Course Manager's Diary

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

For daily updates from the team on Twitter, click here

The team (L-R):

Matthew Mairs, Joe Loffelmann (CM), Gary White, Frankie Innes, Matthew Symons-Wearne, Bob Marshall (DCM).

June 2024

Unfortunately, this month’s report starts off on a familiar thread – rain! Just as we thought we were through the woods and hopefully entering a decent spell of good weather it all changed very quickly.

On the 22nd of May we recorded 45mm of rain in 24 hours, and in the subsequent 24 hours recorded an additional 55mm. 100mm of rain in two days is a very rare occurrence. With our drains working at full capacity, a large volume of water started backing up on the course leading to significant flooding in various areas. Thankfully, as soon as the volume of rainfall dropped these areas drained very quicky, which shows how well the drainage system is working. In total for the month of May we had over 4 times our average rainfall (197.6mm vs the average of 46.6mm for May) with the majority of this falling over the space of just 7 days.

With this volume of rain, we encountered multiple challenges. We had a water blister appear on our 13th green, bunkers washing out on a daily basis and a drain at the 15th washing out below the surface moving the material below it, causing the area to sink. All that aside we were desperate to make the course playable for some important competitions in our fixture list. Thankfully with a massive effort from the team and a 24-hour break in the weather we just got the course playable for the 1st round of Kerr Quaich and Victoria Medal events. We’re delighted to say the greens coped brilliantly with the volume of rain and they were still running smooth and true. We had some great feedback on the condition of the course – thanks to all those who took the time to pass on your kind words, it really is appreciated by all our team.

Greens Maintenance (Championship preparation)
On Sunday the 12th May we carried out maintenance work to our greens, this will now be the last maintenance we do until the week after championship week. This work consisted of:
• 10mm solid tine
• 7 tonnes top dressing
• Sand worked in
• Greens rolled
• Greens watered to bed in sand
• Organic granular feed applied

STRI Visit and Course Nutrition
Our recent visit from Gary Smith (STRI) went very well and we’re delighted to report that the greens are performing at a very high level. All the data that Gary records will be sent on to the Club in due course and we will use this to plan our work over the coming months. Soil samples and organic matter level tests have also been sent away, we should have the results with us over the next few weeks.

The following nutrition has been applied in recent weeks:

• Terralift TX 10 5-2-8 granular feed
• Wetting agent & seaweed
• Integral max, Terralift Plant maxx biostimulant, Attraxor & Primo maxx

• Selective weed killer, Primo maxx, nitrogen & iron

• Reward 13-5-20 granular feed
• Primo maxx, nitrogen & iron

Bunker faces
• Selective weed killer, primo maxx & iron

Cutting Practices and Growth Volume
With all the recent moisture, very little air movement and damp mornings/days, the growth has been substantial. From time-to-time some grass clippings will be lying around especially in the rough. Sadly, this is unavoidable when regularly having to cut in wet conditions, although we will try and blow as much of this grass away as possible with our tractor mounted blower. Growth regulator has been applied to the heaviest growth areas of the rough to slow down its growth rate.

Irrigation repair
Our irrigation system recently developed a fault that was preventing us from starting any automatic programmes. Thankfully it has since been fixed and working as normal again.

May 2024

Now we are into the start of May we have finally and thankfully seen some dry weather. In the first two weeks of April, we recorded a total of 97mm of rain which led to winter rules being extended and a few competitions being cancelled. Clearly, this wasn’t the start to Spring we hoped for, although it now feels we are starting to turn the corner with only 2mm of rainfall from the middle of April until the start of May.

Course Cutting Regime
In recent weeks we have seen the course really starting to take shape, with the definition and change in shape of some areas of the course becoming more noticeable. Our cutting practices are now in full swing.

* Tees twice a week 12.5mm
* Aprons twice a week 11mm
* Fairways twice a week 14mm
* Semi rough twice a week 19mm
* Rough weekly 44mm
* Greens most days 4.5mm

Some of these heights will reduce slightly as we start to get more heat and balanced growth across the course.

3 Flag System
We have now changed to a 3-flag system. Which we hope members will find a useful change.


New pins and hole cups have also been put out on the course along with caddies for disposing of broken tees on par 3s.

Over seeding
We have recently overseeded our greens, tees and aprons with an ultra-fine Dwarf Rye to promote better quality and harder wearing grasses in all our main playing areas of the course. Over time this will make a massive improvement during the blistering Scottish summers (!) right through to the harsh elements of the winter months. Key benefits of overseeding with dwarf rye are:

* Quick establishment
* Very fine leafed
* Disease tolerance
* Hard wearing
* Colour retention

Greens Maintenance
On the 24th of April we carried out some light refinement on the greens. This consisted of:

* Light verti-cut to clean up the surfaces
* Light sand dressing to improve smoothness and minimise organic matter build up
* Sarrel rolled to allow air into the top surface and break surface tension
* worked sand into greens
* watered in sand to settle into the surfaces

The greens have responded to this work well and continue to improve. There is some short-term disruption with this work, but it really is essential this work is carried out on a regularly basis to achieve the longer-term goal of better quality putting surfaces.

Greens nutrition
At the start of May we applied a liquid feed, iron and attraxor to our greens:

* Tough turf aquatrols spray & primo maxx
* 16-3-6 liquid feed
* Seaweed
* Attraxor
* Hydro guard wetting agent

We also have a controlled released granular feed to be applied to tees and aprons.

Course walking routes
Whilst we have finally left the winter weather behind, we still have a number of defined walking routes on the course to protect areas that are still recovering, or where we have applied new turf. Whilst we understand that at times the easiest option is to walk the shortest route between the green to the next tee, to protect the course and allow the best possible playing conditions we ask that members follow these routes and utilise the permanent paths. This simple action will help with the speed of course recovery and reduce the need to deploy ropes to protect these areas.

Other tasks carried out
* Spraying tree bases, bunkers and clubhouse area
* Edged all paths (whin dust still to be applied)
* Turfing worn areas around the course
* All strimming tasks
* Divoting tees

April 2024

Sadly, the first part of this report focusses on the recent issues with the weather that we have suffered. Over 100mm of rain fell on the course in March, with 51mm of that falling over the 4 days leading up to our opening day competition. This is deeply frustrating for everyone, none more so than our team of green staff who have work tirelessly to get the course in the best shape possible leading up to opening day.

Since October 2023 we have seen 575.2mm of rain (22.6 inches) across the whole course. We are now at the point the water table is so high that our drains are running at full capacity and the water has nowhere to go. This has set us back in terms of course presentation and getting the course to the level we would like it to be. Taking this into account we have to think logically and so minimising damage to the course from our machinery and golf traffic at the moment has to be our priority to produce the best possible course through the main playing season.

The patience and understanding of all members are hugely appreciated at this time. Better weather will be with us soon.

New bunkers
Our new bunkers are really starting to take shape, they have now all had a final edge and sand applied. The turf is now starting take a strong grip and the rooting structure is getting stronger all the time. As and when all the winter restrictions are lifted, all the bunkers at the 9th, 14thand 15th will come in to play.

While the turf continues to bed in, we kindly request all players to enter the bunkers at the shallowest entrance point and to avoid walking up steep faces. This will allow the turf to fully establish and become more stable.

Please place rakes in the middle of the bunker bases as explained in last week’s Course Manager update.

Tees and aprons refinement
All tees and aprons have been aerated over recent weeks with a subsequent sand dressing of around 40 tonnes of sand.

Lawn sand with nitrogen and iron content was applied to the tees and aprons to help control moss and weeds.

We have since verti-cut both areas to refine and promote better quality grasses, and to tidy up the top surface to reduce organic matter build up.

The tees and aprons have flourished over recent weeks on the back of this work and are looking in great shape for the up-coming season.

14th Apron
Our new 14th apron has had its first cut and recently been fed with an organic based feed. It is establishing well, and we will continue to hand cut this apron until we feel it is ready to be cut with a triple mower.

We are delighted with the overall result at the 14th.

New machinery
We are delighted to take delivery of our new John Deere HPX gator utility from Thomas Sherriff & Co.

We are currently waiting on delivery of our new John Deere Pro Gator and mounted sprayer.

Ongoing investment from the Club into the course and our machinery is important and hugely appreciated.

Additional work carried out
• Sand dressing worn areas
• Pro-coring tees
• 4th tee protection net re-erected after winter damage
• Shaping out fairways
• Flymo work, strimming and cutting tasks
• Rolling greens
• Pro-core area infront of 14th apron to promote recovery from bunker work. Seeded dressed and fed
• Cleared drains
• Edged all bunkers and toped up sand levels where required
• Turfing worst worn areas
• Put slabs in place for new bins to be fitted at 3rd, 6th and 16th tees
• Laid gravel on attenuation pond path
• Blowing debris off fairways and removed from the course
• Trimming back gorse at front wall
• Paul Maxwell removed tree at Baberton House

Last but not least
On behalf of the green staff, a huge thank you to some of our members who give up their own time to support and help our team produce the best possible course. It’s a massive help to our team and makes us so much more productive.

• Divot squad – the divot squad were out in force to help us fill all divots on the fairways. Should any other members be willing to help out, please contact the General Manager.
• Alex Anderson – huge thanks to Alex for all the work he does for Baberton, but specifically all the continued help and support with various tasks around the course and shed areas, it’s greatly appreciated.

March 2024

February has now come and gone with it being another wet, cold and windy month. Over the past 3 months we have had approximately 252mm of rain (9.9 inches) across the whole course. With numbers like this it is very difficult for the course to drain as the water table is so high. In the coming weeks, we will do our best to move as much water as possible through aeration and sand dressing in some of the main playing areas. This will allow us to be in the best shape possible for the start of the season.

Greens Maintenace
With a break in the weather, we had a small window of opportunity to get our greens maintenance completed and it was important that we utilised it.

Step by step through the process
• Verti-cut all greens (tidy up top surface removing any debris and die back encouraging new healthy growth)
• Cored greens with a 10mm tine and removed all cores (helps to reduce organic matter levels for all round plant health)
• Greens cut
• Applied 20 tonnes of pro golf 20 sand dressing (allow greens to be free draining and dilute thatch layer & black layer)
• Worked sand into core holes using our power brush
• Verti-drained all greens with a 12mm solid tine to around a 9-inch depth with a small amount of heave (helps relieve compaction and creates soil fractures at a low-level allowing greens to be free draining and our root structure to continue developing)
• Sand dressed with another 20 tonnes of pro golf 20 dressing and worked in to verti-drain holes (getting sand to low levels will allow them to be free draining and our roots to venture further)

Overseeding is the final part of the above maintenance to be completed, but due to the lingering cooler temperatures this will be delayed until temperatures rise. The team will now concentrate on working on ball roll and trueness - this may take some time as the work has been intensive. On a positive note, we are a week ahead of our original planned schedule thanks to a massive effort by the team.

New Bunkers
All turfing at our new bunkers and 14th apron has now been completed, with over 1000 square meters of turf being laid. A huge amount of preparation and materials have been used to create a nice flowing shape that allows the bunkers and apron to blend in with the surrounding area of the 14th hole.

The following materials were required:
• 40 tonnes of rootzone
• 30 tonnes of type1
• 15 tonnes of old greens cores
• 10 tonnes of pea gravel
• 1050 square meters of turf

Our next step will be getting sand into the new bunkers and tidying up the edges once the turf has started to root. We will apply sand when the weather best suits to minimise damage to the course with tractor and trailer traffic.

Irrigation repairs
We have recently undertaken some repairs to our irrigation tank. The ball float valve was on an unsteady pipe and was causing the ball float to rise too far, resulting in a constant flow of water coming out of the overflow pipe. A new galvanised pipe has been fitted with solid brackets to ensure we don’t have the same problem, along with a new ball float.

Our return valve was also replaced. This piece of equipment is very important for protecting the pump as if there is any build-up of pressure and something were to go wrong with the system on the course, it will return the water back into the tank rather than pressure building up in the pump and worst case blowing the pump which is very costly to replace.

Other work
• 7th fairway bunker face has been lifted and resin installed to make the sand visible from the tee
• New bell has been installed at the 15th
• Staff training on how to install new tines on our Toro pro core and Weidenmann gxi8
• Greens cutting and rolling

Greens Nutrition
• Aquatrols Tough turf winter spray package
• Granular feed applied Rigby Taylor 11-5-5 cold start

Tree in Baberton House
Unfortunately, part of a tree has fallen from our land into Baberton House (see picture above). We are in the process of arranging a date for a tree surgeon attend and carry out the removal as it has some complications.

Apprentice training
Our two Matthews, commonly known as M&M, have been doing Baberton Golf Club proud at college. Matthew Symons-Wearne has completed his second year at college and after review he will be a qualified greenkeeper to SVQ Level 2, he’ll return next year to complete SVQ Level 3. Matthew Mairs has completed his first year of Level 2 and been passing his assessments with flying colours.

A massive well done to them both, they continue to show great dedication and willingness to learn every day and the quality of work they produce at such an early stage of their green-keeping careers is exceptional. Thank you, and well done guys!

Educational visit to Mannheim (John Deere Factory)
I (Joe) have recently visited Germany on an educational visit to Mannheim where John Deere has two factories. This was a great insight into how products are developed. It was amazing to see the fine detail and technology that is used to produce the equipment we require on a daily basis. We also went to the parts distribution centre to see the effort that goes into get us the parts we need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Etiquette and Respect
Whilst the vast majority of our members, guests and visitors respect the course, the work being undertaken and show good golfing etiquette, we unfortunately continue to see evidence of those who show blatant disregard for all the effort we go to. Unrepaired pitch marks and unraked bunkers continue to be a regular occurrence, and over the winter we’ve had several reports of people out on the course not using fairway mats – which is a mandatory requirement.

Unfortunately, last week (7th March) a player, clearly practising on the course, left 4 divots on the 3rd fairway. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable. With the volume of play our course sees over the winter, fairway mats are a necessity to ensure we can keep the course in as best a condition as possible for the start of the season. Without them it would be impossible for us to protect the course for you, our members. Please respect what we’re trying to do and the arrangements we put in place, such as mats and ropes.

Please also note that going forward bunker rakes will be placed in the middle of bunkers rather than outside of them. Please can all members do the same once you have finished raking a bunker.

February 2024

January was a stormy month! The rain and extreme winds we experienced caused a lot of damage to the course and the resultant tidying tasks and tree cutting added to our already busy winter schedule. Our practice nets buckled with the strength of the winds and are no longer usable. The protection net for the 4th tee was also damaged, with one of the metal posts coming loose. The post has since been concreted back in place, but we still have some repair work on the net to do.

Winter programme progress
We are otherwise progressing well with our winter programme, with bunkers at the 9th, 14th and 15th holes being our main focus. The 9th and 15th hole bunkers have been prepared and turfed with a hardwearing dwarf rye. By mid-February we should also have the 14th hole bunkers and apron shaped up with rootzone and turfed. The apron will have a finer turf (fescue / dwarf rye) for better playability and performance. We will allow the turf time to establish a solid root structure and the final step will be adding sand to the bases.

Progress on other winter programme tasks
• 2nd hole sunken area on fairway has been levelled with cores and rootzone and overseeded (complete)
• Huxley mats on the 1st, 2nd and 7th holes (complete)
• Bunker developments (almost complete)
• Plastic path at pond access road (path put in place, stone type to be selected)
• Removing overgrowth at 6th and 11th holes (complete)
• Slabs to be installed for bins at 3rd, 8th and 16th holes (start after bunker work)
• 7th hole fairway bunker – lift face so it’s visible from the tee (after main bunker work)
• Tree work (will be ongoing between now and start of the season)
• Gorse removal at 18th hole (complete)

As part of our annual machinery refresh programme we decided to go with Thomas Sherriff (John Deere) for our latest equipment replacements. Our 2006 Kawasaki Mule will be replaced with a JD HPX Gator, our sprayer will be replaced with a Gambetti Demount Sprayer, and we will add a JD 4-wheel drive ProGator to our fleet. We will receive the HPX Gator in the coming weeks and the ProGator and sprayer are due end of March/April. Our Toro Workman was purchased in 2005 and has no real trade in value. However, it is still working well so we have decided to keep it and use it for top dressing only. This will create more flexibility for us when top-dressing and allow us to be more efficient and minimise disruption to members. Overall, these changes will enable us to continue to improve the course and maintain it at the highest possible standard.

Greens nutrition and maintenance
On 30th January we applied an Aquatrols Tough turf winter spray package. In the coming weeks we will carry out hollow coring and deep verti-drain on our greens. Following this we will add a heavy dressing of sand over two separate applications. The date for this is weather dependent but a message will go out to all members before the work starts. It’s important to get this done early to allow maximum recovery time ahead of the season starting. Thank you for understanding, and we will try our best to minimise disruption.