A busy, but rewarding month for us, where we have enjoyed a productive time on and off the course. The high temperatures and significant rainfall has resulted in all the playing surfaces flourishing with growth. It also means we have had to focus much time to mowing these areas to keep them to a good level of playing consistency during the busy period of competitions we have been experiencing. Along with the high frequency of mowing, we have also managed to fit in some maintenance to the greens. Light dressings, regular verti cutting, spiking and an application of granular fertiliser were all carried out in the past month. So here goes with a brief update on what has been going on with us in the last month and another couple of answers to members frequently asked questions that have come my way recently.
At the start of July we were very fortunate to welcome the Head of Sustainability and Ecology at BIGGA, James Hutchinson to Mortonhall for a walk and talk visit around our course. It was quite a coup to get James (especially free of charge) and he gave us some great information and things to work on regarding how we plan to improve our onsite biodiversity and environmental levels in the coming years. He was deeply impressed with the course and what we were trying to achieve, which is high praise from someone of his standing in this subject. It has given us much confidence that we are on the right track with our end objectives and hopefully this time next year you will start to see the improvements to the plant and wildlife species we have out on the course.
Along with our golfing heritage, the area in which the course sits has a fascinating landscape history and ecological function. The holes are lined by woodlands, which provide vital definition and strategic shaping to the holes, adding character to greatly enhance the setting and atmosphere of the course. However, they also boast benefits which are considerable value to wildlife and provide habitat for a wealth of birdlife, insects, mammals and wild flora. Our long term vision is to improve our environment and wildlife at Mortonhall as it is our duty to enhance the landscape to benefit future golfing generations. We plan to do this by promoting and developing practises that will enhance and conserve the course plantlife, wildlife and general sustainability (a very important word in the current climate).
The main plans and objectives we have in the coming years are as follows –
- Develop manageable wildflower areas.
- Conserve current and attract a greater range of wildlife species
- Maintain natural rough grass areas for wildlife habitat and food source
- Work with local schools and groups to educate and connect with community
- Involve our members to build relationships and understanding
- Promote the plan and its results to enhance club’s reputation and standing
It was an exciting July for us, with a number of big club competitions to prepare the course for, some rewarding achievements for our squad members and an opportunity to volunteer at another major golf tournament.
Continued Personal Development
The greenstaff take Continued Professional Development (CPD) very seriously and this is highlighted by two of us getting rewarded for our commitment, with Craig achieving his Approved Status and me accumulating enough credits to gain a Milestone. The CPD process refers to the tracking and documenting of skills, knowledge and experience that you gain outside working hours. Basically it is designed so you can push yourself to manage your own development, boost your confidence and show the dedication you have for your career. You can gain credits via further education, attending seminars, courses, volunteering, etc. and pretty much works out that you receive 1 credit for every hour you spend on your development. To achieve Approved Status you need 60 credits and a Milestone requires 180 credits, all within a 3 year period, which highlights the amount of commitment, enthusiasm and motivation required to achieve these accolades. The scheme is a very useful tool to help us improve ourselves and with Grant also currently working towards his approved status, it is clear the greenstaff are using this scheme to good effect.
Seniors British Open
Luckily I was given the opportunity to volunteer at Royal Lytham and St Annes again this year to help the greenstaff prepare the course for the Seniors British Open after last years successful involvement in the Womens British Open. Just like last year, I was on site for 8 days (morning and night, Sunday to Sunday) during the practise, Pro Am and tournament itself. My main duty being to hand mow greens, followed by helping out with bunker raking and fairway divoting when required.
It was pretty much the same tasks I was given last year but this time I was given the role of one of the hand mowing group leaders which required me to attend daily briefings, monitor clip yield and decide mowing patterns. This was hugely rewarding and enjoyable for me as it was a privilege to be able to play a part in the set up of a major tournament on such a sensational golf course. It also gave me a close view of the unbelievable standards that are required for these events and how efficiently these standards are reached no matter what is put in front of you (lightning delays, rain suspensions and breakdowns to name a few). I took away from the week a huge amount of confidence and self belief that I can produce high standards of work under serious pressure (if you can nail a bullet line up the middle of the 1st green in complete darkness at 4 am after 3 hours sleep in front of various officials and home greenstaff, you can do anything) but I also took away a huge amount of new knowledge, friends and networking possibilities from some of the most admired greenkeepers in the industry, which can only benefit me and the club.
It was a brilliant week for me representing Mortonhall at this event, even though the hours were extreme and the step count was bordering on 100 miles. I thoroughly enjoyed myself down there and so much so, I have already booked my place on the team for the British Open when it comes to the venue in the future.
Members Course Walk
The greenstaff have been giving some thought into an ideal way to interact with the members more and build a closer relationship. And we have come up with the idea of a course walk, which any member is welcome to come along too. We have pencilled in the afternoon of Monday 26th August and we will show you behind the scenes what we encounter every day. It will be a case of meeting at the Pro Shop and enjoying between 60 – 90 minutes of our company, with hopefully some beneficial insights into such things as our thatch problem and management, hole changing methods, bunker problems and maintenance, height of cut info, etc., and if you are lucking we might even get some demonstrations, tutorials and audience participation along the way. More importantly, we will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about the course.
Please look out for the poster that will be appearing on the noticeboard over the coming days and we will be delighted if you can attend.
As requested in last months blog, there has been a positive response with members sending in questions to be answered in these monthly updates, so thanks and keep them coming and I hope the answers make sense and are helpful to you.
- What is the best practise, replace divots or fill using soil in divot bags?
The best method is to replace your divot whenever possible as that will give the best chances of recovery. A replaced divot will root and start growing again within a week given suitable conditions (moisture and heat), whereas soil and seed mix will germinate at best within 10 days given the same conditions and will take up to one month to fully fill the hole. It is not always the case that you can retrieve your divot as it can disintegrate on impact, in these cases using the soil in your divot bag is the best option. There are times mainly during dry spells that replaced divots do not root and in turn dry out and blow away, moved by mowing machinery or displaced by birds looking for worms. These are the times when the divot bags come in handy the most. When out playing and you notice a unrepaired divot could you please take a moment to fill it to help us out (members are carrying out this task regularly, especially the lady and senior members – thanks and keep it up).
- How do we manage the new bunkers during dry periods?
Our new bunkers have been in play for 4 months now and as with many new things, teething problems come with them and our new bunkers aren’t any different. Most of the problems relate to when we experience dry spells over a prolonged period, with the main ones being:
- Balls coming to rest or plugging on edges and faces of bunkers
- Lack of rain resulting in bunkers being too dry
- Sand movement due to high winds, lowering depths and exposing concrete
- Golf clubs coming into contact with concrete
Although this is a challenging situation, there is a fundamental reason for these problems, which we are constantly trying to improve. Hopefully I can shed a bit of light on it. The capillary concrete lining we have is designed to drain bunkers to leave a consistent surface. During dry spells it works so well that it drains all the moisture from the sand at times too quickly, resulting in sand becoming very dry and susceptible to sand movement from wind and golfers play (especially on bunker faces). We are assured by the distributors that this problem will ease as time goes by when the smaller sand particles make their way into the concrete, forming a slight resistance to water percolation (exactly the same that other clubs using the concrete method have found over a period of time, eg. Bruntsfield Links and Gleneagles).
We have had a visit from the product distributor and he has told us we are doing everything correctly and he is confident the problem will ease as time goes by. In the meantime, we are regularly undertaking methods to limit sand movement, sand drying out, exposed concrete and damage to clubs. We have recently applied a wetting agent to the bunker faces to help them retain more moisture and in turn not dry out so quickly. We’ve also added 1 – 2 inches of sand to the faces of the new bunkers to limit the chances of concrete being exposed and chances of coming into contact with the concrete with a club on the problem holes (3, 6, 7, 17 and 18) which are the holes most exposed to wind. Before we topped up the sand on the faces we watered the faces heavily and will continue to do so when necessary to try and get some moisture into the concrete for better water holding capacity. Hopefully this helps the problem in the future. We will continue to ask industry experts and other users for their advice to get the best results possible in the future.
Also, every time we rake bunkers we take a depth measuring device with us to monitor the depths on the bases and edges of the bunkers, which we act on if not correct by re distributing or adding sand around the bunker if required (two – three inches on the face and four inches on the base is the desired depth). Unfortunately, this does cause a greater chance of balls plugging on occasions in the immediate aftermath of this being carried out, but we feel it is a necessary evil to limit injuries to golfers and their clubs.
- Where do we replace bunker rakes after use?
A common question we get asked, with the answer being “we recommend that the bunker rakes be placed on a flat area of the bunker and if possible within easy reach to allow members access to them without having to set foot in the bunker “
Probably the best way to explain this is to make up a short video to highlight where we want you to place the rake after you have played a bunker shot. It is also an ideal opportunity to refresh you all on how we recommend you rake the bunkers too. Click on photo below to view video clip
By Shaun Cunningham