Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Maintenance weeks approaching

In the next week we will be preparing for the up coming maintenance weeks. The first greens on the course we will be working on are 1-9. These holes will be closed from 6am on Monday 31st July until Friday 4th August. To prepare the greens we have been grooming, cutting and spraying with growth regulator and biostimulants. This will reduce growth but increase stress resistance.  

The greens are still in really good condition and some may question why we are carrying out maintenance at all. 

As the plant grows, in this case a golf greens grass,  it builds up levels of Organic Matter (OM) in the soil, predominantly near the surface.  Golf greens are intensively managed areas, which need  to cope with the large amounts of wear and are fertilised more intensively than most areas.
This high growth rate causes larger than normal  amounts organic matter to build up in the soil profile. 
If we have too little OM, surfaces would be very unstable, ball response would be poor and water use would be excessive. Greens would dry out very quickly. Conversely, if we have too much OM then greens would be soft and bumpy, especially in the winter and disease levels would be higher
The process we are adopting during maintenance is:

Tine using 12mm tines
Tine again but in opposite direction on compacted areas
Tine again using 10mm hollow core tines
Brush sand to fill all holes. 
Roll green
Water turf
Spray wetting agent/ biostimulant
Water in thoroughly. 
Then following the maintenance the green is left for a couple of days until cutting can be carried out with out causing damage to the machine from the sand.
With good soil temperatures recovery should be fairly quick. Triple tining also has the maximum effect without causing major surface disruption. 
Applying heave lifts and disrupts the soil beneath relieving compaction, adding sand into the thatch and soil gives the soil air in which healthy growth can occur. 
To ensure the machinery and equipment is ready for the start of maintenance week we will tine sand and brush the 2 putting greens next week as long as the weather is ok.

When the holes are closed for maintenance, we will strim the bunkers on the course, this helps get them done quicker and the staff will be uninterrupted. 
The full schedule for closure:
Holes 1-9                                 Mon 31st July - Fri 4th August
Holes 10-18                             Mon 7th August - Fri 11th August
Holes 19-27                             Mon 21st August - Fri 25th August

We have had a small issue with the new irrigation system, one of the 3 way joints started leaking under pressure, as the new system has been recently installed this has been put down to a weak weld during installation. This is the only plastic weld joint we have had an issue with. The problem was fixed within 24 hours and the system back up and running. 

The weather has been more settled over the last 2 weeks and growth has been a little more consistent, enabling the course to be in great shape but more importantly from a maintenance point of view helps us plan a little more, concentrating on the smaller tasks once more. All secondary tasks and less frequent tasks will be covered before we start maintenance. 

We have tidied the entrance lane, cutting the thorn hedge back at each parking place so cars don't get scratched and at the end of the lane so visibility is clear to the right.

We have started to cut the 22nd tee ladies tee with the tees mower, this will now be cut regularly and will be in play within the coming month. The new turf will need a light topdress to help improve the turf quality long term. The sides of the tee were seeded however it hasn't been a great success and we will turf them at a later date.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Cloud burst

Well my last blog highlighted the dry conditions have disappeared quickly, and that's even more the case after the last week. On Thursday we had the most amazing thunderstorm since 2012. It was forecast to build up throughout the day and to pass over Malton around 6 pm, however the forecast was to only had isolated showers that would bring heavy but intermittent rain. Unfortunately that wasnt the case, the area of rain grew and when it got to Malton, stopped and unleashed a huge volume of rain in a very short time. Like the title suggests the last time I saw rain like this was a cloud burst in 2012.

A 4 hour deluge deposited 42mm of rain, and as you can imagine the course wasn't pretty. A lake everywhere, the only saving factor was that it had all night in which to soak away and minimise the work for the staff. The scene on Friday morning wasnt pretty, fortunately most of the water had found its way into bunkers and low areas. I was really happy to be honest with the amount of standing water, it showed all the work we have done to the course has made a difference, 5 years ago the course would have been closed due to the standing water, we managed to get the course open for 7.30 with minimal disruption. All but a few bunkers were GUR until we had a chance to put all sand back in position and rake where possible. The team worked hard to get all areas cut as best possible and the course in a playable condition. It also showed us where we still needed to improve the drainage for similar events in the future.

The downside to all the rain and in between the warmth, is the amount of growth, its unstoppable and very difficult to get to grips with. We are working on cutting semi as much as possible, with all other in play areas prioritised, as you can see from the pictures below the amount of grass taken off has to be collected to ensure the course looks ok and remains undamaged.

The dry spring and now humid, wet conditions are ideal for anthracnose disease. We have sprayed the first preventative fungicide of the year to control the spread of this disease. Below is some infomation regarding the disease.


Anthracnose in turfed areasIdentification

Anthracnose occurs in two forms, basal rot and foliar blight, which can develop at different times of year according to weather conditions. Anthracnose most commonly affects annual meadow grass, but can affect all grasses.
Basal rot symptoms are yellowing leaves, with the youngest leaf brick red in colour and black rot appearing at the base of the leaves.
With foliar blight, symptoms appear as irregular, yellow or brown patches of turf, which turn tan and die. It can be mistaken for drought, however the symptoms worsen with watering and fungal fruiting structures (acervuli) with fine black hair-like setae can usually be seen by using a magnifying glass.

What causes Anthracnose to develop?

Anthracnose is caused by the fungus Colletotrichum cereale. It occurs when climatic conditions are suitable and the turf is under stress due to inappropriate or inadequate maintenance.
Basal rot occurs in autumn and winter when conditions are cool and wet. Foliar blight occurs in summer when temperatures are higher. Both are more likely to occur when the turf is stressed due to low fertility (particularly nitrogen), compaction, drought and excessively low mowing heights. Moisture on the leaves and insect/nematode activity can also encourage development of the disease.

Treatment of Anthracnose disease

Fungicide treatments are available to control Anthracnose, however if the underlying causes are not rectified the disease may return more severely.The disease is best managed by correcting the underlying causes of the disease and following an appropriate maintenance regime will reduce the occurrence and severity. 
  1. Prune and thin vegetation surrounding the turfed area to reduce shade and improve air movement in the morning, allowing the foliage to dry quicker.
  2. If watering is required, this should be done less frequently, ensuring water percolates through to the soil. Irrigate early in the morning rather than during late afternoon or evening.
  3. Remove dew first thing in the morning by switching/brushing the turf or dragging a hose across the surface, allowing it to dry quicker.
  4. Follow an appropriate feeding regime.
  5. Mow the turf at recommended heights, increasing the cutting height if necessary to promote grass growth and aid recovery.
  6. Reduce excess thatch.
  7. Aerate compacted areas.
  8. Check for insect or nematode activity.

Personally i think this is more severe than fusarium from my experience at Malton and Norton Golf Club, as once the disease is visible the grass is infected to  a point where it can not recover. During summer fusarium is present in isolated areas however the grass can recover and will give opportunity for increased bent grass coverage.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Drought conditions are long gone

Until today the last week or so hasn't brought us much rain, only around 5mm.
That amount will only sit in the very top of the soil profile and evaporate within a few days due to high temperatures and windier conditions. The ground would benefit from some water as a number of areas were showing signs of drought conditions, with irrigation limited to only greens and tees there is no means of rectifying these issues without mother nature intervening. As long as the dry spell isn't too excessive there should be no long term damage. We have noticed that in the intense heat there has been golfer and vehicle damage to some turf, on the sandier areas of the course where moisture was very low there has been scorch to the grass. I would imagine this has been caused by the damage to the plant, from crushing the exterior leaving the plant unable to recover.

The conditions have been ideal for finishing the long rough, the dry conditions make collection of the grass much easier and we were able to complete the thickest of areas. The collection of the rough as mentioned in my previous blogs is part of an ongoing plan to thin out some areas of the course and make it more playable for all standards of golfer. The Amazone machine we have bought this year is certainly making a difference, not only in time saved but the cleanliness and quality of cut is superb. The only downside we have, is the amount of grass removed has to be disposed of somewhere, making areas for the waste will be one of our priorities later in the year.

During dry spells it gives opportunity to check irrigation coverage on greens and tees. As explained the irrigation upgrade has been a fantastic investment on the course, however the sprinkler heads around greens and tees are still the same at this moment in time, a number of them are quite old. Coverage can be effected if the rotation, nozzle or height is not optimal, as seen in the picture below a clear sign something is not right.

Coverage does not appear to be even as the colour of the turf around the sprinkler head is not uniform and there is clear dry areas on the turf. Unlike the rest of the green.  When tested the sprinkler head was in fact not rotating and needs to be replaced, a number have already been replaced or altered to improve uniformity.

We have managed to put another 12 tonnes of sand on the greens, this is to ensure thatch accumulations are kept under control by diluting any organic matter from regular cutting. The sand was brushed into the surface following application.

The forecast was for a reasonable amount of rain over the next few days, and its certainly lived up to their predictions, 8mm of rain yesterday and around 25mm today has put an end to any drought conditions. The issue with that quantity of rain after such a dry spell, is it sits on the hard surfaces very easily. However 25mm of rain would stand on any type of surface. Hopefully the forecast for the next few days will be drier and allow us to catch up with cutting, as we have done very little over the last 2 days. Fortunately growth is slower at the moment due to lower temperatures.

Over the last few days I have noticed a couple of concerning issues on the course. Firstly the bunker to the right of the 3rd green seems to be showing signs or the face slipping due to regular heavy machinery passing across the top of the face, this sometimes happens when sand builds up from sand splash when golfers hit shots from the bunker. The sand on the face creates a weak structure and no stability for heavy machinery cutting the surrounding areas. To solve the issue we will limit access to this particular bunker with machinery and returf the face during winter, removing the sand build up.
The second is the sleeper wall at the front of the 8th pond, which is rotting and in some areas becoming weak and unsafe. This will have to  be looked into, either repaired or rebuilt. The last point is some of the mature ash trees on the coursed seem to be struggling this year,

this one on the 18th shows very weak growth. A clear sign that the tree has issues, is the amount of shoots the tree is sending from the main body rather than from the new growth on the limbs. The shoots are a sign it is trying to recover from decay or disease. A number of limbs are dying back, this one in particular is to be monitored for its safety. As mentioned there are others on the course with similar symptoms.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

They've bin a success

Excuse the pun, but this is a quick update on the bins out on the course, which were new this year. Previously we had an issue with the old bins, where crows and squirrels would pull rubbish from the sides and top, scattering debris and litter on the grass. This looked untidy and was very difficult to stop, as the previous bins were made from an open mesh, therefore were easily accessible for vermin.

The Director of Golf, Colin Webster and myself set about trying to solve this problem, we looked at a number of different bins and took inspiration from bins at other course to come up with a cost effective solution. To buy 15 new bins would have been very expensive, average cost of a ready made wood or recycled plastic bin is around £300, we made the bins you see above for £90 each (excluding any labour). They are solid oak so should last a number of years, however they are green oak, so I do expect some cracking and warping over time.

I'm really pleased with how they have worked out and we now have no issue with bird or squirrel damage, they are much larger than the previous bins so don't need emptying as often, but can take a large volume of rubbish on the busiest days at the club. In the future I hope to make a few more and replace some of the older bins which are still left out on the course.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Well the last few weeks have been far from the summer weather we would expect. We have had a number of days of wet weather and it would seem as nature is righting itself from the start of the year. Over all May was a cold and dry month, June has been quite the opposite. 59mm so far and very warm and humid air means lots of grass to cut. We have been working hard, concentrating on keeping the course in the best possible condition, mowers as you can imagine are working non stop, with some areas having to be blown afterwards to ensure the course looks tidy. The semi rough is a prime example, this task is an everyday, every week job but when growth is severe then all semi rough needs blowing after. This obviously takes up more time, but is a task which I feel is very important to make the course more playable and more aesthetically pleasing.

During the heaviest rain there was a lot of puddling on fairways, all the low spots were great collection points for surface run off. Thankfully at this time of the year the conditions are firm enough not to cause any long term damage with the amount of play during those conditions.

With wet and warm weather the course looks great, all areas are defined and dense. All the team are working hard to cover all cutting tasks, right down to the smaller jobs, such as edging and weeding.
A worrying issue I'd like to point out at this stage of the year, is worm casts. Even after the rain we had a couple of weeks ago we saw a number of worm casts appearing on fairways, tees and walk areas. Its not a problem during summer as conditions are always likely to improve and the casts grow out, however come winter there will be no more chemicals to treat casts and then we will have a big issue. The only way of limiting damage will be to apply sand, the cost of which will have to be factored into budgets for the coming years.

At this time of the year we begin tidying all the tree bases, as grass grows there are certain areas we can't cut with machinery due to their position, all trees are cut around as part of the regular maintenance. Over time the grass around these areas, trees especially, becomes longer and longer. These become unsightly as all other areas are kept cut and tidy, there are simply too many trees on the course to cut around them all regularly so we try to start tidying them all during June. Doing them at this time of the year when the conditions are drier usually means the amount of grass which will grow back following the cut is more minimal, taking us through to the end of the season and the second and final cut of the year when all roughs are tidied before the onset of leaf collection.

This year we have a rough/ leaf collection machine. Previously due to time constraints we cut and collected all long rough at the end of the season, The only way we could cut and collect the rough was to cut it using a rotary machine which was tractor mounted. Due to its width and power took a very long time, also as the cut grass wasn't collected, it had to be then piled into heaps to be collected by hand onto trailers. Simply leaving the grass on the surface would lead to poor regrowth, difficult playing conditions and the likelihood it would decompose and block the leaf sucker once we started collecting leaves. The new machine we have, cuts, scarifies and collects all debris, whether its leaves or grass. Its also a LOT less labour intensive.

Every year I receive a lot of complaints that the rough is too thick and very difficult to play out from, if you can find your ball! As part of an ongoing maintenance plan we now have the equipment to start improving the thickness of the rough and the play-ability of the course. There are two factors which determine the thickness and play-ability of the longer grasses, firstly the type of grass is the most important factor, Coarse grasses grow a lot more aggressively compared to finer grasses, Secondly the nutrition and condition of the soil. Both we can try and improve, but cant be done quickly. Removing the grass every time we cut the long grass will, overtime reduce the nutrition and therefore the thick nature of its growth. There has been chemicals available to kill off the more aggressive grasses like what we have, such as Rye grass and Yorkshire Fog, leaving finer species like bents and fescues which are thinner and much more easy to play from. Unfortunately these chemicals have just been removed from the market but there's nothing to say they wont be replaced.

This week we have started the first cut to reduce the matted layer which has built up at the base over the past decade, As mentioned the previous method cut horizontally, removing only the top upright growth, this left a lot of laid grass that over time creates a mat of dead matter and thicker growth. To start thinning the rough and reducing growth long term this is something we need to do regularly, This year we are cutting the long rough down in June and then again in September/October when leaves begin to fall. The new machine cuts vertically as well as horizontally removing all matted grass and collects all top growth.

The long rough will be cut twice a year, following the first cut it will be left once again to grow up and give the definition, I'm sure over time when the rough begins to be more playable we will assess areas that can be changed or increased. Unfortunately there are some areas we are struggling to cut initially as the tractor needed to pull the collector is taller and will not fit under a lot of the trees on the course, these areas will have to be strimmed or cut with our smaller machine. I'm sure the first time we cut the rough down during summer will look different, however will not take too long before the definition returns to the long rough areas of the course. Finally to give you an idea of the time saved cutting and collecting roughs, Using the old tractor mounted rotary mower and collecting by hand took 480 man hours, a lot of those very physical. The new machine will take around 80 man hours each cut (160 annually), with a lot less physical work. Time that will be reinvested back into the course to make Malton and Norton Golf Club even better.

One area of maintenance that we are trying to improve, with thanks to our summer worker Lynsey Frost, is bunker presentation, we have started raking bunkers more regularly and are tidied daily, removing the worst of marks and all rabbit scrapes. Golfers can also help, following a visit into the sand please could all golfers ensure the sand is left raked, including where the shot has been played from. Its very disappointing to see this

only 2 hours since the bunkers have been completely raked. Its also the responsibility of golfers to ensure course etiquette is maintained, repairing pitchmarks, divots and abiding by simple rules will ensure Malton and Norton Golf Club remains one of the best course to play. Thank you

Saturday, 3 June 2017

All systems go

After the rain we received around two weeks ago growth has exploded. With short working weeks and a lot of golf being played its been difficult to keep up with all cutting, some areas have had to be cut and then blown to keep the playing areas tidy. The team have done a fantastic job and deserve a lot of praise, the course looks fantastic and we have heard lots of positive feedback.

We have now adjusted heights of cut for summer maintenance, current bench settings:
Greens : 3.5mm, Surrounds: 10mm, Tees: 10mm, Fairways: 14mm

‘Bench setting’ is the term we use to describe the height of cut set with a gauge bar or setting bar on each unit. The actual height of cut of the grass plants can differ from the bench setting due to the type of rollers on the machine, ground conditions, weight of unit and set up of cut. For example the greens mowers are set at 3.5mm, however the actual height of cut is around 3 - 3.25mm. The actual height of cut is measured using a prism gauge.
To continue our maintenance of the greens a dressing of sand will be applied next week, this will be matted in to the sward. Following the dressing of sand, we will continue applications of liquid Urea (7kgN/hect), biostimulants, growth regulator and phosphites.

The fairways have now all been sprayed with a selective weed killer and fertiliser, we had a contractor to spray them as it was a more cost-effective way of treating them on a bi annual basis. We had to close the course for this, thank you for your understanding during that time. We have sprayed all areas of semi rough with a selective weed killer to control mainly clover, daisies and buttercups.

The drainage and ditch work on 16th is now complete and all areas are now in play, however the drainage work on the fairway is to be top dressed to level out the turf over the next few weeks. The ladies 22nd tee is yet to be finished, just some seeding to complete. The tee top has been turfed and will be in play as soon as I feel it’s ready. We have started tidying and seeding all damage done when installing the irrigation

The tree work has now been completed, GBL timber have done a great job of thinning and clearing all the weed trees in the copses on 26th hole. This should allow all the other trees room to flourish. The dangerous ash tree on the 15th hole has also been removed.

The irrigation system is just about complete, all the new pumps and electrics are installed and up and running, we have been using it over this recent hot spell and to put how good the new system is into perspective here’s some numbers to help:

                                                                                    Old                   New

Time to fill water all greens (3mm)                            8.5h                 2.5h

Time to water all greens and tees (3mm)                   14.5h               4.25h

Time to fill tank                                                           12h                  2.5h

Pressure of system                                                      7.5 BAR           9.6 BAR

Max flow rate of system                                             12 m3              40m3

Number of stations running at once                               1                      6

As you can see not only is the system capable of cutting time by over half it enables us to water, if needed above ET (evapotranspiration) rates. Once there becomes a water deficit situation this can lead to drought stress within the plants. The system also enables us to carry out cycle and soak applications, for example, if we wanted to apply 6mm of water per m2, simply putting on all that water in one go would lead to run off and the distribution of the water would be uneven. We now can apply the 6mm in 3 stages, applying 2mm letting it soak in then another 2mm and so on. This method of irrigating ensures the water goes deeper into the soil profile and to where the roots can take it up and where there is less chance of evaporation.

Irrigation is also being applied to newly planted trees, seeded and turfed areas during this dry spell.

All bunkers have been edged and tidied on 1-18, 19-27 will be completed next week, we are now routinely checking and tidying bunker edges for rabbit scrapes daily, however it’s the golfer’s responsibility to rake footprints and ball marks in bunkers to keep them in a good condition for your fellow golfers.

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.