Sunday, 21 May 2017

Finally some rain

As we prepare for what was a very busy week at Malton and Norton Golf Club the weather took a turn for the worse. I admit it was nice to receive some rain as the course was just beginning to dry out in places and growth as previously mentioned was slow. However the amount we got did cause a few issues. As the ground was very hard and as soon as rain arrived it stood easily and was slow to drain away. After the first few showers the ground has now softened and more free flowing. That didn't help when the thundery showers came down thick and fast. These caused problems in getting the course ready for the first big competition of the week, the ladies open day on Wednesday. Its a shame when the weather is poor and spoils what is a great opportunity to show how good Malton and Norton Golf Club is, the team did their best and we managed to get the event completed. Cutting was effected and we were left with lots to do and grass growing faster than we can manage to get on top of and the pro am approaching on Friday. Once again the team stepped up efforts with cutting happening as much as possible, myself and a couple of others working until dark to get all tasks complete before another spell of bad weather arrived on Friday.

The pro am was again a wet day, with the course only just playable in the morning after around 10mm of rain coming in the early hours, after a lot of work and some changes to the event ( changing to 17 holes) we managed to start on time, and fortunately the weather improved, get finished on time. Some great feedback from players, given the conditions.

Next week we will have a lot of catching up to do, cutting on the Derwent 9 was reduced due to the competitions held on the Weham 18, so grass is very long in places on these holes. Especially the semi rough.

One task that is now complete is the tree work on the Derwent holes. The copses between 24/25/26 and 20 have been thinned and mulched, taking out all the scrub and weed trees and shrubs that have spread over the years. It has opened the trees up so its accessible with vehicles and should be more easy to maintain. The team at GBL Timber have done a fantastic job. The mulcher they brought in was a great piece of equipment that has saved days, material that would have had to be hand mulched was simply driven over and mulched in a matter of minutes.

We have replaced the front putting green pins as the old ones were looking tatty and a couple of the tops were becoming weak.

The 16th ditch is now fully in play, the crossing has grown in well and there are only a couple of areas where we did the draining work that are still marked as GUR. Overall I think this project has been a great success and has left the 16th green area a lot drier.

The irrigation system is all but complete, the irrigation contractors are still working on the last few bits of the system. The electrical control panel that operates the pumps down near the 24th pond needed some alterations as the location of the control grp housing was altered from the original plans and therefore needed larger cabling requirements due to the increased length of cable. This is now installed and connected, the pumps are in position and just need a couple of connections before all is complete. We are having a circulating pump installed to keep the irrigation water agitated and hopefully more oxygenated. During summer the pond where we extract the irrigation water from is very still and stagnant, circulating the water helps improve the quality of water before its extracted to the tanks.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Tree work

Over the last couple of weeks the weather has remained dry, the cold northerly winds have continued which has caused more problems for the green keeper than a golfer maybe would appreciate. Firstly northerly winds are usually drier as they are not bringing moisture in from across the Atlantic as per the prevailing direction would. They are also cold as the air is generated from the Artic. These two factors coupled together can dry the ground and surfaces very fast compared to a southerly or westerly wind direction. Evapotranspiration is also a lot higher than it would be, say in the early spring when this wind direction would be considered more expected., due to the strength of the sun. Getting water on now is not so much of a problem with the new irrigation system if we didn't have constant strong winds. The relenting winds make applying irrigation tricky. The application uniformity is decreased during windy periods, leaving hand application more likely.

The hard ground conditions have allowed us to finish one of the last winter tasks, tree thinning on the 20th and 25th/26th holes. GBL Timber, a local tree contractor has been brought in to complete this work, they have the right machinery which saves valuable time and money for the club. The machinery they use is heavy, agricultural and will need to be taken across the course a number of times to access the sites. A week into the work and they have made great progress, all the trees to be removed are down and the trees have been tidied. the brash that they have removed has been piled into the copses to be mulched with a specialist machine which is tractor driven. The reasoning behind thinning those particular woodlands is firstly to allow the remaining trees room to flourish, also the copse was dense and limited any light to the floor so there was no grass growth. This then has attracted rabbits to burrow and I felt that opening up the trees would limit further damage. We will also be able to access between the trees to cut at the end of the season.

Trees are part of maintaining a parkland golf course however they do cause problems. As stated above they need to be managed to be able to grow good quality turf. Below is another example of problems we face. Its the rear of the 2nd green where there is a line of leylandii trees near to the green. The irrigation contractors have had to go past the rear of the green to install the irrigation mains, cutting through he roots in doing so. This has left the turf on the right enough moisture to thrive, whereas on the left the roots are still taking all the moisture even though its water regularly from the greens sprinklers. root pruning can be done anywhere on the course using a specialist machine, seeing how it effects turf is maybe something ill plan into the maintenance of the course in the coming years.

I'm pleased to welcome Lynsey Frost to the greens team, she has come to work part time throughout the summer to help carry out all the tasks and help improve the consistent great condition of the course.

We have started to edge all the bunkers again, the edges of the bunkers grow in over time making them look untidy. We use a strimmer to go around the edge of the bunker to remove any long ends. The sand is then shimmed to remove any underground stems and weeds, before the sand is checked and redistributed to any low areas. The sand is still very soft as we have had little rain since filling the bunkers back in March. Hopefully it will integrate better after some rain. The type of sand that we have in our bunker is naturally soft and free draining, something that cant be changed without changing the type of sand. That would be difficult as not all sands are compatible when mixed.

The dry weather has improved rooting on the greens, all roots will be fighting for any moisture available, the deeper they go the more moisture present. This photo shows that deep tining helps the roots go deep in the soil, and therefore remain healthier during dry periods. It has to be said there are only certain varieties of grass that will root to that depth. Generally the bents and fescues will out compete poa during dry weather as there roots will extend deep into the soil profile. Poa roots are general very shallow and love wet warm weather, or when moisture is in abundance.

Today we have started to groom and cut the greens slightly lower, the bench setting has been reduced to 4mm giving an actual height of cut of around 3.5mm. The groomers are now being used to remove lateral growth.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lots to catch up on

Over the past couple of weeks we have been very busy now we are finally seeing some consistent growth. As mentioned on the previous blog the weather took a turn for the worse after what was a dry and warm start to the golfing year. Cool, dry and breezy weather came down from a northerly direction for around a week, which knocked the grass back. Coverage was good but there was no real growth and definition disappeared. We especially noticed the poa in the greens and worn areas go downhill quickly, looking pale and weak, poa really struggles when those conditions prevail as its shallow rooted and needs wet and warm weather to thrive. Fortunately since then the weather, if still dry is getting warmer.

We managed to apply some sand to the greens, essentially this is to smooth out any wear from the winter play, pitch marks have been especially bad this winter as we were only closed for 3 days and the course received a lot of play. Applying sand also helps dilute thatch accumulations, for anyone not knowing what I'm referring to when I talk about thatch, its essentially dead material from grass clippings and leaf regeneration that builds up on the surface of the sward. Overtime this will create a layer of organic matter which is spongy and limits water penetration, root growth and can effect disease likelihood, to name a few. Thatch, in my opinion is one of the biggest green keeping challenges as it effects a number of different maintenance practices we carry out. Balancing the amount of thatch in the greens is critical in maintaining healthy greens. The sand applications or topdressing help add non organic matter and dilute the organic matter as its deposited. Naturally the more the grass grows the more the likelihood of accumulations, hence the reason we apply more sand during the growing season. Applying sand during maintenance weeks differs to a light topdressing as heavy applications are put on to the surfaces during maintenance which are to be brushed into holes and aid the drainage ability of the soil, light topdressing put on the surface is merely to be worked into the sward. The application put on in April used around 15 tonnes of sand over 30 greens whereas August maintenance uses around 120 tonnes.

The 16th ditch is now complete and the main section is in play. The short section and the recently turfed areas are still GUR.

The irrigation contractors have now installed the well which will house the fill pumps, The well was installed next to the 24th pond. the excavated soil has been placed in the trees near the 25th bank until it dries completely and can be covered and seeded.

We are now fully testing sprinklers around the course, there are a number of sprinklers which will need replacing as they are either damaged, leaking or worn. This is to undertaken by the green staff. Now we have a fantastic irrigation system to deliver water where we need it we are trying to make the existing sprinklers as efficient as they can be. The irrigation system is being used regularly to water in fertiliser, keep moisture levels up and dampen sand dressing to make cutting cleaner. It is however still hand operational only until the pc controller is installed.

The greens have been sprayed again with fertiliser, porthcawl, magnesium and iron to aid density. Cutting heights will be lowered over the next week, we are still at 4.5mm bench setting as I'm haven't been happy with general growth as previously mentioned. Cutting lower would only increase the problem. I expect to lower the height to 3.8mm over the next 2 weeks.

The photo below shows the problems we face as greenkeepers in providing top quality turf when trees are in close vicinity to greens, although tis area receives ample irrigation it struggles every year due to shade rooting and competition from the tree. Something I'm keen to address in the future.

We are spraying some areas on the course for weeds, mainly daisies, buttercups and dandelions, which seem particularly bad this year. I'm only spraying longer areas of grass as the land is so dry there maybe a risk of scorch, plus we have a contractor coming to do the fairways in May.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

16th ditch work

Carrying on from the last blog, firstly the greens have now been aerated using the Air 2G2 machine, as mentioned before this machine has been used at the club before. It uses compressed air to break up any deep compaction and add air into the rootzone. This can be very beneficial to roots and can aid natural breakdown of thatch and help remove harmful gases within the soil profile. Decompacting the profile will also help deeper rooting, drainage and should encourage healthier growth.

We have had the fence to the rear of the 2nd green replaced as the old fence was rotten.

Although we have had a cold spell, which has effected growth generally however we are still seeing enough on everything other than greens to warrant a tidy up cut every few days. The last 2 days have brought frosty mornings which has put a stop to any cutting, so it was quite a relief that we could get out with the mowers.

We now have irrigation connected to the greens, this is only manually controlled until the decoders are all up and running. Its pleasing to see the water finally back on the course, it was also pleasing to see the new system working at its full potential. When testing the greens and tees we can see what the new system can do. The old system could manage one green at a time and the pressure was poor. The new system can run 5 greens at a time maintaining optimal pressure. This will reduce the run time of 30 greens by 5 hours. The fill pump well is yet to be finished so we are using the old pump to fill the tanks.

It now means we can get some spraying done, this week we have sprayed fertiliser and iron onto the greens to help regain some colour and density. This has been washed in so it can be taken up by the roots of the plants. The poa in the greens is suffering more than the bent grasses. The poa plants are always first to stress when there is unseasonal cold and dry/wet weather. They are shallow rooted and as they are annuals rely on warmer seasonal weather to promote dense growth. Until the poa is 'happy' we are limiting grooming and intense work as it would create more stress and result in a lot of seeding. The fertiliser applications will help and hopefully the weather will improve soon. Overall the course is looking good

The work on the 16th ditch is coming to an end, the team have done a fantastic job of installing drainage and now leveling out the crossing point to the 16th green. The turf is due next week to complete the 16th and the 22nd tee.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Turning dry?

Its been a busy couple of weeks, grass is growing and temperatures are rising. At this time of year this isn't a great combination. Dry spring weather often results in little recovery from any winter wear. Considering this winter was mild and fairly dry, growth wasn't too bad, as I have mentioned before in this blog the course was open throughout winter (with the exception of 3 days) so the turf took a lot of wear. A normal winter, cold and minimal growth can result in more closures, but we can also see much more wear and damage across the course. Cold weather means no recovery from that wear. Should we get a cold winter followed by a cold spring we can see very patchy growth. For April the course overall is in good shape. Fertiliser applications are taking effect, the longer cut grass showing more signs of spring growth than such areas like the greens. There are a couple of reasons for this, the length of grass has a direct result on soil temperatures. The grass through winter acts as insulation, the more grass the higher the soil temperature. We are only talking small amounts but it does make the difference. The other fact relating to grass length is the ability to withhold moisture. The higher cut grass creates more shade and again protects the soil from losing moisture through wind and heat. This is especially noticeable now we have had dry weather for over a week, the greens are showing signs of drying out, however the semi rough keeps on growing, when checking, the soil is still very moist even near the surface.

On the course we have groomed all the greens and applied lawn sand to greens 19-27. You will have noticed if played recently the greens have gone black.

 This is due to the iron content, iron sulphate is the best control for moss, in my opinion. The lawn sand comes as a powder and is extremely difficult to apply evenly. The high iron content dries the moss before it dies and then can be removed. Greens 19-27 were the worst on the course for moss so only these had the lawn sand applied. Greens 1-18 were treated with a liquid fertilser and the first application of porthcawl. This a biostimulant with an abundance of trace elements, we have found it to be very beneficial to the general health of the greens.

We have started to work on the area where the hedge was removed on the 23rd, the turf has been removed as it was a very uneven area, the soil then scraped level and in the next week we will seed with ryegrass.

We have also started work on the final stages of the 16th ditch. Before the final turfing is done we are putting in two drains in front of the green. This is always been a very wet area on this hole and sometimes stops the green being used as the access to it can be very wet. If anyone is wondering why the area around the 16th green is so poor to drain this picture of the soil type speaks volumes, pure clay.

 It also made sense to complete this before the final leveling of the bridge turf, as the drain passes through the area we need to renovate. The drain will discharge into the ditch. The bridge section is having the turf lifted and we are leveling the crossing point as its very uneven and being such a pinch point we would like this to be improved.

The irrigation system has taken a little more time than I would have liked to get to the final stages. After the installation of the pipe we were making really good progress and then have been held up waiting for a couple a important things to arrive. I'm pleased to say they are now here so we should now see more progress. If this weather continues we will need it sooner rather than later, especially as we have some turf to lay

The ladies 22nd tee is to be completed as soon as we have water, laying turf with no means of watering it would be very risky.

Next week will be another busy one, we are aerating the greens once more with the air 2 G2 machine this machine was used at Malton and Norton Golf Club in January and proved to be a massive success. We also hope to finish the drainage on 16th.

Friday, 24 March 2017


The last week or so has felt like spring has finally arrived, there is strength in the sun and the grass is beginning to show some signs of steady growth. I think in this area we have once again been very fortunate with the weather, as all around us have had heavy rain and even snow. Over the last two weeks we have only had around 7mm of rain and no snow or even sleet. The course therefore is taking shape and is looking great. We have now completed all bunker edging and have topped up all 1-18 and a couple of the practice ground bunkers with sand. I have ordered another 29 tonnes of sand which should be enough to fill the remaining bunkers on the Derwent course. I have to emphasise that putting fresh sand in the bunkers will, at first be very soft. The new sand needs time to settle compact and integrate with the existing sand.

The irrigation work is continuing, all control boxes are now complete, the armoured cable has been installed to power the pump station, which should be arriving the start of next week. Once this is in place it can be connected. The contractors are going back to any snagging issues across the course, so this may be damaged, raised or sunken turf, or simply tidying up. I am marking all areas which I feel need attention. The crossing of the access road near the 8th tee and the suction well on the 24th is still to be done but is scheduled for the next week or so.

We have started to mark out the car park, this will be finished next week.

Four of the team took part in a chainsaw refresher course through Linda Bower Land Based Training on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The two day course covered all aspects of safe use and effective cutting techniques.

Over the next month a forestry contractor will be coming to carry on the tree thinning which was started in 2016 to the left of hole 26. The pine copses in this area are severely overcrowded and need reducing to allow light and air movement around the turfed areas. He will also be removing a dangerous ash tree near the ladies 15th tee. This has rot through the heart of the tree and must come down for safety reasons.

Next week we will be tidying all areas of the course again, depending on the weather we hope to start scarifying and grooming lateral growth on the greens. The bent grass at this time of the year starts growing at a different rate than the poa. This causes patchy looking growth, although we try and encourage bent grass to grow as its more disease and drought resistant than poa and once groomed makes a very good putting surface, it does need maintenance to improve its fineness. During spring I feel it is best practice to wait until we see consistent, strong growth before trying to groom. Grooming and scarifying grass involves vertical cutting and removal of organic matter which stresses the plants. If this is done too early the health of the greens goes backwards and can lead to thin disease prone growth. Once the greens have been groomed another application of fertiliser will be applied to help boost recovery before we start aerating, tining and topdressing in April.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Trees and bunkers

Another week into the year and spring is most definitely here, this week has seen sunny but showery conditions, temperatures have been better and grass is starting to grow. We have been getting machinery maintenance work complete ready for the next stage of course maintenance. Machinery work left mainly consists of smaller items, such as the tee side mowers and deck mowers, all cylinders and blades have been ground and are ready for the season.

Most of the greens are being cut with the triple mowers, we are still cutting at our winter height of 4.5mm, currently the  conditions are too soft to start thinking about reducing height of cut.

The 21st and 24th greens are still on winter greens as he greens are softer and the area around the greens is incredibly wet due to constant flooding issues from the River Derwent. Those two greens, along with the front putting green are being cut with the hand mower at a similar height. The greens are getting a lot of play, and to be honest not in the most ideal conditions most of the time and that is taking its toll the 2nd green in particular is soft and the surface is suffering. There are a few other areas where the greens are weaker, mainly due to light, shade and traffic.

Whilst moving the hole on the 5th it was a perfect example of the issues some areas of the course have during the winter months. It was a bright sunny morning and due to tree density to the south side of the hole no sunlight was getting to the green. As you can see from the picture the light is reaching the tree line behind the green, but no direct sunlight falls on the putting surface. As the year moves on the suns position will get higher to the point where it will be high enough to shine above the tree line and on to the turf. I have estimated there are 5 months of the year when the 5th green receives NO DIRECT sunlight. Sunlight is very important for grass, firstly grass plants produce their food by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and fixing it at a binding site within the plant. Chlorophyll, the substance that gives grass its green colour, is also part of the photosynthesis process.
We see grass as green because chlorophyll absorbs red and blue wavelengths, while reflecting a green colour. When grass absorbs the light energy, the chlorophyll molecule goes into a high energy state, providing chemical energy for plant metabolism. No direct sunlight reduces the energy available and produces a weaker hungrier plant. Which is why we see greens such as 5, along with 2, 10, and 25 struggle a little more than some of the others. Lack of sunlight also has secondary effects, such as higher disease risk, due to wetter surfaces (no natural drying) and weaker grass plants. In order to increase sunlight we need to look at reducing the density of the canopy on this particular area of the course.

We have started edging bunkers ready for the arrival of 90 tonnes of bunker sand which will used to fill all low bunkers. Adding sand into the bunkers will make them softer for a period of time until they settle and compact. Any damaged edges are being repaired and tidied as we go around.

The irrigation contractors are doing really well, only 2 days have been lost due to the weather so far, and they are on schedule. They have around 8 valve boxes to refit, this then completes the mains and valve work. They have one final job to do before the tanks and system can be filled with water, that is the well for the transfer and aeration pumps, which is sited next to the 24th pond. We are hoping in a week or so the area will be dry enough to install it.  The irrigation storage tank is now built, we are just waiting on the arrival of the pump houses, one to be sited near the tank and a smaller one to house the electrics for the transfer pumps. Once the pump houses arrive, the pumps and electric can be connected and then tested. On the course there may be some areas we still need the contractors to go back and address, such as any unevenness and settlement, any issues will be dealt with at the end of the project. The system, once fully finished will be pressure tested, as the system is under constant stable pressure (by design) it needs to be 100% leak free, if the pressure drops over a period of time then the system will have to be isolated into zones to discover where any problems may be. These will all be dealt with by the contractors before the work is 'signed off'.

About Me

Im the Head Greenkeeper at Malton and Norton Golf Club. I began my greenkeeping career at Malton and Norton Golf Club straight from school as an Assistant Greenkeeper. Wanting to climb the greenkeeping ladder I gained my NVQ level 2 and 3 at Askham Bryan College. I continued with my education gaining a HNC in golf course management and took the position of Deputy Head Greenkeeper at Malton and Norton Golf Club in 2005.In 2008 I was promoted to the position of Head Greenkeeper, leading a team of 6 hard working and dedicated Greenkeepers. Our aim is to continue to improve the condition of the course year on year maintaining our high reputation within the area.