Over the past month the greenstaff have been kept busy, working through a number of different projects, hopefully burning off some excess timber accumulated over the festive period (certainly in my case anyway). Over the last month the conditions we have experienced have given us the ideal opportunity to work through our snagging list left over from our CIP Work. These tasks have been at times quite gruelling but ultimately rewarding for us as we get to see at close quarters how much difference these little tidy up jobs have made to general looks and the playability of the areas affected by the past winters construction work.
The one good thing the heavy rainfall experienced over the past months has been to highlight where we were most likely to get water damage and sand wash out on the new bunkers after severe flooding. Obviously sand movement, ruts and exposed concrete is a major problem for us long term, so getting an insight as to where the problems were occurring was crucial to us sorting it out. The best way to ease the problem was to strip the new turf back and re shape the subsoil to produce gentle swales and undulations to guide surface water away from the bunkers and naturally drain away. We carried out this type of repair at the greenside bunkers at 12th and 14th and thankfully it has made a huge difference and no surface water enters these bunkers now. We plan to carry out this type of work on other problem bunkers (8th, 11th and 12th).
The essential heavy machinery used during CIP Work left large parts of the course muddy, damaged and unsightly, which was sadly unavoidable even though they tried to limit this as much as possible due to the saturated conditions. We had hoped these areas would gradually improve over time, but due to the continued rain over the past few months these areas have not improved as we have hoped. The decision was taken to turf the worst affected areas to give us the best chance of these areas being up to scratch for the start of the season. To get the best chance of recovery on these damaged areas, we excavated the spoiled and damaged turf, rotavated areas to improve drainage and spread rootzone to give new turf a good base. We initially ordered 1000 m sq. of turf to repair areas on holes 5, 10, 13 and 15. This turf went down successfully and we are confident it will knit quite quickly. By the time you read this article, we will have had more turf delivered to finish off damaged areas on holes 4 and 15.
If you have played the course in the past few months, you will have noticed the greenside bunker at 10th has not been filled with sand like the rest of the new bunkers. Sand has not been installed solely down to us not being convinced of the draining capabilities of the capillary concrete in this bunker. The problem is certainly not the concrete mix as proved with the other bunkers over the entire project which are draining perfectly. The problem was the concrete was contaminated with soil wash in. After the concrete had been installed and levelled to the desired depth and gradient, we had torrential downpours for 2 days which led to flooding. Due to the positioning of this bunker at the lowest point of the 9th/10th holes, we experienced soil and silt contamination from the rootzone installed in preparation for the turf going down.
We tested the draining rates in the bunker using many litres of water, but the water was simply not disappearing at the desired rate. We attempted to clean the silt and soil spoil from the bunker with various techniques (brushing, compressed air and pressurised water) but this was not successful. What had happened was that the silt had got into the pore spaces of the concrete and basically filled all the spaces and blocked the pores where the water is meant to flow (the blockages had left no room for water flow towards the outlet drainage pipes underneath the concrete).
With the positioning of this bunker almost certainly resulting in a constant flow of surface water into it during and after heavy rainfall, the decision was made to remove the contaminated area of concrete and install a new batch to make sure drainage would not be a problem in the future. It might have drained well enough not to effect play in the future but we couldn’t be certain, so it was thought this was the best option. A section of concrete was removed by a mixture of stone cutting blades, pick axes and mash hammers (by the way, removing concrete is a lot harder than installing it). We also installed fresh drainage gravel as a precaution.
Area of concrete removed and contaminated block from bunker
The fresh batch of concrete will be installed as soon as possible, left to dry and the bunker will be finished off by adding the desired depth of sand and ready for the coming season. This repair will not have any negative effect on the playability or draining qualities of the bunker going forward. It was something that just had to be done to give us peace of mind.
Last month we hired in an Air2G2 machine to aide compaction on our greens. This machine uses three probes to laterally inject pressurised air up to 12 inches beneath the surface of the soil to fracture the compacted layers that form as a result of foot traffic, mechanical traffic and general daily wear and tear. The laterally injected air blasts loosen up compacted soil immediately, but without any disruption to the surface of the turf or the roots below. This procedure has all the benefits of the verti drain machinery we normally use but without the same degree of aggressive disturbance. We plan on bringing in this equipment 2 more times in the coming months as frequent use will create green surfaces that are healthy, firm and more importantly ready for play immediately after treatment. It must be mentioned this process is not a replacement for coring work and only an alternative option for verti draining. If you want to have a quick look at how this fantastic piece of equipment works, click on the photo below to view it full flow.
Since work was being carried out on the greens and they needed a light top dressing anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to micro core the greens after a passing from the Air2G2 machine (it is always good to take some thatch out of the greens when the opportunity arises). As already mentioned, the cores taken out were quite small and we only needed to apply 5 tonne of top dressing afterwards. After the renovation work was carried out and the top dressing was brushed into the green surfaces, we were happy with the end product and it puts us in a good position for the renovation work that we will carry out in March.
Although we were happy with green surfaces after the work was carried out, the surfaces have deteriorated in the meantime, mainly with regard to the smoothness and levelness of the greens. We cut and rolled them shortly after the work but haven’t managed to do any more work to them since. In an ideal world the greens would have been lightly dressed further times to completely fill all the holes, followed by regular rolling and cutting. Unfortunately this has not been the case, due to weather conditions, greenstaff workload and moisture on the greens. We thank you for understanding over this period and please take assurances that we are well aware of the problem and will rectify the smoothness issues on the greens when circumstances are suitable for us to carry out the much needed work.
During the last month we have been up to our knees in mud and turf, but we have managed to partake in some other worthwhile experiences. One of which was the much needed levelling of the Astroturf towards the 18th hole. Over the years, tree root growth, flooding and general wear has left the path in a sorry state. To fix the problem we lifted large areas of astroturf and either cut the problem tree roots out or repaired the undulations that had occurred after flooding. When the problems were fixed we applied a new layer of whin dust, compacted it thoroughly before replacing the astroturf to the now level base. A small section of path towards 13th tee was also repaired and we hope to find time in the future to complete the 13th path and work on other areas where the astroturf has become uneven.
In the middle of the month, Grant and I were very grateful to get the opportunity to head down to the annual Continue To Learn and Turf Management Event held in Harrogate. This event has the biggest educational programme for those in the turf industry outside USA and attracts delegates from all over the world. The main objective of the event and why we went down is to discover the latest trends in turf maintenance, make valuable contacts and networking possibilities, get inspiration for future projects and attend various seminars and workshops to broaden your knowledge and experience. We attended a good number of seminars including Future Advancements in Mowing Technology, Understanding Your Irrigation System and Turf Management Thinking Outside The Box to name a few. All extremely interesting topics I’m sure you will agree (well we thought they were interesting anyway) and we brought a great amount of new knowledge back up the road with us.
Another reason for us going down was for us to pick up a couple of things we have earned over the past year. We were privileged to attend the R&A Scholars Meeting so Grant could pick up his scholar badge for gaining a scholarship last year, which is something he took great pride in achieving, and so he should be. We also went along to the Welcome Celebration so I could pick up my first CPD Milestone Certificate. Gaining this certificate was an award for the dedication I have given to my personal development over the last 2 years and I am deeply satisfied with myself for achieving this (even my wife was impressed by this, and that is not usually the case when I bring up a conservation about greenkeeping).
Very beneficial week attending BTME
We have also managed recently to get our homemade kestrel boxes out on the course, with the boxes designed specifically to attract nesting kestrels or possibly tawny owls. We were very lucky to get help from the local Scottish Raptor Group, who came along to install them for us (on holes 1, 7 and 15). Kestrel numbers in our area are dropping, with populations closely linked to the vole numbers. Luckily for the kestrel we have high numbers of voles on the course due to the amount of out of play grassland we have on site.
Homemade boxes being put to good use
Surveys at Mortonhall have shown there are a good number of kestrels on site and that we have great potential to be a sanctuary for these birds in the future. We will work closely with the Raptor Group going forward in the hope that Mortonhall can prove to be a successful breeding ground for these birds.
By Shaun Cunningham