Friday, 17 November 2017

Trees and leaves

After a long run of mild/wet weather it would seem that the normal weather for November is finally here. It looks like we are in for a spell  of colder, windy and potentially settled weather. This is going to slow growth right down. Not only that should reduce disease pressure and remove the last of the leaves clinging to the trees.
Initially the week started colder with a couple of grass frosts. The frost didn't penetrate into the ground so went after around 9am each day. The picture below highlights why the front putting green is prone to disease. 
The edge nearest the clubhouse is clearly not frozen like the rest of the green. I believe this is because the clubhouse reflects any heat and light creating a slightly different microclimate in this region. As this strip is always slightly warmer and therefore more dewy and less likely to freeze disease pressure is higher. 
Other reasons we find problematic greens on the course is shade. Whilst working around the 5th green it was an ideal opportunity to show the problems we face. At just past midday this is as much sun this green gets at it's highest point. 

With high disease pressure in mind we have applied another preventative fungicide to greens and surrounds. We will apply another application in December to limit disease through until spring. As mentioned last month the contact fungicide active ingredient iprodione has been withdrawn, the dates have been released and we will have up to the start of June to use all remaining stock. With this in mind we must now face the difficult challenge of balancing preventative and cultural strategies to minimise disease. This is going to be a difficult one, as already on the wet and shaded greens we have seen unbelievable disease pressure resulting in fusarium patches on roughly 6 of the worst greens. Clearly we want improve the environmental conditions to allow as much natural resistance as possible, this could be more aeration, improved drainage, tree removal or resorting to unnatural measures like more frequent chemical applications.

Most of the leaves are now down and are still being collected regularly, the breezy conditions are blowing what's left around the course which then have to be blown clear of playing surfaces. The team are still out daily ensure we can keep the course in the best condition possible.

Obviously greens, tees and fairways are the priority areas so bunkers have been raked less due to time, and the fact that all debris needs to be removed first. So we are currently doing them once a week. When debris and leaves reduce then we can then rake more often.

Greens and surrounds have also been sprayed with calcium, iron, potassium and bio stimulants to strengthen them going into this cold spell. We hopefully will apply a winter granular fertiliser to greens, surrounds and tees next week.
The only cutting we have done this week is to greens, surrounds and the Derwent fairways, just to keep them tidy. 

This week we have had Neville Maw our regular hedge cutting contractor here to cut all hedges and ditches on the course. Following the 3 days he is here cutting we then have a number of areas that will need hand cutting.

We are making a start to tree pruning right across the course along with continued removal of dead, dying and weak trees. This is a long process which involves assessing each tree and removing low and hanging branches. This is to ensure machinery can access all areas and golf can be played without to many restrictions. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Start of some winter work

Over the last couple of weeks we have made a start on a few winter jobs, grass growth is slowing slightly and we getting on top of a number of smaller tasks. First up was aeration of greens, the last couple of years we have used a machine called an Air2G2. This machine basically injects air into the soil at around 300mm below the surface. The great benefit we have found in using this machine opposed to the conventional vertidrain method of aeration is the reduced disruption to the surafce. The vertidrain machine punches thousands of holes into the turf, depending on tine size, ranging from 8mm to 15mm wide. The tines create spaces within the soil profile for new roots to develop, with the added benefit of providing air into the soil. The Air2G2 has 15mm tines but as it injects air there are a lot fewer holes. So few that after a roll it is difficult to see where the machine has been. The air is injected at high pressure, this fractures the soil structure creating horizontal airpockets, and those that break up to the surface. This again provides the soil and more importantly the grass roots with the air they need for healthy growth as well as increasing the drainage potential.

Some of the greens are struggling more than others due to the continual wet conditions we have seen this year, the 2nd, 5th and 10th are the wettest and softest on holes 1-18. Greens 21-24 are also soft but these are generally softer due to the position in a flood plain. We are thinking of trying to improve them over the coming years by installing drainage. We have to consider all the options, and provide a solution which is affordable. A new system has been launched called PC Duke drainage. This system is being installed in 3 greens at Hull GC. Adam and myself took the opportunity to go and see the installation for ourselves, with the intention of considering it for the greens at Malton and Norton GC. It was very impressive, very little disruption, the green was fully complete within 4 hours and playable immediately after. The system compromises of sand bands every meter apart, the difference to a normal sand band installation is the machine also pulls in a hollow fibre glass rope, which is then linked to an exit drain. The fibre glass rope absorbs all moisture within the sand drawing it away to an outfall. This allows the sand to continue absorbing water from the green. We will return to Hull GC to see how effective it has been over the winter. This method has a couple of advantages over a normal drainage installation, one is the cost, around 50% cheaper, and secondly the disruption is very minimal, the green is out of play for 4 hours, a conventional drainage system could take the green out of play for up to 4 months.

We have started an bunker improvement programme. The most comments I receive currently is regarding the bunkers, specifically balls getting stuck under grass lips. I fully understand the issue, to explain the reasoning the bunkers are designed as they are is to reduce labour needed to maintain the bunkers. Bunkers with flat bases are far easier to maintain as the sand remains in situ after heavy rain. As we are looking to increase staff numbers this gives the option to experiment with the bunker style and hopefully improve the playability of some bunkers on the course. To show how we are looking to present the new style of bunkers we have completed 4 of the practice bunkers, please have a look and give some feedback.

We have also started some tree work, removing some dead and dying trees across the course, there are number of trees on the course in very poor and sometimes dangerous condition. Below are a few examples of some of the trees that we are working on currently. They have rot and are structural unsafe. Other trees will be pruned to ease maintenance and increase playabilty in some areas of the course.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Wet Wet Wet

After the wet summer we have had it was only a matter of time before the course gave in to the relenting weather. More rain through October has left us with saturated surfaces, the rain has causes us many headaches not just with the amount of wet areas across the course but has not allowed us to cut grass or collect leaves as we would have wanted to. Access across the course is limited to only the driest of areas. Where we have been able to get to has made more mess than i would have liked but again we are working to a needs must philosophy until the ground conditions improve.

There are a lot of leaves falling at the moment and the new amazone machine is working great (if we could only get on to the course to use it), as soon as we can get on to the course we will have a full round up of all in play areas. It only takes one man a couple of days to cover the course, by far easier and quicker than the previous machine we had. The time saved has allowed us to spend more time on other areas. It's mainly been swallowed up by the amount of time we have to spend switching and brushing casts, and to be honest I don't think I expected the damage to be quite as bad as it currently is. The worm casts are worse in some areas than others but most areas are seeing visible damage and some turf loss. The amount of rain coupled with cutting and general play from golfers is making the damage more evident.

To limit damage we have been out with hand equipment only, back pack blowing leaves from around greens and tees, using hand mowers to cut banks and wet areas around greens and tees.

We have a number of areas roped off to prevent long term damage, please could I ask all golfers to abide by the restrictions and to not move hoops and ropes to allow access. If a ball hits the ropes and hoops then you are entitled to retake the shot.

As we go into winter and the weather deteriorates further we may have to adopt a more sensible approach to the course playability. If we feel there is going to be long term damage caused to the course we will have no option but to limit play in some areas.

I have to thank the buggy users, so far the new restrictions we have applied this year seems to be working and the buggy users are sticking mostly to the semi rough.

All 1-18 fairways have been sprayed with iron, in an attempt to slow worm activity, but will help strengthen and add colour to the sward. The greens have been sprayed with a preventative fungicide, this was done on Monday of this week, thankfully before the weather took a turn for the worse. This will help limit damage to the greens turf caused by turf diseases such as Fusaruim. Another big chemical taken off the market this week has been announced. This is an extract from the Bayer press release which can be found online

''Products containing the chemical iprodione are to be withdrawn from sale following an EU ruling by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed banning use of the substance.

Bayer makes iprodione products Chipco Green, which controls fusarium patch, red thread, dollar spot, anthracnose, leaf spot and rust, and Interface is used on microdochium patch, red thread/pink patch, dollar spot, anthracnose, leaf spot/melting out and rust.

Bayer professional product manager Steve Bishop said the company would update industy in the coming weeks with timescales for the sell-out and usage periods of iprodione product based registrations.

Bayer professional product manager Steve Bishop said: "We have a large regulatory team based in the UK who’ll keep the industry informed on all of the latest updates."

Earlier this year, Bayer launched Exteris Stressgard, which increased the available number of fungicide groups from five to six, with the new turf SDHI fluopyram. 

"Unfortunately the loss of iprodione will reduce the available turf fungicide groups back to five, meaning that rotation strategy remains a critical element of integrated disease management," Bishop said.  

"With other chemicals also due for assessment, a further reduction in the total number of products on the market, and therefore the number of available groups for rotation, for turf disease control is not out of the question.

"This is why we’re constantly investing into the research and development of new chemistry, to continue to deliver solutions to our customers well into the future."

This is another bitter pill to swallow for anyone who has to manage turf, especially after the withdrawal of carbendazim. This fungicide active is the sole contact/curative left which can be used once active disease is visible. As greenkeepers we now need to be proactive, rather than reactive. Most greenkeepers will already be on a preventative fungicide strategy of some sorts but now we will have to be more careful both culturally and chemically, with more focus around preventative measures to keep the turf in good order. To now say we can keep the turf disease free is a stretch, even with all the products available it would be expensive and sometimes difficult to implement given such factors outside your control such as the weather. We still hope other alternative effective chemicals will become available over time.

The team have started to edge some of the practice bunkers, we are looking at ways to solve a recurring piece of feedback ive been receiving over the last year, the ball finding its way under the grass lips around the bunker edge. On the practice ground we are taking the grass edge a lot further up around the perimeter of the bunker, shaping the ground beneath to allow the ball to run into the center of the bunker. This style requires more maintenance as the sand constantly works its way down from the bunker edges, needing to be pulled up on a daily basis. Please try and view the bunkers in question and give us feedback.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Autumnal tasks

Below is a great link which discusses some of the points I have previously made on this blog regarding the trees on the course.

This week we are making great progress with the rough management, nearly all the long rough has been cut down, along with some longer areas of intermediate rough. Leaves are starting to fall thick and fast, so we are out on a daily basis with the back pack and tractor mounted blowers. The leaf collector is also being used as and when possible on a morning.

We had another period of windy weather which brought down a number of larger branches and a couple of smaller trees, fortunately one of the trees was dying and probably the reason why it was weaker than it should have been.

With most of the debris tidied we are now concentrating efforts on tidying uncut bits of long rough and around trees which cant be accessed with the amazone. These areas are strimmed or will be cut with a smaller mower. This is a long process but will ensure we keep the course in the best possible condition going into winter. Leaving areas of rough makes leaf collection difficult. A long reach pruning saw will be needed in some areas to make collection easier in the future.

We are also starting to spray fairways with soluble iron, this will help deter worm activity, also strengthen the sward heading into winter. I'm normally not over keen on applying high amounts of iron to turf as it can lead to black layer as high iron levels limits natural aerobic activity, however it does lower the pH as iron sulphate is relatively acidic. The lower the pH the less worm activity we will hopefully see. I have tried a number of expensive worm suppressants with very limited results so applying iron is a very inexpensive way of trying to improve the turf. We will continue to apply treatments until weather conditions deteriorate. The greens have also been sprayed with a mix of amino acids and biostimulants with a very small amount of Nitrogen mixed in.

Unfortunately there are a number of areas that are getting a little sticky and cutting is making them look even worse. At the moment we cutting on a needs/ must basis, picking dry days and ground conditions to cut where needed. Its a difficult balance to keep the course tidy without making more damage than we need to, the team are doing a fantastic job to deal with an ever changing challenge. On a positive note the work we do to the greens on an annual basis seems to proving a success as the greens surfaces are healthy and performing ok. Due to the wet year there is a little moss on some of the wetter/shaded greens and the remnants of a little fusarium that was knocking around a few weeks ago. We have since sprayed a fungicide so there is no new activity, this will be monitored over the coming weeks. Nights and mornings are drawing in so most mornings the team are out with torches and lights on the machines, its essential we still start work early to ensure the course is checked, set up and ready for the days play. Please note the course information line will be updated at 7.30 at the latest from 1st November (currently 7.00am)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Here comes the leaves

As the temperatures begin to drop the trees are changing colour and the leaves are beginning to fall. We are gearing equipment up to start collection, the new amazone machine should make a real difference to the labour involved in the annual task. To make collection easier we have to cut down all the long rough on the course, again utilising our machine we are cutting and collecting all areas and composting the grass in our designated areas across the course.

The weather has been good for this task, dry and windy for a change. It certainly helps when the long grass is dry, it compacts better and makes the job quicker.

However the wind has been causing chaos on other parts of the course and causing a few issues for even simple tasks such as cutting greens and fairways. The wind has gusted at 40mph at times, fortunately no damage has been done to the course. However the strong winds have brought many small branches down and quite a number of leaves, there has also been a lot of pine needles, keys and bits from leylandii and other trees close by to greens and fairways. We have had staff out clearing areas so cutting can be carried out, adding time to all jobs, it is critical that debris is removed so damage to the turf doesn't occur.

Cutting is going to be a real test, one that is going to have to be thought about carefully as we head into winter, worm casts, as previously mentioned cause damage to the machinery and to the turf when cutting occurs, the drier the ground conditions and casts the less damage occurs, especially to the turf. Picking days to cut is going to be the key to minimising damage. Unfortunately they can be few and far between as we head into November and December, making the decisions ever more difficult. To help the cast smearing we can brush and switch areas, however sometimes this just isn't possible. Other measures we are trying, to prevent long term damage are; minimising traffic to cast prone areas such as fairways and high wear areas, buggies will cause a lot of damage to turf once grass growth stops, smearing casts on to the turf which then can't recover, so please try and keep buggies to the semi rough as much as possible. We are putting out the usual traffic management hoops and rope, we will be trying other chemicals and acidifiers to reduce general castings and sanding areas which we feel are getting to severe. Please appreciate that worm casting is a problem for most clubs now so we are not alone, its a very frustrating issue we need to deal with on a daily basis, and hopefully something we can strive to improve over time.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Quick update

Just a quick update to show how things are progressing on the course and the work that has gone on over the last week or so. Firstly the weather has been very mixed, we have had a spell of very Autumnal weather. Cool winds from the north dropped temperatures dramatically, almost to the point of a couple of frosty mornings. Temperatures dipped to around 5 degrees C. That has slowed grass growth down and given us a chance to catch up on a few jobs. With paternity leave for a couple of our staff over August and September, we have struggled to get on top of cutting until the growth slowed, thankfully now all areas are under control.

We have had chance to start a few of the winter type tasks, the first being clearing some vegetation from the 11th storage area to make room for leaf disposal. We will aim to clear a couple more areas in the next couple of weeks. All gutters on buildings around the car park have been checked and cleaned. The bridges across the 10th have been tidied and weeded. Also we have started to sharpen the back up greens mower units.

The cool nights have brought some dewy conditions which makes an ideal environment for disease. With this in mind we have sprayed a preventative fungicide which should reduce the risk of fusarium on the putting surfaces over the next month. should conditions prevail and we think disease pressure is high then a follow up application will be made in October

We have applied a slow release fertiliser to the tees which has now taken effect and are looking good.

The worn areas on 10-18 holes have been vertidrained before the machine was taken off in preparation for the leaf/grass collector to start work.

We are continuing to trial the worm suppressants which are on the market, with no real winners so far. Worm casts are still going to be the most damaging problem we will face this winter. Please be understanding, as there is very little we can do to prevent the smearing and mud that will build up in high wear areas.

Generally the course is playing well for the time of year, the staff are working hard to present the course in the best possible condition for the busy end of season period.

We are starting to mark trees which are for removal this winter, dying, dead or dangerous trees are 'ringed' before the leaves fall. This makes it easy to see which trees are for felling and which are to be pruned come the middle of the winter when we will start this type of work. We are also in the process of creating a tree management plan, this will involve analysing all tree areas and suggesting a plan to ensure that all woodland is managed correctly long term. We do not want to see the trees become over crowded, lose turf quality or lose the play-ability of the course we have.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Wormcast woes

As we head into the middle of September, the onslaught of leaf collection seems as its just around the corner. Some trees are showing colour change and a hand full of trees have started to drop their leaves. We are regularly out with the tornado blower dispersing grass clipping, from wet cuts, so these few areas are not an issue as yet.

Storm Aileen, the first of the season passed across the country on Tuesday night, this brought strong winds and a bit of rain, fortunately after a couple hours of clearing and pushing water off the greens the course suffered no real damage. Unfortunately this hasn't been the only rain the course has had over the last week, to be honest there has hardly been a day without rain. 37mm has fallen so far in September, followed by a wet August (87mm) and an even wetter July (112mm). The course is therefore getting sticky, the rainfall in July and August is not ideal, but there is sufficient heat in the sun to dry surfaces and remove moisture from the soil, in September the air and soil temperatures start to decline, therefore less moisture is lost from the ground and we start to see some damage. This has been exaggerated this year due to the worm cast issues we are facing after the removal of all effective worm suppressants from the market.

Carbendazim could be sprayed at this time of the year to supress worm casts on all areas of the course, with no means of preventing them we are seeing more and more as the soils get cooler and wetter. Ideal conditions for worm activity. These cause damage in a couple of ways, firstly they are smeared by machinery, foot traffic and other golf vehicles such as buggies and trollies. The smearing looks bad, but once the grass slows down in growth will not be able to recover as quickly as it would at this time of the year. This will lead to poor, thin turf in high wear areas. The second way turf can be damaged is the casts blunt the mowers, the soil is abrasive and will dull sharp blade edges. The poor cut will then lead to tearing of the grass plants, opposed a sharp scissor action, letting in diseases and adding stress to the plant, which can only be detrimental to its growth.

We are noticing the most cast activity on wetter and poorer soils and on high wear areas. We have trialled 4 different products on the market which claim to suppress worms, 2 of those had no real effects to the cast activity, 1 had an immediate effect but its longevity was limited to a couple of days and the final product which is an organic soil conditioner showed the best results, however its longevity was limited. It claimed to have an effective suppression of 3 months, however after 3 weeks casts have started to return. I will reapply the product to see it a build up of the organic substance is needed to have a longer effect on the casts. This product is over 5 times the price per hectare than carbendazim, so reapplying to large areas simply wont be affordable. The tests I have done so far are on singular greens so cost at this stage is not an issue.

In a couple of weeks we will begin to cut down all the long rough once more. The amazone machine will be geared up to start the collection in all areas. As mention on my last post we will be starting to clear some areas for grass and leaf disposal. Below are some pictures of the long rough areas around the course, compared to year end 2016 there is a remarkable difference. Even in the wet year we have had the rough is far more playable than previous years, given a couple more years of cutting and collection we should see a big difference to our natural areas on the course.

September 2016

Adam, Sam and myself attended a machinery demonstration day at Wetherby racecourse organised by CLS and Campeys. It was a good day and a chance to see some of the latest machines in action. Days like that always give inspiration and help us think about where we can improve the course here at Malton and Norton. Below is a disc seeder, one area I'm keen to persue once we have tackled drainage issues on some of the greens is to create a more uniform and dense bent grass coverage in the Poa dominated areas of the greens. The reason there is poor bent growth in certain areas of the greens is due to saturated soils providing unsuitable conditions for bent grass. Conditions that Poa loves.

Last but not least I'm pleased to say we have now a second new born on the greens team, Matty  Turnbull and his fiancĂ© Ellie have had there first child. Lola was born on Monday 11th September weighing 8lb 2oz. Matty is now off on his paternity leave, however I'm pleased to say Rich Malthouse is now back to work after becoming a new parent himself.

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.