Monthly updates from our Course Manager, Brian, and his team here at Baberton GC.
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March was a hugely busy month for Brian and the course team. Thankfully an improvement in the weather allowed the team to progress with the remainder of the winter programme, and progress this significantly towards its conclusion, as we communicated to members on 26th March.
One of the most significant pieces of work undertaken was the final major work on the greens for the winter, which was a repeat of the work undertaken in October. This consisted of coring/verti-draining and top-dressing. The objectives and final outcome of this procedure remained the same; to remove and dilute organic matter, and increase air space thereby improving drainage and root development to provide firmer, healthier surfaces. Unfortunately, a machinery breakdown on the 2nd green caused some damage in the middle of the green, but this was immediately patched and is healing well.
Fertiliser containing 3 types of nitrogen has now been applied to the greens which should further aid growth, members will see a jump in colour and overall health of the surfaces as a result. Scarring on the greens from winter disease outbreaks has been spiked and R9 grass seed applied. When there is a temperature rise, a plant growth regulator will be applied to tighten up the sward, this should enable smoother putting surfaces.
The new paths at the 1st and 14th have now been completed and the final dressing of the edges has also been undertaken. The other whin dust paths around the course have also been topped and levelled to create a better surface.
Unfortunately, the new bunkers have taken a more time to complete than expected. The facing turf has struggled to knit and bed in due to the recent high winds drying them out. Some recent rainfall and extra irrigation has seen an improvement and the bunkers will in play for the SAMH Texas Scramble on 16th April.
The condition of many of the teeing surfaces has been a real concern for Brian and the team. A mixture of snow mould disease and over-worn areas that have failed to recover has proven an issue. Steps have now been taken to address this, and the surfaces have been solid tined, over seeded and top-dressed. Additional turf has been purchased to address the worst areas and a fertiliser has been applied to push them on. Tees that have had new drainage installed have now started to settle after the rectified areas appeared a little high. When the grass comes out of its dormant state and begins to grow, we will see the levels balance out. To give some tees more recovery time, mats have been kept in play for longer than we’d like, however the aim is to have all mats removed by the 16th April.
The current cold snap is hindering growth on the greens and tees, ground temperatures need to be above 6degC for growth, today (9th April) the ground temperature is only 3degC. Fingers crossed we see an increase in temperatures in the coming weeks.
In last month’s report we hoped that February would see the end of the poor weather and an opportunity for Brian and the team to catch up following the extremely wet and snowy January. Unfortunately, February brought with it more heavy rain followed by substantial snowfall that forced the course to be closed for 16 days and had a significant impact on the team’s progress.
After the initial snow and ice melted, the worst affected areas of the greens were treated with fungicide treatment, but there was no window of opportunity to blanket spray them due to the course being saturated. The second wave of snow then fell, and our weakened greens surfaces endured an attack of snow mould. This outbreak was treated at the earliest opportunity along with some turf hardening products. A special fine rye grass has been purchased to over seed scarring, this seed will establish quickly and give us cover, but will likely be over-powered by the already established annual meadow grass once it comes to seed in May.
With an improvement in the weather in the final two weeks of the month, the team worked extremely hard to cram a large volume of work in to that period. The drier conditions enabled the transport of materials around the course allowing progress on some of the unfinished tasks. The flattened and filled bunker at the 12th fairway has now been seeded and the newly shaped forward bunker has been raked to a rough finish. A new drainage pipe has been installed into this bunker to improve drainage. All bunkers have now been edged and sand moved around in them to have a more balanced feel, these will be topped up when the weather permits.
The 1st teeing area has now been levelled and turfed using a mixture of slender creeping red fescue and dwarf rye. The final finishing of the teeing area will be completed when final materials arrive. The resin bases in our new bunkers on the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes have now been completed, with the finishing touches of turf edging and sand to be installed as soon as possible.
Progress/Remaining Winter Works
• Blocks for our new paths (1st and 14th) should arrive around the 9th March and should be laid shortly thereafter.
• Area surrounding the new tee at 1st will be turfed and completed along with the 15th approach.
• The OB area to the right hand side of the 1st has now been sprayed and dug out, one further spray and a rotovation is required prior to wildflower seeding.
• The 10th tee drain runs have now been filled and ready for turfing.
• The 16th fairway drain will be investigated once it has dried out a little more.
• A system of grids has been installed into the inlet area to the pipes that run across the valley at the 7th,12th and 13th holes. To aid water flow a system of gully pots has also been installed. All holes have now been filled in and turfed. The issue will be looked at in more depth next winter with the possibility of creating an open ditch in the rough areas between the fairways being considered.
• New bunkers will be finished off with rootzone and turfed when supplies arrive.
• All bunkers have been edged and sand moved, sand will be added to low bunkers when weather permits.
• Works to dress path edges with cores and seeding is ongoing.
• All greens and aprons will be hollow cored and top-dressed in coming weeks.
• Worn areas on tees will be patched with turf, spiked and top-dressed in coming weeks.
Turf is currently in high demand, so we will be receiving staggered deliveries which means specific timescales cannot be committed to some of the above activities. Due to the delays experienced following the poor weather, the completion of winter projects will continue throughout March before focus shifts to course set up and conditioning.
As part of the push towards the summer season, the team will monitor soil temperatures, growth rate and moisture, and will wake our surfaces up. They will be looking to hollow core and top-dress greens again within the next few weeks to dilute the thatch, and firm and smooth them out. Brian continues his discovery of the course, how it looks and plays under various conditions. This information will play a key role in his plans for the ongoing improvement of the course.
As rules associated with COVID-19 are likely to be in place for the foreseeable future, new ‘slim pins’ have been ordered. These pins are slimmer at the base and designed to be more welcoming for the ball to drop, reducing the risk of bounce-outs and also reducing the risk of touching surfaces.
Through January it was only sensible and possible to open the course for 2 days. Following the period of heavy snow and the sledging on the course, we have experienced a lot of ice compaction on slopes which made areas extremely dangerous and led us to be extremely cautious in our decision making when opening the course.
The 2 days on which the course was open allowed us to continue the agronomy program. The teeing surfaces were cored with 13mm tines. These cores will be used to finish off our new path edges and to aid other ongoing projects. Further aeration is planned to improve the quality of the teeing grounds. During the same period spot spraying was undertaken on some fungicide on fusarium infected areas on greens 1,2,3,9,12,15,16. The new disease was a secondary outbreak attacking old scars from marks left in October. This was not unexpected and we were content with the volume we endured.
Even with poor outdoor working weather, the indoor program continued with small equipment maintenance, facilities maintenance, course furniture upkeep and irrigation system shutdown. This period has also allowed Brian and his team time to research the course maintenance history to gain a better idea of past practices. When weather permitted we commenced our tree management plan. This includes the limbing of hazardous branches, and in the larger plantations, clearing the floors of dead wood, clearing low branches and thinning out unsightly hawthorn and elder. Doing this will tidy up areas, increase light and airflow as well as increasing playability. This is the start of a long process that we will designate time to every year.
Winter Works to Be Completed
Fingers crossed we will soon see some better weather which will enable us to catch up on the winter programme. It will be a very busy period with the aim to complete the following in the next 6 weeks, weather permitting of course!
• 1st tee will be laser levelled and turfed.
• The area on the right-hand side of the 1st OB area will be sprayed with herbicide and dug out in preparation for wildflower bed.
• 10th tee has been drained with pipe sitting in it, we will load stone and rootzone to the required levels.
• New fairway bunker at 12th will be raked/shaped and turfed. We will also dig an exit channel to try catch a fairway drain. Old filled in bunker will be seeded.
• 15th approach (old bunker) will be turfed.
• 16th fairway drain will be investigated and hopefully fixed.
• A system of grids has been installed into the inlet area to the pipes that run across the valley at 7,12,13. We will now install a system of gully pots to aid the water movement and flow. We need to address this issue in more depth next winter.
• The contractor installing the resin bases to our bunkers will be back on site the week commencing the 8th of Feb, although this requires a minimum temperature to undertake the works.
• Blocks for our new paths should arrive in the next few weeks and will be laid and completed.
• Dumping area at the Quarry will be tidied and levelled.
• New bunkers will be finished off with rootzone and turfed.
• All bunkers will be edged, stones removed, sand levels checked with more added if required.
• Path edges will be dressed with cores and seeded.
• Greens and aprons will be hollow cored and top-dressed.
• Worn areas on tees will be patched with turf, spiked and top-dressed.