Greenkeeper's Blog

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

May 2019

May 2019

The start of the season is now upon us with the first Ladies and Gents competitions already been and gone. The course is starting to get some much needed definition onto its surfaces due to the upturn in growth from the consistent humidity and much higher temperatures we have experienced lately (I know this cause I am currently typing this up in my back garden with a pair of shorts and shades on). This all has resulted in us now needing to mow all the playing surfaces regularly and hopefully with some added rainfall and improved recovery rates, the course will be back to its usual high standard very soon. This month’s report is mainly updates on the course and bunker conditions with a few other things thrown in, hopefully you find it interesting and a worthwhile read.

Greens Update

After the aggressive work we carried out on the greens during our spring maintenance, the greens are recovering slowly but surely (could have done with more regular rainfall and slightly higher temperatures during the weeks that followed). I must admit, we would rather the greens be a touch smoother and a little quicker, giving you more consistent putting, but they are still uneven in parts which we will concentrate on fixing in the coming weeks. The coring and graden work has recovered very well, but the main problem with greens smoothness levels is the scaring from the fusarium patch disease we suffered badly from at the end of last season (you need good growth for these scars to recover and the growth is simply not present through the colder months) and the grass growth we are having lately has accentuated the problem further. To fix this problem we have hand spiked, seeded and dressed all the problem areas over the whole course and the seed we sowed on these areas takes between 2-3 weeks to germinate given the ideal conditions (daily average of 8 degrees), so hopefully you will see the signs of little greens shoots coming through shortly and in turn spreading to fill the scar holes and level out the surfaces.

We have put down another granular fertiliser recently to give the grass coverage and growth a boost to encourage surface recovery which has worked nicely, and we followed this a week later with 4 tonnes of top dressing to improve smoothness, firmness and dilute our thatch layer. We will continue to verti cut, mow and roll greens regularly over the coming weeks to improve their consistency and green speed, which I am sure will be the case.

Photos highlight how we repair disease scars and how surfaces are recovering

 

Bunkers

The new bunkers and the surrounding areas have now been in play for a month now and hopefully you are finding them to your liking. For us their appearance and playability is still second to none and we continue to get high praise and envious looks from other greenkeepers when we talk about them. However with many new things, teething problems come with them and our new bunkers aren’t any different, which I will describe and hopefully explain what we plan to do to improve each situation.

  • Balls coming to rest or plugging on edges and faces of bunkers
  • Lack of rain has resulted in bunkers being too dry
  • Sand movement due to high winds, lowering depths and exposing concrete
  • Surrounding turf drying out due to prolonged dry spell

Most of these problems are all due to the lack of rain (what happened to April showers), making the sand very dry and dust like. This has resulted in the faces of the bunkers being susceptible to sand movement from wind, golfers play and difficultly in raking. We plan to apply wetting agents to the bunker faces in the foreseeable future to hopefully help them retain more moisture and in turn not dry so quickly. We are also planning to apply wetting agent to the surrounding turf which was starting to dry out (wetting agents explained below).

When soils and sands become too dry, they become hydrophobic (water repellent) as it is so dry and firm, the water will just run off it and won’t be able to break the surface. A wetting agent is a substance that lowers surface tension and increases penetrating qualities and helps absorb the water and hold onto it (meaning every drop of water the area gets after a wetting agent is applied it holds onto it and uses).

We have 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 your 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 if necessary, to try and get some moisture into the concrete for better water holding capacity. Hopefully this helps the problem in the future while we wait patiently for a bit of prolonged rain.

Every time we rake bunkers we take a depth measuring device to monitor the depths on the bases and edges of the bunkers, which we act on if not correct by moving or adding sand around the bunker if required (two – three inches on the face and four inches on the base is the desired depth).

The time we take to prepare the bunkers for the days play will be wasted however if a golfer doesn’t rake the bunker after they have used it, properly. I understand that the way we want you to rake a bunker may feel a bit unnatural, but could you please have a look at the YouTube link below again, memorise it and put it into practise the next time you play, as a poorly raked bunker will only result in bad lies and uneven stances for the golfers behind you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q82naQEDWZo&t=14s

Since I have been doing a college course lately that has involved me researching SWOT and STEEPLE Analysis, it made me think it could be a good idea to come up with an acronym that could help you remember the main points ofhow the club wants you to rake a bunker. So the next time you go in a bunker, please remember the main points below of HELP and you will be on the right track.

H    Hands    usetwo hands on the rake at all times

E    Enter        enter and exit at the lowest point of the bunker, not the face

L     Level      level edges of the bunkers with the back of the rake

P    Push      push the sand away from you, not pull

 

If you have any further queries on the raking method, please feel free to stop one of the greenstaff during your round and we will gladly give you a quick demonstration and a few useful tips on how we want them raked.

Volunteering

On Wednesday 17th April we welcomed 21 volunteers to help us with divotting the fairways and tees, without help this task is very time consuming for us and takes us away from other work. We managed to finish all the fairways and tees, so a big thank you must go out to the Gents and Ladies that came along to help us, who all did a brilliant job. Hopefully this sort of thing will be a regular occurrence and possibly lead to other volunteering parties helping us with further divotting days, pond clearing, litter picking, course walks etc. Members coming in to help us is much appreciated but also proves beneficial, with us greenkeepers getting the opportunity to meet the golfers, have a chat, explain a few things about the course and get the chance to develop a better relationship with our members. All in all the divotting day was a massive success.

Team Divot after a hard day’s work

Since I am going on about divotting, the divot bags are now back in use. You can pick them up from the stand at first tee or pro shop and initial signs show that you are using them regularly, with the bags emptying off the hooks every day. Thanks for your support with this initiative and it shows us you care about your golf course.

Elf Loch

The reduced rain we had last year began to effect the water levels in the pond at the 2nd, with the depths being nowhere near what we are accustomed to. Normally over the winter period the pond would be at full capacity and we would need to open the outlet pipe and drain to stop the fairway from flooding but this winter it has not been the case. The water got to a level that was becoming a problem, so much so we invested in a proper gate valve on the outlet pipe and a measuring device to keep an eye on the depth. We now seem to going the right way now as the water level has risen 15cm since we installed the gate valve and measuring stick in early March.

Our pond life has returned

Thankfully the water has risen just in time for some return visitors. Our resident heron has returned along with an array of ducks, frogs, toads, newts and a family of moorhens. The pond is clearly a perfect environment for them as this aquatic wildlife keep returning year on year. The best sight lately has definitely been the new addition of ducklings, as it is always nice to see them develop and grow through the season, I have tried not to count them this year as it’s heartbreaking to watch their numbers dwindling due mainly to the heron’s appetite for them. By the way there are 9 ducklings (I couldn’t help myself).

By Shaun Cunningham

April 2019

April 2019

By the time you read this update, we will have cut the ribbons and cracked open the champagne as the full course will be back in play and the new bunkers in use. The changes to the course over the last 6 months have been nothing short of spectacular and the finished product is certainly something Mortonhall GC can be very proud of. The greenstaff feel honoured to have played a part in the improvements and have thoroughly enjoyed learning the new skills we acquired along the way. I hope you will enjoy the new features just as much as we did creating them.

This month’s update, as promised will focus largely on the bunker project, with hopefully some interesting facts, information, and a few photos and videos thrown in for good measure. I will also cover another extremely important task we undertook last month, namely the Graden work that was carried out on the greens.

Bunker Project

Before and after photos of right bunker at 17th

The two pictures above is the perfect example of what has been achieved over the winter.  The new bunkers will deliver improved playability, better aesthetics, no stones or spoil, superior drainage capabilities and improved positioning. There are a few numbers below to highlight what we got up to during phase 1 of the bunker project.

  • 28 original bunkers replaced with 23 new bunkers.
  • Average size of bunker increases from 45m sq. to 61m sq.
  • Excavated 150 tonnes of infill material from right side of 16th
  • Laid 700 metres of new drainage inside and around new bunkers.
  • Installed 1300m sq. of capillary concrete (15 cement lorries).
  • Laid 5000m sq. of turf (80 pallets)
  • Installed 150 tonnes of high spec bunker sand.
  • Lifted 500m sq. of turf to create revetted bunker edges.

Capillary Concrete

A Capillary Concrete Bunker gives you total drainage control and keeps bunker moisture at optimal levels to eliminate washed out bunkers, soil contamination, plugged ball lies and other bunker maintenance and playability problems. It not only rapidly drains after heavy rainfall, it moves moisture back up to the bunker sand during drier weather through upward capillary action to restore moisture to the bunker sand to provide more ideal playing conditions.

During the process of identifying the ideal bunker lining for Mortonhall, this product kept coming to the fore and after reviews from the clubs that had already used it (Gleneagles, Loch Lomond and Bruntsfield Links) we chose this product to be our bunker lining. The installation was quite simple, although at times hard work, but with good teamwork we managed to get a high quality final product. The initial results have been fantastic and we are certain that we chose the best product for our objectives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIM4_N51YbE

Click on the link above to see how the concrete copes with 20 litres of water

Turf and Mowing

The turf has wintered extremely well, even though we experienced a drought spell for a month after it was laid (turf required watering regularly during this period). It has taken very well during the times we have mown it and we couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out. Obviously it is not as mature as the other areas on the course, so it won’t be as hard wearing as these areas (could take up to 2 years for areas to develop strong rooting and wear resistance), so could I please ask everyone to take great care and replace divots when playing from the new turf.

The new turf is looking stunning for the start of the season

The newly turfed areas that are due to become aprons, run offs and parts of fairway are not yet ready to be closely mown down to desired heights (8 – 12 mm), as lowering height too soon will greatly affect the overall health and development of the turf. We will gradually lower the height of cut in future weeks and start to incorporate these closely mown areas around the bunkers and bring them into play when possible.

Raking and Sand Depths

After all the hard work that has been put into the design and build of the bunkers it is crucial that we maintain them to make sure that the time spent has been worthwhile. The initial gradients that were excavated and shaped into the faces and back edges of the bunkers prior to concrete installation were extremely important to how the bunker works (all the bunkers slope into the centre of the bunker where the drains are) and these initial gradients are also extremely important to how the bunker plays (all golf balls should roll into the centre of the bunkers). This means the greenstaff must maintain these bunkers by raking to a standard that gets the best results regarding playability and to limit the chances of your ball coming to rest on a bunker face or back edge

The way we are going to achieve the best results is to deliver firm faces and edges by flat raking and regular firming in, then fluffing up the bases with the use of a springbok rake. The smooth, firm faces and back edges will in time limit the chances of plugged balls and  balls coming to rest near the bunker edges (although this will not be 100% effective in stopping poor lies and uneven stances). The greenstaff will produce the sand to the desired depths (4 inches base, 2 inches face and back edge) but we will also need some help from our members. We have made a short video on how we would like you to rake a bunker after playing your shot (video clip is certainly not as entertaining as the out-takes. The plus point however, is that I will definitely make £250 from You’ve Been Framed in the future).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q82naQEDWZo&t=6s

Please click on photo above to view “How To Rake A Bunker” video

End Product

As already mentioned we are delighted with how Phase 1 turned out. We started this work way back in the middle of September relative novices on the art of working with outside contractors, bunker shaping, concrete installation and all the aftercare that comes along with this type of work. But by the end we have come out with new skills, knowledge and now form part of a very cohesive team with expert contractors, a great architect and fine suppliers. The same team goes into Phase 2 with a high degree of confidence and focus to do an even better job.

We welcomed along a group of Bigga East Section Greenkeepers

News has been spreading of all the bunker work we have been carrying out, so much so that we had a request from the East of Scotland Bigga Region to pay us a visit to see all the improvements we have achieved. Sixteen greenkeepers turned up for a course walk.  We gave them some insight on the methods we used, the planning that went in to it and the aftercare that continues on the new bunkers. We thoroughly enjoyed showing off our new bunkers and as a whole, the guys who came along all seemed deeply impressed with what we had achieved.  Getting such high praise from our fellow peers proves we are on the right track.

Since Phase 1 is now complete and open for business.  I have put together a YouTube video of the work we undertook to get where we are today. The video is  largely down to me not needing too much of an excuse to show off my new found skill in video editing, but hopefully it highlights the amount of effort the team put into the project and the enjoyment we got from it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bGT4K6-urg

Click on photo above to view Phase 1 Bunker Video

 

Graden Work and Top Dressing

After being delayed a few times due to machine breakdowns and wet weather, we completed the Graden process on the greens. The end result was perfect, with huge amounts of dried sand applied to the top 0 – 20 mm of the greens. I will admit the greens surfaces are not at their best at the moment but they have had some serious, but much needed work carried out on them in the last month or so.  They will only improve from now on. We have fertilised the greens and the water system is now turned on after its winter shut down so we are now expecting growth in the future when the temperatures rise a touch (a daily average of 8 degrees provides ideal growth conditions). We will continue to cut and roll the greens to provide the best surface possible in the meantime – they are getting better every day.

With the work carried out over coring and Graden, we have already improved our goal to lower thatch levels. We are trying to lower thatch levels by lowering organic matter and applying top dressing –the plan being to apply 160 tonnes of dressing throughout the year, with the expectation to lower thatch closer to our advised STRI agronomist percentages.

We have already applied 70 tonnes (Coring 30 / Graden 40) to the greens, with an expected 40 tonnes to be added during the autumn renovations. This leaves us 50 tonnes to be applied through the season to reach our desired total. We will do this by regularly applying light dressings every 2 weeks (3 tonnes at a time). These light dressings will hardly be noticed on the surface, with possibly a slightly slower green speed as the only negative during these times. However, it will continue to dilute thatch levels, level surfaces, improve firmness levels and most importantly get us closer to the possibility of lowering the frequency and aggressiveness of green maintenance in spring and autumn renovations.

 

Practice Nets

We have completed major renovations to the practice facility by installing new nets, astroturf and in general giving the whole area a good makeover. It took David and myself a bit offtime to complete, with us losing a fair amount of blood in the process (we are currently held together by plasters) but the end product was certainly worth all the hardship.

Before, During and After of the Practice Nets Renovations

The roof has been raised to limit damage from iron shots and hopefully the re used baffle netting will take the brunt of all golf shots. We will regularly monitor the nets in the future to look out for signs of wear and rectify when necessary.

By Shaun Cunningham

March 2019

 

March 2019

The main event for us last month was the aeration and coring work we carried out on the greens, which after much deliberation and weather watching was moved forward a week to give us the best opportunity to carry out the work to a high standard and in turn get the best possible results. The weather forecast we were looking at was pretty grim, especially the week we planned to carry out the graden work (this work is simply not feasible to do in poor weather) so we felt we had no choice but to bring all the work a week forward. The decision was not made lightly and we would like to thank everyone for their understanding during this period. A turn of events however, outwith our control then occurred that put paid to our planned graden work which I will explain later on in this blog, along with a few other things we got up to in the month of February.

Clearance Work

We hired in a machine called a RoboCut for a week to help us with clearing gorse and whins on hard to reach areas. The machine works by remote control with a spinning disc at the front, and as long as there are no rocks near the surface and the gorse stems are not too thick, it will pretty much go through anything. We got it in as it does the job much quicker and does a better job than we can do. Also, it is much safer letting the machine do all the hard work on steep slopes rather than us working with a chainsaw on uneven and dangerous underfoot conditions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH5Nq0ngsCY&t=27s

Click on the photo above to view video of the RoboCut in action at the 16th

The end product was fantastic and it has greatly improved the areas worked on. A big shout out must go to Colin, who used the machine all the time it was with us. Having never seen the machine before it arrived, Colin quickly became an expert with its controls and its capabilities and the quality results were largely down to him.

The areas we worked on were on holes 2, 8, 10, 16, 17, 18 and the practice area. The reasons for carrying out work there was down to the gorse and whins basically becoming out of hand and encroaching and tightening the holes. This had led to issues with golfer’s safety and playability and it was felt it had to be acted on before the issues had got any worse.

We have also finished off clearing the area along the 18th path, widening the path and raking away all the old gorse needles, exposing the soil. We hope with the addition of soil and grass seed on this area, it will result in grass coverage in the future. When we were working in the area we also managed to put some much needed work into the path at the 2nd.  We cleared away vegetation from the hand rail and edged, levelled, weeded, widened, fixed ruts and put a whacker plate over the whole area. This resulted in the path being less of a trip hazard and much better to look at.

 

Sudden Thaw Dynamics

You might have noticed on the noticeboard an article I made up to explain why Temporary Greens remain in place even though at times the main greens appear to be frost free. I’ve included it in this blog just in case you missed it and I hope it helps you understand why we need to protect the greens after times of prolonged frost.

Traffic damage on frozen turf areas usually occurs during periods of freezing or thawing. With the most devastating situation being when the grass blades and the upper 25 – 40 mm of soil has thawed, but with the ground beneath remaining frozen. Foot traffic will create a shearing action to the roots, rhizomes and crown tissue at this time. This is comparable to cutting the plant tissue from its underlying root system with a turf cutter. There is a high probability of a complete kill of leaves, crowns and rhizomes occurring if the temperatures soon then drop below freezing. We check for these conditions, usually by sticking a screwdriver into the greens surface. if it come into contact with frozen soil within 40mm of the surface, temporary greens will be used. Although I understand that this is a little inconvenient when you just want to play golf to the big greens, our main aim is to provide healthy turf all year round and this can only be done by protecting the surfaces that are at most risk of being damaged during these conditions.

 

Other Business

Irrigation Work

You will have noticed we have been digging trenches at holes 1,6 and 16 and the reason for this is we are putting in new irrigation pipes on these parts of the course. The work needed to be done as some irrigation pipes were damaged during the bunker work (no matter how much planning went into the bunker work it was inevitable that some pipes were going to be damaged with the amount of digger work that was happening). Another reason for new irrigation pipes is that we need to re-route some around the newly positioned bunkers. After excavating and exposing the pipes, irrigation contractors came in to fix and install new sections and we then followed them by back filling the trenches, firming in and putting the turf back. When our irrigation contractor was in he turned the water system back on after its winter shutdown. The system is now ready and in full working order for the coming season.

Ladies Winter Tees

After requests from members we repositioned the Ladies winter tees on holes 5, 8, 9, and 12 and introduced new mats to protect the tees and improve the golfing experience. We understand that the previous areas where they were situated had become a bit muddy and not ideal to be playing from so hopefully this will improve the situation. Once the bunker project is finished we will return to our usual strategy of reviewing and renovating all types of tees on a priority basis to improve playability as part of our winter projects schedule.

 

Aeration and Coring Work

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

 

              

Verti Drain (For Compaction)                   ProCore (For Thatch Removal)

 

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

 

Top Dressing and The Final Clean Up

 

Top dressing with sand is the key part to thatch control and reduction. After we have taken out the core we then fill with straight sand. This dilutes the thatch (basically we are swapping the spongey water holding thatch and replacing it with free draining sand). We put down around 30 tonnes during this process and we are delighted with how these renovations went.

 

Graden Work

As you will be well aware of by now, we didn’t start the graden work that was scheduled to begin on Monday 25th February. As already mentioned, we brought this procedure forward so we could have optimum conditions (no rain or frost) to undertake this work and in turn get the best results possible. Unfortunately for us, the quarry we were getting the dry, bagged sand from had a major breakdown with its bagging depot, which led to them being unable to bag the sand we needed to carry out the work. The sand we want to use has a specification which is designed exactly to our requirements, so we can’t just get any kind of sand to use as it is simply not right for what we want to achieve.  Also, the sand we use must be bagged and sealed (the procedure only works well when the sand going in the machine is completely dry). Sadly, this situation has left us with little option but to wait until we get the sand delivered. This has been extremely frustrating for us as the weather on the planned week was absolutely perfect, with no rain, low temperatures or heavy dews.

We have been assured by the disritubutors that the machinery will be fixed soon and the sand will be delivered to us by Tuesday 5th March, and we will start work on the greens the following day. The weather forecast for the week looks to be ok so we will work the graden machine and clear any debris until the weather says otherwise. If we are held up with any rain, the plan is continue work at the earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, I will give you a little insight in to why we are undertaking this new procedure on the greens and show a quick video to illustrate how the machine works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3luAJBz1E_A

Click on photo above to see how the Graden works

 

The reasoning for the extra greens maintenance this year is because of the results we received from our annual STRI Agronomist’s Report, raising concerns about the levels of thatch below our putting surfaces (especially 0 – 20 mm depth). If this issue is not adressed, the thatch levels will only lead to deteroration of the greens, with increased disease outbreak, higher moisture levels, poor growth and inconsistent surfaces. The graden machine is perfect for targeting the top 20mm of the soil profile as it takes a much greater percentage of thatch out of the soil than hollow coring (coring is still the answer however to thatch reduction on the 20 – 40 mm depth). Its process works by cutting and removing unwanted thatch, and also has the ability to inject sand into the slits that it creates. By removing more thatch we can in turn apply more sand into the profile. We feel this is the best approach to take to get our thatch levels down to a manageable percentage and within our target range, so we can produce consistent, firmer and healthier surfaces.

This process will be done over 3 whole days and we will use 1,440 bags (25kg) of dry sand to complete all the greens. This will add up to 36,000 kg or 36 tonnes in old money of sand that will be applied manually (I am not looking forward to lifting all those bags but at least I will be burning off 1000’s of calories in the process). At the moment we cannot predict how long the greens will be on temporaries as it is our first time using this method but the greens will be back in play sooner than they would be when we core them as we don’t need to top dress them afterwards.

 

Bunker Project

The new bunkers are pretty much finished, with only the odd top up of sand here and there when nescessary. We will continue to assess the sand depths and how the bunkers are reacting to high winds and other weather extremes, as well as us raking them reguarly.

In next month’s blog I will have an in depth piece on the bunker project to coincide with the launch of the new bunkering and the introduction of a full 18 hole course again. Hopefully I will have some interesting video clips, information and education for you to have a look at. It has been quite a journey since work started in September, but the stunning results are now there for all to see. We are in the final furlong and don’t need to wait long before we can cut the ribbons, crack open the champagne and get to playing the full course on 1st April.

 

By Shaun Cunningham

February 2019

Over the last month the conditions we have experienced has given us the ideal opportunity to continue to work through our winter program. Gorse clearing and sand installations have been our main focus points during this time and the changes made during these tasks will make a huge difference to how the course looks and plays for the future seasons, especially the gorse and vegetation removal. So here goes with the little insight of what has been going on with us on and off the course in the month of January.

Winter Program
Over the past few weeks, the ground conditions and temperatures have made it extremely difficult for us to do anything other than clearance work. After completing the 18th path we began around 16th tee, following on from last year’s work by taking away the rest of the gorse to the right side of the path. We have been advised to remove the gorse in accordance with our 5 year tree management plan that we started last year. The advice was to remove gorse over the crest of the mound to expose outward views to Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh and Braid Hills. It was felt that it
was an asset of the course that wasn’t being used to its full potential, as the gorse had become quite degenerate. We have also removed a few elders and birch trees that were obscuring the views.

Before and After
Before and After
Before and After
Before and After

Once we finished that area we started to concentrate on the gorse and other vegetation at the front of the tee. Again the gorse had become overgrown to a point that most of the fairway had become obscured from the tee (especially those who are vertically challenged like myself). The tee shot at 16th is one of the most picturesque on the course with its gorse lined fairway but it had got to the point that it was virtually impossible to see the first 150 yards of the hole plus the whole left side of the hole. Although we have not completed the whole area as yet, we are confident
that the end product will be much more appealing and much safer, as you can now see the group in front, from the tee. It will be a less intimidating and simpler tee shot from now on, and by referencing the amount of golf balls we unearthed from this area it clearly shows that it was a popular spot for any imperfect tee shots.

When we have finished clearing we will then remove as many gorse stumps as possible so they will not return and then landscape area. In the future the area will be maintained as much as possible to limit the chances of regeneration. Last year we finished off the worked on area with cores and seed, this worked well so that is the approach we will use again.

16th Tee
16th Tee

Bunker Project
We have nearly completed all the new bunkers with their final levels of sand, but we still have to complete 2 bunkers at the 16th as the freezing temperatures turned up and stopped us from finishing them. The end product has 4 inches of sand in the base and 2 inches around faces and back edges (as mentioned in last month’s blog the bunkers will be raked to ensure that balls don’t come to rest on the edges of the bunkers). The final level of sand has been in place for more than two weeks now and the initial signs have been very good, with no washouts and sand movement so far (although we haven’t experienced large amounts of rainfall yet) and the sand moisture in the bunker is improving every day (on initial installation moisture content was 40%, it has continued to dry out and has now levelled out at 25%, which is perfect and shows drains are clearly working).

When we were putting in final layer of sand we gave all the bunker edges a strim and tidy up to give the bunkers a more professional look and give you an idea what the end product is going to look like. We also gave them a few follow up rakes to get an idea what they are like to maintain and had a few practise shots to get an idea of how they play, again initial reaction is that they can be raked quite easily and most importantly they have a high level of playability and consistency. In the future, before they are back in play we will give the bunkers another going over with a whacker plate to make sure they are firm and then make sure the sand is still distributed evenly (we will add some extra sand to the bases, back edges and faces if required).

Bunkers have been edged, tidied and final layer of sand added
Bunkers have been edged, tidied and final layer of sand added

The Greenstaff
The last month has been rather eventful for the greenstaff with some added training and developments to go along with our normal daily working life. Firstly the greenstaff attended some CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training with a volunteer from St. Johns Ambulance to teach us the skills needed for us to operate the clubs new Defibrillator (located on the wall to the left of the pro shop). The training provided us with the knowledge and steps on how to perform effective CPR and the essential skills required to operate a Defibrillator. This training
was greatly rewarding for us and left us prepared on how to deal with a cardiac arrest in the unlikely event of this happening to someone when we are close by. More important events were experienced by members of our greenstaff this month also, as Craig passed his chainsaw test and Grant became the new chairman of the BIGGA East Section. Instead of me going on about how they feel and how much work they put into it, I’ll let them tell you about their fine achievements in their own words (their spelling will probably be better than mine anyway).

Bigga East Chairman
“ Recently I was given the opportunity to become chairman of my greenkeeper section (East of Scotland), which covers all courses from West Lothian down to Northumberland including all clubs in East Lothian and the Borders. The main reason I decided to take the role was I wanted to challenge myself and help further my career with the prospect of greater education and tournament volunteering opportunities. Bigga does a lot of good work behind the scenes for greenkeepers and it is something that I wanted to be a part of as I have a great passion for my job and the industry I’m involved in. I have the role of chairman for two years and my goal is to make a positive difference during my tenure.” Grant Moran

Chainsaw Qualification
“ The course consisted of learning about the saw and how to maintain it, and how to fell trees up to 380mm safely and efficiently with a variety of different type cuts, depending on the situation. During the test I had to display to the assessor how to properly maintain the saw and he asked a variety of questions about the maintenance and what part of the saw did what. In the afternoon I had to fell two trees that were sitting at different angles, using different methods whilst being asked a series of questions.”

“ I’m delighted that I’ve now got my chainsaw certificate. It’s a course that I have been interested in for a wee while now, and I’m thankful to the club for giving me the opportunity to do it. It’s great that they encourage you to add another qualification to your name and I am sure I will put this new qualification to good use during the Tree Management Plan over the next few years.”

Tree cutting
Tree cutting
Lantra Awards
Lantra Awards

Course Maintenance
Just after the turn of the year we managed to carry out some much needed maintenance to the greens. With the conditions ideal we carried out a range of procedures, spiking, scarifying, verti draining, chisel tining and finally top dressing. These procedures are all part of the management programme we have in place for 2019 and if you remember back to last month’s blog, I mentioned that we needed to focus on providing healthy green surfaces to help fight against the problems we have on the greens (disease, thatch, moisture content, poor root depth and sward composition). By producing the correct foundations (good drainage, lower thatch levels, improving root depths and lower moisture content) we can develop our greens to have greater resistance against the problems we are experiencing.
The procedures we carried out all helped with our main objectives of sustainable, consistent and healthy greens –
Spiking Greens : improved aeration and compaction (better air and water flow)
Scarifying : removes thatch and other poor growth
Verti Draining : drastically improves drainage and root depths
Chisel Tining : closes verti drain holes and improves surface playability
Top Dressing : greatly helps dilute thatch levels and improves putting surface

Course Maintenance
Course Maintenance
Course Maintenance
Course Maintenance

 

 

 

 

 

These procedures were a great success, although you might not be able to see it from looking at the greens at the moment, but every time we carry out this kind of work we can only but improve the general health of the greens. We plan to do much more of these maintenance days in the future and we will try to give the members a heads up a few days before carrying out work as much as possible, but at times the weather might decide for us what day we carry out maintenance. We will highlight any work on the twitter feed on club’s website.

By Shaun Cunningham

January 2019

As we say our goodbyes to 2018 and welcome the new 2019 season, we are currently experiencing a very unusual period of mild weather for the time of year. It has been ideal for you golfers to get out on the course regularly and also for us to continue working our way through our winter tasks, which I will explain in more detail later. This month’s update will also include some information about the weather (because greenkeepers love talking about the weather) and hopefully some helpful insight, understanding and reassurances on the problems we are currently experiencing on the greens from fusarium outbreak and scarring.

Over the autumn and winter period we have suffered severely from constant fusarium disease activity which has caused all the greens surfaces to become uneven and unsightly at times due to the carring left from the various outbreaks we have had. The fusarium scars we experiencing on the greens Although fusarium outbreaks have become regular occurrences at Mortonhall due to the ideal environment we have here, (high thatch, high levels of play, meadow grass coverage, high moisture, compaction and humid conditions) the period we are having at the moment has been the worst any of us can remember. The reason for the high levels of activity is mostly down to the greens being highly stressed after the drought months we had throughout summer, which was extreme to say the least. It was then closely followed by heavy downpours. Take the August rainfall total for example, we had 70 mm fall during the month which is fine and on par with the average total but the total amount fell in only four days. Basically, we got a great dollop of rain, rather than spread evenly, which then flooded the course and washed any applied fertilisers and fungicides away through the soil and produced a massive growth burst. This put immense pressure on the health of the plant and initiated fusarium activity.
Fusarium scarring Fusarium scarring

The stress on the greens as well as the unusually mild winter we are having has also meant the disease is constantly getting ideal conditions to develop and spread. Normally through the winter period we get sharp frosts and low temperatures which help knock back the disease, but at the moment we are just not getting any help from the weather. I know this is not what you want to hear as it will mean you would need to play on winter greens but we (the greenkeepers) could really do with some prolonged hard frosts for a couple of weeks to help stop the growth and spread of this disease.
The scarring on the greens will unfortunately be present for the foreseeable future as we do not have high enough temperatures or growth to fill in the gaps left in the turf. When suitable conditions arrive we will plug, repair, seed and dress problem areas to deliver a smoother surface. In the meantime future light top dressings combined with mowing and rolling will hopefully improve the situation.

What’s The Future

In the past we have treated disease outbreaks with fungicides when they show signs of outbreak. Unfortunately, the fungicides on the market are becoming less potent and effective now due to the EU Commission’s decision to withdraw certain active ingredients from general use as they decided that they posed a risk to the environment, the wildlife and to human health. The contact fungicide that we used mostly was very much like an antiseptic cream for humans, as it was a case of when there was disease activity on the greens we would apply instantly and the fungicide killed it and stopped it from spreading. This, however, this is not the case anymore as contact fungicides are now banned. The withdrawal of certain chemicals from sale is not necessarily a bad thing as this will make our course more environmentally friendly, but it does mean we must change the management of our greens and focus on maintaining healthy surfaces using a more cultural approach as this will be the best form of control and defense.
The goal we have in the future is to create greens which are sustainable, taking into account the challenges of environmental pressures, weather patterns, chemical legislation and the demand for year round golf. To achieve this we need to focus on delivering an environment which supports a sustainable model. By producing the correct foundations (good drainage, good top dressing applications, lower thatch levels, lower nutrient inputs and sensible mowing heights) we can then improve the sward composition, minimise disruption, achieve consistency, and have year round
performance and health on the greens, while reducing the costs. A management programme for the greens has already been drafted for the 2019 season and we are hopeful that it will improve the general health of the greens and provide greater resistance against fusarium, climate change etc.. Basically the approach we are trying to introduce with this maintenance programme for 2019 is to
develop a preventative approach across all the green surfaces. Using appropriate maintenance and materials using a risk assessment mentality, we will look to limit the ideal conditions that fusarium disease flourishes in, so we can keep one step ahead of any future outbreaks.

Winter Projects

This winter we won’t be undertaking large projects like we would normally do, such as installing drainage or levelling tees as we have been focusing on our Bunker Project. The installation of concrete and sand took us well into December to complete and that is normally the time that we would be well into our winter projects. We didn’t want to start any major jobs in the middle of December just in case the weather took a turn for the worse with low temperatures, heavy rainfall and snow (drainage work and tee levelling is nearly impossible in these conditions). Thankfully,
we will still be kept busy with jobs that we can work through in times when the weather conditions are not ideal. The projects we will be working on in the coming months will include much needed renovations to the practise nets, clearing along pathways and continuing work on our Tree Management Plan. Even though these tasks are not as exciting and interesting for us as undertaking drainage work etc.,they are still extremely important jobs to make the golf course better.

Bunker Project

We have whacked and firmed in all the bases and faces of the new bunkers which was time consuming and quite honestly not very enjoyable but the end product is exactly what we were looking for. The next step in the process is to install the final 2inches of sand to the bases of the bunkers and we have completed this process in 3 bunkers (7th, 17th and 18th). As I mentioned last month we were going to completely finish a couple of bunkers with the correct depth of sand as a trial to see how the bunker and sand reacts to the weather over the winter months and highlight any issues well before the start of the new season.

New Bunker
The whacker plate has been putting in the hours in the last month.

Having the correct depths of sand in these bunkers has also given us the opportunity to try a couple of different methods on how to rake the bunkers. So far we have tried our normal method of raking and also a smooth rake around the edges method, which is a bit more time consuming but could be an option for us if our normal method is not suitable for the new bunkers. At the moment the normal rake will be used but we will get a better idea of what works best when we get the bunkers back in play and see how they perform.

raking method 1 Raking method 2

The initial gradients that were excavated and shaped into the faces and back edges of the bunkers prior to concrete installation were extremely important to how the bunker works (all thebunkers slope into the centre of the bunker where the drains are) and these initial gradients are also extremely important to how the bunker plays (all golf balls should roll into the centre of the bunkers). This means we must maintain these bunkers by raking to a standard that gets the best results regarding playability and to limit the chances of your ball coming to rest on a bunker face or back edge.

Clearing The 18th Path

Over the years the gorse down the right side of the path towards the 18th tee has become overgrown and untidy, and the fire damage that occurred during July has meant that the area is earmarked for some much needed attention. We have started to clear a 2 metre area along the path to make the walk down to the tee a little less enclosed and it has made quite a difference. Taking the gorse away has also given us the opportunity to edge the astroturf back to where it should be, which has made the path much wider (weeds and grass had encroached up to 2 feet in some parts of the path). Another major plus point is that we have exposed the hand rail so you can use it without the worry of being stung by gorse and brambles.

Clearing the gorse back has also given us a better view down the right side of the fairway from the yellow and medal tee as the overgrown gorse had limited the view of any pushed tee shots. There is also a couple of sycamore trees that have grown up in amongst the gorse that really shouldn’t be there and are stopping your view down the right side so we will take them away when we are working in the area. We have still got a little bit to finish from the winter tee down to the end of the path but it shouldn’t take us too long to complete when we get back to it. When I’m going on about paths you will notice that most of the astroturf paths have been covered in a layer of sand to limit the chances of slipping or falling over the coming months. These areas can become quite hazardous during the winter as they become quite greasy and susceptible to frost. Applying a blanket of sand across the paths is not very aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I admit, but it works very well in limiting any hazardous conditions. The sand has also got rock salt mixed through it to limit the chances of the paths freezing.

Aeration Work

Over the last month we have really done some fantastic aeration work over many areas of the course. This is an extremely time consuming job so we very rarely find enough time to blanket verti drain across the course but luckily we have found the time this winter. We have verti drained all the aprons (takes up to an hour per apron) and went over many other areas, such as parts of fairways, walkways and areas of rough.

Aeration Work
One of the most beneficial tasks we will do this winter

We aerate to relieve compaction in problem areas, and it is essential to help poor drainage, poor root depth, poor soil conditions and drought. The compaction we get on the course is mainly reated by everyday activity, traffic from golfers and cutting machinery. To relieve this problem we punch holes into the surface to a depth of up to 10 inches. This process opens up the compacted soil allowing better water and air flow with the benefits including improved drainage, better intake of moisture and nutrients, better soil structure and healthier rootzones. If the conditions are suitable we will continue to aerate, starting with whole fairways over the next few months.

2018’s Extreme Weather

In 2018 we experienced a wide range of extreme weather patterns. If it wasn’t the onslaught from the Beast From The East, it was relentless downpours and in the summer we had a drought for 2 months followed by storms Ali and Callum battering us with high winds and floods. It 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 (no matter what Donald Trump thinks). 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.

Rainfall (mm)

 2012201320142015201620172018Av.30 years
Jan37595664125267063
Feb1127573165563549
March844505123477850
April832857286446942
May7147676332291748
June143126425701805162
July18279359067743365
August8520894048897064
September7242202832624960
October115102922539533079
November65294016049435964
December88976816967613665
Totals960586695774681724597711

The main issue we had with the weather last year revolved around rainfall. We simply did not get the regular rainfall we required to keep the playing surfaces healthy and presentable. The above monthly figures and end totals show that the amounts were a little lower than normal but nothing too much to worry about.

However, these totals don’t tell the whole story. From May to September we had virtually no rainfall for weeks on end and as I have already mentioned the totals for these months were from only a few days of rainfall (we got many heavy downpours instead of regular rain) which was not ideal if you are trying to produce balanced growth. An example to highlight the reduced rain we have had since May is by looking at Elf Loch. Normally at this time of the year the pond is at full capacity and we need to open the outlet pipe and drain to stop the 2nd fairway from flooding. At the moment the water level is nowhere near where it usually is. A few months ago the level was alarmingly low and areas of the bed were visible. It is now starting to fill up gradually and will continue to rise when we eventually get the rain that we are accustomed to.

Greenkeeper Review 2018

Since we have left 2018 behind, I thought it would be a good idea to make up a little video review for the past year as a way to show what changes we have made to the course through the year, the standards we have delivered and the exciting times ahead for us and the course as well as showing we had a little fun along the way. It is also a 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. Would like to point out for insurance purposes, no
greenkeepers were harmed in the making of this video.

December 2018

In the last month the climate has certainly taken a turn for the worse, with temperatures getting much lower and producing the odd ground frost in the morning along with higher rainfall figures to deal with. However, with a few extras layers of clothing on we have managed to complete the initial installation of sand to the new bunkers, kept the course leaf free and playable as much as possible and added some definition to the course along with keeping surfaces healthy with continued mowing and maintenance programmes. So here’s a quick insight on what we have been up to lately and what we have to look forward to in the coming months.

The New Bunkers
The end is in sight for Phase 1 of the bunker project with the initial layer of sand now complete, with just under 120 tonnes of sand added by hand to deliver the first part of the process. As mentioned last month, we will be putting in an initial 2 inch layer of sand throughout each bunker, then compact it to produce a firm base for us to install the final layer in the coming months. We compact the sand using a portable whacker plate which you would normally see being used on road works. It is an ideal tool for us to produce a compacted base layer. The difference between a compacted layer and an uncompacted one is huge as it provides a consistent base for the second layer of sand to go down on. We have had a few practice shots out of the “whacked” bunkers to see how they play and the results are fantastic (even I knocked a few close to the pin and I’m notoriously rubbish out of bunkers). With a fresh 2 inch layer on top,we will deliver the ideal conditions for consistent and playable bunkers, For the time being however, the new bunkers and turf are still not open for play. We will let you know of the opening dates in due course.

Whacker being used on the 18th bunkers:
New Bunker New Bunker

In the near future we will be looking to completely finish a couple of bunkers with the correct depth of sand as a trial to see how the bunker reacts to the weather over the winter months and highlight any issues well before the start of the new season. This will give us ample time to rectify any snagging problems before the new season starts. It will also give us the opportunity to try a few different methods on how to maintain these bunkers – basically to find out the best way to rake and prepare these bunkers to provide the best end results regarding consistency and playability.

New turf at 2nd hole getting its first haircut:
2nd turf

The new turf around the bunkers has rooted brilliantly and is growing well, so much so that we have given these areas their first cuts. We will continue to mow when required and also tidy up the edges with a strimmer in future to keep them neat. With the grass being mown and sand in, the end product is pretty much there for all to see and it gives you a vision of what to expect next year. This exciting period in the club’s history is nearly upon us and we are looking forward to getting the fences around the bunkers down and the bunkers into play for the coming season.

R & A Scholarship
Along with the golf course starting an exciting period in its history, I am looking forward to an exciting period in the future also as I have managed to secure a scholarship from the R&A. Since I have been selected for this award I have been asked many times, what exactly is it, howI got it, what does it involve and what will I get from it. I would probably not do the initiative justice by trying to explain how it works and what it entails so hopefully the link below will help you get a better understanding about it (have a look at the video clip and open the pdf at the bottom of the page to get a perfect description of what the R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship Programme is all about).
https://www.randa.org/en/theranda/working-for-golf/greenkeeping-support

What I can tell you is that I got the opportunity to apply for the scholarship as I am currently undertaking a HND Course at Elmwood College. After the application process I was invited to attend a rather intense interview with the Head of Sustainability at the R&A, the Head of Greenkeeping at Elmwood and the current Course Manager at Crail Golfing Society. I must have done ok as I was awarded a scholarship the following week and it gives me the financial backing – up to £1000 every year to go towards education, travelling expenses, courses, networking opportunities and anything else that could help my future development. The timescale on being an R&A Scholar is unlimited but I need to prove myself continuously as I get reassessed each year to show that I am using the opportunity to best affects. At the moment there are only 280 scholarships on the go around the globe so I am very honoured to be one of them and I don’t intend to let it slip through my fingers anytime soon.
Another bonus is the unique opportunity it gives me to work at the 28 R&A backed tournaments around the world. In the future I could be off to visit countries like Australia, USA, South Africa, France and Singapore to name a few.I look forward to incorporating some of the new knowledge, methods and techniques I gain from these experiences into the day to day activities at Mortonhall. The YouTube clip below shows you what I could get up to.

Mowing / Maintenance
We have mown playing surfaces all over the course to maintain definition and playing qualities with the height of cut raised slightly on all these areas to mainly lower stress levels and keep turf healthy. That’s pretty much the last cut these areas will get until the new year unless necessary but we will continue to mow and roll greens regularly to produce the best playing surface possible.
The greens have had some maintenance work to them in the last month which has worked well. We spiked the greens to relieve a little compaction in the surface and to allow air into the soil beneath (basically letting the green breathe) and we will continue to do this throughout the winter when possible. This was followed by a light dressing which will help improve the smoothness of the surface from the leftover disease damage. Lastly, we applied a slow release fertiliser which provides long lasting and balanced growth which is ideal for use in the colder months as it provides better resistance to turf stress and improves strength of the turf.
The greens have recovered well from all this work and are still performing reasonably well but most of all, not holding too much water going into December.

The spiker was brought out of retirement to spike the greens:
Coring

The fairways have also been given some much needed attention as we have been spiking and verti draining the most compacted and moisture retentive areas. This is undertaken to improve the drainage and improve turf recovery rates. We have also applied worm suppressors to problem areas (5th, 8th, 15th and 18th) which along with the aeration work carried out will certainly help to control the worm cast activity that makes fairways look unsightly, difficult to mow, become muddy and promote unwanted growth.
Finally, we applied liquid iron to all the fairways which will help to harden turf, improve colour, boost root growth and help the general health of the plant. The initial results so far have been very encouraging.

Leaf Litter and Tree Work
Leaf litter is still a major problem at the moment, and we are needing to find more time to deal with the leaf fall on a daily basis. The first thing we do each morning is to use leaf blowers to remove leaves from putting and tee surfaces but unfortunately high winds can migrate leaf litter back onto playing surfaces only a few hours after they have been removed. Leaves on the course are clearly a problem as it impacts playability. They must be removed as they can have a smothering effect on surfaces leading to water retention which can in turn lead to disease outbreak and muddy conditions.
Pine needle removal is also a must on the greens as the dead needles are highly acidic and can damage the soil ecology and they certainly affect your putting. Sadly this task takes a huge amount of time to complete (1st green and surrounds mainly) so we can’t find time to do it every day as it would affect other planned work. Hopefully some high winds along with some frosts will bring all the leaves and needles down and we can get them all cleared and off site.
You will have noticed that there has been some major tree work carried out at the 10th hole, with trees being taken away from behind the tee and green. This work is all part of Mortonhall’s Tree Management Plan that was produced by DR. Bob Taylor of STRI last year. The main objective of this plan is to maintain and improve the woodlands around the course to improve playability, visual interest, wildlife and the health of the turfgrass on the course.
There was a major problem on the 10th with the trees surrounding the tee and green,letting very little light and air to the areas. The lack of air and light seriously limits the process of photosynthesis, which is the basis for all grass growth. If you remember back to biology at high school and the photosynthesis equation, light energy is used to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen and energy. So if we don’t get any light, we don’t get any growth. We are confident that the work carried out will be beneficial to the areas especially 10th medal tee.
It has not been a case of us taking down the trees wherever we wanted, as some of the woodland on the course is protected by the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and The Forestry Commission. All the work recommended to us by Dr. Taylor had to first be analysed by the relevant authorities and permission granted before felling took place. They were happy with our proposals, so consent was given.

Winter Course/Conditions
The sustained wet weather has resulted in the normal areas on the course becoming worn and muddy, so we have been putting measures in place to limit damage, help playability, limit health and safety issues and most of all, keep your new golf shoes mud free. The conditions are not overly serious at the moment but the conditions will get worse when we get deep into winter. Problem areas have now been roped off, all our rubber matting has been put down on the slippery and undulating areas, and we will continue to move the ropes and rubber matting regularly to limit wear as much as possible. We will introduce more roped areas throughout the winter when necessary. Even with these measures in place there will still be areas which are slippery, uneven or soft underfoot, so please take great care when out playing, especially during or after poor weather conditions.
The winter course has been in place for a few weeks now, and all the winter tees are now in play. Also, the lift and drop areas have been introduced again on the 1st and 18thfairways with a slight change to the drop rules at the 1st (drop zones to be used when tee shot lands to the left of the fairway). Could I please ask members to adhere to these rules as it will greatly limit damage to the tees and fairways.

By Shaun Cunningham

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