Tuesday, 3 April 2018

And.... its gone!!!

As quick as the good weather came it went just as sharp. The wet weather has returned and with a bang. Over the Easter weekend we have had over 25mm of rain with the majority of it falling on Monday, 24 hours of continual rain has left the course in very sorry state, there are very little words needed to describe the frustration we are all feeling, ill let the pictures speak for themselves.

The course has suffered before and recovered just as quick, hopefully the year is heading in the right direction to get drier, warmer and allow some golf to be played. The ditches we installed on the course are working great, it is evident that a lot of drainage still needs to be installed to get standing water into them. Water will slowly move down through soils, it cant however move laterally with the same ease. Drainage is in the 'Strategic Plan' and something that we feel strongly is needed to increase the playability of the course. It does however come at an incredible expense as there is so many areas that need work.

Work doesn't stop on the course, we are continuing where possible, there are a number of small repair and renovation tasks still to completed on the course. The path at the rear of the 9th ladies tee is being improved by installing plastic reinforcement into the soil, the 10th ditch is in need of a repair where an old drain has collapsed, a few of the old winter tees are being removed and levelled, the irrigation pump house is getting a stone access path built to it, we have some leylandii to plant around the short game area to create screening from the greenkepers buildings and we have some old rabbit damage to level in the pine copses that were thinned. We are also starting to trim sprinkler heads and boxes ready to test the irrigation (as if we need more water), however we need to ensure it is in full working order should it be required.

Thursday, 29 March 2018


Yes at last it finally looks like we are making some progress with the weather and the course. The last couple of weeks have been hectic, the rainfall has decreased, not to say we haven't had any but the quantities have been manageable. The course has therefore dried considerably since the snow we had a couple of weeks ago. The team have been out doing all possible to catch up on lost time.
Firstly we were able to get onto the greens with the John  Deere triple mower. This was the first time we have been able to go on them with a triple since November last year. The greens have been cut when possible with the hand mower but it was nice to get onto the greens to groom out long growth. The bent grasses in the greens are growing well but they do need grooming every now again, we managed two passes with the groomers to tidy any lateral shoots.

We followed with a light dressing of sand, we would have liked to done some micro tine aeration however its still a little soft to take the tractor onto the greens, hopefully we will be able to get on in the next couple of weeks.

We have also cut and topdressed the surrounds and approaches, groomers have been used on the green surrounds to try and improve these areas this year. The approaches are also getting more fertiliser, aeration and sand this year in an attempt to increase the playability of the course during the wetter months.

The tees have all been cut, we have reshaped some to make maintenance easier and to realign to the playing direction. Worm casts are a real issue, some tees are suffering more than others, to help reduce casts we have put an application of lawn sand on to the tees. This is very acidic due to the sulphate content of the product, this will help deter worm activity over time and reduce moss.

The first practice net was damaged during the last storm, this is being repaired.

The last of the debris has been once again tidied and collected. This has been a non stop task this winter and one that is very time consuming.

The rain and snow melt caused issues on hole 21-24 as this is in the flood area for the River Derwent. The land around the 21st and 24th green was under water for around 3 weeks, now the waters have receded the land has dried considerably, however the two greens are still not playable enough and therefore are on winter cups for the time being.

Work has been completed on the 8th pond, removing the unsafe front structure to reveal the structural wall behind. This is not as neat as the facia wall as it was never intended to be in view, however we feel it is a good temporary measure until we can review what we would like to do to the pond long term

Next week we would like to get the fairways, bunker faces, teesides and some areas of semi rough cut if the weather is dry enough. Some areas are quite long but conditions simply haven't been suitable to cut this week.

All fairways on the 1-18 course have been sprayed with iron and a penetrant wetter. This will add colour and improve the consistency of growth as we head into the growing season. Greens and surrounds have also been sprayed with a penetrant wetter. The greens surrounds, approaches and worn areas have had some low nitrogen/ high iron fertiliser applied to aid recovery.

All gorse and shrubs have been trimmed and tidied, Keeping on top of the shrubs and gorse is time consuming and something that often gets overlooked when we are busy cutting the course. Tree work has also continued on the few frosty mornings we have had the past few weeks.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Beast from the East- Part 2

It could well be a story from a far fetched film, but the weather is still dominating the headlines. After Storm Emma had been and gone we were optimistic that spring was on its way and work could start on the course, there are many tasks that have been delayed due to ground conditions, some even cancelled until next winter. It has been the most frustrating year for all, the relenting weather has took its toll on the course and the people involved at Malton and Norton Golf Club. The fact is we are now reliant on a good, dry spring to get the course back into good condition, without one, the saturated conditions will effect maintenance for some time yet.

Only a week after Storm Emma the cold weather returned bringing rain and snow back across the country, we have not had the volumes we did before but a couple of inches of snow has closed the course once again.

Just before the cold snap we had a deluge of rain, this has saturated the course causing localised flooding, however its increased the height of the River Derwent, flooding holes 21-24. This is a common occurrence and something we have to accept as those holes are effectively built on a flood area. The Environment Agency did install a flood defence system that protects Malton and Norton from potential flood damage, however if the river water remains excessively high for a period of time the water comes up through the soil, albeit a slow rate, but does cause flood issues on the course still. The benefits of having the flood defences are the water doesn't rise as quickly as it used to, it doesn't get as high and the water that floods the land is cleaner, so once it recedes it leaves very little silt damage.

I like to look on the positives of all situations, we have taken great steps forward in, hopefully, achieving a more playable course, assessing how Malton and Norton golf Club holds up to the poorest of weather, we have put in place a new policy that will hopefully improve winter golf going forward, taking steps to improve winter cup areas, plans in place to improve winter teeing areas, drainage plans, tree work to help strengthen weak areas of turf caused by shade and rooting and more intense aeration work to create healthier and stronger turf to combat wear. This all has to accounted for when budgets are set, but without targets to improve the course we will always suffer during these difficult times.

Work is always ongoing no matter what mother nature brings us, recently we have started work on the bunkers. All bunkers are to be edged, checked, repaired where necessary and topped up with sand. We have managed to complete 8 holes so far, with choosing the best conditions to lead sand out to bunkers we could get to. Some of the bunkers we are going to go back to when conditions improve to change some of the front lips. Its a common piece of feedback I hear and something I would like to address. Due to the design of some of the bunkers on the course ( designed for ease of maintenance ) the lips can get very steep, causing issues with balls settling under them. The grass faces we have are always going to create this issue, however I would like to see if we can improve the worst of them. If not then a redesign of some of the bunkers will be required in the future.

Tree work has continued, removing low limbs to allow access of the big machinery that is required to maintain the course. over the years the machinery has increased dramatically in size creating dangerous working conditions, putting staff and machinery at risk.

Work has started on the 8th pond , just to recap, the front wall has been damaged from a couple of years ago from a flood event, the soil and stone behind the wall has collapsed creating pressure and excess rot on the front supporting bars holding the facia sleepers. The issue we are faced with, is golfers come very close to the front edge of the wall to retrieve balls from the water. If the front facia was to give way then could cause possible injury to staff or golfers. The front part of the wall is non structural, so there is little risk of total collapse, however there is still a risk for all. To solve this we have looked a several options. The simplest is to remove the facia wall exposing the structural; element, should it be in good condition still. The other options involve removing the wall completely and reshaping the bank and/or the pond to create a long less acute slope for golfers and machinery to travel on. These two options cost money and something that hasn't been budgeted this spring. Until a final decision is made work has stopped, so please take care around the pond and DO NOT enter the restricted zone in front of the pond.

We are trying to get all greens cut, however this is proving difficult when fighting against the conditions, we have managed to cut half and have sprayed them with a preventative fungicide application
Fertiliser applications to tees, surrounds, approaches, fairways, greens and selected areas of semi rough will take place this week, weather depending!!!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Storm Emma

Now that storm Emma has just about passed through the country its time to look at how it has effected us at Malton and Norton Golf Club. There's no doubt the whole country has been effected in some way, the coldest start to March we have seen for some time, and certainly the highest snow accumulations for a number of years.

The 'Beast from the East' started on Monday night with light snow cover, initially around 20mm, however through Tuesday and Wednesday the snow fell thick and fast. Accumulating up to 150mm in places. This obviously has closed the course and with temperatures remaining low, the prospect of opening in the following days was not looking good. Along with the bitterly cold temperatures, due to air originating from Siberia, came very strong easterly winds. Gusting up to 40 mph, and averaging around 20-25 mph for a duration of more than 48 hours, this hasn't caused any real damage, but has drifted the snow fall into irregular depths, for example the entrance lane was covered in up to 400mm in places.

The team worked wonders on Thursday to clear and salt most of the car park and entrance lane to make the clubhouse and shop accessible, where they have hosted a few fun events to give golfers there daily fix of coffee and golf. On the course work is obviously limited, however this doesn't stop the staff getting on with machinery servicing, repairs and painting/staining course furniture. A lot of unseen work that keeps the course going takes time and weather like this is ideal moment to get on with it.

So what does this week have in prospect for us? It looks like the temperatures are going to rise and the winds ease, which will start to melt the snow. Unfortunately with the volume we have had that snow will turn to water and I would think we will have localised flooding and a very wet course. There will also be a high likelihood the River Derwent will rise quickly when the melt starts. This may well effect the holes (21-24) in the low lying area. There will also be a lot of debris blown from trees that will need clearing, this will all take time, so I don't expect the course to be instantly playable once we can see the turf once more. As usual the course information line will be updated daily, so please ring before making your journey, the information line will be updated at 7 at the latest from 1st March.

So lets rewind to before storm Emma arrived. Work on the course was continuing nicely, we managed to turf the areas at 13th tee and 7th tee where the hedges were removed, unfortunately we ran out of time to finish the 7th area so we will continue with that once we can access the tee once more.

We have been aerating the greens again using the air2G2 machine, this has been a vital piece of equipment to keep the greens aerated this winter. We would not be able to go onto the greens with the tractor regularly due the conditions. The Air2G2 is a lightweight machine that we can get onto the greens, and creates very little disturbance. We managed to get over half of the greens done before the snow came. We still have the machine so we are hopeful to complete the greens this week.

We started spraying the fairways with a penetrant wetter and iron, again only 7 fairways were completed. All greens were sprayed with a penetrant wetter, iron, calcium and potassium to help strengthen them for the upcoming bad weather.

Tree work has continued, pruning of low branches to ensure we can maintain the course during the summer. Tree work has been minimal over the last few years as we have had other projects to work on. That has given real problems for the staff trying to maintain areas around trees, the machinery we use is big and getting bigger, once the branches are loaded with leaves they get very low, making it dangerous for access. Woodland management is all part of maintaining a parkland course, without maintenance there would be a lot of issues, not only with safety of staff, but turf quality, efficiency and playability. More detail of the overall woodland management plan is in the course strategic plan available online for members. I would just like clarify some of the comments that have been mentioned to me during this winter regarding trees.
Trees and drainage/flooding - many members are concerned that some of the trees we have lost/removed have resulted in the course being flooded more. This is simply not the case, trees do use moisture in the soil, however most of the moisture they require is during summer, or when the leaves are on the tree and the temperatures are warmer. During winter they do require minimal water to stay healthy, however the issue with the amount of water on the course has very little to do with tree work that has been carried out. As mentioned in other posts its simply due to the amount of rain that has fallen over the past 6 months and the fact that the climate is changing, something that is out of our control. Some trees will use more water than others, for example willow, poplar and leylandii are very thirsty trees, unfortunately this aggressive water hunting nature is bad news for golf course drainage systems and the need to manage fine turf. Any trees, especially the ones mentioned, will block drains and create root systems on nearby greens and tees where irrigation is applied. So we have to take a balanced and objective approach when considering tree management.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Very wet times

Some areas of the course are suffering more than others, I have documented that we have had the worst winter for some time but the issue at this time of the year is the grass isnt growing to recover from any damage. The greens are a real point of contention at the moment, understandably so as golfers are keen to play golf and take advantage of the lengthening days. Play on the greens has and is heavily restricted at the moment due to the incredible amount of wet weather we have had. There are several points to consider when deeming the greens fit for play and the factors which effect the condition of them during wet weather.

Drainage- Drainage is one of the most important areas for consideration when trying to maintain and present good playing surfaces, good drainage gives firm and dry surfaces which are easier to maintain but also satisfy golfers demands and expectations. The greens at Malton and Norton have no drainage installed, are built of the natural soil and are irregularly shaped leading to collection points. When the course was built, the demand for a 12 month golfing season was less, there would have been less demand for quality playing surfaces during winter and therefore the maintenance needed was less. Unfortunately the current weather patterns, coupled with the demand for golf at this time of year is not a great combination for over used, wet soils. To improve the general use of the summer greens during poor conditions we could install a comprehensive drainage system to each and every green on the course, unfortunately this would be very expensive, and something that is simply not affordable at the current time. Some greens are blessed with more free draining soils from the site, such as the 26th, however some like the 16th and 17th are constructed of very heavy soils which will not drain at all well. These greens are only 40 yards apart, however their characteristics are very different.

Shape-Shape has less significance than drainage however can be a factor which leads to detrimental wear if the wrong conditions prevail. Such as the 10th green, it is shaped poorly, leading to collection points where water tends to sit. Excess water and high frequency of 'wetness' will deteriorate the turf, if wear from maintenance or foot traffic was added to the equation the turf would be damaged permanently Other factors, such as access to and from the green/ tee has to be monitored, traffic management aids are used help us spread wear and increase safety.

Weather patterns- The weather obviously is what makes or breaks the condition of the course, the staff plan and implement the maintenance as best practice on an annual basis, however we often have to adapt our strategies to suit the weather. The weather will do what the weather will, annually we monitor the condition of all aspects of the course and focus on the areas which need priority. The greens are of highest priority and have the most money and time spent on them. If the weather is wet we need to protect them from long term damage. The soil needs to have a balance of moisture and air for the grass to grow healthily. Too much moisture during winter the soil reaches saturation point ( where there are no air air spaces and physically cant hold any more water), leading to surface puddling. Foot traffic on the turf at this point would create instability and damage to the root structure. This is why we use the winter greens. If that moisture in the soil then freezes, there is a high chance of permanent root and/or tissue damage, caused by root shear or crushing of leaf tissue during play.

I appreciate this means very little when when golfers simply want to get out on to the course to play and enjoy Malton and Norton. However the decision whether to play on the greens or not is not taken lightly, we more than anyone want the course to be at its best. The decisions are based on the long term playability, and plans are in place to improve the drainage characteristics of certain areas. In the meantime we are going to continue to use the winter cups when necessary. As these are being more common we are putting more work into improving the areas where they are placed. This is going to come at a cost. Time and materials will have to be used, as we do on the greens and surrounding areas. Aeration, sanding and fertilisation will be needed to ensure the turf can withstand the winter wear that they will face. This will not change them dramatically this winter however we hope over the next few winters they will show some improvements. I will stress and reiterate previous comments I have made on this blog, the winter cups are only a means to keep the course open.

There are some areas on the course which are really deteriorating due to the poor conditions, fortunately these are well out of normal play areas, generally between tree lines and at the outer edges of tees and green complexes. The time and money that would be needed to improve these areas isn't an effective use of the resources we have, when the areas I have previously spoken about, need work first. Below are a few examples of areas we are struggling with the most.

Hopefully the weather is heading in the right direction for an improving golf course.


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.