Monthly updates from our Course Manager, Brian, and his team here at Baberton GC.
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May 2021 has been one of the coldest on record, with snow, hail and heavy rain added to the mix. Thankfully, from the middle of the month we started to see better weather and warmer temperatures which saw a gain in growth and the golf course start to naturally heal from the tough winter and spring.
On a more positive note, things are progressing well despite being around 3/4 weeks behind where we should be. Our greens are now beginning to seed; this is late for the first seed due to the cooler climate. The seeding will help gain recovery on old disease scars but will unfortunately slow the ball speed down, however, we plan to invest in some new equipment which will make it easier to combat the seed heads. We managed to successfully topdress/verti-drain the greens with another 5 tonnes of sand with minimum disruption, this process will continue throughout the season enabling better roots, drainage, and thatch dilution at the same time.
We have now established a course maintenance plan in which our team have their own tasks. Routine brings consistency, consistency leads to a high course standard. The course definition has started to come along nicely, this aided by having increased staff levels with the arrival of our new apprentice. We will continue to tweak certain areas until we think we have it exactly the way we want it.
The centre of the 16th Fairway has continued to be problematic. We had an exploratory dig in the area in January when we found an old rubble drain. We opened this drain up and noticed the water flowing, albeit slowly. It was hoped that the extreme wet weather that we had endured was the issue and that under normal circumstances the area would cope. However, it is now clear that we may have a collapsed clay pipe, or an old original drain now incapacitated. We will now look to install over 100m of new drainage in this area which will be in the style of a herring bone leading into a primary drain which connects to an existing drain 80m down the fairway. We will plan to start this work the Tuesday after the championship finals.
- Cut daily at 3.5mm.
- Rolled twice weekly.
- Verti-cut 3 or 4 times monthly.
- Cut 3 times weekly at 9.5mm. Divoted daily
- Cut 3 times weekly at 9.5mm
- Cut 3 times weekly at 13mm
- Divoted once a month
- Cut twice weekly at 19mm
- Weekly 4/5days
We will continue with our cutting and maintenance routines over the summer months, hopefully now that we’re finally seeing some sunshine so that we can get the best out of our golf course.
We recently welcomed our annual visit from an independent agronomist, STRI. The intention of the visit is to independently review the works being undertaken and planned by the team and test the greens. These tests covered green smoothness, ball impact (cleg test), speed and moisture readings. Whilst their full report won’t be issued for another few weeks, the feedback was extremely positive, and they indicated that we’re ahead of most clubs in the area, which is great news, especially after the winter/spring we have endured.
April 2021 has been documented as one of the coldest and driest months on record. We have had temperature swings of 18 degrees, with some mornings as low as -3 degrees, rising to +15 degrees in the afternoons. Despite the cool morning temperatures, the team have had to apply water on the tees and greens on a daily basis in order to maintain plant health. The application of almost 400 litres a night per green gives the plant the moisture it needs to survive and function, but has the adverse effect of cooling down the soil temperatures which is vital for the recovery and germination of the plant.
The biggest impact on the course, like most clubs, has been the halted growth and recovery. At this time of the year we would expect our course to have gained more definition and an increase of recovery to worn areas. Brian and team assess that the ongoing colder weather means we are around 3 weeks behind where would expect to be at this time of year.
Members will have seen the ‘grow sheets’ that have been laid to the area in front of the 10th tee. This area suffered greatly due to snow and ice earlier this year, and with its shaded position struggled to recover with minimal light and a slow thaw. The grow sheets have proven highly successful as the new seed germinated within 5 days. These sheets have now been moved for use in other areas of the course. Soil and seed continues to be applied around the course in worn areas, the 12 days of frosty mornings had seen previous applications fail. An example being the old 12th fairway bunker. New path edges will have soil and seed re-applied.
Whilst there has been great improvement in the greens over recent weeks, these also remain 3-4 weeks behind due to the cold soil conditions. Towards the end of April the soil temps did increase sufficiently to start our symbio compost tea programme, again around 4 weeks behind schedule. However, on a positive note, the aeration programme that started in September and continued through to March is beginning to show fruitful results as new rooting is evident on all greens. Prior to the programme there was only evidence of new fresh rooting on the 1st, 15th, 18th and practice greens. The team are delighted with these results and will continue with our plan. The greens have also been verti-cut, sarel rolled and top-dressed, followed by brushing in the dressing with minimum disruption to any golf play. This process will be continued throughout the summer months.
As we move through May, we hope for better and more balanced weather. This will help with our increased cutting regime to increase definition, aesthetics and playability. The team will also be focussing on:
• The smoothness of our greens to gain a truer roll
• Worn areas around the course will continue to have more soil and seed applied
• Sand levels in bunkers will be checked and topped up
• The wet area on 16th fairway will be spiked and top-dressed with dry sand. This area will continue to be monitored but has certainly dried out (slowly). This may have to be addressed as part of next year’s winter programme.
• Waste area at the second tee has now been renovated and prepped for wild flowers
Finally, following the recent recruitment exercise, Findlay Byers has joined the team as the second of our new apprentice greenkeepers. He started with us on the 3rd of May.
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.