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An insight into the workings of a premier course from the professionals themselves.
A monthly account of the good and the bad, of green keeping. All of the team will have an input into their diary and should keep members and visitors up to date on the course and the future plans.
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Rough management going forward
Rough Management Plan
As you will be well aware, we left large areas of rough unmown last season to develop a more colourful, challenging and interesting experience for all golfers by creating distinct barriers and delivering visual character throughout the course. It was also an objective to develop a golf course where course management would come to the forefront and be as important as length. Providing much diversity in regards to club selection and shot making, instead of just hitting driver at all holes instead of thinking how the hole should be played in relation to hole layout and your handicap. To counteract the introduced longer rough, we widened the fairways, mowed more often and greatly extended the first cut to provide very generous and better manicured target areas to play from.
The 15th hole in all its glory
These areas of rough across the course ranged from wispy areas found before the 15th fairway to the very dense areas to the right of 14th hole, and it is our vision to reduce this sward variation and improve playability and beauty across all areas of the course. To achieve this we will attempt to eradicate the majority of the coarse grass species and change to grass species which are more manageable and playable, such as fine fescues, bents and wildflowers. This is a long-term programme and will take a number of years to achieve significant results, but each piece of maintenance carried out in future months will improve the situation going forward and get us closer to our end vision
We have a rough management plan in operation, which will be part of the course management programme going forward and the team thought it would be beneficial if we kept you updated on where we are currently in regards to the programme and what we plan to do in the coming months to achieve the best results for the golfing membership and our end objective.
We mowed all the rough areas down and removed grass clippings last October to reduce fertility and weaken the grass plant to inhibit growth for the forthcoming season. If we had just merely cut the grass down without collecting the clippings it would have been counterproductive, as grass responds to mowing by producing more leaves and making the sward denser. This process was a great success and gave us the perfect platform heading into the winter dormancy.
Raking and Scarifying
When the temperatures start to rise and the grass starts to grow we will rake all rough areas with our tractor mounted rake to thin out these areas. We will closely monitor the situation and the densest areas will be scarified to further weaken the grass plant and create gaps in which to establish grass species that have a finer leaf and slower growth habit. Again collecting any mown material. The scarifying work will be most probably carried out on the most problematic areas from last year (Holes 4, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 15)
The areas that are scarified will have fescue seed sown in order to establish grass species that are more manageable and improve playability. Again the problem areas from last year.
The process of scarification will open up the surface which can lead to undesirable plants, grass and other species, establishing in managed areas. Also in certain areas coarse grasses are so dominant that our management practice may not be effective enough to achieve the desired results. In these circumstances and where appropriate, the undesirables will be treated with selective herbicides to remove unwanted growth and give us a good platform to work from. The areas that had the most undesirable growth last season was certainly the right of the 8th green and the right of 11th hole, these areas will almost certainly have selective herbicide applied to them this season.
In Season Treatment
Unlike last season, we now have the machinery to maintain the rough areas more efficiently, with the acquisition of a tractor mounted rake and a flail mower in the autumn. Throughout the coming seasons we will quickly act on any areas getting out of control by firstly raking, to thin out grasses or secondly, lightly scarifying with flail mower if deemed necessary. We will always be monitoring the situation and will act when we feel that certain areas on the course are unfair for the high handicap golfer and scratch golfer alike.
It seems that our hopes are dashed on a daily basis, the weather improves, the water drains, we plan as a team to get the course member ready only for the next wave of bad weather to come in, frustrating for all!
The time has not been wasted, splitting the team into sections for COVID reasons and having designated tasks is helping to keep all safe and the amount of work that the team is getting through is a credit to the club.
The apprentices have done a wonderful job on the walls around hole 4 and will continue to rebuild all over the course during the season.
The viewing platform has been finished and the touches for the rockery and flower beds have been laid.
The cleaning and limbing of the trees has started and will clean up some of the problematic ones around the course.
Having 85 mature trees delivered and will be planted in key areas to help with definition and drainage, right hand side of hole 4 for example, right hand side of 14th to replant the saps in the area designated as the nursery, the new trees will have an impact on the present membership as well as providing a well-maintained course for future ones.
We have looked at bringing in many fruit trees and white willows to accentuate the definition and bring a wonderful array of colour to the course.
Planting at the back of the 5th fairway for example will give you more of an idea of depth definition as well as making all think about club selection and certainly those going direct at the green will have a little further to carry the ball, so hopefully catch some out and make the hole play as it was designed.
The team has identified that over the next 16 months an ongoing replacement of our tree line of a further 200+, this of course will be done in stages to again bring a lot more definition to the course but maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty.
The front of the 13th green will have the lip removed which will help tremendously with the drainage of the front edge that is a gathering spot for water.
The new course furniture has been erected around the course and entrance, which again will improve the overall feel. The new information sign and slope charts will be up and positioned by the end of the month.
The tees will be worked on now to get ready for the season and we are looking at putting in the new cuts within the next 7 weeks weather permitting.
A very difficult period and also a very busy one
February continued, 2nd and 13th Green
The front of the 13th has been an ongoing problem with lying water , with the apron acting like a barrier we decided to remove the turf and re shape the area to allow any rain fall to move away from the green and apron . image.below
Once we had removed the turf and started to shape we found that there was only a depth of 40cm before we hit bedrock which doesn’t allow the green to drain properly.
This is one of the newer greens built 1979 and with poor quality soil (clay ) and little depth before hitting bedrock it is inevitable that this green will suffer with drainage issues .image.below
We have replaced the front of the green with a USGA spec to help pull moisture from the green and apron , With the topography of the land this will allow the green to have an outlet .
The same work will continue this coming week on the 2nd for the same reasons.
February Snowed In.
With the more than normal snow deposited on the course, it has really put the work from last year under scrutiny. The course once again became a winter wonderland, the team did its best to keep the greens protected from sledges and walkers alike. With the continuation of the tree planting and also the 13th green to deal with it has so far been an extraordinary month.
The 13th needed to be addressed because of the large lip that was holding water at the front and was starting to destroy the green. The team shaved off the front edge and with gravel and root zone rebuilt it in under a week, the final pictures below show the finished product that will knit together nicely.
New benches have been positioned at hole 3 and tees, fairways and greens are being marked out for the season. Three new drainage pots have been installed on the first fairway to help the recovery and to clear as much water as possible.
The viewing platform is been finished off with the pebbles and plants to give it a clean and tidy look.
The forecast is better over the next couple of weeks so all of us are hoping that we can get the work completed and trolleys back on for prep month in march and look forward to a good season ahead.
The Snow clearing followed by a very quick thaw leaves its own problems, the amount of water that our greens have taken is staggering. The team anticipated the storms and quickly covered all greens with a layer of sand to protect as best they could.
The clean-up continues this week with aeration and followed by coring and dressing. The 6 coring’s that took place last year certainly has helped and the same planned for this year the greens will slowly get better and better without the need for constant Nitro to keep them going. The easiest way to describe the process that the team are putting the greens through is to use the analogy of a drug addict, they have to be brought of it slowly as not to cause harm. We would have loved to have done a core at the end of the year but from September it has been storm after storm.
To get the members back on the track and playing 18 holes is a tonic for all albeit a shorter course.
The problems at hole one is clear for all, the lack of sunlight and air that can help the green and the top of the fairway recover is non-existent. In 2002 the STRI recommended that the trees be thinned out and that is high on our radar this year as well as lifting the green itself.
Some members have asked the team how can other clubs open and they haven’t had the same problems? The answer simply is what we are built on! When its solid rock it has to take natures course in drying out. The course next to us would always be 5/7 days Infront purely because of their subsoil compared to ours.
The colour and the firmness of the greens is good for the amount of water that has gone through it and the team is very positive if we can avoid the forecasted downpour, to be able to produce a good surface all over for the start of the season in April.
BIGGA February news
Shaun one of our greens team recently wrote an article for Bigga
The change of focus at our club is highlighted by Shaun, we are sure many clubs will sit up and take notice.
January Lockdown and Snow!
As the weather this January has not been kind to us and kept our course closed with snow, we decided to do some seminars with the greens team, firstly Craig Davidson gave a workshop on how to maintain and look after our machines to the standard we expect at Mortonhall. Then it was time for Grant Moran to give a class on how to prepare and put a budget together, this was to not only to learn how to set up a budget with excel but to get the whole team to think about what is takes and is required to run Mortonhall from a greens perspective and change their mindset and thinking for the season to come.
A frustrating time for the team and our members, we are constantly monitoring the grass below and all looks good, the colour and the protection that the snow and ice has given it, will pay off handsomely in early Spring.
The response of the local community has been staggering. Many have used our course for their exercise during lockdown, the Horse box has kept all happy.
It has given the team the chance to talk to locals, who in the past may not have appreciated the thought and work that goes into producing a high class course, and where they should walk to avoid certain areas.
A time for keeping the fire burning and getting the drainage on 15th finished while the ground is hard enough to move the tractor over the fairways.
The snow has stopped golf but it has helped us do some drainage work on the left side of the 15th green, with the cold temperatures and the 5 inches of snow we can safely drive the tractors on the course without damaging it . This area is built on top of a slab of bedrock so the decision was made to build up with a USGA spec of gravel and rootzone and creating a swale shape to pull the water through our new profile.
We are currently in the middle of a prolonged cold spell, with regular snowfall and minus temperatures to deal with, leaving the course unsuitable for play due to vast snow and ice coverage throughout. Despite these unhelpful weather conditions, the team have made great progress on a number of tasks, which have been essential for preparing the golf course and its infrastructure for the coming playing season.
Car Park Extension
Past months clearly showed that the car parking facilities at the club were not sufficient with the current demand. Lack of spaces meant many cars were being parked on the main road (safety concern crossing road) and on exit road grass verge (delivered poor impression from tyre damage). With these negatives happening almost daily, it was decided that something had to be done, so we came up with a plan to improve the situation by excavating the edge of exit road to create additional car parking by the installation of type one material.
Although there were a couple of old oak tree stumps that tried to get in the way, the team did a very professional and efficient job, led by the construction team of Davidson McArthur (Craig and Colin) who did all the digger operating and landscaping work. In the end we managed to deliver 32 additional spaces which will be a great help going forward and limit the chances of the exit road looking like Glastonbury in the future. In the coming weeks when the snow disappears we will mark out spaces more permanently to make use of the area as much as possible. We must have made a good job, as since it has been built we have had two of our neighbouring golf clubs pay us a visit to ask how we went about the project.
After we were finished with the mini digger at the exit road, it headed up to the junction café, so we could start work up there to provide an area where golfers can enjoy their coffee and bacon rolls in a more suitable area. The main reason for the construction of a halfway house build was mainly down to health and safety reasons, as the area was turning into a trip and fall hazard due to the slippery underfoot conditions and the area being situated on quite a severe slope (we didn’t realise how big a gradient there was until we started to try and level it).
The plan was to produce an area which was safe for users, but also be an asset for the club going forward, and we feel that we have achieved this by not only the quality of the build, but its location and the functionality. The foundation work and fence build is now complete and we will soon start the laying of slabs and astroturf, followed by the introduction of planting areas and trolley park to finish off the job.
This project has been overseen from start to finish by a recent addition to our team, Craig Davidson, who has really excelled throughout this build and shown how adaptable a greenkeeper can be with a bit of enthusiasm and dedication. Going forward, he might regret the fine work he has achieved, as he has already got us wondering what we can get him to do next (will give him a couple of weeks rest first though).
A very early objective the team has is to deliver a good first impression to everyone who visits the golf club, with a mixture of tidiness, colour and professional features essential. we have always said you only get one chance to make a good first impression and we see no difference when it comes to a golf club. With this in mind, it was determined that the astroturf paths in close proximity of the clubhouse and first tees needed immediate attention as they were becoming a major concern in terms of visual appeal and health and safety. The new path material needed to be sustainable, visually appealing, hard wearing, cost effective and safe to its users, and after much deliberation it was decided the best option would be to use reclaimed 4G astroturf. The reasoning behind this decision is down to cost (delivery costs only), hard wearing capabilities, ability to withstand freezing temperatures and it looking good after installation. The only negative about it is the sheer weight and difficulty in manoeuvring into position, however the guys did a great job getting it all laid and in position in just under 2 weeks. After a few months of new paths being in use, the team are still very happy with the end product and encouragingly it has held up well during the heavy rain and snowfall that we have experienced over this time. The previous path material would have only flooded, froze and become dangerous underfoot.
Before and after pictures highlights the massive improvement
To finish off the job we also installed an in house built chain link fence. This was introduced for two reasons, firstly to act as an out of bounds fence and separation between the clubhouse area and the golf course, and secondly to limit golfers cutting across the notoriously wet area in front of the clubhouse and further damaging this area. Could we please ask all golfers to please use the paths provided after their round, as trying to cut across or go under this fence will only lead to breakages to the fencing, damage to grass areas and trip hazards. After some research, we worked out that the average golfer walks 6 miles during their round of golf. If you can happily walk 6 miles, walking a few extra yards to stay to the path provided should be well within your compass, instead of vaulting the fence or trying to negotiate a power trolley under the chain link (or otherwise known as the Seniors Olympics as some have started to call it).
As 2020 is starting to come to a close and we all hope to get back to some normality next year with the news of the vaccine , things are looking up for 2021 , let me take you through what’s been happening on the course and our winter projects .
This winter we have resumed the drainage programme on our greens , prior to the cip bunker project a number of our greens have had line drainage installed in them , the goal is for all greens to have primary drainage systems , our greens are 126 years old but need that help in the movement of water . The push up greens design was very common pre irrigation system to help hold moisture, using native soils and in our case clay but this leads to the problems for water to move through the soil profile, roots of the plant struggle to breathe with the lack of oxygen and access to nutrients.
15th green is one of the newer greens built in 1979, whilst installing drainage at 600 mm depths it was evident with the problems underneath, bedrock, this can be a common problem at Mortonhall golf club and our location on the braid hills wedge, straight line drainage has been installed at 2 metre spacing this helping pull the water into the drains. Instantly the drainage has firmed up the green significantly.
14th green has the same attributes as the 15th with it being a newer green, I do feel these greens were at the end of their life due to the way they had been constructed, with this drainage programme these greens will improve. We have installed a larger outlet at the front of the green with the topography of the land this will help with draining the apron and the green.
As we all know since July we have certainly had our share of wet conditions, this has highlighted areas that have come under increased stress due to weather and increased footfall of golfers, the picture above shows our putting green, we are using an auger which is normally used to drill down for fence posts, we will be using this to bore down approx. 400 mm and replace with gravel and rootzone. This process is very simply by using our hole changer and replace the plug when complete so very little disruption , we have been in touch with courses who have been using this method to great success , Barassie golf club and Gifford golf club and also recommended by Gary Smith from STRI our agronomist .
We have renovated a number of our tees including,
• 1st medal tee
• 2nd medal tee
• 2nd general play tee
• 4th medal tee including a raised black tee
• 6th medal tee
This will ongoing through years to come in our winter projects to improve our tees and add further teeing grounds.
We have gone through a major overseeding programme this year on greens, aprons, fairways and rough areas, our fairways have been fully overseeded which contains hard fescues to perform under drought stress and more resilient to disease, recently I had a visit from Dr David Greenshields from Barenbrug who is a past member of Mortonhall and was thrilled at our hit rate from our first overseed and the definition, we will be overseeding again in the spring.
David told me that we are the only club in this area to be putting an overseeding programme in place, this will improve the quality of turf at Mortonhall and give us that definition between heights of cut.
Viewing gallery construction
HALFWAY HOUSE VIEWING GALLERY REPORT
With the great success of the horse box/ junction café situated behind the 12th and 16th medal tees, it became a very popular spot for golfers to sit and have a bite to eat and enjoy a nice hot or cold drink with great views down the 12th hole and its surroundings.
However, with this been said as much as it was a great location for taking in the beautiful views and surroundings, the seating and standing area was not great and became a health and safety issue. This was due to the area turning into a trip and fall hazard due to the uneven ground which also became very slippery underfoot when wet and icy.
The picture below shows the previous small seating and standing area, this area was a health and safety concern as I said previously however this area was not great to look at and definitely not professional enough for the high standards we have at Mortonhall golf course.
So, after a brief meeting with the team we decided to get to work on this area to make it a safer and more professional place for everyone to enjoy the halfway viewing gallery experience.
PHASE 1 – We brought in a 3-tonne mini digger to dig out our designated area which was 71m2. The mini digger was a great bit of machinery and was tested to its limits with our bedrock only being a few inches under the topsoil.
PHASE 2 - Phase 2 consisted of digging out the foundations for our sleepers to sit in. We had to do this because of how uneven the ground was previously. This made it essential to build a retaining sleeper wall to make this area as flat and as safe as possible.
PHASE 3 – With the team happy with our sleeper positions the next step was to dig out our post holes and post create our posts in behind our base sleepers. This was the start of our sleeper retaining wall. Once the posts were securely in place, we started building up with the sleepers attaching each sleeper to the posts as you can see in the pictures below
PHASE 4 - By this phase our project was starting to come together. Phase 4 was the addition of type 1 and whinn dust. The addition of the type1 gives us a strong base and helps build up our leveling height. Then we added in the whinn dust to smooth off our top surface and whacked it down tight ready for the arrival of the slabs
PHASE 5 – This was the start of all the fence work around area and the instillation of the step into the viewing gallery.
PHASE 6 – Installation of the slabs and the first coat of paint on the fence work.
PHASE 7 – Installation of astro turf path between slabs and over steps.