Since our last update we have experienced every type of weather imaginable, apart from snow. Several times last month we witnessed biblical rainfall, intense sunshine, lightning bolts and even hailstorms, all of which occurred in the space of an hour. This was quite exciting and funny viewing at times but they were not ideal conditions to prepare the course for play. The early part of the month was mostly spent repairing the damage and trying to keep on top of the massive growth bursts that followed this extreme weather. Hopefully the difficult weather is now in the past. The famous quote below, describes the past months weather very accurately.
“Edinburgh pays cruelly for her high seat in one of the vilest climates under heaven” Robert Louis Stevenson
As already mentioned, we had a challenging month in regards to what the weather threw at us. The rainfall figures we experienced along with the high temperatures present, basically turned the course into a grass factory, with unbelievable growth patterns over all the playing surfaces.
Average rainfall for August was 64 mm – we experienced 56 mm over the weekend of Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th. Total rainfall for the month was 128 mm.
This summer has been a complete contrast to last year, which has created a totally different course in regards to playability and looks to last year’s drought conditions. At times is has been quite frustrating for us, as it has been all but impossible to achieve the high standards in course preparation we set ourselves for this period. The frequent heavy downpours affected putting performance, surface firmness, excessive growth, increased bunker maintenance, quality of cut and the general aesthetics on the course. I accept that a greenkeeper loves a good moan about the weather, but at times August really did throw some unhelpful weather at us which the graph above will hopefully highlight.
At times the heavy rainfall resulted in the course flooding and damage to the bunkers and paths (no golf course could have coped with these volumes of water), but we managed to repair areas and move water off the surfaces pretty quickly each morning (even at weekends) to keep the course open and disruption to play at a minimum.
Damage to the course over weekend of 10th and 11th
As you will be aware of, work on Phase 2 of the Bunker Project is nearly upon us, with the contractors on site from Monday 16th September. Obviously quite a lot of disruption will be caused during this time and beyond due to machinery and individuals being on course, but we will try and limit disruption as much as possible and deliver a shortened course which is still a challenge. The dreaded winter greens have appeared lately as we need them in place for when the work starts.
We have prepared them well in advance this time around to try and get a good surface on them for you, with the objective to lower the height of cut down to a number that is close to the height of the main greens to try and give you the best golfing experience possible.
While we are talking about the Bunker Project, the new mowing patterns, extended approaches, run offs and altered fairways from Phase 1 have now been shaped to their final contours. It has taken a long period of time to get them how we envisaged them as we couldn’t start lowering the height of cut until we were certain the new turf was healthy, rooting well and able to withstand being closely mown regularly. We have gradually lowered these areas height down to 11mm (tee height) over the past months and will keep it at this height for the time being (the target height for the aprons and run offs is 8mm). In the past week these areas have been fertilised with the possibility of more in the future if required. Top dressing of these areas will also be undertaken in the future. They are understandably not at the same level of grass coverage, consistency and playability as existing aprons and fairways but we are very happy with the condition they are in at the moment.
New run off to the rear of 17th
These new features have really added much definition to the holes and the run offs and wider landing areas have added character and produced the need for a greater variety of golf shots to navigate the holes (I especially like how the second shot to the 6th now looks, with its new approach shape and larger target area). So far the results have been positive and I can’t wait to see how they play after they are down to their desired height of cut (probably won’t be saying that however when I slightly push my tee shot at 17, then watch in anguish as my ball rolls down the run off and away from the green).
At the end of the month, we hosted a course walk for any member who fancied coming along to learn a wee bit more about the finer details that go into a greenkeeper’s set up. The attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, give feedback, participate in demonstrations and get a better understanding of the various methods, gadgets and thinking that goes into preparing the golf course each day.
Areas Covered Included
Changing Holes (frequency, reasoning behind placements, method used)
Green Speeds (explain targets, stimp demo, why we use, how we achieve targets)
Thatch Levels (highlight problem, how it occurs, negatives, measures to improve)
Moisture Levels (demo moisture meter, explain water content, why we monitor)
Pitchmark Repair (demo correct method, highlight importance and damage)
Height Of Cut (importance of quality cut, demo of altering heights and accuracy)
Bunker Raking (give demo, highlight negatives, feedback and thoughts)
The educational walk was designed to build relationships between the greenstaff and the members, giving greater transparency to what we do out on the course and give the golfers a chance to voice any questions they have. Initial feedback from the participants was very positive and we hope they enjoyed themselves, found it beneficial and took away a better understanding of the course itself and the methods we use on it.
If the interest is strong enough, another walk could be organised in the future which would be fine with us, as the greenstaff present that day thoroughly enjoyed their time spent with the members.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What measures are in place to monitor the volumes of water in the pond.
Elf Loch is a great asset to the club, as it delivers beautiful scenic views when playing holes 2 and 17, minimises the risk of flooding in the area and it houses a wide range of wildlife and vegetation year round. With the importance it has to how the course plays and the local wildlife, it is crucial that we continually monitor water levels to ensure that Elf Loch continues to be an asset in years to come.
There are a number of factors that affect the water depth, namely rainfall, evaporation, transpiration, leakage and the outlet pipes that are present in the pond. To measure and control the water levels we have a few methods in place. Firstly, we have installed a gauge to determine the water depth (monitored regularly for any signs of concern) and we also have 2 outlet pipes that feed into a drain crossing the 2nd fairway. One of these pipes is approximately 30cm and the other approximately 60 cm below the top of the bank at this point (these pipes have been in place for a long time). The upper outlet pipe is intended to enable the water level to be drawn down whenever it rises to less than 30 cm below bank level and begin to spill onto the adjoining fairway. At this level the Loch retains its scenic appeal while at the same time having the capacity to absorb a substantial amount of inflow before it reaches overspill level. The lower outlet is there to enable the loch to be deliberately drawn down a further 30 cm to make it easier, for example, to get into it to clear it out, or to speed up the rate at which water can be drained.
Measuring Gauge in Elf Loch
There was a case in 2018 when the Loch levels were alarmingly low. It was first thought that it was the prolonged drought period we experienced, but eventually it was discovered the issue was a problem with the lower outlet pipe. The problem led to the pipe being open continuously and in turn draining the pond, meaning that it never had the chance to go above 30cm. This added to evaporation and no rainfall during this period meant the water level was at times well below 30cm deep. A gate valve has since been installed on the lower outlet pipe which has thankfully cured the problem (since its installation the pond has filled up dramatically).
- How do you manage the vegetation in Elf Loch.
Without care, the pond can soon become an eyesore with overgrown plants and weeds plus delivering water that is unhealthy for the wildlife that have made their home there. To limit this problem, occasional clearing must be carried out. The various species of plant life growing in the pond provides valuable shelter and food for the numerous bird life, amphibians and insects present but left poorly maintained can become too densely populated, blocking light and oxygen due to their ability to spread incredibly quickly as they have a rapid reproduction cycle.
The best way to control the spread is by manual removal, as spraying herbicide on them is not possible due to government legislations. We normally carry this sort of work out during the winter months with the help of a number of volunteers from the membership to give us a hand, as you will imagine it is quite time consuming. After we clear the vegetation from the area, we then pile it close to the pond and leave for a few days to let any insects or amphibians we have unknowingly removed, find their way back into the water or surrounding areas. After a few days, when we are confident we have given enough time for the wildlife to vacate the piles, we take away the unwanted vegetation.
We are always looking for volunteers for this type of work, so please look out for volunteer posters in the clubhouse in the coming months. It is definitely worth a look as it will only last a couple of hours and during that time you can, have a chat with the greenstaff, meet new friends and most of all, the number of Pro V, Chrome Soft and TP5 golf balls you will find is unbelievable.
By Shaun Cunningham