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.

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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)

February 2022

January was an extremely productive month for the course team. Despite the small layer of snow at the beginning that ultimately closed the course for 2 days, we’ve had excellent weather with temperatures on the rise and minimal rainfall of only 24mm. This time last year the course was closed for a total of 6 weeks due to snow and ice, which then lead to a waterlogged golf course.

The snow at the start of the month forced us into starting our tree work. We started at the left-hand side of the 11th green where water tends to gather. This area was full of dead suffocated trees, low lying and dangerous branches. We thinned this area out, removing the dead decaying trees/branches, letting in more light and air movement which has created a more aesthetically pleasing, safe area. We will continue to work on our plantations throughout the course doing these same procedures. Our plan is to isolate what we deem are “hot spot” areas that are mostly in play.

We have now also taken down 3 trees at the side of the 11th tee which are struggling to compete with the more established trees. This work at the 11th tee will increase light and air movement safeguarding our teeing area and aiding the recovery of the walkway area from the 10th green to 11th tee. The large tree at the rear of the 1st green that’s had a hard life, and the sycamore which is entangled in the Scots pine, have also been brought down for safety reasons. Our next area of focus will be at the left-hand side of the 12th fairway.

Our plans for tree and shrub planting around the course will continue to take some focus, it’s very important for us to safeguard our golf course and visualise how it may look in the future. Trees have major value as they frame each hole and add character, whilst at the same time add protection when strategically placed. The banking at the rear of the 13th green will shortly have 12 rhododendrons of various colours planted to give a more striking backdrop. More colour will be added through the addition of more wild flowers in a variety of areas around the course following receipt of a generous donation.

As reported last month, disease was evident after the mild Christmas period and was accordingly treated at the start of the month. Last year’s late in the season disease scarring that we are carrying through winter has weakened some of the plant structure and will therefore always be vulnerable when disease pressure increases. As we move closer to spring and growing conditions, the plant will naturally recover and regain its defence strength.

We are up to date with our aeration work following the recent verti-drain of the greens at a depth of 7” using 12mm tines. Unfortunately, a fault with our machinery whilst working on the 10th green lead to some unsightly damage at the back of it, this will recover when temperatures rise. Approximately 7 tonnes of sand has also been applied, sarrel rolled and brushed into the greens. This process aids thatch dilution and increased air movement.

Work has now been completed at the 14th winter tee as we levelled off steps, re-surfaced and levelled the path with aggregate and new Astro turf. Finally, a new banister was added. This work has created a safer walkway up to the 14th top tee and at the same time has made it more appealing to the eye.

All new Huxley mats have now been installed where required. This was a little later than planned as there was a delay with the delivery, but they are worth the wait. These mats are the best on the market, are designed to have the most real feel and when maintained correctly have an excellent lifespan.

Projected winter work January – March (UPDATE)
• Verti-drain greens every 21 days (on target)
• Solid tine tees (complete)
• Rubber resin installation on all new bunkers then turf faces down for completion (scheduled before 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 (plan has been created, trees purchased and planting will continue throughout Feb)
• 13th banking behind green will have rhododendrons planted to gain colour (Shrubs have been purchased and will be planted in Feb)
• Drain-line at the beginning of the 12th fairway will be raised and turfed/seeded (drainline raised awaiting turf for completion)
• New path edges at the 1st will be turfed/seeded (to be completed)
• Install new banister at 6th forward tee (complete)
• Re-do steps and path leading up-to 14th top tee (complete)
• Install new Huxley mats on holes 5, 7, 11, 14, and 17 (complete)
• Hollow core tees (to be completed)
• Hollow core greens (to be completed)
• Hollow core aprons (to be completed)
• Topdress – greens/tees/aprons (to be completed)
• Dig out, line and re-chip carpark areas (to be completed)
• Install new drain beside 6th forward tee. (to be completed)

January 2022

December was a very productive month, the higher than average temperatures were great for productivity, but not so good for disease pressure. After running with a skeleton staff for the latter half of the month, we are now back to full strength, and the whole team has had a break over the festive period.

During December we put final shapes on new bunkers and the forward tee at the 6th, as well as laying 1300m2 of quality turf. The bunkers are now awaiting confirmation of a date for the installation of rubber resin by external contractors.

The new open ditch at the 12th / 13th has been a great success. It was fully tested with a few days of heavy rain; 17mm fell in one night and prior to the installation of the ditch this area would have flooded.

The good spell of weather lets us get out and put final cuts all over the course. Greens, Tees, semi-rough and fairways all getting a tidy trim. Our nutrition plan is completely up-to date as we applied a few much needed sprays prior to Christmas.

Now we move onto other tasks that are part of our course plan. Weather will dictate the order of these works but we are confident on completion well before the start of season.

Projected work January – March
• Complete installation of rubber resin on all new bunkers then lay turf for completion
• Extensive tree work in the plantations, thinning out dead trees and low branches, creating a healthier/safer area
• Unhealthy trees to be felled; large one behind 1st green and 3 at the 11th tee
• Tree-planting: various areas have been earmarked for re-generation. We will price up some native species i.e., copper beech, birch and Scots pine and start our re-planting project.
• Planting of rhododendrons behind 13th green
• Drain-line at the beginning of the 12th fairway will be raised and turfed/seeded
• Edges of new path at the 1st will be turfed/seeded
• Install new banister at 6th forward tee
• Install new drain beside 6th forward tee.
• Re-do steps and path leading up to 14th winter tee
• Install new Huxley mats on holes 5,7,11,14, and 17
• Verti-drain greens every 21 days
• Solid tine tees
• Hollow core and top dress tees, greens and aprons
• Dig out, line and re-chip carpark areas

The above is a combination of the final elements of the winter programme communicated to members in September last year, along with some additional items that we’d like to achieve ahead of the new season. Provided we have favourable weather; this should all be achievable within the time frame.

Finally, all our grass machinery will shortly undergo their winter service and re-grind.