Golf Course Update - in order to keep members fully updated of developments on the golf course, we will be distributing a course update following every Committee Meeting.

Course Update - FEBRUARY 2024

As always, we will start off with a look at the rainfall figures for the last few months. As I’m sure everyone is aware we have been going through a very wet period with each of the last 5 months being above our average rainfall count, some more significantly than others. September and October being the worst we have on record and the rain has continued throughout the winter. Obviously, this has led to extremely wet ground conditions and resulted in a number of closures and long periods on the winter greens. Luckily, we have managed recently to get back onto the main greens for a few days and if weather allows this will continue.


Month             Rainfall                 Monthly Average

September       161mm                            66mm
October            295mm                          119mm

November        124mm                           113mm
December        160mm                           135mm

January            117mm                             101mm

 

Greens

Despite the poor weather the greens have remained reasonably healthy throughout and with the help of two applications of a winter spray package they are in reasonably strong condition. The wet weather conditions have led to them being softer than we would have liked and to protect them we have moved over to winter greens when required. As mentioned above, with the recent break in the rain and some strong drying winds we have been able to return to the main greens on all but 3 holes (1,3 & 11). Had it not been for the drainage work being carried out on the greens at 1 & 3 we would also have been back on these two. Hole 11 has remained on the winter green to help protect it as much as possible as this is the poorest performing green drainage wise on the course. Plans are in place to rectify that, hopefully as part on the 2024 winter project list. In the last week we have managed to give the greens their first mow of the year with pedestrian mowers at a raised height of 7mm. Raising the height slightly, reduces the risk of scalping due to the soft ground conditions. We have also rolled them twice this passed week to help smooth out any footprints. We plan to spray again this week if the conditions remain favourable, to keep the grass plant healthy over the next few weeks and eliminate the risk of disease. We will also apply some lawn sand on some areas to combat the build-up of moss. We will spike the greens in the coming weeks and again if the weather plays ball we will try and get as many applications of top dressing as we can on early before the start of the season.


Tees, Approaches & Fairways

All of these areas have had very little work over the winter period limited to general tidying and blowing of any debris. Both tees and approaches need to be cored badly after missing out due to weather conditions and this will take place as soon as we are able. Most of the approaches remain too wet to pull cores out of the ground just now so we will more than likely start off with some of the drier tees once
we finish some of the winter projects. Both areas will receive heavy doses of topdressing sand to fill in the holes. We will also spray these areas to help boost them over the remainder of the winter period until we apply the first granular fertiliser of the season. The fairways will be sprayed in March to prepare them for the start of the season. We are currently looking at changing from our usual spray mixture of ammonium sulphate, ferrous sulphate and urea to a balanced liquid nutrient feed that contains calcium, iron and bio stimulants and may allow us to drop the need to spray a PGR (plant growth regulator).


Winter Projects

We are currently working our way through the winter project list with priority being given to the drainage works on the 1st & 3rd greens. The work on the 1st green included installing a main line drain through the middle of the green with 9 lateral drain lines on each side. These were all excavated out with a 6 inch digger bucket to a depth of 450mm, 100mm perforated pipe was then installed and back filled with 6-10mm gravel. We then topped up the remaining 8 inches of each trench with a rootzone mix and reinstated the turf. Due to the lie of the land it was fairly easy to ensure we had good run on all drain lines and we tied in to an existing drain that was performing very well to ensure we had a good outlet. An inspection box was added at the outlet so we can check that all is performing accordingly. This green has now been rolled twice and had its first cut and we have already noticed a massive difference in the moisture levels already. The 3rd green drainage works are currently still in progress but should be completed by the end of this coming week. All excavation work has been completed and we are in the process of reinstating the turf. The exact same process was carried out on this green although due to the contours we had to dig the main line to a deeper depth of 550mm to enable us to get enough run on each lateral. We also came across what can only be described as a dry-stone dyke underneath the back section of the green! This caused significant problems when excavating, as we removed the stone it was causing the edges of the trenches to cave in. This has also resulted in extra material having to be added to certain areas and slowed down the turfing process where we have had repair damaged turf edges.
Whilst we were in the area at the 1st green with the excavator, both greenside bunkers have been reshaped and new drainage installed. Both bunker faces had become too high due to a build up of sand from sand splash over the years which resulted in balls being stuck under the front edges. Rootzone will be added to the newly shaped banking’s and back raked ready for turfing works to complete them.
As part of our rough management program, we have started cutting out some of the thick rough areas with the tractor rotary deck then ran the flail collector behind to pick up the grass. We will continue working away at the remaining areas over the coming weeks.
In November we had contractors into Verti drain all fairways to improve drainage properties and also carry out some shockwave work on a selection of the wettest areas. We had good success with the shockwave work last year so have continued with more this year.
We will start to work through the rest of the planned winter works as soon as we complete the priority drainage works. This will include some more gorse removal, tree canopy raising, tidying and fixing potholes on paths, re-levelling of the 14th yellow/red tee and adding some hybrid matting to turf walk off areas.


Irrigation

The irrigation system was blown out and shutdown in November to make sure that we have no issues with freezing heads over the cold winter months. During the shutdown a full assessment of all heads is carried out and we only had one damaged head which was one of the smaller sprinkler heads on the 11th tee. This has been replaced and apart from that we only had a couple of weeping heads that were repaired throughout the whole season. The system will be fired back up in March ready for the start of the season.

 
Staff

After working last season on a casual contract and becoming a valued member of the team Allan Davidson has now moved onto a permanent contract which started in January. With Allan joining Alan Green, Gordon McLay and myself. I feel we have a very strong squad and the results of the drainage work carried out on the 1st green is an absolute credit to the team. We will also be boosted further with Elliot Stewart who will return for the summer. Gordon has recently welcomed the arrival of his baby daughter Esme, congratulations to Gordon and his fiancé Louise from all of the team.


Machinery

At the end of October we took delivery of our new Toro 4500 Semi Rough mower. This upgrade was very much required and replaces the previous machine which, after nearly 15 years, was causing maintenance and reliability issues. Due to the wet weather conditions and slow growth over the cold winter months the new mower hasn’t left the shed yet but is ready to go as and when required. This along with the new greens mower that arrived slightly earlier in the year ensures that we have a reasonably modern and reliable fleet and plans will be put in place to replace any other ageing machinery.
All the other mowing equipment have recently undergone a winter service and any underlying issues resolved so we are ready to go when growth picks up. All utility vehicles and tractors will also receive a winter service along with the tru-turf roller and some of the smaller equipment in the coming weeks.

Miscellaneous

The toilet block at the 9th tee was shut down and drained out at the start of November and although not ideal it should stop the issues that we had last year with broken pipes and cracked toilet bowls due to the freezing conditions. The toilets will be back in working condition as soon the worst of the colder weather passes and ready for the start of the new season.
With the recent storms we have had 3 trees of significant size come down mainly because they were rotten inside. Along with this we have had a lot of broken branches and debris fall which we have started to clear and will continue more intensely once we complete the drainage work at the 3rd green. There is also a dead tree next to the 14th tee that still requires to be removed and we have been in contact with contractors regarding this.
Again, before the start of the season we would like to organise a divoting squad. This helps massively to fill in any old divot holes/rabbit scrapings on the fairways and puts us in a good position for a busy summer golfing schedule. We will organise this once temperatures pick up a bit, to allow for germination of the grass seed. Details will be sent out nearer the time.
Finally, the winter greens have been regularly mowed and holes changed when required. This will continue for as long as needed. White lines were also painted last week. If weather allows, we will utilise the main greens as much as is possible but it’s also important that we are cautious to ensure that we go into the season strong with as little stress as possible on the green surfaces.
We have witnessed several courses struggling for the first couple of months of the season due to winter kill caused by too much play through poor/frosty conditions over the winter months.

Shaun McNaughton