April 2020

April 2020

Seems quite strange putting this update together when the course is closed for play following government orders on compulsory closures. These measures are totally understandable, and I hope you are all staying safe in these difficult times that is not only affecting golf but society in general. During these unprecedented times the greenstaff are working with a skeleton squad to carry out essential maintenance on the course, with us closely following governing guidelines and recommendations to ensure the staff and our family’swelfare is kept to the highest standard. At present we are carrying out only basic levels of maintenance (fertilising, light mowing, drainage and irrigation work) that is required to ensure that important areas of the course are able to recover quickly once the course reopens.


Drainage at 8th

There were times during last month that I never thought I would be able to say this, but the major drainage issue we have been experiencing at the 8th has been solved and we are back to normal (cue mass celebrations among the greenstaff). What was either a rubble drain or an underwater stream damaged during CIP work has now been re directed into a plastic drainage, using the rubble drain method and back into an existing clay pipe that takes the huge volume of water off site. There has been many highs and lows during this repair work, and I cannot explain the joy we got when it was finally complete, however we certainly got great satisfaction from the knowledge that we managed to overcome this troublesome situation.

The flooding, and how we managed to divert it

A lot of digging and a lot of pipe, but we got there

We have installed two inspection chambers on the drainage route so we can monitor the draining capabilities regularly in the future and act on any problems. We have also repaired the edge and taken away the contaminated sand from the bunker that was heavily damaged due to the initial flooding.


New Bunkers

If the government guidelines were not introduced, we would have cut the ribbons and cracked open the champagne as the full course would be back in play and the new bunkers in use. When the course reopens, the bunkers will be ready to play from and the end product is certainly something Mortonhall GC can be very proud of. The greenstaff feel honoured to have played a part in the improvements and have thoroughly enjoyed learning the new skills we acquired along the way. I hope you will enjoy the new features just as much as we did creating them. Here’s a few numbers below to highlight what we got up to during phase 2 of the bunker project.

  • 30 original bunkers replaced with 23 new ones.
  • Average size of bunker increases from 45m sq. to 61m sq.
  • Excavated 100 tonnes of infill material from left side of 9th
  • Laid 720 metres of new drainage inside and around new bunkers.
  • Installed 1650m sq. of capillary concrete (160 tonnes).
  • Laid 9000m sq. of turf (130 pallets).
  • Installed 150 tonnes of high spec bunker sand.
  • Most importantly zero accidents, incidents or near misses.

The turf around the bunkering has come throughthe winter rather well and is already rooted and growing healthily. Obviously it is not as mature as the other areas on the course, so it won’t be as hard wearing as these areas (could take up to a year for areas to develop strong rooting and wear resistance) but we will gradually lower the height of cut in future weeks and start to incorporate these closely mown areas around the bunkers. Sand levels and depths will be occasionally checked during the time the course is closed, with the end goal of the bunkers being in tip top condition when the course is back in business.


Since Phase 2 is now complete, spelling the end to the CIP work. I have made a video of the work we undertook during phase 2 of the project. I put it together largely to highlight the amount of team effort that was put into the project and the enjoyment we got from it. Click on photo below to view YouTube clip.


Greens Maintenance

We have carried out our normal spring maintenance procedures, such as verti draining, hollow coring and top dressingat the start of the month. These procedures were not as aggressive as most years with us verti draining and coring with smaller tines than past years. We finished this maintenance off by applying a wetting agent to all the greens and an application of spring fertiliser to get some much needed nutrients and growth into the surfaces. Sorry if you know why we do these types of procedures, but I will quickly explain them in case there is anyone out there who doesn’t know the thinking behind them.

The verti draining is done first to relieve compaction. High compaction causes poor soil conditions, flooding after heavy rainfall and poor root growth. The compaction is created by everyday activity on the course, mainly traffic from golfers and cutting machinery. We use the verti drain machine to punch holes in the surface to a depth of 12” which opens up the compacted soil allowing water and air flow, the benefits of using this machinery is mainly improving drainage but it also helps with deeper rooting, better intake of nutrients and moisture and healthier rootzones.

We follow this with the hollow coring operation, the cores go to a depth of 3” and we do this solely to target our problem thatch layer. The greater the thatch level means the greater the soil moisture retention and this in turn results in a poorer firmness measurement (all this could result in a lack of consistency, with uneven and slower greens, more disease outbreak, poor growth and softer surfaces). Thatch is a layer of dead vegetation that sits between the greens surface and the soil, it’s caused when the grass is growing and being cut faster than it can decompose.

25 Tonnes of dressing was applied during the process

Top dressing with sand is the key part to thatch control and reduction. After we have taken out the core we then fill with straight sand, this dilutes the thatch, basically we are swapping the spongey water holding thatch and replacing it with free draining sand.

Completed Work

We have managed to work through a number of important turfing tasks over the past month, continuing to work through the snagging list from the CIP work. We have repaired and turfed the area on the rough to the right of the 4th hole, which involved us needing to rotovate the area numerous times, installing a sump and adding a layer of gravel to dry the area out, ready for turfing. When we achieved a suitable firm subgrade to turf on, we managed to turf the area quite quickly and it is now looking pretty good. There are a few other small areas that need some attention in regards to turfing and tidying up, we will attend to these areas when the opportunity arises.

As mentioned already, we are only doing essential maintenance on the course until the restrictions are dropped. We have however managed to start cutting the playing surfaces, adding some character and also introducing a few new mowing patterns around the course. The new mowing lines and shaping are a little different to past years but I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised when you get the chance to see them. They will definitely give you a new outlook and interest on how you play and enjoy the course. We will keep you updated with photos of the adjustments to course layouts and why they have been made these alterations in the coming weeks.

To finish off this update I would like to send out a message to stay safe during these challenging times, follow guidelines, protect one another and be assured the golf course will be singing and dancing for when you all return.


By Shaun Cunningham