Greenkeeper's Blog

March 2020

March 2020

I am going to try and stay positive in this blog and not to continually complain about the desperate weather we have been enduring. It is however going to be extremely difficult to give you all an update of what we have been up to over the last month, without mentioning the prolonged periods of difficult weather we have experienced. With intense storms, heavy rainfall and snow accumulations continuing to batter our area, it has been a very tough start to the year for the greenstaff, the course and the membership. The conditions have sadly continued to affect course playability and disrupt our planned work and maintenance, resulting in being behind schedule on where we planned to be at this time. These conditions have got to change sometime and when they do we will get back to preparing the course for the coming season.

On a positive note, the daylight hours are getting longer and higher temperatures will surely follow in the coming weeks. When these two key components to grass growth start to work together, underfoot conditions will begin to dry out and growth patterns will begin to kick in.

Rainfall Figures

Just as the course had started to recover from Storm Ciara, it was then confronted by Storm Dennis, bringing more heavy rain and strong winds, all of which helped last month to be the wettest February on record in the Edinburgh area. This resulted in  the course field capacity being at its limit and in turn poor playability, recovery rates and limited maintenance on the course followed.

Now water is a good thing for a greenkeeper, as it is the most essential ingredient of golf course presentation. Without it the grass can’t grow and yet, too much can bring catastrophic consequences. When grass is submerged by water, the grass has no access to oxygen which basically starts to suffocate it. Heavy rainfall amounts in winter months is more problematic for us as the temperatures are low and soil moisture is not burnt off as quickly or used so much in plant root uptake (evapotranspiration) as it does when temperatures are high.

At the moment the course is as wet as I have seen it during my time at Mortonhall and by looking at the February rainfall chart above you can realise why some areas of the course are so wet. The heavens delivered 183 mm of rain in the last month with the average rainfall for February being 49 mm, which we nearly had in one day (43 mm when Storm Ciara hit). If you are loving the rainfall data, I’ve got one more useless piece of information for you all – over the last 5 months, we recorded 80% of the days as wet days.

 

Course Conditions

As already mentioned, field capacity on the course is at its limits. The drains installed throughout the course are working but the sheer volume of draining water is making it difficult for them to cope. Just as the place starts to dry out after a few windy days and no rain, we get another deluge of rain and we are back to square one. These weather patterns cannot go on forever and I am positive if we get a prolonged dry period you will start to see the course dry out and playing surfaces begin to improve pretty quickly.

By this time of year, we have normally been mowing areas throughout the course occasionally to deliver some definition on greens, tees and fairways. Sadly during the last few months this has simply not been the case as it has been virtually impossible to negotiate a machine around the course safely, and we would be doing more harm than good trying to cut these areas (damage turf, poor cut and stress on grass). Again over the winter months we would normally be undertaking frequent aeration work over all playing surfaces with our verti drain, procore and spiker. This has not been possible with the surfaces being too saturated to work on as there would be a definite danger of the machinery damaging the turf.

When ground conditions improve, we will be out enhancing all playing surfaces, with various methods (regular mowing, light top dressing and aeration), aiming to get the surfaces back to their best by the start of the season. The greenstaff would sincerely like to thank all the membership for their ongoing support and patience during this extremely difficult time.

 

Completed Work

We have managed to work through a number of important tasks over the past month to keep us warm. We have been continuing to work through the snagging list from the CIP work, which involves mainly repairing the areas on the 4th and 10th holes. The areas have been prepped and we are getting turf delivered very soon to complete the 4th fairway and area at 10th green (by the time you have read this blog, hopefully the turf will have arrived and these areas will have been completed). When these areas are finished it will leave us only the area to right of the 4th fairway to be completed. This area at the moment is still a touch too wet for us to prepare for turf but we will have this done as soon as possible.

10th Bunker Done and Dusted

We have installed sand to the desired depth at the 10th bunker, which interestingly marks the end of the CIP work as that was the final piece of the jigsaw to be completed. The bunker has been ready for sand for a number of weeks now but the underfoot conditions meant having to wait until we experienced a hard frost so we could transport heavy tractors and trailers across the course without making too much damage on route to the 10th. When we were in the area, we managed to plant 8 trees to replace the Leylandii that was felled last year. The established trees we planted are a mixture of Cherry, Beech and Rowan, which we hope will enhance the area in the future, improving character and separation between the 9th fairway and 10th green (between here and the 14through, we have planted 90 trees this winter).

Tree planting between 9th and 10th

Another snagging issue we repaired was the water run off and resulting rutting that was occurring on the right bunker at the 13th green. You will have probably never seen the problem as you will need to be a long way off target to be passing this area, but it was becoming a serious problem (every time it rained, there was an area outside the bunker where soil was getting washed away). To limit the problem, we installed a gully pot and drainage pipe to take surface water away without too much damage to the new turf or bunker.

 

Drainage at 8th

If you have played the course in the last couple of weeks, you will have noticed the new temporary water feature we have got on the 8th hole. We were first made aware of the problem when a constant flow of water starting entering the first bunker on the fairway. What we first thought was a blocked drainage pipe nearby turned into something much more serious when we started digging and soon realised there was a major problem. If you click on the photo below you will find a video link highlighting the amount of water flow we were experiencing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbUfbcF56RM

After some investigation we worked out that the constant flow of water was coming from a large rubble drain a few feet under the surface. This rubble drain certainly pre dates the golf course and would have been used by farmers to successfully remove water from their land. This drain has helped us enormously over the years draining the left side of the course but it was unfortunately damaged during the construction of the fairway bunkers (unknown to us). What basically happened is that the rubble drain had been broken, so the water flowed down the drain until it reached the area where the bunker was constructed and had nowhere to go. The pressure of the water then backed up until it found its way to the surface.

If the new bunker was positioned 2 yards to the left we may not have been in this position, but we are, so this problem needs to be rectified urgently. We managed to divert the flow into an existing nearby drainage pipe which has helped but unfortunately the flow is too strong and the clay pipe cannot handle all the water flow. The next step is to install another drainage outlet which will run from the problem area across to the rough to the left of the 9th hole, where we will dig a huge sump for the water to sit and hopefully drain away naturally. This action is our top priority and by the time you read this blog we will be working on this area to improve the problem.

By Shaun Cunningham

February 2020

February 2020

 

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.

Snagging 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.

 

Greens Maintenance

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.

 

Other Business

 

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

January 2020

January 2020

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.

 

Rainfall Chart

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

December 2019

December 2019

In the last month the weather has certainly taken a turn for the worse, with temperatures dropping much lower, producing ground frost, long periods of fog cover and the most problematic, high rainfall figures to deal with. In the month of November we experienced 106 mm of rainfall (64 mm average), following on from 118 mm (79 mm average) in October. Both these accumulations are clearly way above a normal month and have helped contribute to what looks like to be a record year for rainfall in our area. So far this year we have experienced 980 mm of rainfall and if you compare that to the average of 711 mm or last year’s total of 597 mm, you will understand the course and the greenstaff have had to deal with a lot more water this year than normal.

Course Conditions and Disruption

As the weather continues to be far from perfect, course conditions are being affected and altered on a daily basis, leading to restrictions, closures, reduced access and playability. The decision to introduce these measures is made after careful consideration by a senior greenkeeper each morning, even though we understand at times these decisions can prove to be unpopular. One thing that can be assured is all the greenstaff want the golf course to be prepared to the best condition possible and we work tirelessly to deliver the best standards we can at all times. The two main reasons for restrictions to be in place on the course are as follows.

  • For health and safety reasons to protect members from injury.
  • To minimise further damage to the course.

 

The last two years have seen quite a bit of disruption on the course from September onwards due to CIP activities which as you know was a rather extensive piece of work. We appreciate the support of our members and hope that you can see that a tremendous transformational change has been undertaken on the course in the last two years. All the components are coming together and whilst we will always have more to do, the signs are that the course will definitely be something to be proud of for the 2020 season.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, as 2020 promises to be a year with significantly less disruption.The various sub committees are finalising next year’s fixture list and it looks like next year will be our longest golf season in 10 years with competitions extending out to 18th October, which is a full 5-6 weeks more than we experienced in 2018 and 2019, and something to look forward to.

Winter Course / Greens

Next year the club will take a good look at the setup of the winter course. Many members thoroughly enjoy the shorter course over the winter months but the feedback from the recent survey shows that many other members would prefer to stay on the main course (where practicable). Our review will aim to find a balance which keeps the course on the longer setup for a longer period of time. You may have noticed that in recent weeks we have tried to keep as many of the existing holes at their longest length possible to offset the impact of the other holes affected by CIP work.

 

The question of winter greens being in play due to frozen ground arises each winter and we can appreciate it is very frustrating when you look forward to your game of golf and then are confronted with winter greens for what sometimes appears to be for no apparent reason. Hopefully this segment explaining the issues we face and our decision making process will help make the members understand the need for the actions we make, even if they are at times unpopular. We have thresholds in place for differing situations and we act on these each morning before play, with winter greens being introduced for the following reasons.

 

  • Greens are left saturated following heavy or prolonged rainfall.
  • A white frost is clearly visible on the greens surfaces.
  • Underlying soil on green is still be frozen after prolonged low temperatures.

 

Frost on grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen (80% of plant tissue is made up of water). When this water is frozen, foot traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant cell walls and kill the plant tissue (this means when golfers walk on frozen turf it leaves black or brown marks and then becomes sparse). The fine turf on greens is much more susceptible to these problems as they are under more stress due to being cut much lower.

 

When we check the conditions of the greens first thing in the morning when the temperatures are low and decide what actions to take, we then update the course status on the website. If winter greens are in play we will monitor conditions regularly through the day to see if the frost lifts and main greens can go back on. If there is no sufficient prospect of any significant change by early afternoon and depending on when the sunset is due we will keep winter greens on for the rest of the day.

 

More long term damage can be caused when play takes place as the turf is thawing out after a prolonged freeze. Under these conditions, the top surface of the turf may be soft but the underlying soil will still be frozen. Root damage occurs easily as the roots sheer off completely with every footstep and pitchmark made (this can cause disease and weed outbreak, uneven surfaces and reduced turf sward). The best way to check this is to poke a nail or screwdriver into the greens surface, if there is resistance it means the rootzone is still frozen solid (usually when there is a prolonged freeze it takes at least two days for the frost to come out the ground).

 

These instances and thresholds apply for golf buggies also, although they won’t be on the greens, just fairways, aprons and around tees. Golf buggies are much heavier obviously than people and will cause much more stress and disturbance. In times of white frost and ice, golf buggies will not be allowed on the course at any time as continued use in frozen conditions will only promote further turf decline as low soil and air temperatures prevents turfgrass recovery drastically. Restrictions are also placed on golf buggy use in very wet conditions, on the grounds that buggy use will cause damage driving on saturated ground and on health and safety reasons as golf buggies are not fitted with four wheel drive or all terrain tyres (much more susceptible to loss of control and possible accidents).

 

Course Improvement Project

The sand installation is nearing completion, with us just needing to complete 2 more bunkers to cross the finishing line. When the sand install is completed we will have added just under 190 tonnes of sand, by hand. As mentioned last month, we are putting the final desired sand depths in sooner this time around to give the sand the best opportunity to settle before they are open for play.  It will also give us time to monitor any problems. The sand depths are the same as Phase 1, which is 2 inches around the edges and faces, blended into 4 inches in the base. After the sand install is complete we will use a whacker plate to compact sand as much as possible, and top up levels if necessary.

                   

       Right Hand Greenside 5th Hole                   Right Hand Fairway 14th Hole

With the greenstaff filling the bunkers it definitely gives us an idea of how the finished product will look and how the new bunkers will affect how each hole will be played in the future. We are very happy with the end product. My personal favourite is the new layout at the 8th hole, with the view from the fairway down to the green being very cool, but a touch intimidating.

We have completed the planting of 80 young native trees to the right hand rough at 14th hole, in accordance with the proposed new hole layout and our Woodland Management Plan. The trees we have introduced are a mixture of Scots Pine, Field Maple, Norway Maple and Rowan. We hope these new arrivals can flourish over the coming years, adding character, definition and biodiversity to the hole, and improve safety issues regarding nearby houses. There will be a No Play Zone introduced to the area in the future to protect the trees until they are well established.

A different view down the 14th Hole in the future

There have been some snagging issues leftover from the contractor work, which we are working our way through when possible. We have completed remedial turfing around bunkers, turfed the12th tee banking and given the areas a general tidy up. The only outstanding snagging is to repair the damage done by the heavy machinery used by the contractors during the process.

The essential heavy machinery used left large parts of the course muddy, damaged and unsightly, which was sadly unavoidable due to the saturated conditions, even though they tried to limit this as much as possible The repairing of these areas was priority to us but sadly the rainfall we have experienced over the last month or so has made areas even more saturated and in turn we have not been able to do any work on them at all. We will carry out work on the problem areas, levelling, spiking, dressing, seeding and turfing as soon as the weather gives us an opportunity. The main positive we have in our favour for recovery is that the grass species (meadow grass mainly)in these damaged areas is incredibly hardy due to their aggressive growth habits and can establish quickly again given the opportunity and correct conditions.

Just for some reassurance, during my time working at Musselburgh Golf Club the River Esk burst its banks and flooded the whole bottom half of the course for over a month. When the water finally disappeared we were left with absolutely no grass cover and saturated fairways and rough. Given work and time to recover, the damaged areas started to improve and the course was back to normal for the start of the season and I’m hopeful this will be the case for us too.

 

Tree Work

As you will be well aware if you have played the course recently, there have been a number of trees felled around the course.The woodlands, copses and trees on the course provide many different functions, be it visual interest, providing separation, increasing challenges, enhancing biodiversity etc., so the removal of any trees can generate concern and emotion within the membership. We understand the importance of the woodland on the course and the surrounding countryside so no tree removal was recommended without good cause, working in conjunction with our Woodland Management Plan and the local authorities to gain the necessary tree felling licences.The reasons for the tree removal across the course included –

  • To improve air and sunlight levels to help playing surfaces.
  • Trees nearing end of their active life.
  • Health and Safety measures.
  • To encourage better quality tree development, diversity and growth.
  • Trees were encroaching and effecting play.
  • To improve biodiversity and wildlife value.

The infamous Leylandii at 10th is now gone

The largest tree to be felled was the huge Leylandii between the 9th and 10th holes. It was recommended to be removed as it is non native, with a short lifespan between 30 – 40 years. As well as looking contrived and offering minimal wildlife value, it produces a huge amount of shade over the 10th green. We plan to plant between 7 and 10 trees around the area to restore some of the barrier effect and in keeping with the rest of the woodland in that area.

The main trunks of the felled trees were cut up into sections which were then taken off site. All the left over branches were then put through a chipper, to be picked up at a later date. We will remove all wood chippings from the course as quickly as possible.

 

 

R&A Scholarship

The blog is a touch late this month because one of our greenstaff got some exciting news just before it was due to go to press. I couldn’t leave it out, so a quick redraft was required to include this new development.

The good news is that Grant Moran recently secured a scholarship from the R&A, which he was given the opportunity to apply for due to the fine work he has been achieving undertaking a HNC Management Course at Elmwood College. After the application process he was invited to attend an interview with the Head of Sustainability at the R&A and the Head of Greenkeeping at Elmwood. He passed with flying colours and was awarded the scholarship shortly afterwards. This accolade is a fantastic achievement for him and well deserved with the hard work and dedication he has shown over the last few years now paying off. The scholarship brings a number of things that Grant can use to help his future development such as financial support, networking opportunities, guidance, tournament experience and mostly the backing of the R&A for the rest of his greenkeeping career.He will certainly use this support to improve himself and Mortonhall going forward. Click on the link below to see what the scholarship is all about.

 

https://www.randa.org/en/sustainability/services/greenkeeping-support

 

This is a unique opportunity as there are currently only 320 scholarships in place around the globe and our golf club has 2 of them (luckily I managed to secure one last year). After some research I have realised that there are only 3 golf clubs in Scotland who have more than one scholar on their greenkeeping team (the other two being St. Andrews and Carnoustie). You will agree this is quite an illustrious pair to be associated with and an honour and a coup for Mortonhall to be involved with the R&A in the future.

 

By Shaun Cunningham

November 2019

November 2019

Since the last update the changes to the golf course have been ratherdramatic. At the time of writing, the contractors have completed all bunker builds and most of the turfing, with the work carried out looking quite different but very impressive. The past month has been an extremely busy period for us, being part of installation of the capillary concrete to the new bunkers and also finishing off all the coring work. This at times has been pretty tough going but very rewarding as we realise we are playing a part in something very special in the clubs future. Here goes with what has been going on with us over the past month, which hopefully will be of some interest to you.

 

Course Improvement Project

The installation of the capillary concrete is now complete, with15 lorry loads of concrete being delivered totalling roughly 145 tonnes, which has been raked and levelled to produce the desired, quality finish. The concrete was installed exactly to the same specifications as last year and we are very happy again with the end product. Luckily the recent heavy downpours we have experienced has given us a trial run to see if the new bunkers are draining well, and I’m glad to report there were no problems what so ever.

New Bunker at Front Right of 4th Green

The next step in the project is to finish off the turfing, tidy up the areas, get them roped off and ready for the sand installation. The sand install will be a bit different this time around, as we will put in the desired sand depths (4 inches base and 2 inches edges)sooner this time, to give the sand the best opportunity to settle in before they come into play when the season starts again. Hopefully this will deliver better playability, consistency levels and give us time to monitor any problems.

 

Before the contractors leave they will finish off turfing the new white tee that has been introduced at the 12th to give us more tee placements, better alignment and improve the view down the fairway. They will also address a couple of snagging problems from last year’s Phase 1 work. These include enlarging the soakaway at the 16th fairway bunker to minimise flooding after heavy rainfall, improving the drainage issues to the left of the 15th green, adding some small mounding at the 15th bunker and left hand bunker at 17th to divert water flow to prevent sand washout and contamination and finally some additional mounding to the 1st greenside bunker in response to member feedback.

In total contrast to Phase 1 of the project when the dry weather was perfect for heavy machinery travelling about the course, weather conditions for Phase 2 have been unforgiving. Extremely unhelpful amounts of rainfall throughout the construction period created saturated ground conditions for the contractors to work on. The heavy machinery essential to carry out their work has left large parts of the course muddy, damaged and unsightly, which was sadly unavoidable even though they tried to limit the wear as much as possible due to the underfoot conditions. This issue will be rectified with the areas being repaired by the contractors before they leave by filling in the ruts and holes and then we will follow on this work by dressing, levelling, seeding and turfing where necessary. We are confident with a little hard work and the areas being roped off and given time to recover, these damaged areas will soon start to improve and be back to normal by the start of the season.

 

Coring and Top Dressing Work

In the last month we finished our essential coring and top dressing procedures. As mentioned last month we cored the greens twice this time (first pass larger core, second pass micro tines). The end result was successful with good sand amounts applied, more thatch removal and a perfect seed bed. My time walking behind the procore machine during the process, gave me a lot of thinking time and I managed to roughly work out the amount of cores we extracted over the whole coring process. Now I didn’t personally count them all as I ran out of fingers and toes but I’m pretty confident that 13.5 million cores is not too far away. If anyone wants to find out how I came up with this, please stop me out on the course and I will happily bore you to tears with the equation I used to find this number.

The recent light dressings have proved successful

In an ideal world, we would have had some light rain afterwards to wash in top dressing, which we would have followed with further light dressings of sand to fill the holes again. Unfortunately we got heavy downpours that washed in the sand but left the greens too wet to top dress for a couple of weeks (optimum conditions for top dressing is firm, dry surfaces). It was later than ideal, but we managed to apply two light dressings of sand last week to the greens to improve the smoothness (will apply more sand if required). We have also applied a granular fertiliser to all the greens and hopefully this will boost growth a bit and start to close up the core holes and give you all a better surface to putt on.

On a positive note, our most recent agronomists report came in with their observations and results from their visit in late August. The results showed that we have reduced our thatch levels significantly in the last year (although not as yet within our target range) which is very pleasing and proves the coring and grading work carried out in March was a success. We have every confidence that this double coring process we have just carried out will again improve our thatch levels and get us closer to our objective of producing healthy, firm putting surfaces which will maintain a consistent performance throughout the year. If we reach our target thatch levels and maintain them consistently, it will result in us not needing to core as aggressively going forward. In short we will be able to control thatch levels with only micro tines and top dressing, meaning we won’t disrupt the green surfaces and playability as much as we do currently (meaning a longer playing season).

The thatch levels dropped from 11.5 % to 7.3 % from last year to this year

 

 

Course Conditions

We have continued to mow playing surfaces all over the course where and when necessary and if possible to maintain definition and playing quality, we have also managed to roll the greens a couple of times in the last week or so to improve surface smoothness. The winter greens are being cut twice a week at 5mm and have had an application of worm suppressor to provide as good a surface as possible.The rain we experienced in October left underfoot a bit moist (definitely time to leave your cream trousers in the cupboard for a while at least), which resulted in golfers experiencing mud balls and poor lies on the fairways, it was then decided to introduce preferred lies on all closely mown areas throughout the course.

Preferred Lies in Place Since 18th October

 

Leaf litter has started to become a major problem lately, with huge amounts falling on a daily basis and we are trying as much as possible to make playing surfaces, tees and greens presentable and playable using hand and tractor blowers. Unfortunately our tractor blower was out of order for a couple of weeks due to a breakdown and we are unable to hire in a replacement blower. It took longer than expected to repair which led to large areas of the course being covered in leaves for a length of time, with us only being able to clear leaves around greens and tees and other problem areas with hand blowers. Thankfully it has now been fixed and we will be able to again remove leaves from playing surfaces regularly.

The last month or so has obviously been an extremely busy period for us all with the ongoing concrete work, aftercare and coring work. All this combined has given us very little time to maintain the golf course, so some areas like leaf removal, hole changing, bunker raking and mowing have suffered during this period. I would like to thank all the members for your patience and support over this period, but with these projects well on the way to completion we will be back soon delivering the high standards of course presentation the club is renowned for.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  1. Are we changing to white flagsticks, and why are we doing this.

The simple answer is yes. There are a number of reasons for changing, but the main one is the member feedback. We trialled an all white pin on the 18th green for a number of weeks during early summer and the comments we received were very positive, so we have acted on this and acquired new pins which will be in place for the start of the new season. We have also got newly designed flags and fresh aluminium hole cups to go out on the course at the same time as the pins.

New Flags and Pins Looking Sweet

The feedback we received was mainly based on the increased visibility that the all white pin delivered but there are also other benefits to them. The javelin style pin features extra thickness in the centre for increased strength and wind resistance but is also thinner at the base. The thinner base will lower instances of the golf ball striking the pin and bouncing out of the hole, if you choose to putt with the pin in, as this year’s rule change now allows. We hope that these new pins prove just as popular as the trial pin did.

 

By Shaun Cunningham

October 2019

You will be well aware if you have been up to the course lately that Phase 2 of the Bunker Project is well underway, and starting to take shape. Carrying out essential coring and aeration work on the greens that are out of play has made life quite busy but exciting for us in the last month or so, which hopefully I can explain with a bit of insight in this blog.

Draining and Turf Edges Install

Draining and Turf Edges Install
Draining and turf edges install going well

 

Course Improvement Project

The greenstaff feel very lucky to be able to witness the changes the course is undertaking at close quarters, and it has been a privilege to watch the contractors go about their work landscaping and shaping the bunkers and surrounds to produce the end product that is on the architect’s plans. I really enjoyed watching the stages of how the bunkers were built last year and this year I would like to have a wee go at it myself, if they will let me. Obviously there has been major disruption to the course with play being confined to a shorter course with temporary greens and tees. Hopefully though, you can still enjoy your game on the different layouts. The temporary greens height of cut has been lowered to 5mm (main greens 4mm), which will be give them a reasonable putting surface. We plan to continue to keep these surfaces to a good level throughout the winter.

At the time of writing, holes 8, 10, 11 and 12 are being worked on, and day by day we are starting to get an idea of what the final product will look like and how the redesigned holes will be played in the future. If the weather plays ball, all the work should be complete, with concrete and all the sand installed before the real winter weather kicks in. By installing the final sand depths as quickly as possible (before the turn of the year) we will give the sand more time to bed in and settle before they are back in play. Weekly updates, further information and photographs can be found on the members section of the club website under “Course Improvement Project”

Playing Surfaces

The greens have been performing well lately, with smooth, pacey and consistent surfaces all over the course – although they have lost a bit of colour due to the growth slowing down and the annual meadow grass going dormant with the cooler temperatures and less daylight. The feedback we have had from members and visitors lately on the greens has been positive and we are happy with them going into the colder months. We have encountered some fusarium outbreaks on most of the greens, which is quite normal at this time of the year. You get disease mainly in the cooler months when the growth is less aggressive, giving fungal spores an opportunity to get a foothold and in turn develop into disease. We have applied a suitable fungicide to reduce the problem, which has stopped any further spread successfully. We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming months.
We will raise the height of cut on all playing surfaces in the coming weeks for a number of reasons (stress relief, better disease resistance and quicker recovery rates being the main ones). This will have a slight negative impact on the playability and looks of the course, but it must be done as the growth and recovery rates will only get lower as the temperatures continue to fall. We will continue to mow playing surfaces regularly (although at a lower frequency) all over the course to maintain definition and playing quality.

Hoof Damage to Hole 14
Hoof Damage to Hole 14

 

In the middle of the month we had a couple of unwelcome visitors to the course – namely a couple of horses who escaped a nearby field and decided to stretch their legs (I have a great passion for horses but I much prefer them galloping around Cheltenham or Ascot and not the fairways of Mortonhall). We experienced varying degrees of damage to holes 3, 4, 5, 13 and 14 but the main problem was the damage caused on the 4th and 14th greens. The hoof marks made quite a dent on these greens but we managed to repair the them with a bit of persuasion and some top dressing (the process was a bit like repairing a pitchmark, but on a larger scale with a screwdriver and turf beater). We expect these areas to recover over the next couple of weeks, with some remedial work if required. The rest of the areas on the fairways and rough will hopefully repair themselves but if not, we will repair them in time with a mixture of forking and divotting.

Coring and Aeration Work

We have started our usual autumn renovation work on the greens that are out of play due to bunker work, by scarifying, verti draining and double coring (one pass with large core, then one with smaller core), followed by sand top dressing which we hope will improve the greens drainage, soil structure, thatch levels and compaction problems. The timing of this work was decided to give the greens the best opportunity to recover with the temperatures still not too bad for growth.

We’ve also managed to get some seed down (will explain later) which we are hoping will germinate and take a foothold before the winter kicks in. We will continue to do work on each green that is being worked on by the contractors until we start coring all the greens when conditions suit in October.

The coring and top dressing procedures are going perfectly

The coring and top dressing procedures are going perfectly
The coring and top dressing procedures are going perfectly

The objective at Mortonhall is to produce healthy, well paced, smooth and firm putting surfaces which will maintain a consistent performance throughout the year. Improving thatch levels is critical to achieving this objective. I don’t want to go into too much detail about thatch levels as I could write a novel about the problem, but in brief, thatch is a layer of dead vegetation that sits between the greens surface and the soil and it’s caused when the grass is growing and being cut faster than it can decompose. Thatch accumulation is constantly built up through the summer months with frequent mowing, which we attempt to remove during autumn and spring renovations. Coring, followed by top dressing is the key part to thatch control and reduction. After we have taken out the core we then fill with straight sand, which dilutes the thatch (basically we are swapping the spongey water holding thatch and replacing it with free draining sand).

The Greenstaff

On the education front this month, David travelled down to Wentworth to spend the day looking at the changes to the course and getting an insight into how the course was managed during the build up to the PGA Championship. The main reason for the visit was to gather information on the new creeping bentgrass we are using during our autumn renovations on the greens, finding out its benefits and how it has performed and establishes itself. By introducing to our sward composition a more stress resistant and disease tolerant grass (which creeping bent is) to compete with the undesirable and problematic meadow grass is something that would greatly improve year round putting and visual consistency. We are really looking forward to seeing how this seed mix performs in the coming months on our greens.

Education day at Wentworth

Education day at Wentworth
Education day at Wentworth

There was also the little matter of Craig going to help out the home greenstaff at Gleneagles to prepare the course for the Solheim Cup. Craig was on site for eight days with his main morning task being the preparation of the front nine bunkers. Other tasks included hand mowing some of the wettest fairways (yes, hand mowing) and a spot of bunker raking following the matches. It was clearly a wonderful experience to be involved in and play a role in producing a course to simply breath taking standards. Highlights surely include being able to walk inside the ropes, match raking in front of the massive crowds on the final day, feeding off the passion and dedication of the Gleneagles greenkeeping team and the satisfaction in producing high standards of work under close scrutiny from the team leaders.

As yet another instance of our greenstaff volunteering at a major golfing event, it made me think of the number of occasions this has occurred over the past few years. Mortonhall has been represented at 10 different tournaments and we have accumulated vital experience, knowledge and confidence which definitely benefits our own club in the long term. There is no club in the surrounding area which has this amount of tournament experience in their squad and it is something we and the club should be very proud of. During these tournaments the hours are long, at times stressful and your time is largely unpaid, but that said, I can honestly say they are the most enjoyable and rewarding times I have spent in my career as the buzz you get from the event itself, the home greenstaff and the volunteers is truly inspirational.

 

Thanks must go out to Mortonhall also, as without their support and understanding, attending these tournaments would not be possible for us. To give you an idea of what events we have been involved in over the last couple of years and what we have got up to, click on the photo above to view our YouTube video.

By Shaun Cunningham

September 2019

September 2019

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

Extreme Weather

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

CIP Work

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).

Members Walk

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

  1. 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).

  1. 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

 

 

 

 

 

August 2019

August 2019

A busy, but rewarding month for us, where we have enjoyed a productive time on and off the course. The high temperatures and significant rainfall has resulted in all the playing surfaces flourishing with growth.  It also means we have had to focus much time to mowing these areas to keep them to a good level of playing consistency during the busy period of competitions we have been experiencing. Along with the high frequency of mowing, we have also managed to fit in some maintenance to the greens. Light dressings, regular verti cutting, spiking and an application of granular fertiliser were all carried out in the past month. So here goes with a brief update on what has been going on with us in the last month and another couple of answers to members frequently asked questions that have come my way recently.

 

Ecology Visit

At the start of July we were very fortunate to welcome the Head of Sustainability and Ecology at BIGGA, James Hutchinson to Mortonhall for a walk and talk visit around our course. It was quite a coup to get James (especially free of charge) and he gave us some great information and things to work on regarding how we plan to improve our onsite biodiversity and environmental levels in the coming years. He was deeply impressed with the course and what we were trying to achieve, which is high praise from someone of his standing in this subject. It has given us much confidence that we are on the right track with our end objectives and hopefully this time next year you will start to see the improvements to the plant and wildlife species we have out on the course.

Along with our golfing heritage, the area in which the course sits has a fascinating landscape history and ecological function. The holes are lined by woodlands, which provide vital definition and strategic shaping to the holes, adding character to greatly enhance the setting and atmosphere of the course. However, they also boast benefits which are considerable value to wildlife and provide habitat for a wealth of birdlife, insects, mammals and wild flora. Our long term vision is to improve our environment and wildlife at Mortonhall as it is our duty to enhance the landscape to  benefit future golfing generations. We plan to do this by promoting and developing practises that will enhance and conserve the course plantlife, wildlife and general sustainability (a very important word in the current climate).

 

The main plans and objectives we have in the coming years are as follows –

  1. Develop manageable wildflower areas.
  2. Conserve current and attract a greater range of wildlife species
  3. Maintain natural rough grass areas for wildlife habitat and food source
  4. Work with local schools and groups to educate and connect with community
  5. Involve our members to build relationships and understanding
  6. Promote the plan and its results to enhance club’s reputation and standing

 

Greenstaff

It was an exciting July for us, with a number of big club competitions to prepare the course for, some rewarding achievements for our squad members and an opportunity to volunteer at another major golf tournament.

 

Continued Personal Development

The greenstaff take Continued Professional Development (CPD) very seriously and this is highlighted by two of us getting rewarded for our commitment, with Craig achieving his Approved Status and me accumulating enough credits to gain a Milestone. The CPD process refers to the tracking and documenting of skills, knowledge and experience that you gain outside working hours.  Basically it is designed so you can push yourself to manage your own development, boost your confidence and show the dedication you have for your career. You can gain credits via further education, attending seminars, courses, volunteering, etc. and pretty much works out that you receive 1 credit for every hour you spend on your development. To achieve Approved Status you need 60 credits and a Milestone requires 180 credits, all within a 3 year period, which highlights the amount of commitment, enthusiasm and motivation required to achieve these accolades. The scheme is a very useful tool to help us improve ourselves and with Grant also currently working towards his approved status, it is clear the greenstaff are using this scheme to good effect.

Seniors British Open

Luckily I was given the opportunity to volunteer at Royal Lytham and St Annes again this year to help the greenstaff prepare the course for the Seniors British Open after last years successful involvement in the Womens British Open. Just like last year, I was on site for 8 days (morning and night, Sunday to Sunday) during the practise, Pro Am and tournament itself.  My main duty being to hand mow greens, followed by helping out with bunker raking and fairway divoting when required.

It was pretty much the same tasks I was given last year but this time I was given the role of one of the hand mowing group leaders which required me to attend daily briefings, monitor clip yield and decide mowing patterns. This was hugely rewarding and enjoyable for me as it was a privilege to be able to play a part in the set up of a major tournament on such a sensational golf course.  It also gave me a close view of the unbelievable standards that are required for these events and how efficiently these standards are reached no matter what is put in front of you (lightning delays, rain suspensions and breakdowns to name a few). I took away from the week a huge amount of confidence and self belief that I can produce high standards of work under serious pressure (if you can nail a bullet line up the middle of the 1st green in complete darkness at 4 am after 3 hours sleep in front of various officials and home greenstaff, you can do anything) but I also took away a huge amount of new knowledge, friends and networking possibilities from some of the most admired greenkeepers in the industry, which can only benefit me and the club.

It was a brilliant week for me representing Mortonhall at this event, even though the hours were extreme and the step count was bordering on 100 miles. I thoroughly enjoyed myself down there and so much so, I have already booked my place on the team for the British Open when it comes to the venue in the future.

Members Course Walk

The greenstaff have been giving some thought into an ideal way to interact with the members more and build a closer relationship. And we have come up with the idea of a course walk, which any member is welcome to come along too. We have pencilled in the afternoon of Monday 26th August and we will show you behind the scenes what we encounter every day. It will be a case of meeting at the Pro Shop and enjoying between 60 – 90 minutes of our company, with hopefully some beneficial insights into such things as our thatch problem and management, hole changing methods, bunker problems and maintenance, height of cut info, etc., and if you are lucking we might even get some demonstrations, tutorials and audience participation along the way. More importantly, we will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about the course.

Please look out for the poster that will be appearing on the noticeboard over the coming days and we will be delighted if you can attend.

 

Members Questions

As requested in last months blog, there has been a positive response with members sending in questions to be answered in these monthly updates, so thanks and keep them coming and I hope the answers make sense and are helpful to you.

 

  1. What is the best practise, replace divots or fill using soil in divot bags?

The best method is to replace your divot whenever possible as that will give the best chances of recovery. A replaced divot will root and start growing again within a week given suitable conditions (moisture and heat), whereas soil and seed mix will  germinate at best within 10 days given the same conditions and will take up to one month to fully fill the hole. It is not always the case that you can retrieve your divot as it can disintegrate on impact, in these cases using the soil in your divot bag is the best option. There are times mainly during dry spells that replaced divots do not root and in turn dry out and blow away, moved by mowing machinery or displaced by birds looking for worms. These are the times when the divot bags come in handy the most. When out playing and you notice a unrepaired divot could you please take a moment to fill it to help us out (members are carrying out this task regularly, especially the lady and senior members – thanks and keep it up).

 

  1. How do we manage the new bunkers during dry periods?

Our new bunkers have been in play for 4 months now and as with many new things, teething problems come with them and our new bunkers aren’t any different. Most of the problems relate to when we experience dry spells over a prolonged period, with the main ones being:

 

  • Balls coming to rest or plugging on edges and faces of bunkers
  • Lack of rain resulting in bunkers being too dry
  • Sand movement due to high winds, lowering depths and exposing concrete
  • Golf clubs coming into contact with concrete

 

Although this is a challenging situation, there is a fundamental reason for these problems, which we are constantly trying to improve. Hopefully I can shed a bit of light on it. The capillary concrete lining we have is designed to drain bunkers to leave a consistent surface. During dry spells it works so well that it drains all the moisture from the sand at times too quickly, resulting in sand becoming very dry and susceptible to sand movement from wind and golfers play (especially on bunker faces). We are assured by the distributors that this problem will ease as time goes by when the smaller sand particles make their way into the concrete, forming a slight resistance to water percolation (exactly the same that other clubs using the concrete method have found over a period of time, eg. Bruntsfield Links and Gleneagles).

We have had a visit from the product distributor and he has told us we are doing everything correctly and he is confident the problem will ease as time goes by. In the meantime, we are regularly undertaking methods to limit sand movement, sand drying out, exposed concrete and damage to clubs. We have recently applied a wetting agent to the bunker faces to help them retain more moisture and in turn not dry out so quickly.  We’ve also added 1 – 2 inches of sand to the faces of the new bunkers to limit the chances of concrete being exposed and chances of coming into contact with the concrete with a club on the problem holes (3, 6, 7, 17 and 18) which are the holes most exposed to wind. Before we topped up the sand on the faces we watered the faces heavily and will continue to do so when necessary to try and get some moisture into the concrete for better water holding capacity. Hopefully this helps the problem in the future. We will continue to ask industry experts and other users for their advice to get the best results possible in the future.

Also, every time we rake bunkers we take a depth measuring device with us to monitor the depths on the bases and edges of the bunkers, which we act on if not correct by re distributing or adding sand around the bunker if required (two – three inches on the face and four inches on the base is the desired depth).  Unfortunately, this does cause a greater chance of balls plugging on occasions in the immediate aftermath of this being carried out, but we feel it is a necessary evil to limit injuries to golfers and their clubs.

 

  1. Where do we replace bunker rakes after use?

A common question we get asked, with the answer being “we recommend that the bunker rakes be placed on a flat area of the bunker and if possible within easy reach to allow members access to them without having to set foot in the bunker “

Probably the best way to explain this is to make up a short video to highlight where we want you to place the rake after you have played a bunker shot. It is also an ideal opportunity to refresh you all on how we recommend you rake the bunkers too. Click on photo below to view video clip

By Shaun Cunningham

July 2019

July 2019

The main focus point in the last month was certainly Championship Week, which the greenstaff always look forward to each year as it gives us the chance to showcase our work to a greater audience and gives us added enthusiasm to prepare the place to its best possible condition. It wouldn’t be Championship Week without the weather getting involved and causing major disruption, which resulted in the loss of two days due to heavy rainfall.  We got there in the end however, and I’d like to congratulate all the Ladies and Gentlemen who were crowned Champions of their different categories.

This month’s edition is going to include hopefully some useful information about how the course performed during Mortonhall’s most important week and a few other interesting things that have been going on out on the course.

 

Greens

The greens were very consistent from the qualifying weekend running into the first rounds of the matchplay, and were very much on par with our agronomists (STRI) target ranges in regards to tournament green speed (between 9 and 9.5ft), trueness and smoothness levels. Overall we were extremely happy how consistent the speeds were throughout the course, even both putting greens were almost identical with the rest of the greens.

Above is the speeds from 3 greens (Holes 1, 5 and 12) during the week

The extremely heavy rainfall we had on the Wednesday afternoon between 1 – 3 pm caused the greens to flood. This combined with the flooding on the fairways and water damage to the bunkers left little chance for the scheduled matchplay ties to go ahead. The course can handle the amount of rain that fell (10mm) easily but the problem was that this amount fell in 2 hours (including 6mm in 30 minutes). No course could have withstood the amount of rain and damage we experienced in this short period and be playable to a reasonable standard a few hours later.

On Thursday 13th we had to deal with more consistently heavy rain (30mm), which again caused problems with flooding on the greens and in turn resulted in no play that day. It was a great pity that the weather interrupted Championship Week as the greens and the rest of the course were performing brilliantly and we were looking forward to showing it off to the competitors and spectators.

The green surfaces were superb during Championship Week

 

The aeration and coring work we do in March and October, along with the drainage we have installed on our problem greens meant that when the rained stopped, they drained quickly and were back in play on the Friday, although a touch slower due to us missing out a cut on Thursday and the overall moisture holding capacity under the surface. It is a very good pointer and really reassuring to us that the maintenance we carry out on the greens works. It was evidenced by how quickly we were able to get the green speeds back up to around 10ft by the Finals Weekend (15th and 16th).

 

Bunkers

As already mentioned, we experienced a serious amount of rain during the Championship period and it turned out to be the first real test to see how the new bunkers would react to severe flooding. The result was very pleasing as they stood up to the amount of water very well. Obviously there was some damage (sand movement, ruts formed and concrete exposed) but not the same devastation that was caused to the old bunkers (heavily flooded, out of play and major silt build up). The new bunkers did need some work to get them back up to scratch, but only some minor sand re distribution with a shovel, followed by some firming in (some of the old bunkers were still out of play days later).

A before and after photo of bunker at the 17th after a quick 5 minute fix

And how the 10th bunker looked for days

 

You will have noticed we have started to introduce new mowing lines on some of the holes to incorporate the new bunkers and run offs in accordance with the proposed designs for Phase 1. We had to make sure the turf was really healthy before we started to lower the height of cut so as not to cause it any stress or damage in its development.  We waited until the end of May to start mowing down and have gradually lowered the height down over the last month from 44mm (rough) to 21mm (first cut) and will keep it at this height for the time being, cutting it regularly and top dressing if required.

This work has really added much definition to the holes and the run offs. Wider landing areas have added character and produced the need for a greater variety of golf shots to navigate the holes. So far the results have been positive, especially the areas we have mown right up to the edges of the bunkers to make bunkers more in play from the tee and fairway.  Initially I was not a fan of this approach when I started cutting them out, but I am now converted and think it is a great way to include the new bunkers into how the hole plays and also improve the general look of the hole.

New mowing lines into bunker on 2nd fairway

 

Frequently Asked Questions

I thought that introducing a frequently asked questions section to future monthly updates would be a good idea to help answer some of the queries we get from the members on a daily basis out on the course.  Hopefully it will prove in the long run a worthwhile addition to these monthly blogs. The objective is mainly to give you all a better understanding of your golf course and answer some of the questions that you have been dying to ask for a while. Your input will also greatly help me, as it will give me something to write about in the future. I’ve been doing these blogs for nearly two years now and I’m starting to run out of new ideas and things to write about.

To get the ball rolling and to give you an idea of what sort of things you could ask, I have come up with 3 questions that we get regularly and are quite relevant at the moment.

 

  1. Why do you top dress and aerate the greens during the playing season?

The main reasoning is to work in accordance to our STRI agronomist’s recommended maintenance programme. The long term objective is to dilute the problem levels of thatch below our putting surfaces (especially 0 – 20 mm depth). Our thatch levels in our last report were higher than we would have liked and will only lead to deterioration of the greens with increased disease outbreak, higher moisture levels, poor growth and inconsistency if not acted on. We try to work around competition play as much as possible but at times weather conditions and the busy fixture list does limit the window we can carry out the work.

The aim is to apply 50 tonnes during the playing season, which basically means applying a light 2- 3 tonne dressing over all the greens every couple of weeks. I understand this can be at times frustrating, but the effects on play will be minimal. Although sand on the green will be noticeable, it will not affect ball roll and if anything it will probably improve it. The effects of the top dressing are visible for a day or to but will disappear in a day or two after brushing and watering in.

We will integrate some aeration alongside the light dressings as it is an ideal method to incorporate the sand into our target area. It also alleviates some of the compaction that is present on the green surfaces due to the high levels of play and mowing programmes we have during the summer months (also the tiny 3 mm spike holes are ideal to help with water movement in the soil profile). Again, the effects on ball roll will be minimal although you will be aware of the work being carried out if you look closely enough.

 

  1. How often do we change the holes?

The frequency with which holes are changed is often a topic that generates much debate. The best way to answer this question is to say that there is no set number of times that we change holes each week, as it very much depends on the week’s fixture list, weather conditions and the amount of play the course gets. At the moment we are changing holes 3 or 4 times per week, sometimes 5, with the rest of the days the holes getting trimmed by scissors and rimmed to give them a clean finish.

In an ideal world we would change holes everyday, but there are some major reasons why we can’t. The main ones being that it would take up too many man hours; some greens are smaller and limit regular choices of positions (3rd, 11th, 15th) and some days the holes are perfectly fine after only a day’s play on them. Under normal circumstances fresh holes will be cut for each competition (senior stablefords, team matches, gents and ladies medals) but this is not always the case due to the reasons given above. However, on the morning of each competition the holes are inspected and if any are damaged or worn we will move if necessary.

An interesting fact regarding hole cup sizes (well I think it is anyway) that there was no standardised hole size and the size varied from links to links until 1829 when the first steps to standardised the hole size happened in Musselburgh. The first automatic hole cutter was commissioned by the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club and subsequently became the standard hole size in golf. The hole cutter could cut holes the same diameter every time. Although the 4.25 inch standardised hole was used at Musselburgh Links it didn’t become standard elsewhere until 1891 when the R&A adopted it into their new Rules of Golf.  This diameter is still used in the current Rules of Golf and what we use at Mortonhall (don’t ask me how I know this, but I just do).

When moving the holes, contrary to popular belief we don’t just stick them where it will cause golfers nightmares. We constantly take into account the current conditions of play like green speed (keep holes away from slopes when above 9ft), windy conditions (don’t position pins at front of green when hole is downwind), rainfall (place holes on high spots when flooding is possible) and type of competition (fair pins for all types of golfer).

  1. How do you correctly repair a pitchmark?

Did you know that a pitchmark left unrepaired for 10 minutes or longer takes 15 days to recover, whereas a pitchmark repaired within 5 minutes completely recovers within 24 hours. So please remember this stat the next time you walk onto a green.

I’ve made up a quick video to show you all how to properly repair a pitchmark and also the effects it has on the greens surface if you don’t repair them. The amount of poorly or unrepaired pitchmarks we have, I’m sure you’ll agree is quite eye opening. Click on photo below to view YouTube clip.

By Shaun Cunningham

June 2019

June 2019

The recent weather has given us the opportunity to have an uninterrupted run at improving the presentation of the course by frequent mowing schedules and carrying out the necessary maintenance on each of our playing surfaces to keep the areas on the course to a high standard.

This month’s update will mainly focus on the playing surfaces out on our course and to highlight some of the work which has recently taken place on them and why we do it.  Hopefully it will give you all a better understanding and insight on what goes into producing the course surfaces to our desired standard.

 

The Greens

Our aim is to deliver our greens to be consistent with regard to speed, smoothness and firmness all over the course. At the moment the greens are largely consistent with good grass coverage; however, it could be better with the odd area still suffering from uneven growth. This issue is improving due to the liquid fertiliser we applied two weeks ago. It is also pleasing that the areas we hand spiked and seeded last month are now growing healthily and filling out the scars that disease caused over the winter months. With a bit of consistent rainfall over the coming weeks the surfaces will start to kick on with good growth and colour and we will be in a good place for the rest of the season.

Verti Cutting to thin out surface has become regular recently

Meadow Grass

We always get a meadow grass burst around mid May and this year has been no exception. The sudden burst of meadow grass is in relation to the current year’s growth potential or in a slightly more geeky term Growth Degree Days. When the years accumulated average temperature hits the figure of around 180, the meadow grass growth flourishes (I won’t bore you with a detailed description of this, but if you google growth degree days it will help explain it).

Our greens are predominately Meadow Grass (75%), which is the white coloured patches you see on the greens when it is flowering (May to June), the 8th and 18thgreens being the worst hit normally. Meadow Grass thrives on parkland golf courses like ours, due to the high compaction, high growth and soil type present. It has a folded boat shaped leaf which is coarser and presents more drag on a ball roll compared to finer grasses resulting in slower and less smooth surfaces. Although it is called a grass, it is in fact actually a weed and we could really do without it on the greens, but the control of it is virtually impossible due to its vast breeding potential.

A single Meadow Grass plant produces around 6 seedlings per annum, which produces 36 seeds per seedling, which has a potential annual seed dump of 13,060,694,016 seeds per single plant (and yes I needed a calculator to work that figure out). Don’t be terrified with this number as not all the progeny will survive, but it will give you an idea of how difficult it is to keep on top off,when the seeds start to emerge on the greens. The problem will die down around mid June and up to that time we will carry out regular verti cutting (this is done to help reduce the populations by dislodging and removing Meadow Grass seed heads before they germinate and in turn limit its spread).

 

Green Speed

We are currently mowing the greens every day at 3 mm, verti cutting 2 – 3 times per week and rolling 2 – 3 times per week. The average green speed over the last month is 8.6ft, which is not too bad for this period of slightly unevengrowth and meadow grass coverage (we aim for between 9ft and 9.5ft in height of summer).

Improving consistency and pace on the greens is not as simple as cutting the grass shorter or rolling more, as dropping the height of cut dramatically and rolling too often will only prove detrimental to the health of the turf and in the long term result in problems with disease, grass sward and firmness. We have found that regular verti cutting (sometimes twice daily) is very successful in reducing the thickness and populations of meadow grass, which drastically improves green speed and more importantly green smoothness. We will continue to carry out this method until the meadow grass problem calms down.

 

 

The video clip below was taken on Friday 23rd May (Ladies Open Greensomes) and it highlights how well the greens were running that day, following a double verti cut the previous morning. The green speed and smoothness levels improved considerably after the work was carried out. Click on photo to view how smooth the ball was rolling and how impressive my putting is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGCVtmR0gUc

Tees

The tees at Mortonhall receive more wear and tear than any other area on the course and it is a constant struggle to deliver smooth, healthy and good looking teeing grounds with so much traffic and shade to deal with, especially on the par 3’s.

The aim is to provide firm, level areas with good grass coverage and deliver good recovery rates from divot damage. We patch the tees continually during the growing months (twice weekly) and use a good marker rotation method that spreads wear evenly over the teeing ground. We are thankful for the help we receive from the members using the divot boxes situated on the par 3 tees and we ask you to please keep up the good work. The tees are cut 2 or 3 times a week to keep them tidy – the height of cut being 10mm. We plan to apply fertiliser and spray wetting agent to them in the coming weeks to help with the recovery rate.

 

Fairways and Aprons

The fairways are the main focal point of any hole as it is the first thing that catches your eye from the tee, so it is important that the fairways look good from afar along with being firm, smooth and consistent to play from. The height of cut on the fairways is 12mm which we feel is short enough to get some roll out from your tee shot but enough grass to get a good lie when playing a shot. The fairways are cut 2 or 3 times a week.

We mow the aprons 2 or 3 times per week at 8mm, which we feel is an ideal height for the transition between apron and green (at this height you can putt without the drag of the ball being too much and you can pitch with confidence as there is a bit of grass underneath the ball). Like the tees, we plan to apply wetting agent in the coming weeks to improve water holding capacity and improve aesthetics.

Growth Regulator

Last year we tried something different in the form of spraying growth regulator  and we employed a contractor to come in and spray all our fairways with a product that acts as a growth regulator to try and ease the problem of excess growth on the fairways. The product is designed to inhibit vertical growth and divert grass growth downwards into the root system and improve development and health. This in turn produces a thicker, healthier sward (in layman terms it stops grass growing so quickly but makes grass growth thicker, resulting in less man hours cutting). This practice proved a huge success, so we applied the growth regulator to all our fairways and aprons again last week. Last year the only downside we had was that the fairways lost their colour a touch, so to counteract this problem, we mixed fertiliser through the spray tank at the same time. After only a few days the growth regulator has started working, with vertical growth slowing down and both fairways and aprons holding their colour without having excessive growth.

Rough and First Cut

The largest area we need to cut on the course is our rough areas which we cut once a week and then go over the longer areas again if time allows (8, 9, 11, 12 and 15 normally). We cut our first cut (the 2 widths of mower that is the transition between fairway and semi rough) twice weekly. The aim for us is to produce rough areas that are consistent throughout the course and we feel that we achieve this successfully. The height of cut we use is 44mm (1 ¾  inches) for the semi rough and 21mm for the first cut, which we feel is an ideal height for us to keep on top of and to be a challenge for the golfer without it being too brutal.

We have 2 slight issues at the moment when maintaining the rough and first cut areas. The first is the amount of growth we are experiencing at the minute, resulting in areas needing greater levels of mowing attention. The areas that are especially thick also need blown with the tractor mounted blower (again 8, 9, 11, 12 and 15 are the most problematic). The other issue we have and it has just turned up in the last few weeks is the appearance of weeds in the rough (mainly daisies, dandelions and clover). At the moment the problem is not at a level that we need to act on, but we will monitor the situation and act when necessary and apply a suitable herbicide.

Greenstaff Education

Since the school and university term is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on the three greenstaff who are currently undertaking courses at Elmwood College. Education is crucial to our own development and that of the golf club, as it not only give us the knowledge to carry out our work to a high professional standard but also keeps us up to date on the latest greenkeeping methods, and legislation. It also greatly develops staff member’s confidence, experience and understanding of our industry.

The modern greenkeeper doesn’t just cut grass now as we need to be agronomists, environmentalists, mathematicians, ecologists, IT specialists, PR officers, mechanics and marketing experts to name a few. We must continue to learn and push ourselves to develop our knowledge as the golf industry is changing yearly and we need to be prepared for any changes to benefit ourselves and our golf club

Team Education – Gary, Shaun and Grant

 

Gary – SVQ Level 2 & 3

Gary is currently working through his apprenticeship with us, which includes attending college on a week’s block release every three months to work towards gaining his SVQ Level 2 & 3. The course is designed to gain the essential skills needed to have a successful career in the sports turf industry. The majority of the practical work is completed at Mortonhall, which we then assess him on and give feedback to his course tutors. The rest of the studying is done in the classroom. The course is completed over 4 years and Gary has done 18 months so far, with positive feedback received from his tutors, along with his outstanding pass marks in assessments and excellent work he carries out day to day on the golf course. It’s clear he will be a fine asset to our club in the coming years. He has already achieved his Pa1 spraying certificate and working towards his Pa2 in the very near future.

 

Shaun – Higher National Diploma (HND)

I have been doing this course through online distance learning, which basically means all the work is done at home in front of a laptop screen. The course comprises 18 units which is completed over a period of three years (I have passed 9 units so far). The course is designed to push its participants outside their comfort zone and broaden their knowledge with units such as Managing Turf Grasses, Soil Science, Managing IT and Human Resource Management. I know these units sound a barrel of laughs but they have been extremely beneficial to me in regards to my work as it has greatly recharged my passion for my job, raised my confidence levels, given me a greater understanding of golf course ecology and it has brought me from being a complete novice with a computer to being able to put together Power Points and word documents like the one you are currently reading. Another plus point for me completing this course has been getting the opportunity to become an R&A Scholar through it and helping me work towards achieving my goal of gaining a Continued Personal Development (CPD) Milestone.

 

Grant – Higher National Certificate (HNC)

Grant has also been undertaking this course through online distance learning, which needs a great deal of his own time to be put aside so he can complete each of the 12 units required to pass the course. The course is over three years and he has passed 4 units so far with flying colours and received excellent feedback from his tutors throughout. The course content includes units on Golf Course Budgets, Design and Construction, Turfgrass Ecology and Supervision and Management which will clearly be beneficial to Grant and Mortonhall in the long term as he can put the huge amount of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm gained on the course, into practice at our workplace. Along with the new found knowledge, other positives about completing the course include improving your own personal development through participating in the CPD Scheme and the opportunity to ask questions and network constantly with the other like minded greenkeepers who are also undertaking this course.

There is one negative with all this further education stuff however, as our conversations have now become incredibly dull. We used to talk about football, golf and going to the pub, now most of our chats revolve around weather patterns, plant protection, graphs, pie charts and integrated plant management (riveting stuff you’ll agree!)

 

By Shaun Cunningham