and in turn resulted in no play that day. It was a great pity that the weather interrupted Championship Week as the greens and the rest of the course were performing brilliantly and we were looking forward to showing it off to the competitors and spectators.
The green surfaces were superb during Championship Week
The aeration and coring work we do in March and October, along with the drainage we have installed on our problem greens meant that when the rained stopped, they drained quickly and were back in play on the Friday, although a touch slower due to us missing out a cut on Thursday and the overall moisture holding capacity under the surface. It is a very good pointer and really reassuring to us that the maintenance we carry out on the greens works. It was evidenced by how quickly we were able to get the green speeds back up to around 10ft by the Finals Weekend (15th and 16th).
As already mentioned, we experienced a serious amount of rain during the Championship period and it turned out to be the first real test to see how the new bunkers would react to severe flooding. The result was very pleasing as they stood up to the amount of water very well. Obviously there was some damage (sand movement, ruts formed and concrete exposed) but not the same devastation that was caused to the old bunkers (heavily flooded, out of play and major silt build up). The new bunkers did need some work to get them back up to scratch, but only some minor sand re distribution with a shovel, followed by some firming in (some of the old bunkers were still out of play days later).
A before and after photo of bunker at the 17th after a quick 5 minute fix
And how the 10th bunker looked for days
You will have noticed we have started to introduce new mowing lines on some of the holes to incorporate the new bunkers and run offs in accordance with the proposed designs for Phase 1. We had to make sure the turf was really healthy before we started to lower the height of cut so as not to cause it any stress or damage in its development. We waited until the end of May to start mowing down and have gradually lowered the height down over the last month from 44mm (rough) to 21mm (first cut) and will keep it at this height for the time being, cutting it regularly and top dressing if required.
This work has really added much definition to the holes and the run offs. Wider landing areas have added character and produced the need for a greater variety of golf shots to navigate the holes. So far the results have been positive, especially the areas we have mown right up to the edges of the bunkers to make bunkers more in play from the tee and fairway. Initially I was not a fan of this approach when I started cutting them out, but I am now converted and think it is a great way to include the new bunkers into how the hole plays and also improve the general look of the hole.
New mowing lines into bunker on 2nd fairway
Frequently Asked Questions
I thought that introducing a frequently asked questions section to future monthly updates would be a good idea to help answer some of the queries we get from the members on a daily basis out on the course. Hopefully it will prove in the long run a worthwhile addition to these monthly blogs. The objective is mainly to give you all a better understanding of your golf course and answer some of the questions that you have been dying to ask for a while. Your input will also greatly help me, as it will give me something to write about in the future. I’ve been doing these blogs for nearly two years now and I’m starting to run out of new ideas and things to write about.
To get the ball rolling and to give you an idea of what sort of things you could ask, I have come up with 3 questions that we get regularly and are quite relevant at the moment.
- Why do you top dress and aerate the greens during the playing season?
The main reasoning is to work in accordance to our STRI agronomist’s recommended maintenance programme. The long term objective is to dilute the problem levels of thatch below our putting surfaces (especially 0 – 20 mm depth). Our thatch levels in our last report were higher than we would have liked and will only lead to deterioration of the greens with increased disease outbreak, higher moisture levels, poor growth and inconsistency if not acted on. We try to work around competition play as much as possible but at times weather conditions and the busy fixture list does limit the window we can carry out the work.
The aim is to apply 50 tonnes during the playing season, which basically means applying a light 2- 3 tonne dressing over all the greens every couple of weeks. I understand this can be at times frustrating, but the effects on play will be minimal. Although sand on the green will be noticeable, it will not affect ball roll and if anything it will probably improve it. The effects of the top dressing are visible for a day or to but will disappear in a day or two after brushing and watering in.
We will integrate some aeration alongside the light dressings as it is an ideal method to incorporate the sand into our target area. It also alleviates some of the compaction that is present on the green surfaces due to the high levels of play and mowing programmes we have during the summer months (also the tiny 3 mm spike holes are ideal to help with water movement in the soil profile). Again, the effects on ball roll will be minimal although you will be aware of the work being carried out if you look closely enough.
- How often do we change the holes?
The frequency with which holes are changed is often a topic that generates much debate. The best way to answer this question is to say that there is no set number of times that we change holes each week, as it very much depends on the week’s fixture list, weather conditions and the amount of play the course gets. At the moment we are changing holes 3 or 4 times per week, sometimes 5, with the rest of the days the holes getting trimmed by scissors and rimmed to give them a clean finish.
In an ideal world we would change holes everyday, but there are some major reasons why we can’t. The main ones being that it would take up too many man hours; some greens are smaller and limit regular choices of positions (3rd, 11th, 15th) and some days the holes are perfectly fine after only a day’s play on them. Under normal circumstances fresh holes will be cut for each competition (senior stablefords, team matches, gents and ladies medals) but this is not always the case due to the reasons given above. However, on the morning of each competition the holes are inspected and if any are damaged or worn we will move if necessary.
An interesting fact regarding hole cup sizes (well I think it is anyway) that there was no standardised hole size and the size varied from links to links until 1829 when the first steps to standardised the hole size happened in Musselburgh. The first automatic hole cutter was commissioned by the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club and subsequently became the standard hole size in golf. The hole cutter could cut holes the same diameter every time. Although the 4.25 inch standardised hole was used at Musselburgh Links it didn’t become standard elsewhere until 1891 when the R&A adopted it into their new Rules of Golf. This diameter is still used in the current Rules of Golf and what we use at Mortonhall (don’t ask me how I know this, but I just do).
When moving the holes, contrary to popular belief we don’t just stick them where it will cause golfers nightmares. We constantly take into account the current conditions of play like green speed (keep holes away from slopes when above 9ft), windy conditions (don’t position pins at front of green when hole is downwind), rainfall (place holes on high spots when flooding is possible) and type of competition (fair pins for all types of golfer).
- How do you correctly repair a pitchmark?
Did you know that a pitchmark left unrepaired for 10 minutes or longer takes 15 days to recover, whereas a pitchmark repaired within 5 minutes completely recovers within 24 hours. So please remember this stat the next time you walk onto a green.
I’ve made up a quick video to show you all how to properly repair a pitchmark and also the effects it has on the greens surface if you don’t repair them. The amount of poorly or unrepaired pitchmarks we have, I’m sure you’ll agree is quite eye opening. Click on photo below to view YouTube clip.
By Shaun Cunningham