Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Tree work

With hole closures more frequent, and very little growth we have started to carry out some of the jobs that have been waiting for this time of the year. Firstly all the winter tees have been turfed, following on from Eddie Ruddocks work. These will need a few weeks to allow the turf to root before golfers walk over it.
We have also had a tree surgeon to look at a few dangerous trees, firstly the willow at the rear of the 10th green was leaning quite badly.

After we had three tree surgeons to look at the tree, all three agreed it was not immediately going to fall but a section of decay within the trunk would spread weakening one side and eventually it would break off. I decided the safest option was to remove the tree, if it did go it is in an area where golfers pass constantly, also it would have fallen on to the leylandii hedge, ruining its shape. The tree surgeon took it down piece by piece, the only damage a bit of a muddy area where we were working. There was also two dying leylandii (of a different species to the rest of the hedge) that have been removed and will be replanted to match the rest of the hedge. The fence will also be replaced over the next few weeks.

Hers a picture of the rot spreading in the trunk, believed to be caused by an old branch which would have stemmed off the side of the tree.

And a section from higher up the tree, the dark area is the rot beginning to take effect.
We also took down two dead elm trees near the buggy/trolley shed which were dangerous. Whilst at the club I took him to see a number of other trees which I felt were effected by decay. Unfortunately a large ash tree near the 15th ladies tee also needs to be removed because of the angle at which it is leaning. Most of the others can be left with judicial removal of dead and decaying wood.

Finally we are now beginning to look at the irrigation installation, I visited Moortown and Sand moor golf clubs in Leeds to see their installations. Thanks to Steve, John and Rob for allowing me to look around their facilities. Moortown has had a full installation this Autumn and Sandmoor had a full installation 8 years ago. They have parts of their systems which are identical to that being installed at Malton and Norton Golf Club, it was good to see first hand what we are going to get for our money. The installations have been completed by Full Circle which are the contractors we are using. We hope to begin our installation in January 2017 with an approximate 10 week work schedule weather dependant.

This week we hope to get most of the leaves collected, a lot have now fallen and we are nearing the end. We are also going to start slit tining the greens and applying some iron to most surfaces. Next week we are beginning to turf the 16th ditch when we have hole closure on 10-18 Monday -Wednesday

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Winter golf

With the recent wet, cold and wintery weather it feels like the winter golf season is upon us, last weekend we had a very wet Friday into Saturday which left the greens and surrounding areas saturated and unfortunately for the first time since the 16th April this year the course was closed for the day. Even though we battled to push off water and get the course playable there was going to be damaged caused that would be detrimental to the course long term. Thankfully the weather improved late Saturday and into Sunday and we could reopen. With more wet weather likely to be coming across the country over the coming months we will start installing the winter cups and cutting out winter holes which we can use on fairway areas should the greens not be fit for play.

After a couple of frosty mornings I have noticed some golfers are still not keeping to the semi during frost conditions, and knocking ice from shoes before walking onto the greens. We try to present greens in the best possible condition for this time of year, however after only a few golfers have played through the first hole the surface can look very poor due to ice impressions from footwear or buggy damage. Below are pictures taken after just one four-ball has played the 10th hole.

Leaf collection is still high on the daily agenda, however it does seem we are getting through the intense fall period. A number of trees are starting to become bare and in these areas we can thoroughly tidy the grass knowing we can keep it tidy for a while. The other areas are still being blown and rounded for collection.

The greens have been sprayed with a preventative fungicide, the current wet and warmer conditions are ideal for disease and left untreated can spread quickly. We noticed a little on a few greens before application, however weather windows for application are few and far between at this time of the year.

Eddie has now completed installation of winter tees for this winter. We now have winter tees on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 12th and 13th holes. Please give feed back to the sizes used and the playability of them during all conditions when in use.

Certain wet areas around the greens have been hand forked to alleviate compaction, these are usually the areas we cant access or work on very easily with the vertidrain due to ground conditions or slopes.

The path down to the 21st tee has now been re-stoned and covered with a cement based product which I'm hoping will stop the stone from being washed down the slope during heavy rainfall as it previously did.

This week due to leaves, rain and lack of growth we have cut the greens and surround only. Other areas are slowing in growth and do not warrant cutting yet.

The trial I did on the driving range regarding the worm cast irritant and leaving an area untreated to see its effects is now shown the effectiveness and need for worm control. The picture below is part of the area I did not spray compared to an area which has been treated (bottom picture). Although the treated area is still a little muddy from cutting there is very few new casts compared to the untreated area.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

leaves and lots of them

Recently the daily maintenance centres around leaves, they are coming down thick and fast. The windy conditions over the weekend have spread them all over the course which doesn't make life easy for the staff. We have to concentrate on clearing the greens every day, weather its to cut, roll or simply just to ensure they are playable for golfers for the days play. Following on from that we then have to start rounding them up from tees, fairways and semi rough before collection continues and is ongoing between all other tasks.

Before the recent rain we managed to get all the tees and some of the surrounds vertidrained. We had a demo tractor thanks to Russells ground care, we are looking to replace at least one of the tractors this winter. It worked well on the vertidrain, and overall was a great improvement on our current vehicles. The vertuidrain has now gone off for repair and service as there was a number of issues after a years use. When it returns I hope to continue to vertidrain a number of problem wet areas.

Overall the course is looking good and most surfaces are coping well as we start to get a feel of winter arriving. At the next opportunity we will spray the greens with a preventative fungicide to help reduce the chance of fusarium disease attacking the turf. We are now reducing cut frequencies as growth has slowed due to a number of cold days and nights. Hand cutting is not needed as yet, other than the front putting green, when ground conditions deteriorate then we would look to cut by hand to reduce compaction and wear around greens and tees.

Over the last few days we have had a spell of wet weather which has caused a few problems, generally the course is hold up well, it is the usual wet spots that we have had to put hoops out to prevent long term damage, please do not move the traffic management aids, ie hoops and ropes to access areas of the course that are restricted. We put these in place to ensure the course is in reasonable condition in the spring.

We have washed off sand from the heavily used bunkers, up to 10cm of sand can accumulate over the course of the year, if this is not removed can build up over time and eventually the face will have to be replaced. After the sand is washed off the bunker is left to drain off and the debris is then collected before the sand is redistributed and raked.

Neville Maw the hedge cutting contractor has been to cut all the hedges that can be done by machine, following this the remaining sections are cut by hand over the next month or so.

Now growth is slowing we will aim to start turfing the 16th ditch that was excavated over a month ago. Its good to see the ditch is already running water to the outlet.

Eddie Ruddock and his team are going to install another 4 winter tees next week, we are to trial half sized sections on two tees to evaluate weather this would be feasible for future winter tees.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Worm problems

This time of the year always is the worst period for worm casts. I think this is due to the changing of temperatures and more importantly higher soil moisture content, which brings them closer to the surface. Recently the chemical we use to control casting of worms has been revoked, Carbendazim, used as a suppressant isn't great for the environment due to its hormone disruptive effects, carcinogenicity and its toxicity to micro organisms and aquatic life. This will no longer be available from August 2017.

This will have a massive impact on the way we and everyone else on a soil based sports playing surface can maintain and present their turf. There currently is NO other alternatives for controlling worm casts, we hope that something will be available within this coming year, but at present there is nothing that will effectively control casts for a long period of time.

Many may think that, or take it for granted we don't have a big problem with casts here at Malton and Norton Golf Club, below is an area I have not treated on the driving range to show how bad playing surfaces could get if we have no control.

In this instance there are sufficient casts that cutting alone would be severely effected, casts blunt mowers, build up on rollers and smother grass every time we try to cut. On the driving range, casts build up to a point we are unable to use the collection machine and have to pick balls by hand. From a golfers point of view preferred lies would have to be used a lot more and no golfer would be happy playing from a muddy lie or walking through muddy areas to access tees, greens and across fairways. With the end result of more course closures due to ground conditions. This is a serious issue that is going to have to be communicated throughout the sports industry and to members of this golf club, we are hopeful over time we will find an alternative but there is no guarantee.

We are talking to other clubs and trailing techniques and other products to see if we can reduce casts and improve presentation and cut quality without relying on Carbendazim. I will update the club with any progress or information on this matter over the coming months.

Friday, 28 October 2016

A day in the life of a greenkeeper

Times have been fairly busy over the last week or so and its been a while since I updated all progress and work on the course. I really would like to update this blog twice a week but I have been on a spraying marathon, coupled with falling leaves and darker mornings have left me with very little time. I thought I would just give all members an insight into a typical day in the life of a greenkeeper, from my viewpoint.

4.50am up and getting ready for work, checking for any problematic weather that would affect golf, course playability or scheduled work.

5.30am arrive at work/ schedule jobs for the day

6.00am quick briefing with the team to organise jobs, ensure vehicles are available and to work around golfers, for example on this particular day we were brushing greens and fairways, cutting greens, moving markers, cutting fairways, cutting teesides, cutting long rough and starting spraying for worm casts. Answerphone message updated and proshop/office email stating any restrictions for the day sent.

6.15am onto the course in the dark, working by torchlight and vehicle lights to complete tasks until light, the initial tasks on a daily basis are always to concentrate on greens and tees to ensure they are all playable, at the moment leaves are a real issue and most greens and tees are covered most days. To ensure we keep in front of golfers we have to start in the dark at this time of the year, as we have 27 holes we concentrate on 1-9 first then 10-18 then 19-27 as the welham course is the most popular for daily play. We would alter this pattern if competitions dictate. It takes one to brush, two to blow with back packs, two to cut greens, one to blow fairways with a tractor blower. The markers are moved until the light is sufficient to start cutting fairways. The fairway mowers and the surround/tees mowers are the only ones without lights currently.

7.15am sunrises and golfers are starting to tee off on the first tee, we are well underway with tasks, usually up around the 3/4/5 hole by this point.

10.00am break time

10.30am back onto the course on to secondary jobs, up to two staff cutting fairways to ensure we get them all cut in the day, teesides started, spraying started, long rough started, blowing fairways continues in front of cutting.

2.00pm start thinking of work schedule for the next day, again looking at weather forecast, receive updates from work done on the course, consider any delays/ breakdowns. Prioritise any initial/secondary tasks for the week. Speak with greens chairman regarding feedback/concerns on the course.

2.30pm finish

Still at this time of the year we are cutting fairly regularly, every day we cut we have to ensure the leaves are clear as they could damage the machines and the cut would be effected. This takes time, it may seem that we are not clearing areas of the course, but as mentioned previously there is a point where they are falling at such a rate. This IS that point. With 27 holes and as mentioned above the priority being greens and tees, other areas that are usually lower priority, we spend time on when the initial morning tasks are complete.

Initial tasks also include :
cutting surrounds/ approaches
moving holes
cutting tees
tidying around clubhouse/shop
servicing of machines
brushing and cutting greens
rolling greens
blowing leaves/debris
spraying greens
moving markers
emptying bins
clipping holes
checking/raking bunkers

We try to concentrate on any tasks that effect the playability of the course and that would effect us carry out the maintenance due to golf on the course. After 10.00am we are then able to work around competitions, busy periods that we know are weekly routine for our members to continue with secondary jobs. To ensure the above jobs are completed every week, some of them multiple times during the week we have to be organised and willing to start early and work in less than perfect conditions, when golfers come to Malton and Norton we want to ensure they get the best conditions weather they play at 7.30am or 3.00pm. When golfers come to play I hope this short blog highlights the daily routine we put in place to ensure the course is the best it can be with just 7 greenstaff.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Course work update

Over the last week or so a lot has been happening on the course, Firstly to update all on the construction work on the course.

As mentioned before the excavation of the ditch is now complete, all surrounding areas have been tidied ready for the final stage of turfing and shaping of the sides, the path is complete and has been stoned. This has improved the area in front of the tee greatly, this was a very wet place on the course and an area where traffic was 'bottlenecked' to reach the fairway, causing more wear and mess in poor conditions. Before the path was stoned we drained it to ensure there is little chance of standing water through winter.

At the 20th green banking, the subsoil has been shaped and topsoil added from the end of the range and raked ready for seeding or turfing.

The bunkers between 18 and 27 have also been covered in topsoil and are ready for seeding

The 22nd tee has been covered in rootzone and shaped/ levelled ready for turf

The hedge that was between the 23rd green and the new hedge that was planted at the end of the range and the 20th semi has been removed as was agreed during the original planned layout of that hole. That is to be tidied this week.

The last few days have brought us wetter conditions, over 25mm of rain falling within a 48 hour period. This has caused some issues due to the ground being so firm previously, after the recent spell of dry weather. Once the surface began to soften the water has drained away relatively easily, however the barer areas are looking chewed up. We have put out hoops and will need to start roping off areas if conditions prevail. Please try and avoid areas where they are starting to wear. Preferred lies are now on due to worm casts and softer conditions.

The white tees and the driving range tee will continue to be used until the tees get wetter, some tees are being placed on the front sections and such as the 11th are on the back tee of the 9th hole as the 11th tee gets very wet due to the underlying construction. The bigger markers are being put out to ensure they can be seen in the leaves that are falling.

The rainfall has tested the ditch on the 16th however. Even after such a small amount of rain there was water in the ditch which is always a good sign. It is worth noting that we don't expect to see water in the ditch all year round, the way we have excavated the base,will allow water to run to the outfall near the 15th ladies tee.

The greens have had an application of granular fertiliser, granular fertilisers are preferred at this time of the year as the amount of rainfall can be varied, heavy rainfall can leach the nutrients more quickly if applied via liquid. The granular fertilisers rely of water to breakdown the granules then to be taken up by the plants, therefore safer at this time of the year. 19-27 greens have had an application of lawn sand. This is a high iron content fertiliser, using sand to dilute the mix so it can be spread on to turf. The lawn sand we use is 1-0-0 + 9% iron, but there are a number of different mixes available with differing contents of nitrogen, potassium and iron. The application rate is also quite high to ensure even application is gained.

Work has started with regular blowing of greens, tees and fairways to remove leave debris, after the last week of cooler weather they are coming down fast. The leaf cage has been assembled and is ready to go within the next week or so. To try and look at more efficient solutions to problems, namely leaf collection we have been looking at alternatives to what we currently have. We had a demo of a collection machine, which could not only be used for leaves but to cut long grass as well. The Amazone machine is a great piece of machinery which takes leaf or grass collection from a 3/4 man job to a 2 man job, saving a lot of time through the autumn. As mentioned we could also start to thin out some of the long rough, we cut and collect long rough, however using a rotary mower has its limitations. This something that will have to be discussed with greens committee.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Autumn has arrived

Monday saw the lowest overnight temperature since last winter, getting down to 2 degrees C and giving a hard grass frost. This lasted until just after 10.00am. This will help slow the grass down a little, which is still growing at quite a rate. We are also seeing the trees changing colour fast and a few leaves are starting to fall. The more the weeks roll on the more we will have to go out clearing greens and tees before play and before they are cut. There is always a spell when the leaves start to fall when we can not keep up with collection, they simply come off the trees at such a rate that within an hour of clearing an area its covered once more. Once we get through that spell we are then able to keep on top of them and present the course in a reasonable manner.

Currently we are making great progress on the winter/autumn work, the ditch across the 16th has been excavated and the pipes joining it to the out let pipe near the 15th ladies tee is complete. We have still to tidy the edges and turf the entire ditch when we have more time before the end of the year. The most important thing was to get all excavations finished before the weather turns wetter and therefore minimising damage to the course. We also work shorter days during November and December so time is also an issue. We are hopefully going to complete the 15th path this week.

The excavated soil has been used to complete the mounds to the rear of the 20th green, this is to make the green more defined from the tee, the right and left hand edges of the green were difficult to be defined as the putting surfaces are hidden. Hopefully the mounds will solve this issue. Topsoil needs to be put on the mounds to finish them off before seeding of turfing.

Eddie Ruddock and his team have installed two winter tees as planned using the astro turf form the range practice tee, the two tees on the 3rd and 7th will solve the yearly problem of eneven and difficult to use winter tees. Hopefully if these are a success we will install more for the other problem tees on the course. Please give feedback once they come into play.

We are trailing cutting the semi rough lower going into winter, this is to try and limit the amount of leaves that get stuck in the grass, over time killing it off and making the course very patchy in spring. We have noticed that due to the length of the semi rough we need to hand blow a lot of areas to remove the debris, with growth being stronger into the back end of the year I feel that this could help. I will monitor the situation through the autumn.

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.