Course Manager's Diary

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Scroll down for monthly updates from our Course Manager, Brian, and his team here at Baberton GC.

For daily updates from the team on Twitter, click here

July 2022

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 preparations
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
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.

Machinery
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.

Staffing
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.

STRI
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

June 2022

May was another productive month for the team as we prepared the golf course as best as we can, despite being a man down following Jack leaving at the end of April. Thankfully the weather has been favourable with only 28ml of rainfall over the whole month. This forced our hand into utilizing our irrigation system to keep moisture levels correct on our tees and greens. We have not suffered any type of heat stress due to temperatures not rising above 20 degrees over a prolonged period of time which has helped our greens remain stable and healthy. Another extremely positive sign for us is that we have had zero outbreaks of disease.

While our greens have been running well, we do unfortunately have a high percentage of annual meadow grass (poa) on our greens. This grass type is extremely disease prone; it also produces a seed which in turn slows the surfaces down and makes them run less true. To combat the seeding, we have been using a product called prohexadione and also increasing our vertical cutting which cuts the seed head off. Prohexadione applications have been a success and we have seen a notable difference (reduction) in the percentage of seeding occurring. Going forward this is now going to be part of our nutrition program and over a few years we should see the annual meadow grass percentage reduce in our greens leaving us with smother, quicker, stronger surfaces.

We successfully carried out top dressing and aeriation in the middle of the month. We try to do these procedures monthly and to cause minimum disruption to play. We top-dressed our greens with 8 tonnes of LV20 sand then sarel rolled them with 1” depth spikes pushing and brushing the sand into the spaces created. We verti-drained our greens at a depth on 100mm using 10mm diameter spikes, then cut and ironed after these procedures. These tasks were completed by us spraying a mixture of bacteria, fungi, molasses, and roca stem. This type of work is vital for us as we strive to have free draining, healthy, smooth surfaces whilst also stimulating root development.

You will notably see some new additions to our golf course. Having assessed several locations, we have now installed the new practice nets, and after a few minor tweaks they are now in play and are a great place to loosen off. New permanent bins have been installed on holes 1, 4, 10, 12, 14 & the 17th. These new bins have lids so that birds, squirrels and deer can’t pull out all the litter. New “please repair pitchmarks” position flags have now been placed on our pins.

Our search for a new apprentice greenkeeper has now been completed and we are delighted to let you know that Matthew Symons-Wearne will be joining us from Monday 13th June. We welcome Matthew to our team, and you will see him around the course from next week. We have operated with one less team member since April which equates to 45 hours less labour per week, so the team have worked extremely hard, doing extra hours to make up for some of the shortfall and present the course to a standard they are proud of.

STRI Visit
We had our first annual visit from the STRI at the beginning of May. Gary Smith attended to do some performance testing on our green surfaces. Gary is an accomplished agronomist with the highest honour in turf science. Testing was done on ball impact (cleg hammer), ball roll (trueness meter), greens speed (stimp meter) whilst also analysing the soil and taking a good close look at our greens’ coverage. This type of testing allows us to compare to where we were in previous years and also lets us see how we are compared to other golf courses. Gary questions our agronomy and nutrition plan whilst educating us on any new products that are coming to the market. We’re happy to say he believes our greens are in the top 5% in the of country for this time of year. The full STRI report will be with us shortly and this will be shared with the members.

Divot Squad
We had a fantastic turnout on Tuesday the 31st May as our volunteers got out of their beds by the sound of the birds to meet at the clubhouse and put in a tremendous shift to divot all our fairways. This is a massive help and much appreciated by the team. Thanks everyone.

Looking forward into the rest of June, this is a busy month for most golf clubs, and we are no exception. We have been pushing our greens to get the remainder of the seed heads out of the surfaces, which will create more speed and a truer roll. Focus has been in preparing the course for the Club Championships. Sand levels have been adjusted in bunkers on holes 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, and 17. Worn areas and poorly growing areas/walkways have been fertilised to aid recovery. Tree bases have been strimmed with an application of glyphosate planned to kill growth. Soil/seed and grow covers have been put out to aid quick recovery to damaged areas. Things are all coming together as planned.

We still await arrival of our new lithium powered buggies and also our new turf iron. The shipment date for the iron is now July and the buggies are due in August.

May 2022

April has been another productive month for us. Brian is now in the position of having experienced our golf course through all calendar seasons and have a better understanding in the changes the course goes through. We document all weather, and this data allows us to gauge an understanding whether we should alter what we do and what we apply to our course.

The weather played its part to aid us on our successful agronomy tasks this month. We verti-cut our greens, sorrel rolled them at a depth of 25mm, applied 8 tonnes of lv20 sand then worked it into the open holes and grooves made by the equipment. A system of foliar and soil-based sprays was applied, aiding root development, thatch management, whilst increasing soil bacteria and fungi. We aim to apply 120 tonnes of sand onto our greens per year, we currently are bang on track with 50 tonnes applied since January. During the competition months we apply sand little, but often, which will not disrupt any play.

This month we have been trying to get some shaping onto our course. Tees, aprons, fairways, semi, and rough areas all maintained. Machinery has been an issue with us recently as the rough mower was down for 13 days while we waited for an ERG valve to be fitted, and one of our Toro 3250s (tee/apron) cutting machines only came back at the end of the month from its winter overhaul service after 5 weeks away. Unfortunately, our Smithco top of the range turf iron we ordered last May will not be with us until June or July now. This is the new “norm” caused by Brexit/pandemic and the war in Ukraine as all suppliers are struggling to get the equipment from overseas.

Despite these issues the course is beginning to shape up well, our greens have great grass coverage for the time of year, and we are now in control of the growth rate and playability.

New Bunkers
Our new bunkers at 6th, 7th and 12th were put into play on Friday the 29th April. The current dry spell has slowed down the knitting in process, but we are confident they will be suitable for play. We have been hand watering all new turfed areas which include areas in front of paths at the 8th, 6th, 10th and 3rd and new bunkers. We feel the bunkers are ready for play, but we will re-edge them when the moisture levels on the bunker faces are correct.

Cuts
Numerous members have approached our team to ask what height of cut we are at for various surfaces. Current height cuts are summarised below:
• Greens – 4mm
• Tees – 11mm
• Aprons – 11mm
• Rough – 46mm
• Semi-rough – 19mm
• Fairways – 13mm

Plan for May
On top of the routine course set-up tasks, this month will see us-
• Install new double practise nets
• Install 6 new bins
• Top up bunkers with sand
• Spike/dress/overseed worn areas around course
• Granular feed tees/aprons/tees
• Complete new membrane and stone installation of carpark beds
• STRI visit for performance testing

Projected winter work – Jan to March (update)
• Verti drain greens every 21 days (on target)
• Solid tine tees (complete)
• Rubber resin installation on all new bunkers (6th, 7th and 12th) then turf faces down for completion (complete)
• Extensive tree work in the plantations, thinning out dead trees and low branches, creating a healthier/safer area (work has started and is ongoing)
• Large tree behind 1st green and 3 struggling trees at 11th tee to be felled (complete)
• Tree planting – various areas have been earmarked for re-generation (complete)
• 13th banking behind the green will have rhododendrons planted (complete)
• Drain line at the beginning of the 12th fairway to be raised and turfed (complete)
• New path edges at the 1st will be turfed/seeded (complete)
• Install new bannister at 6th forward tee (complete)
• Redo steps and path leading up to 14th winter tee (complete)
• Install new Huxley mats on holes 5, 8, 11, 14 and 17 (complete)
• Hollow core tees (complete)
• Solid tine greens (complete)
• Hollow core aprons (complete)
• Top dress greens/aprons (complete)
• Top dress tees (complete)
• Dig out line and re chip car park areas (final stones to be completed)
• Install new drain beside 6th forward tee (complete)

April 2022

March was a positive and fruitful month for us. Soil and air temperatures were on the up, foliage was beginning to develop on trees and bulbs were popping up from the ground all over the course. Despite this we need to remember we live in Scotland, so having basked in 18-degree temperatures mid-month, we finished with a covering of snow and sub-zero temperatures!

Our spring maintenance was a great success which saw us scarify, solid tine and top-dress all our greens. We removed 6mm of thatch through the scarifying process, then diluted it with sand using the solid tine method. When the holes were open, we decided to use dried seaweed meal and worked in 25kg to each green. Seaweed is a sustainable resource and supplies the soil with many beneficial bio-stimulates. We now have proven results that our organic matter level is decreasing which meant we could be a little aggressive on our greens this spring. In January we applied 42 tonnes of sand into them, we will drop 8 more in the coming weeks to meet our target. Our tees have had the same process applied.

Spring is a vital season for us, it’s about making calculated decisions regarding nutrition and agronomy procedures. However, the dramatic fluctuations in temperature plays havoc with our surfaces, specifically our greens. We have around 7 different species of grass on our greens and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Our bent and fescue stay in a semi-dormant state due to cooler night conditions where our poa, rye and fog adapt better which leads to growth spurts, this can lead us to having uneven surfaces. Our old plan was to gently wake up the greens up by applying bacteria, fungi, and nematodes, along with sugar-based products to feed the soil. This process was proving to be too slow, so we adapted, and this spring we applied 3 types of nitrogen, one of them being in the form of nitrate. Nitrate is a readily available form of Nitrogen which the grass plant can take in cooler conditions. This has been a fruitful tactic which has seen our greens gain growth, colour and increased density more quickly.

The bunkers around the course have been edged and strimmed. We have monitored sand levels and added to low lying areas where required. We have also improved the drain on the 15th short bunker on the left-hand side. We have increased the length of the drain going into the bunker, though we do have concerns of the exit and its capacity to take heavy volumes of water; we will continue to monitor this. Our new bunkers at the 6th, 7th and 12th have now had the rubber resin installed and faces turfed for completion. Unfortunately, the resin install was delayed a few weeks so has put us a little behind where we would like to be. The new bunkers will be put back into play when the new turf roots and nits into a condition fit for play. This will be monitored weekly.

Various areas around the course have now had extensive recovery work done to them. You will notice more grow sheets out in the coming weeks, as they were a huge success last year. The worn areas have been solid tined, overseeded with both tetraploid and diploid seed, and dressed with sand. We will cover more areas with grow sheets when they arrive. Grow sheets under the right circumstances can reduce germination time by 75%.

Tree work continued on the left-hand side of the 12th. This area is completely in play, was unsafe and unfair if you landed in it. We de-limbed low branches, removed dangerous trees, thinned out the whole area and burned all dead wood.

We installed new drains into the low area beside the new forward 6th tee and the problem area on the banking between the 18th green and the clubhouse. A water source constantly ran down the banking and across the carpark which then became a risk when it froze. The new drain is working as it should, and we will monitor it should we endure any heavy rain. We also finished off the unsightly area at the new 6th forward tee after we installed the new drain, this area has now been raked out and seeded.

You will notice work carried out on the islands in the carpark. The red stones have been dug out, we will apply new terram to prevent weeds and new fresh stone.

A frame has been created for our new double practice nets behind the 16th white tee. This frame is just a rough outline and will be built up to provide a platform for our new nets. We await the structure and the netting to complete the task.

Plan for April
With most winter objectives complete, we will now spend most of April shaping up the golf course. Cutting tasks will increase as we look to form all areas from tee to green to what we believe looks visually best for our course and layout. Some of our equipment is away having its annual maintenance but will be returning soon. In addition, we have invested in a new turf iron which is an important addition to enable us to get the green surfaces as good as possible.


Projected winter work – Jan to March (update)
• Verti drain greens every 21 days (on target)
• Solid tine tees (complete)
• Rubber resin installation on all new bunkers (6th, 7th and 12th) then turf faces down for completion (complete)
• Extensive tree work in the plantations, thinning out dead trees and low branches, creating a healthier/safer area (work has started and is ongoing)
• Large tree behind 1st green and 3 struggling trees at 11th tee to be felled (complete)
• Tree planting – various areas have been earmarked for re-generation (complete)
• 13th banking behind the green will have rhododendrons planted (complete)
• Drain line at the beginning of the 12th fairway to be raised and turfed (complete)
• New path edges at the 1st will be turfed/seeded (complete)
• Install new bannister at 6th forward tee (complete)
• Redo steps and path leading up to 14th winter tee (complete)
• Install new Huxley mats on holes 5, 8, 11, 14 and 17 (complete)
• Hollow core tees (complete)
• Solid tine greens (complete)
• Hollow core aprons (in progress)
• Top dress greens/aprons (greens complete / aprons still to do)
• Top dress tees (complete)
• Dig out line and re chip car park areas (in progress)
• Install new drain beside 6th forward tee (complete)

March 2022

The weather will play a very notable part in this month’s report for all the wrong reasons. Total rainfall for the month to February 24th was 117mm compared to just 24mm in January. Snow has also played a part with the course being closed for 6 days in total. And of course we’ve experienced several storms which have left significant damage around the golf course.

Our new path from the first green to the second tee has been a great success but we have noted with all the rainfall it may need to be extended closer to the fairway next winter to deal with foot fall in this area. The bad weather has put us behind a little in our green maintenance plans, but these have now been kicked off and include scarifying, solid tining, applying seaweed then top dressing.

Work achieved this month

Despite the terrible weather, we have still had a productive month. We have planted 55 trees around the golf course; a mixture of silver birch, cherry, hawthorn, purple beach, scots pine, oak and rowan. These trees will give more definition and colour around the golf course which was much needed on some holes. These trees also create natural barriers between holes which help with the safety of golfers and the green staff.

Rhododendrons have now been planted at the back of the 13th green to really brighten that area up and enhance the view from the fairway. The low drain at the 12th that runs across the rough just before the main fairway has been raised and turfed. There should now be better lies and an easier stance for any balls finishing there.

All tees have been hollow cored and top dressed. This reduces compaction, allows air into the soil stopping anaerobic conditions, improves drainage, breaks through thatch layers and reduces moss. The sand we brush into the holes also helps control thatch, smooths the surface, improves the soil and helps to continue to protect the tees.

Halfway through the month all greens were verti-drained to relieve compaction, improve drainage and get air into them. The drainage on the first two fairway bunkers at the 2nd has been inspected and replaced, much improving the draining of water from these bunkers.

Projected winter work – Jan to March (update)
• Verti drain greens every 21 days (on target)
• Solid tine tees (complete)
• Rubber resin installation on all new bunkers (6th, 7th and 12th) then turf faces down for completion (scheduled for March)
• Extensive tree work in the plantations, thinning out dead trees and low branches, creating a healthier/safer area (work has started and is ongoing)
• Large tree behind 1st green and 3 struggling trees at 11th tee to be felled (complete)
• Tree planting – various areas have been earmarked for re-generation (complete)
• 13th banking behind the green will have rhododendrons planted (complete)
• Drain line at the beginning of the 12th fairway to be raised and turfed (complete)
• New path edges at the 1st will be turfed/seeded (still to do)
• Install new bannister at 6th forward tee (complete)
• Redo steps and path leading up to 14th winter tee (complete)
• Install new Huxley mats on holes 5, 8, 11, 14 and 17 (complete)
• Hollow core tees (complete)
• Solid tine greens (in progress)
• Hollow core aprons (still to do)
• Top dress greens/aprons (in progress)
• Top dress tees (complete)
• Dig out line and re chip car park areas (still to do)
• Install new drain beside 6th forward tee (still to do)