With this update being the first of the year, we can look back on 2019 as being eventful, exciting and at times challenging. However, we got through it and all the greenstaff are looking forward to getting our teeth into 2020. One thing for sure, we will certainly not be sorry to see the back of 2019, regarding the weather conditions it threw at us. It looks like this will improve in the coming months, so we can concentrate on improving course conditions in preparation for the grand opening of the new bunkers and the completion of all the CIP Work. This month’s edition will focus largely on something which is becoming extremely important in our current climate, namely the environment and how we are trying to improve ours along with the on site biodiversity.
Golf Course Environment
There has always been a close relationship between the golf course and its surrounding environment over the years, with the variety of species living on our site contributing to the golfing experience, which we plan to continue in the future. As a golf club, it is our duty to work with nature to maintain, conserve and increase habitat quality and species diversity without affecting golfer’s enjoyment and experiences.
Golf courses are often criticised for their negative impact on their surroundings, with chemical usage, water inputs, loss of habitats to name a few. In my opinion, golf courses play a vital role in preserving our natural environment. If you take Mortonhall for example, it is situated bang in the middle of a densely populated urban area where many green belt areas have been lost over the years for housing developments. Our policies have resulted in our course unintentionally turning into a refuge for flora and fauna due to its stable habitat. We currently house various forms of wildlife which have become extremely rare in the Edinburgh area, meaning if our course wasn’t here, neither would these species be here. Our long term vision is to improve our environment and biodiversity at Mortonhall, enhancing the landscape to the benefit of future golfing generations. We plan to do this by promoting and developing practices that will improve the course, plant, wildlife and sustainability (a very important word in golfing terms at the moment).
Elf Loch Clearing
Elf Loch had started to be engulfed with overgrown plants and weeds. There was also evidence that it was silting up and shrinking in volume. All these factors were delivering water that could prove unhealthy to the wildlife that use the pond. It was also a concern that the overgrown plants and weeds were reducing the visual appeal and character of one of the courses main assets.
The help and advice from the volunteers was invaluable
The best way to control the spread is by manual removal, as spraying herbicide on them is not possible due to government legislation. So with the kind help of a number of volunteer members, we cleared away the areas that had become densely populated. The most satisfying part of the process apart from the number of free Pro V’s on offer was the reinstatement of the island in the middle which had, over time expanded enough to connect with the edge of the pond.
A massive improvement visually and health wise to Elf Loch
We were advised by experts that the most appropriate time to remove the vegetation was over the winter period to keep the risk to wildlife minimal. We piled the unwanted vegetation close to the edge and left it for a few days to let any insects or amphibians we unknowingly removed, find their way back into the water or surrounding area. After a few days, when we were confident we had given enough time for the wildlife to vacate the piles, we disposed of the unwanted vegetation.
Bird Boxes and Insect Hotel
We had numerous pallets lying about our yard after all the turfing we did for the CIP work, so we thought they should be put to good use. As we have an objective to improve our on site biodiversity, using the extra wood to build bird boxes and insect hotels was the perfect solution. During the builds, no materials were purchased and everything we used was recycled from leftovers of previous construction projects such as pallets, irrigation and drainage pipes, canes, astroturf and rubber (we managed to build 20 Bird Boxes, 3 Kestrel / Owl Boxes and an Insect Hotel). We plan in the future to invite local school children to visit the course and use these habitats to educate them on the importance of recycling, the environment and the crucial part our golf course plays in the biodiversity of the surrounding area.
We hope that the insect hotel will encourage biodiversity and help increase ecosystem productivity, hopefully attracting pollinating insects, small mammals and hedgehogs to name a few. If you want to have a quick look at it, it is situated to the back right of the 18th green.
Building new homes with old materials
Due to loss of nesting sites in both rural and urban areas, it is vital we offer nest boxes as a place to breed and maintain bird numbers. At Mortonhall we have an incredible variety of woodland to attract various species of bird life (at the last count we had 55 different species of bird on the course), so we have great potential to be a sanctuary and an important stepping stone for birds whose populations are under threat. We have been working closely with the RSPB over the past months and they have been very positive with what we are trying to achieve and how we are going about it (they have also been very helpful to us with useful advice and guidance).
There are boxes on Holes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15
The boxes are designed specifically to attract smaller birds such as Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Woodpeckers. If these boxes are a success, more will be built and introduced next year. Keep a lookout for the boxes when out playing (I’ll give you a clue, they are all facing in a North East direction). We also have 3 Kestrel and Tawny Owl boxes built which will go out in the near future with help from the local Scottish Raptor Group.
The main issue we had with the weather last year again revolved around rainfall. In complete contrast to 2018, where we experienced months of total drought, 2019 was the year of heavy downpours and high rainfall figures. At times it was quite frustrating for us as it was all but impossible to achieve the high standards in course preparation we set ourselves, with the excessive rainfall affecting playing surface performance, firmness, increased bunker maintenance, and general aesthetics on the course. Hopefully the graph below shows you how challenging it was for us at times last year, with the total amount of rainfall (965mm) compared to an average year (711mm) and 8 monthly totals being much higher than normal.
These figures clearly shows us that our climate is becoming more volatile and erratic due to either the nature of the jet stream changing or climate change occurring. Whatever the cause is, the challenge for us is how to deal with it as it looks like these extremes of weather are going to continue.
Greenkeeper Review 2019
Since we have come to the end of the year, and I got so much positive feedback about last year’s video, here is a review of 2019 through the eyes of the greenstaff. I feel it is the perfect format to show some of the exciting experiences each of us has been a part of over the year and hopefully highlights the dedication and enthusiasm we have for the club and our jobs. I really hope you have as much enjoymentwatching the video as I did putting it together.
Click on photo above to view YouTube video
By Shaun Cunningham