Thursday, 10 December 2009

December Course Update

Ryegrass Control
Following the chemical control to the 4th and 6th greens on the 8th October, I am pleased to report that the product applied is working! The broadleaved Rye and Yorkshire Fog grasses, which were targeted with the chemical, are now in serious decline causing a number of bare areas and a general reduction in sward density. Seeding and top dressing of the two greens in question has taken place and recovery of the surfaces is underway.

Bunker Refurbishments
Work on rebuilding some of the most worn out bunker faces has progressed well with the bunkers by the 15th green and the two bunkers nearest the 11th green now complete. . The bunkers on the 15th were last rebuilt in 2007 meaning they have only lasted two seasons. This is the absolute minimum amount of time we would expect a bunker face to last and thankfully most bunkers on the course will last much longer than this. A variety of factors influence the length of time a revetted bunker will last, these include; the frequency visited by players, the quality of the turf used in the construction and the position of the bunker in relation to the sun. 

Aerating The Turf
Aeration is one of the most important maintenance tasks carried out on turf. The word aeration means quite simply to get air into something. In turf it is simply the production of holes through the turf surface into the underlying rootzone (soil) to allow gases (oxygen etc.) in and out of the soil and for water and grass roots to move down through the soil.
Since the middle of October we have been running two verti-drain type machines over all areas of the course. Fairways and high wear walkways were tackled first, followed by greens and their surrounds. These machines allow us to make lots of holes in the turf and at sufficient depth to enable the movement of water more quickly through the soil beneath. The action of these particular machines also allows a certain amount of "heave" to be put on the soil. This lifts the level of the ground slightly allowing air and moisture to penetrate and relieve compacted areas. Compaction in the turf is caused by the regular movement of people or machinery over an area, wet soils compact more easily as the water in the soil acts as a lubricant allowing the particles to slide closer together and form a bond. Our clay soils on holes 10-13 are particularly prone to compaction.
All greens and surrounds will be verti-drained again in February and thereafter every October and February.

Chipping Area Redesign
Work will start soon on the redesign of the chipping area. We plan to construct a large central green which will facilitate a wide range of short chip shots. The intention is to maintain this green to a higher standard than the existing chipping greens, enabling the shots to roll out in a way that is similar to the main greens on the course. This higher standard of green can only be maintained if players use the green in the intended way - only for short chip shots. If players decide to ignore this and play longer shots to the new green it will quickly deteriorate to a level similar to that of the chipping greens now. The new green is to practice short chip shots only. A separate area will be constructed next to the new green to allow longer shots to be played into a designated target area. The area will allow shots of up to 70yds to be played. Finally, one of the existing greens will have two new bunkers added to create a dedicated bunker practice area This redesign aims to make the most of the relatively small space our chipping area offers for practice.

Sand Dune Restoration

Work has resumed on the removal of the invasive Holm Oak (Quercus Ilex) from the fragile sand dunes on holes 11, 12 and 13. A team from Jonathon Le Maistre tree surgery have worked their way up the left side of hole 11 from the tee towards the green.

Before Work Started

The Holm Oak is damaging biodiversity in the sand dunes and while the control measures  we are taking seem dramatic at first they are absolutely vital for the preservation of the dunes and associated grasslands. We have decided to take the opportunity to remove some of the non-indigenous Macrocarpa trees at the same time. This work helps return the dunes to a more natural state.  With the trees gone a large clean up operation begins. First, we scrape up the leaf litter to expose the bare sand. We then use an excavator to dig out the tree stumps and manually level the ground using rakes. Finally we plant  locally sourced Marram grass (Ammophila arenaria) in the bare sand to stop the wind blowing the loose sand away. This adds an instant texture to the dunes which is much more visually appealing than plain bare sand.

 After Removal

The control of holm oak re-growth is an ongoing requirement that we face so we can eventually achieve our aim of a healthy balance between dune plants such as marram, sand sedge, fescue and bent grasses with small pockets of gorse and even the occasional pine tree.

As you can imagine we are building up large stocks of logs  and woodchips so any member who would like  some can email me at to arrange collection.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

End of Season Aeration

Once again we have arrived at the time of year when our most intensive period of aeration takes place.
Aeration is one of the most important maintenance tasks carried out on turf. The word aeration means quite simply to get air into something. In turf it is simply the production of holes through the turf surface into the underlying rootzone (soil) to allow gases (oxygen etc.) in and out of the soil and for water and grass roots to move down through the soil.

Starting this week we will be running two verti-drain type machines over all areas of the course. Fairways and high wear walkways will be tackled first. For these areas we use twelve 18mm x 300mm solid tines on each machine(see pic above). This allows us to make lots of holes in the turf and at sufficient depth to enable the movement of water more quickly through the soil beneath. The action of these particular machines also allows a certain amount of "heave" to be put on the soil. This lifts the level of the ground slightly allowing air and moisture to penetrate and relieve compacted areas. Compaction in the turf is caused by the regular movement of people or machinery over an area, wet soils compact more easily as the water in the soil acts as a lubricant allowing the particles to slide closer together and form a bond.

Next week we will start on greens and green surrounds. For these areas we will use a tine which is smaller in diameter but of a similar length. This smaller tine, coupled with some lightweight rolling will allow quicker recovery of the turf in these key areas. We hope to repeat this process in greens and surrounds in February 2010 and in future every October and February.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Course Update

Maintenance Week
The greens have recovered well in the past few weeks from the hollow core aeration work that was carried out in early September. It was obviously rather painful for all players when there were so many holes in the greens, with putts bobbling and bouncing across the surface it was easy to forget just how important a robust aeration programme is to the future performance of the greens. The course team have worked hard to reinstate the surface, a total of 45 tonnes of top dressing was applied to greens in the three weeks following the coring work and this has had the desired effect. This amount represents almost half of the annual total top dressing used on greens, so to apply this in such a short space of time took considerable effort. Whilst the holes were in the greens the opportunity was taken to introduce more grass seed into the greens and it is pleasing to report that this has taken well. The severe disruption to golf this aeration event caused has been noted and as a consequence next year’s maintenance week has been moved to the end of September.

The rain has finally arrived after an extended dry period through August and September. Following comments from a number of members I would like to briefly outline once again our watering strategy for this summer past and for future years.
Whilst we aim to provide evenly moist soils with optimal growing conditions in the spring, early summer and autumn periods our approach changes in mid-summer. In order to impart drought stress on the undesirable broad leaved grass species in the greens, we make a conscious effort to allow the turf to dry out in the peak summer months, thus creating an environment in which the desirable grasses can thrive and gain the upper hand. It is crucial during the summer months that this happens otherwise the broad leaved, undesirable grass species will continue to dominate putting surfaces. It also allows us to present a firm and fast running golf course, just as one would expect from a links course in the middle of a dry summer. You might be surprised to learn that to keep the course as dry as it was actually took quite a bit of water. In the period 1st July to 30th September we used a total of 21,400m3 of water, that’s 21.4 million litres or 4.7 million gallons to water greens, tees, surrounds and fairways!

Broadleaved Grasses In Greens
Ryegrass and Yorkshire Fog grasses are present in many of our greens. These are wholly inappropriate putting green grass types that have proved notoriously difficult to eradicate. Thankfully a new chemical has been released to the amenity market that selectively controls these species, killing them off without harming other plants. We decided to trial this new product on the 4th and 6th greens and on the 4th yellow tee. Spraying took place on the 8th October and we expect to see the grasses start dying off within a few days. We may for a period have some thin areas of turf on these trial plots but the areas will be seeded and top-dressed until good grass cover is restored. If this trial proves successful we will roll out this program over larger areas in the future.

Upcoming Winter Work
The main project planned for this winter is the redesign of the chipping area. We plan to build a large green in the centre of the area to facilitate a range of short chip shots from a number of players simultaneously. To do this we will dig up three of the existing greens, re-shape the ground and then re-lay the existing turf. The green that is located nearest the 18th fairway will be left in its present position but will have another bunker added and the existing bunker enlarged. The chipping area will be closed while this work takes place and will remain closed until all the turf knits together properly.

More trees will be felled as per the ecology plan. White paint distinguishes the specimens due for removal this winter. The invasive Holm Oak will once again be targeted but also some of the Macrocarpa trees in the dunes between holes 11 and 13 will be felled. This policy of tree removal is in line with the States policy for the neighbouring land.

Also this winter we plan to refurbish a number of bunkers around the course and also extend the 5th tee. As usual, solid tine aeration will take place on greens, tees, surrounds and fairways.

Going forward, a monthly update will be published to keep members informed of what is happening as regards the golf course.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Maintenance Week

Members should note that from Tuesday 1st September until Friday 4th September we will be carrying out intensive maintenance on the course. The main tasks scheduled to take place include- hollow coring, pencil tining, overseeding and top dressing to greens. This work is being carried out to help control thatch build up in the greens and to improve the movement of air and moisture through the soil profile.
To ensure the work is completed in a timely manner one tee starts will be used each day and holes may be closed for short periods. Any disruptions to the normal flow of golfing traffic will be clearly signposted.
I would like to apologise for any inconvineince this may cause players during this busy time.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Well Done Ollie!

We are very proud to announce that Ollie Pennington has reached the national final of the 2009 Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year contest. Ollie is almost finished his Amenity Horticulture NVQ level 3 course that he has been working on for the past 18 months. Due to the consistently high standard of Ollie's work, Nick Lush his tutor at Myerscough College, nominated him for student of the year. Out of over 1000 students studying turfgrass related subjects 45 were selected to attend regional finals. Following the completion of a questionnaire and an interview with industry experts Ollie was recently informed that he has been selected as one of eight national finalists. This is a tremendous achievement for Ollie and in fact a great boost for all the course staff here at La Moye.
The final itself will take place over two days in September. The finalists will be asked to carry out an in depth and detailed appraisal of a golf course which is to be submitted in report form. They will then be questioned on the contents of their report by a panel of top industry figures. From this process a winner will be selected and will receive the grand prize of an eight week trip to the USA which includes a six week residential scholarship to the University of Massachusettes, to attend the winter turf school. The winner will also be given the chance to tour Toro headquarters and join the BIGGA visit to the GCSAA Golf Industry Show in San Diego in February 2010.
We all wish Ollie the best of luck in the final and well done again for getting there, a major achievement of which he should be really proud.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

It's The Greens That Count

If you were to ask anyone what they thought of course condition on completion of their round they are likely to talk mostly about the greens. The greens are commonly said to be either good, bad, too fast, too slow, too firm, too soft, too bumpy or have too many holes, slits or grooves! It would be fair to say that it's that greens that count most.

Work on greens this season has been focused on increasing the amount and density of fine fescue and bent grasses in the sward through carefully scheduled fertiliser and water applications coupled with overseeding. Also, to impart cultural and mechanical stress on the Rye and Yorkshire fog grasses to refine the texture and grain of the sward. We have also tried to improve the quality and consistency of the rootzone immediately beneath the turf to equalise the bounce and roll characteristic from one green to the next. Eventually this type of work will give consistent, true putting surfaces that remain of a good standard for the majority of the year.
While this work takes place we are challenged to present the greens to the highest possible standard for each days play. Inevitably on occasion, particularly after periods of stress, the greens in their current state will fail to live up to expectation.
We plan our aeration, top dressing and brushing programmes around the major competitions of the year. This means that between those competition dates we must carry out these procedures that disturb the quality of the putting surface for a short period. Due to the constraints and pressures of the diary we are inevitably compromised when trying to find a balance between short-term performance and long-term improvement. If we do not carry out these necessary operations then nothing will improve. If we only focus on short-term putting green performance then nothing will improve. A balanced approach is being sought which allows the greens to perform to a high standard when absolutely necessary but also allows our fundamental and long standing problems to be addressed in the appropriate way.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Long, Thick Rough!

As usual at this time of year, the uncut roughs on the course have become long and thick. Some players feel the course becomes too difficult at this time and we are regularly asked to cut extra sections. I feel it is worth reminding everyone of our rough grass management strategy and explaining the reasons behind our actions or even our inaction!
Our approach to the management of the rough sets out to balance the needs of the golfer with the needs of the grass plants and the needs of the diverse array of flora and fauna that inhabit the rough grasslands. We are very fortunate that we are able to play our golf in such a wonderful, natural environment and it is a prime objective of the course staff to protect and enhance that environment. The rough grasses here at La Moye are very delicate and must be treated carefully. Only in the late spring/early summer period do they get a chance to grow properly, set seed and thicken up before the summer droughts come in to thin out the grass naturally. This cycle takes place every year and it ensures we have good grass cover throughout the year providing crucial definition between the holes. If we cut too much rough at this time of year we will remove this important aspect of the course character.
Also, the rough grasslands are the most species diverse areas of the whole golf course and as such are the most valuable from an ecological point of view. Our roughs provide the perfect habitat for a vast array of flora and fauna ranging from the green lizard to wild orchids with thousands of things in between.
That said, the single most important consideration is ensuring the golf course remains playable and enjoyable for all levels of golfer. To do this we aim to maintain landing area widths of between 30 and 55 metres. This includes a fairway cut at a height of around 15mm, a first cut of rough at 25mm and a second cut of rough at a height of around 100mm. This ensures that well placed shots are rewarded with a good lie but errant shots are punished incrementally. We think this gives the fairest course set up possible.
The recent weather has given us firm and running conditions on the course of late and this coupled with the height of the rough and the wind has made for some challenging golf. Thankfully the conditions will ease in the next few weeks as the rough dies back and in fact the start of this process is already well underway.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Lots To Do

With competitions and society days coming thick and fast the green staff are working hard making sure the course looks its best. In this post I hope to paint a picture of what happens in an average week at this time of the year.

Aerate greens (star slit)
Brush greens
Cut greens
Cut tees, move tee markers
Rake bunkers
Cut tee banks
Spray selective weedkiller on fairway areas
Mole control
Weed granite dust paths
Pick up range balls

Cut greens
Top dress greens
Drag mat greens
Move hole positions, fill out pin sheet
Rake bunkers
Verti-cut green surrounds and approaches
Cut green surrounds and approaches
Cut semi-rough
Cut rough
Pick up balls from range

Iron greens
Rake bunkers, move tee markers
Cut rough
Cut semi-rough
Fill scars and pick up divots on fairways
Paint 150 yard markers
Cut hedges around clubhouse and car park
Rake and seed turf nursery areas
Fertilise previously seeded nursery areas
Pick up balls from range


Cut greens
Flymo bunker faces, rake bunkers, move tee markers
Cut rough
Cut semi-rough
Cut fairways
Trim around sprinkler heads and distance markers
Check sprinkler head performance
Cut hedges at roadside
Move putting green hole positions
Strim around tee plates, steps, ball washers etc
Pick up balls from range

Brush greens
Cut greens
Iron greens
Rake bunkers
Divot tees, empty bins, fill ball washers and move tee markers
Mole control
Fill out pin sheet for Saturday
Cut tees
Cut green surrounds and approaches
Weed and top up granite dust paths
Pick up balls from range

Cut greens
Move hole positions
Rake bunkers
Move tee markers
Pick up range balls

Cut greens
Rake bunkers
Move tee markers
Pick up range balls

Of course, this is just a sample of the type of work we carry out in an average week in May. As you might expect we spend a large chunk of our time working on the greens. You might be surprised to learn we spend almost as much time maintaining bunkers. Many of the tasks mentioned above are repeated every week but others are only carried out periodically. In other weeks we may well carry out different types of aeration such as solid tining or deep slit tining and different areas will have fertiliser applied or be sprayed. Also countless one-off tasks arise which need to be addressed, sometimes these are the jobs that take the most time.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Spring Maintenance Week

Our first annual spring maintenance week commenced on the 30th March. I'm happy to report that all planned tasks were completed successfully despite a frost delay on the Monday morning lasting three hours. Thankfully no further frosts were seen during the week and scarification, overseeding and top-dressing work took place.
The main task carried out was overseeding of greens, this takes place to improve the overall grass species composition in the sward. Three varieties of Fescue grass were used. These particular plants have the ideal characteristics for golf green purposes and increased numbers of fescue grasses will dramatically improve the year round conditions on the greens.

Having identified the need for new seeding equipment last year and following a lengthy evaluation process we finally purchased a new seeder in March of this year. The Vredo Super-Compact seeder chosen represents a significant investment by the club but one which will benefit the golf course for many years to come.

The new seeder on the 9th green

The machine works by using two rows of metal discs spaced 35mm apart which make thin slits in the turf into which the grass seed is delivered. The rear roller then passes over the slits causing them to close up to reinstate the playing surface. This method ensures the seed is placed to the correct depth and that good seed/soil contact is achieved. Seed wastage is kept to an absolute minimum using this method and given the costs of high quality sportsturf seed mixes this can only be a good thing.

The metal discs making the cuts into the turf

The seed lies safely in the bottom of these slits

The lines in the turf in the photo above will shortly be full of newly emerged young grasses so management practices will be tailored to ensure these are protected in the short term.
We plan to overseed greens at least four times each season using this method. During periods of good growth and following an application of top dressing the slits disappear very quickly and
surface uniformity
is not compromised. In the coming months and years the machine will be used for seeding other areas of the course such as weak fairway areas, walkways and roughs.

Friday, 20 March 2009


In the coming months one of the most important tools the course staff will use is the irrigation system. Our system was manufactured by Rainbird and was installed in 2007/8 by MJ Abbott. It covers all greens, tees, surrounds, fairways, some rough areas, turf nurseries and the chipping area. There are six boreholes which keep the 1 million gallon capacity reservoir topped up.

1 million gallon reservoir

Three large pumps distribute the water around the course at a pressure of 150 psi through a network of pipes up to the irrigation sprinkler heads. The system has been designed to ensure that water is applied accurately and wastage is kept to a minimum. Low trajectory sprinklers are used in the most exposed spots to ensure the wind has a minimal impact. A central computer located in the maintenance facility is used to program and run the system.

Mission control!

The course has been mapped using GPS with every sprinkler head, valve and pipe marked. Any sprinkler head can be turned on either at the base station, manually at the head or by using a remote control unit. The system can be programmed to run any number of heads in any sequence starting at any time.

Course map as seen on the system display

Zoomed in view of hole 1, chipping area, 9th green and 8th tee

Record keeping is made easy with this system as it automatically maintains detailed records of application timings and quantities giving weekly, monthly or annual aggregated totals. A weather station is also linked in to the system providing real time data of wind speed and direction, precipitation, humidity and temperature. From this information evapo-transpiration rates are calculated which the system can use to determine how much water should be applied to maintain optimum soil moisture levels.

Daily weather records are automatically maintained

As you can see, our system makes it easy for us to apply water accurately and at the rates we want. However, we must remember that this does not mean we always want the golf course to be green and lush. Inappropriate and overuse of the irrigation system can cause serious long term problems to turf which can take years to rectify. We aim to use the system only when the health of the desirable grass plants would otherwise suffer, not just to soften the greens so the ball is easier to control or to green up the fairways to make them look "nice".
In late winter and very early spring we rarely irrigate even in extended dry periods because the cold water only serves to lower soil temperatures causing what little growth we have at that time of the year to stop completely. Much better dry, firm and slow growth than moist, soft and no growth! We generally irrigate in all dry spells throughout the mid-spring/early summer period to ensure the turf has optimal growth conditions to recover from the stresses of winter. Once mid summer comes we will relax the irrigation to allow the turf to dry out somewhat in order to stress the undesirable grass species and to encourage the fine grasses to develop deep rooting. Without doing this the shallow rooting grass species - which also happen to be the least suitable grasses for golf - are allowed to colonise and take over the sward. In general terms we are trying to present firm and consistent surfaces which have a dense cover of fine grasses. Our watering strategy is tailored with this in mind so please don't be surprised if surfaces get a bit brown in colour come mid summer, it will not mean the irrigation system is broken, we will merely be letting nature take it's course!

For more information on this topic please click on the title word IRRIGATION at the top of this post.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Broken Tee Pegs

The broken tee pegs picked up from the course today

In an attempt to keep the golf course as litter free as possible, we are aiming to address the issue of broken tee pegs. Every month we spend many hours picking up broken tee pegs from the tees. Not only do they look unsightly but they also knock the mowers off cut, potentially causing damage to the grass itself. To try to combat this one of the tee markers on each of the tees has been replaced with a tee caddy (see pic. above). It is hoped that all players will use the tee caddy to deposit their broken tee peg after they have played their shot thus maintaining a tidy appearance to teeing grounds and helping to keep our mowers sharp and correctly set to ensure minimum injury to the grass plant.

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Start Of A New Season

The start of a new season is almost upon us and the greenkeeping team are working hard preparing the course for the season ahead. One of the biggest challenges we have ahead of us is getting the new bunkers ready for play. When the bunkers were being refurbished in the winter some of the sand is removed and this now must be returned to the bunker. Before the sand goes back in it is screened to remove any debris then it is put in the bunker and shaped to form the ideal bunker base. Next it is compacted to try to reduce the likelihood of balls plugging in the sand then finally it is raked to provide the perfect finish.
All bunkers are raked on a daily basis, it takes around two hours each day and more if shaping work is carried out, add to this the weeding and cutting work that takes place and we soon find ourselves putting in well in excess of 1000 man hours of bunker maintenance annually. All this for an area of the golf course that everyone tries to avoid!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

4th Hole Drainage

It has become clear in recent months that the drainage system under the 4th fairway was failing to do its job properly. There has been some debate amongst the course team as to the exact configuration of the drainage system and the reasons why it was failing. To address the problem the team set out to properly identify the location of the pipes, examine their condition and repair any damaged sections. Although old plans existed of the drain pipework it had been felt they were incomplete and did not tell the full story. Since accurate mapping was carried out on the golf course prior to the irrigation system being installed it is now possible for us to complete a more detailed plan of the drainage system.

More Tree Work

In keeping with our policy to manage the spread of the non-indigenous holm oak trees, we have embarked on the second phase of felling mature specimens.
Some trees have been removed from the bank that separates the 9th and 10th holes and more trees have been removed from the right hand side of the 18th hole. Due to the steep bank on the 18th a large excavator was used to move the felled trees into an area suitable for chipping to take place. Inevitably a certain amount of damage to the turf has occurred around the area where the excavator was working but this will be reinstated by course staff in the next few days.

Excavotor moving a felled tree into position

The areas around the felled trees will be scraped back to bare sand/soil to allow the indigenous plant species space to re-establish. Please click on the ECOLOGY label at the bottom of this post to learn more about why we cut down trees and what we are trying to acheive.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Winter Course Closures

The unusually cold weather recently has meant the golf course has had to remain closed for most of the past three weeks. Whilst this is obviously frustrating for the members who wish to play, it is worth reminding ourselves why play is restricted when frost arrives.

Surface frost is basically frozen dew that has crystallised on the grass, making it hard and brittle. A grass blade is actually 90 percent water, therefore it also freezes. Because of the short mowing height (6.5mm at this time of year) and fragile nature of the turf, putting greens are most affected by frost. Walking on frost-covered greens causes the plant to break and cell walls to rupture, thereby losing its ability to function normally. When the membrane is broken, much like an egg, it cannot be put back together.

The damage caused to the leaf of the grass plants during a surface frost is bad enough but the most devastating situation occurs following a hard penetrated frost when the grass blades and the upper portion of the soil profile has thawed, but the ground beneath their level remains frozen. Foot traffic on greens will create a shearing action of the roots and crown tissues and widespread plant death will occur. This is comparable to cutting the plant tissue from the underlying root system with a sod cutter.

Hopefully the worst of the winter weather is now behind us and frost delays will soon be just a memory. The course has been protected during this vulnerable period and should show no adverse effects. The course staff can at last resume the various projects being worked on around the course and we can look forward to an exciting season ahead.