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'.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Irrigation Update #6

We are now well into the year and I'm starting to get the feel spring is on its way, grass growth has been much stronger over the last week or so and on the better days it feels like there is some warmth in the sun. Mornings are getting lighter, although there is still a high chance there could be some wintery weather before we reach the golfing season.

On the course we have been trimming most areas as and when conditions allow, greens and surrounds have been cut following the fertiliser application which was put on last week, that is now starting to take effect and we should see some 'green up' soon. Following that application we will now be looking to apply our next preventative fungicide, mainly to reduce the risk of fusarium at this time of the year, but will also help fight other diseases that may be active.

All hedge cutting is now finished, so our focus has been on finishing pruning of shrubs and gorse bushes.

Staining of seating and bins is nearly complete, with only a few left for bad weather days.

Now our attention will be on bunker edging and filling with sand, most of the bunkers need sand, some are worse than others. All bunkers will be strimmed around and any damage or poor edges will be reshaped or repaired. Levels will be checked and sand added where needed.

The irrigation contractors are making great progress, all the pipe work has been installed and they are now continuing with the control boxes. They are having to re-pipe some of the tees as the damage to the pipework has been too extensive to repair, this will be at their cost. The tank has started to be constructed, this is made of sections which are bolted together, there then is a liner which is placed inside and secured around the rim. The roof structure will then be built to protect the water from debris and other contaminants.

The trees are now all planted and secured, we have also planted up where the old 20th hole used to be, Lesley Matthers has kindly donated four trees and Colin Webster has planted a number of small trees taken from off the course. Some more tree work will continue during spring, where trees will be pruned and some thinning work undertaken.

This week we attended a seminar at Pontefract Golf Club, where we listened to various speakers discussing the future of chemicals within the industry. Over the past 3 years we have already seen a number of very effective chemicals taken off the market due to their risk to the environment. EU directives are being tightened to not allow any chemicals that are extremely mobile within the soil to be used, not just on turf but within agriculture also. Their logic is if they are mobile then they have the potential to enter water courses and cause greater damage to the environment. Over the last few years it was just the active ingredient within the chemicals that was analysed and restricted to the minimum safe effective use quantities, but now they are looking at all ingredients which come within the chemical bottle, so adjuvants, wetter's, colorants etc. Some are already being restricted and are having to be remade using safer additives to ensure the active ingredients are maximised. A number of fungicides will be the next to go, they estimate over the next 3 years. For us as green keepers this will make maintenance of a golf course much more challenging. For example the chemicals used for worms, chafer grubs, leatherjackets, rye grass removal and selected fungicides have already gone, with no replacements. As I have spoke about previously sanding will be more common to keep surfaces dry, and reduce cast damage, this will be our greatest challenge going forward due to the land type. As for grub damage, nematodes are still available, however are extremely difficult to apply. There are new chemicals being developed which are safe to use and meet the criteria asked however new chemicals take around 10 years to be fully tested and developed to the point the can be brought to market. I will keep all informed if there is any further news.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A change from the norm

This week we have taken the opportunity to get a few areas tidied up before the next weather front arrived in the form of storm Doris. The ground before this storm arrived was exceptionally dry for the time of year due to the constant drying winds we have had recently. The temperatures have still been mild for the time of year and the grass has been growing, slowly.

Before any cutting could take place we had to clear all turf areas of debris, which, to be honest has been a daily task lately, cutting or not. The frustrating thing for green keepers is one positive always brings a negative, drying winds = debris, calm = dew, warmth = disease pressure, heat = watering, frost = grass damage, humid = heavy rain. As a greenkeeper there is one thing we cant change and that's the weather, so you have to learn to adapt, change and think ahead, taking opportunities when you have them, as at this time of the year it might be the only chance you get to do a certain task for maybe weeks. The fairways in particular needed brushing, to remove casts, and then all debris blowing from the surface. Following that we have managed to get all 27 fairways cut. Some may have noticed that I have changed some of the shapes slightly, after feed back from staff and golfers over the years we have made slight adjustments to help us maintain the course more easily, without loosing the aesthetics, in my opinion. As the year unfolds we will see a lot more definition to all areas, during winter its lost as cutting is far more irregular.

The trees have been planted between the 18th and the 27th holes, as mentioned before these will replace the bunkers that were filled in and give some separation to the 2 holes.

We have applied some spring fertiliser to the greens, a 6-5-11 plus Mg will aid root growth, strengthen the grass and improve colour going into the next month. We do not want to over stimulate growth at this time of year, as that would simply give weak 'leggy' plants that would be prone to frost and disease damage.

The irrigation contractors have done a great job so far and are reaching the end of the pipe installation there is less than 50m to install, near the range tee. There are still however a number of valve boxes to install, however they have completed most on holes 2-7, including all pipe connection holes. they have installed the tank fill pipe, with the tanks, and two pumping stations yet to be started. Fingers crossed the weather will stay on our side. The pipework near the 21stb and 24th greens was installed with little/ no mess, considering it was underwater a couple of weeks ago, and likely to be underwater in the next few days they have timed it well. 

Following storm Doris the team has done well to clear all debris and return the course back to a good condition, we were fortunate not to suffer any major damage to trees or structures, just the odd branch to tidy from the course.

Machinery maintenance continues and hedge cutting is all but finished. Staining and repair of bins and benches has now started. We will be bringing them in off the courses in phases to dry, check and repair as necessary.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Irrigation Update #5

Ploughing in the pipework has continued this week, from where they left off near the 18th they now have over 75% of the system installed. They have completed all mains pipe on holes 1-18 and are currently working on the derwent 9. Although there are areas on 19-27 that is the best land on the course (sandy), there are also areas that are the worst (clay). Obviously the dry areas have gone in with ease, the real issue we may face next week is trying to complete the leg of mains pipe to the furthest point on the 21st and 24th holes. This is the lowest point on the course and one that is prone to flooding from the River Derwent. Just last week the control boxes for those two greens were under water after the River Derwent rose after recent heavy rainfall. Fortunately the levels have dropped and the forecast looks good for the next week at least, even though the ground isn't as dry as I would have liked we will take this opportunity of rain free weather to try and complete this part of the installation, as we simply may not get a better chance. The contractors will board the ground to prevent substantial damage, as they have right across the course, and smaller pipe is used as it is a lower flow area, which is easier to 'pull' than the larger pipe.

Valves sets are being installed, as golfers may have seen they are excavating a large hole around the existing boxes as the new pipe work must be installed in parallel sections to ensure the valves in the boxes are neat, accessible and to ensure the boxes can be supported from beneath on concreate blocks, which will stop them sinking over time. They also try to remove any old connections or repairs. Some of the boxes are being moved as there current position is not ideal, such as the 12th, pictured below, will need some extra repair work as the excavation was in poor ground conditions. All uneven or poor ground will be dealt with over time, either sanding to restore levels or seeding where needed.

All tees and worn areas have now been sanded, we are hand sanding lower areas on some of the tees to help reduce unevenness, they will be top dressed again in spring. The approaches will also be top dressed in the next week or so

Applications of slow release fertiliser have been made to worn areas and summer tees. This will release over a 3 month period, but has a good proportion of available nitrogen at this time of year. An application of fertiliser is due on the greens next week.

The ditch walls at the 16th are nearly complete, the tops of the walls will be to tidy and to turf when we get into spring. We also hope to excavate the left hand bridge crossing as this area is very uneven and is a point where there are a number of drains that need readdressing. We may extend and drain the front section of the approach to 16th green if time allows in the next few months.

We have 12 trees that are due for delivery on Monday, to plant where the bunkers have been removed between 18th and 27th fairways, planting these will separate the two holes and allow us to extend the fairway further left on the 27th hole. We also have 3 leylandii and some thorn plants to replace those lost when removing the willow to the rear of the 10th green/ 13th tee.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Catch Up

With all the work that has been going on it feels like the blog has been dominated by the irrigation works, I feel its important that all members, visitors and just blog followers for that matter are kept up to date with the progress of the installation. As its one of the biggest investments the club has made since my time here and certainly one that will see the efficiency of our water application improve massively. Before I cover all the other projects the greenstaff are working on just a quick update of the irrigation work that's happened in the last week.

The pipe installation has been stopped until some of the holes that are on the course have been filled, its also given the contractors a chance to tidy some of the mole lines. All the remaining loop on 10-13 was completed last week. Hopefully the weather stays dry next week when ploughing will continue. The positive side of the work is that the work so far has left little long term damage and there is a lot of drier areas where they can work should the conditions decline.

So what's been happening on the course? Firstly the Air2G2 aeration work has been completed, all the greens have been decompacted using high pressure jets of air released deep within the soil profile. Overall the work has resulted in much better drainage rates across most of the greens. The worrying issue it's raised is that a couple of the greens, the 2nd being one of the worst, still have water infiltration problems. After the 2nd green had been done there was a period of rain, which again stood fairly easily on the surface of that green. Since I have been here we have always had problems with that particular green due to the shape and poor soil used in construction, leading to standing water. In the most extreme circumstances the 2nd hole has to be taken out of play to restrict damage. After decompacting the lower profile its evident that the soil beneath the rooting structure is very heavy and poor to drain, looking forward, this is one that drainage would be of a district advantage to improve the health of the putting surface.

When we check the course on a morning its a great time to see golfer patterns that are left in the dew as it gives a good idea of how traffic is concentrated into certain areas around greens and tees. That helps us decide where to move hoops and ropes to change wear patterns and direct golfers to areas that would allow previously worn turf to recover. Its also highlights the issues we face with golfers bending the rules of etiquette, below is a great example.

Clearly two golfers have taken their trolleys across the GREEN. We often see that golfers remove hoops to allow access through to the next tee or simply to play their shot, and often we have to put hoops back which have been left out. We only use the ropes and hoops to try and prevent damage around the summer use areas, so when it comes to spring the areas where golfers would walk and play from are less damaged and therefore more enjoyable than they would be otherwise. Obviously taking trollies across the green is unacceptable, however please try and abide by the traffic management aids (hoops and ropes) as they are there for the golfers to protect YOUR course. The same applies to buggy use, please stay to the semi rough as much as possible, when it is frosty, at all times. Again frequent use of buggies does cause damage, especially when the course is wet and the surface is greasy due to expected thin sparse growth at this time of the year.

Hedge cutting is continuing, they are currently working on the 19th leylandii, following that the range and a few bits of thorn are all that remains. The remaining, non flowering shrubs around the car park have all been pruned. The flowering varieties will be done later in the year.

The bins that were made 'in house' are all out on the course. They look great and will hopefully solve the issues with litter. They have all been put on a concrete slab to finish them off. This should make it easier to maintain around them.

The greens have all been cut, we have put the greens mowers up to 4.5mm bench setting, which is 0.5mm higher than the previous cut. This is simply to allow a little more top growth, which increases health and reduces the risk of scalping during softer conditions. Overall the greens are looking reasonably good. The next application of fertiliser is due in the next few weeks. We will also be starting to apply a slow release fertiliser to all tees, approaches and worn areas. This should aid recovery when the grass starts to grow. The tees and approaches will be sanded next week, this will help fill in divots and help reduce the wear. Now carbendazim has been banned, this was the chemical we used to treat worm casts, applying sand will be a lot bigger part of maintenance to most areas. We simply cant afford to sand everywhere so the main playing areas and wear points on the course will be prioritised. We have already been sanding any areas that are getting messy due to general wear, through both golf and irrigation work.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Irrigation update #4

As we enter into the 3rd week of the irrigation installation things have taken a turn for the worse. Doing anything in January is going to be at the mercy of the British weather, Having started on holes 10-18 on Tuesday things were going smoothly with another 350 meters installed in dry conditions, reaching the 10th green area. Over night we had around 25mm of rain, which not only closed the course but put the contractors on hold until things started to dry out.

Fortunately today has brought drying winds and thankfully we can continue. The aim is to reach the 10th tee (passing the 13th, 15th and 27th greens) to complete a loop with the holes on 1-9. Once this stage is reached the team are then going to concentrate on connecting up and filling in all holes that are currently exposed. The contractors have at least one of their team working on tidying up the work as the plough is working. He concentrates on the 'in play' areas first to ensure play can continue.

Some of the holes are already being filled, all irrigation lines, repairs and infilled areas will remain GUR until further notice.

The bins that are being made 'in house' are now going out on to the course, we have also put a couple out in front of the clubhouse. These are to replace the open style metal bins that are near some of the tees. We have had a lot of issues with animals, crows and squirrels in particular pulling out rubbish which looks very untidy. The sleeper style we have made will hopefully solve this. They are very heavy and are not intended to be moved , so they will be placed in areas where we do not need to move them but are close to the tee. They will be placed on a concrete slab to finish installation. The small bins will be still placed near the tees for any areas we can not place the new ones.

The Air 2 G2 machine is continued to be used and we saw really good results after the recent rainfall in terms of increased drainage rates. Certainly a machine we could use more through the winter.

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.