Scroll down for monthly updates from our Course Manager, Brian, and his team here at Baberton GC.
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Another month has flown by and it’s now November! October was a fruitful month as we completed part 1 of our Autumn maintenance programme. The weather has remained extremely mild for the time of year which has seen fusarium disease linger around from early September. Autumn is the least favourite month for all inland golf course greenkeepers as temperature’s drop, rainfall increases, leaves fall off trees and disease pressure is constantly high.
Coring of Greens
As detailed in last month’s report, we made the decision to start our autumn maintenance a week earlier this year as we added in overseeding to our plan. This decision has paid dividends as we are now seeing new R9 dwarf rye grasses popping up in ALL greens. This is the best germination strike we have seen in recent years. We will continue to get these better grasses into our greens which in turn will increase uniformity, sustainability and gain a better resistance against any disease outbreaks.
We have delayed part 2 of our Autumn maintenance due to the fact fusarium was lingering around on our greens. Part 2 will be done when weather suits and fusarium disappears. We will do this a green at a time causing minimum disruption to our course. Part 2 consists of verti-draining all greens using 18mm diameter tines at a depth of 10”, this will be finished off with another top-dressing. This part of the plan is specifically targeting root health, increasing percolation whilst aiding decompaction.
As we enter the colder months, we’re pleased to say all our surfaces have made great recovery from the harsh dry summer. We lost areas of our tees, fairways and aprons due the drought. Constant spiking and applying R140 seed have seen us gain fantastic progress in all these surfaces. We have isolated areas around the course that have failed to recover i.e., bunker faces and a plan is in place to re-turf these areas over the winter.
The winter work programme has now been released and has commenced. Our new planned bunkers at the 8th and 11th holes have been pencilled in to start shaping works on Monday 7th. Weather will dictate all other works, but we will update daily on twitter and provide in-depth updates via the monthly reports.
Our plan to complete part 2 of our autumn maintenance agronomy tasks continue to be hampered due to our battle with fallen leaves, which is a daily, time consuming task at present. A bit of frost and some heavy winds wouldn’t go a miss!
Ropes are now placed around the course to control traffic and wear. A new rope has been ordered for the winter handrail up to the 3rd tee. The Huxley mats installed last winter on the par 3 tees to help with wear will be in play again this winter, but we are not ruling out play from the grass at weekends as we are still getting seed to grow. We will closely monitor any changes in the weather before we implement mats off fairways and tees.
Some good news arrived regarding our new lithium powered buggies. These buggies are now in a yard in Glasgow waiting to be built by Fairways plc. Unfortunately, no update regarding our new turf iron.
Gary Smith visited on the 27th October for his second visit this season. He had very positive things to say and will be popping back over in the next 10 days to do some more performance testing. A full report from him to follow after that.
The summer has flown by and as we come into Autumn, we have now seen a big drop in temperatures, especially through the night. The increase of cooler winds, reduction in daylight hours and increased debris dropping from our trees makes the golf course a little untidy at times. This is the least favourite time of a parkland greenkeeper’s calendar.
At this time of the season the disease pressure remains high, soil temperatures are unstable, and our sand-based greens are tired from fighting anthracnose. The anthracnose outbreak is all but gone but has left its mark on affected areas leaving a sparse thinned-out look in places. Fusarium now lingers on the greens which has forced our hand to apply a fungicide treatment to aid control. The decision to apply a fungicide was in light of our Autumn renovations that we’ll touch on later on in this report.
A massive positive for the team is that the agronomy direction that we have implemented over the last few seasons has dramatically reduced our disease and costly fungicide treatments. This has given us healthier, more sustainable surfaces saving us thousands of pounds a year. We have increased natural airflow, decreased the volume of nitrogen-based applications, included both silicon and copper-based products to strengthen plants defences, whilst slowly changing our greens cultivars by overseeding whilst subduing the annual meadow grass population. We have gone from spraying, on average, every 6.5 weeks to try and control fungicide outbreaks to now having only sprayed twice this whole year, incredibly only having to manage one outbreak of fusarium. This is a massive win for us. If we continue our programme, we expect that over the next 3-5 years we will gain a better, healthier sward, increased root mass, and a decrease in toxic black layer to help produce more healthier, manageable surfaces all year round.
We started our autumn greens renovations earlier this week (w/c Monday the 3rd October). We’ve started a week earlier this year as we are including an overseeding process which will give us a better chance of germination. We are also applying 100kg of R9 dwarf rye grass to our surfaces. Dwarf rye comes up very fine and has great disease defence properties. R9 also has a better chance of germinating in cooler conditions alongside our current pH level. Last year or organic matter (OM) readings were taken in October and for the first time in years were in the ‘green zone’ for acceptable levels. We increased our vert-cutting this season which helps maintain these levels, so we very much hope to remain in the ‘green zone’ when we get tested in a few weeks.
This has also enabled us to select 10mm core tines this year instead of the bigger 13mm ones used in previous years, this will remove a little less OM from our greens. The smaller tines will also aid quicker recovery so the impact on members playing the course will be reduced. We have completed the putting green to show the end result. We also aim to drop 40 tonnes of sand into our greens. The STRI will be in doing soil testing in a few weeks and we will make alterations going forward if needed depending on those results. When we remove these 10mm plugs from our greens we will analyse them and decide whether we will deeply verti-drain/dress the greens afterwards or go with a slit tine, which is less aggressive, followed by a light top-dress. This process will be complete by feeding them with the final granular feed of the year that is high in potassium.
Cutting practices are now being slowed down accordingly in response to the changing season. We sprayed plant growth regulator on tees and aprons trying to tighten them up after an aggressive scarification was undertaken. This is part of a long-term plan to get better uniformity as we thin surfaces out. We will incorporate an overseeding plan starting next season. A final granular feed was applied to aid recovery from the harsh, dry summer. Winter greens have now also been fed as we look to push those surfaces on.
We have been out with the pro-core spiking holes and over-seeding areas all over the golf course trying to gain recovery from the burnt-out areas from the summer. Notable recovery showing on our teeing areas, which is pleasing.
We now push closer to doing winter work. The majority of our plan is now in place including tree, bunker and path works, we’ll now finalise this and it will be shared with members by the end of October. On top of these works we will be fighting a battle with foliage falling from our trees whilst keeping our winter agronomy and nutrition plan in place.
Unfortunately, there is no real update on the new equipment we ordered last year. We have been promised our new lithium buggies in October and that remains the same. There are issues with our new turf iron being released due to it coming from America with the pound being so weak against the dollar, we await a further update on this.
With the Summer now gone, the Autumn and Winter seasons offer no break for us. Everything we do during these months sets us up for the following playing season. Our staff remain focussed and in good spirit ready for more construction duties and new tasks throughout these important months.
August is always a busy time of the year for us as we prepare the course for the popular Visitor’s Day, HLI Cup, Ladies Autumn Meeting, Strokeplay Championships and the Senior Open Texas Scramble. In the last report we mentioned that at this time of year we have a high risk of experiencing an outbreak of Anthracnose and unfortunately, this held true for this year. The weather has been mixed and actually good for us. We finally had our fair share of rainfall, which has now kick started a bit of life back into our course, we have gained some more growth and colour.
What is it? Why do we get this every year?
Anthracnose is the 2nd most common disease in the UK behind fusarium. This is a disease pathogen that comes in the form of foliar blight and basal rot and is very much brought on seasonally when our poa is tired. It is a very difficult disease to manage as there is no spray or magic cure. Anthracnose outbreaks are random and there is no rhyme or reason as to which greens it could develop on. It usually attacks the weaker species of grasses i.e., annual meadow grass, but we have seen some fescue disappear also. Factors that bring on anthracnose:
• Poor fertility
• Poor rooting
• Heat stress
• Poor aeration
• Weaker grasses
• Cutting grass at low heights
From the list above we suffer from poor rooting, weak grasses and we have also endured our fair share of heat stress. We have applied an anoxystrobin fungicide that has a moderate control of any outbreaks whilst also applying a granular fertiliser to increase our nitrogen levels. During the week we increase the height of cut to 4mm only dropping it to 3.5mm at the weekends to try and alleviate stress on the plant. So, what other steps have we put in place and what direction have we taken to alleviate any outbreaks or potentially eradicate them?
Poor rooting: We steered away from solely using a biological programme in which we relied on bacteria and fungi to aid root development. The club backed the purchase of a Wiedenmann verti-drain machine in which we use monthly, pushing air into our surfaces forcing roots down the profile. We also made the purchase of new sarrel rollers which we use regularly to stimulate airflow in the top 25mm of our greens. Doing both these tasks and adding in coring at the start and end of the season has helped immensely. We have decided to continue with our advanced biological programme whilst adding in humic, vulvic acids and products containing mycorrhiza, which have all been fantastic for root development.
Weaker grasses: The annual meadow grass coverage on our greens has been a real issue for us. This is the grass that produces seed heads a few times a year that ultimately slow our surfaces down and make them run less true. We have now started using a product called prohexadion which cuts out a plant hormone, reducing the plants’ ability to produce seed heads. Over a few years we should hopefully see this type of grass reduce from our greens surfaces whilst we continue an overseed programme; getting better, stronger grasses in its place.
Having anthracnose outbreaks in August makes it extremely difficult to produce the type of surface that we can produce in June for club championship weeks. We need to put protective measures in place to reduce stress levels. Unfortunately, this disease lingers so we will continue to be protective until we see signs of recovery.
Oil marks on 6th & 12th greens
Unfortunately, we experienced an oil leak on the morning of our Senior Open Texas scramble. Our team were in at 4.30am working in the dark to get a head start on course preparation. A split in the middle unit’s main hydraulic pipe under the operator’s seat was the issue and wasn’t fully evident until the oil started to heat up and produce a smell. We have continued to monitor the damage which has now been overseeded and will disappear in the next few weeks.
Sand levels in bunkers
This subject continues to be an issue and has been monitored on a daily basis. We put up a short video on both Facebook and Twitter on the correct way to rake the bunkers. Whilst design flaws of the older bunkers is a factor, one of the main issues is that the sand is getting pulled in one direction away from the middle of bunkers when players rake. The video is still live on both social media platforms, please feel free to watch it.
New buggies and turf iron
Our latest update on our new lithium powered buggies is that they will arrive at some point in October whilst we have also been told that our new turf iron is currently on a ship heading over from the U.S.A.
We now see a big change in air/soil temperatures and light as we enter September. This month will see us try and gain some turf refinement and establishment. We will be looking to gain as much recovery as possible to the areas most affected by the heat stress. Spiking and seeding will be ongoing whilst using grow sheets to speed up germination time. Aprons and tees will also be scarified to aid turf refinement and recovery.
Our course committee and course management team carried out a full course walk last week. Many productive ideas were discussed, and we will be producing our plan for the winter work programme in the next few weeks.
In the last month we have endured extreme temperatures, warm drying winds, drought and monsoon style rain. Typical of Scotland but at times this can be hard to manage from a greenkeeping perspective.
Temperatures reached above 30 degrees for a short period of time whilst the rest of the month remained above 20 degrees. This type of heat makes it difficult for the grass to cope especially when you add drying winds to the equation. To deal with this we have adopted appropriate usage of wetting agents and the hand applied surfactants to dry spots on greens and tees has helped immensely. We were applying almost 500l of water per green per night whilst adding more in the morning by hand application. Our irrigation system was working to the full, but we did have a failure a few nights. An overload switch was looked at and adjusted which has solved our issues.
As a result we have had to take a protective approach on our greens with raising the height of cut and replace cutting days with rolling. Members will have noticed this slowed the greens down, but did not alter the smoothness. We will always be protective of our surfaces whilst enduring abiotic pressures and these decisions have set us up nicely as we move into August with greater density, plant health, free from disease and a happy course manager.
We remain up to date and on target with our topdressing levels on our greens after we successfully dropped another 5 tonne into them. This task was followed by sarrel rolling and brushing the sand into the 25mm depth holes. The following week we verti-drained the surfaces with 10mm tines at a depth of 10 inches. This vital work does the following;
· Dilutes thatch
· Reduces toxic black layer
· Aids water filtration
· Increases root activity
· Firms surfaces
· Increases plants ability to fight disease
Following the top-dressing procedures, we were hit with a day of monsoon style rain! The ground was baked hard before the rain which worked against us as the water sat on the surfaces with nowhere to go. On a positive note, it washed all the sand into the holes whilst another highlight was our open ditch performed beautifully.
Path between 15th green and 16th Tee
Members may have noticed we have created a path through the gorse, from the 15th green to the 16th white tee. This is an easier and less steep route than around the back or front of the gorse.
We now look forward to August and over the next few weeks we will be preparing for the open texas scramble, visitors day, HLI cup, Club Strokeplay Championships, senior open texas scramble and the Autumn meeting.
We will be looking at speeding up our greens whilst maintaing a true ball roll for all these events. Disease pressure is always a worry at this time of year and can restrict our ability to produce surfaces like we had for club championships. I’m extremely happy to say we have been disease free for the last 7 months. If we had stayed with the old programme in which I inherited on my arrival at the club we would be spraying every 5-6 weeks for fungal outbreaks. This has been a massive win for us and shows our change of plan was both necessary and vital for the club’s sustainability. This is anthracnose season which I do believe we will get, so we will be monitoring closely on a daily basis. A plan is in place for any eventual outbreak.
I will be looking to create a winter programme next month and put a plan in place. A course walk will be organised with the Course Committee and discussions and decisions made after that.
All our equipment has now had a mid-season overhaul. Some of our equipment are awaiting new parts but still remain fully operational. Unfortunately, due to availability and distribution delays, we are still waiting on the arrival of our new turf iron and lithium battery buggies. I will let members know as soon as these arrive.
Though the weather throughout June hasn’t quite been as fruitful as we would like from a golfing viewpoint, from a greenkeeping perspective it has been great. The temperatures have largely stayed below 20 degrees whilst we had our fair share of wind and rain. This is an ideal combination for us at this time of year to help us produce the golf course we have.
Championship week is now a distant memory, however our team worked extremely hard with a lot of early starts and sometimes late finishes. We presented the golf course to a high standard, cutting practices were increased and routines were in place to give the course a consistent look and fair playability. This was all done with one team member fewer than last year.
We pushed our greens very hard to achieve the condition that we desired. Our greens are heavily populated by annual meadow grass which produced seed heads aggressively weeks prior to championships. We altered our pgr (plant growth regulator) to a product called attraxor that has the ability to minimize seed head production, along with this we increased our verti-cutting to twice weekly, this helps thin surfaces out and remove seeds. We pushed our greens harder than they have ever been to achieve the quality of surfaces that we did. We balanced our surfaces out with the appropriate nutrition, controlled the growth rate and timed our applications of surfactants to deal with the pressure we put them under. Our greens had a great balanced uniformity, smooth ball roll, good retention and green speed that remained between 9-9.5 on the stimp. Retaining those speeds was difficult due to numerous factors. We monitored speeds daily and made calculated decisions about cutting, rolling and applying moisture. We specifically aim to keep the stimp reading below 10 as they would be almost unplayable with the winds we experience and the contours on our greens.
It’s important that the greens staff experience these types of course conditions. Members may have seen the team out with putters or playing a few holes prior to championships. Doing this helps us gain a “feel” for our golf course so that we gain a better understanding of what is required.
After the club championships are complete, we like to give the greens a rest. We sarrel rolled our greens twice to give the surface some air and create space for the application of compost tea containing seaweed, microbial bacteria, Fungai and nematodes.
July, August and September have always been high pressure months for us. The current weather conditions are playing right into the hands for a fusarium outbreak and we also historically get outbreaks of anthracnose towards the end of July. We’re happy to report that our cultural and agronomic changes so far have been proving a success, as to date this year we have had ZERO outbreaks of any disease! Normally we would be 3-4 applications of fungicide with another 3-4 potentially to go down before the year is out. We will continue to monitor this daily.
Some other notable marks have been seen on greens, 3,4,5,7,8,9,10, and 13. We believe our hole changing equipment has been somehow accidently contaminated with either, petrol, oil or glyphosate in which has then been brought onto these holes. The marks have now been plugged, spiked and seeded and will not alter the ball roll.
Bunkers remain a focus for improvement for us as we struggle for consistency in sand levels and performance. We now have our staff levels up to 6 so we have gained another 45 hours of labour as we welcome Matthew Symons-Wearne to our team as our new apprentice. Some of the older bunkers have design flaws but we have a plan in place to improve these.
As per recent communications, we’d really appreciate if members could take a bit more time and care when raking bunkers as it will benefit us all.
The next few months remain extremely busy for us as we continue to set up our course for major competitions. We host our Seniors Open, Summer Meeting, Visitors’ Day, HLI cup, Women’s Invitational and Brown trophy all over the next 8 weeks. We will push our surfaces for these competitions whilst we protect them in-between.
All our equipment now goes through a mid-season service. This is vital to keep our machinery at their best optical performance level. This has been pencilled in for Thursday 7th of July. We still await an update for the delivery for our new lithium battery buggies and our new greens iron.
Our team have worked extremely hard and we have gained good team unity. We welcome Matthew to our team as our new apprentice bringing us back up to 6 full time staff.
In last month’s report we highlighted the recent visit from STRI which was very positive. The full report has now been provided to us and this will be shared in the Members Hub, and a paper copy will be available in the clubhouse for anyone who wishes to have a read. Some of the key highlights from their report are:
• Improved density of greens canopy with higher volumes of desired fine turf grass species, increasing resilience against disease
• Presence of fungi very much reduced
• Poa Annua grass seed heads are evident but will continue to be managed
• Whilst the moisture content on the day of the assessment was high, this was attributed to heavy rains in the days before and will continue to be monitored
• Firmness of the greens within target
• Smoothness and trueness were out of target range on the day, but STRI noted this was impacted by Poa Anna seed head development