Saturday, 26 March 2016

What have we been up too?

As we finally reach the spring equinox after a long wet winter, which has now turned cold and dry. I ask myself questions. 
Have our seasons changed? 
Do we need re-address the dates for these seasons? 
These maybe too big to answer in this blog but one thing I do know, is it isn't like it was in the old days when I started Greenkeeping. 
For example December 2015 growth rate was higher than March 2015. January 2016 had higher growth rates than March 2016 so far and we won't catch it now. 

Above is the GDD (growth degree days) for 2016 so far. 

Above is the GDD for 2015 Spring. 
You can see compared to 2016, January and February were warmer this year compared to 2015 but March is colder giving us nearly the same GDD by April last year and that was called 'the cold spring'. 
Compare this to a 'normal' year like 2014 below and you can see the difference.  

So months that used to be classed as 'winter' are now giving us more 'Spring' like weather than Spring but our springs are more like Winter! 

So what have we been up to out on the course and behind the scenes? 

There has been a lot going over the last few weeks, even with mother nature giving us some pretty solid frosts.

Heather turf 

Our biggest project over the last month has been planting the Heather turf. 
Now Heather turf is not readily available and this took some serious work by Murray Long our Course Consultant to find a suitable site and a company to move it.  Murray has not only got us this first load (which is a trial for both the company and us) but secured more for the future projects like the new bunkers. 
Our thanks must go to him for his hard work on that.

An artic lorry load (20 pallets) were delivered for us to put out on the course. 

The areas selected for trial were:- the12th white tees in the barren area to the rear and surround as we thought this could add real character to the hole. This would then drip is way down the bank on the carry to the 8th green but we didn't want to cover the bank in bulk as this wouldn't look natural and instead went with a more random/ natural look. 
Another main area for us to add some Heather to was the new ditch across the 17th. Again we have fed this out of the woodland and picked the high points to give a natural look. We also decided to add a small area to the back of the 1st tee too along with some small subtle areas throughout the course.

For a couple of weeks (due to frosts) the Heather turf has been getting run out via tractor and trailer plus other Greenkeeping vehicles. The loading and unloading of the turfs was a very manual task indeed. The Heather turfs arrived in slabs that needed to be cut into three (not as easy as it sounds), the soil depth is 60mm meaning that the seed bed has also been transported but this does make them heavy. 

The greenstaff worked great as a team to move these quick and even lay some out to give us time to use it. See above where a lot of the practice area to the right of the second hole was covered and this was only half of it. I actually quite liked the look! 

The first turf! After this each area needed to be dug out by hand and moved away. This was the part of the task that took the time. 

Trying to get the correct natural depths along with natural shapes and a lot of elbow power the areas were dug out. Most of the works took place on banks to no turf cutter could be used but two small areas we could and this saved plenty of man hours. 

I do think all the hard work was worth it and now it looks great. 

12th tee 



As we know Heather is a fragile plant so we just need to keep an eye on moisture levels and stop play from this Heather and we should hopefully see some life. In the worst case and some areas don't survive we know we have a seed bed that will always give us a second option. Only time will tell on this one... 

The Greenkeeping yard 

Another area that's been getting a lot of attention is the greenkeepers yard by the 1st tee. 

Our planning permissions for both the new welfare block and for extra storage containers were both granted at the end of February. This was part of the EGM back in October and the Management Commitee have been behind getting these completed as soon as possible.

The welfare block will be built in the old material stores (the smaller shed). 
This will include an office, new mess room with kitchen area for the greenstaff to have lunch, a locker room with drying facility's and a WC with Shower room. These facilities are long over due as the old mess room is in the old clubhouse which is unfit for purpose this will also help us to start building a proper Greenkeeping complex. This will help make the team more efficient with a more modern approach.
The fact we are effectively working out of three different maintenance facilities across the course causes us a lot of time lost between each building sometimes for something simple. 
The new welfare block is due to be finished in 6 weeks. Obviously I will blog more on this at the time. 
Please bear with us while the works are being carried out in this area.

A lot of work has gone into the yard already and you may have now noticed the containers arriving to give us some extra space. 

The yard has been cleared out and a lot of old machines or bits of machines have been either scraped/ part exchanged as part of our machinery replacement deal or kept but moved somewhere better. 

Old fertilisers have been used up on the course and the soils moved to the new bays in the over flow car park. 

The yard was then cleaned through and the drains unblocked (well done Paul, who got stuck right into that job and got them running again after years of soil contamination). 

The difference in the yard over the last few months but especially since February has been fantastic and is the start of new era of us having a Greenkeeping complex .
Above: Old and good machines left out along the pathway. Slowly rusting away. 
Below: side opening container for us to store some of the better implements in. 

Before: Old machinery and odds 
After: cleared area for containers to be used for extra storage

The containers are a short term fix as we will need to build a storage facility that Stoneham requires as we move forward but for now these will help us to make steps forward. 

Other tasks 

Our normal duties have been getting done daily but we have also:- 

Hollow coring - Up first was the 1st yellows due to the damage caused in such a short amount of time this winter.

The make up of the tee is not good with most of the soil being clay, meaning a wet tee that damages quickly in the wet. 

This will be addressed with several sand dressings over the coming year. After we top dressed this we over seeded it. 

It was then covered with a grow sheet. 
A 'grow sheet' helps to attract the sun and it aides keeping the soil warmer by trapping the heat underneath. This helps the grass seed take quicker and eventually grass coverage. 


The greens have yet another aeration. This time with cross tines on the pro core. A cross tine is cross shaped, this gives you a good air space in the soil but a closed cross shaped exit unlike a standard time which leaves a round shape (better for getting sand or water down) hence why we didn't use it in February/ March and used the cross tine as I didn't want water to penetrate into the soil and make the greens wetter. 


The Spring fertilisers have been applied to Greens, Tees, aprons, surrounds, bunker banks and fairways. 
You may have noticed the dark fairways and greens and banks as Iron was applied to these areas to help us attack the moss. I was also asked about the 'black stuff' on the greens? Well this is an organic fertiliser which will help recovery from maintenance week. It normally disappears in a couple of days and kicks in around a week. We applied all of this before Easter weekend for two reason. 
Firstly: growth is slow at the moment as mentioned before.
Secondly: We knew Storm KATIE was due in over the weekend and her rain would do the perfect trick to get us started. Even though she brought some trees down with her!
We are now taking our fertiliser program to the surrounds and bunker banks. We plan to improve these year on year. 

Woodland works 
The tree line right of the 5th has been lifted along the boundary in accordance with the preservation order.

Debris removal has been high on our agenda especially during the frosty mornings. At least 20 trailer loads so far and more to go especially with storm KATIE about. 

The pine tree on the corner of 17th has been exposed as a sight line tree.

Tree lines around tees and on sight lines have been reduced back on 17th and 14th.

Pathway extensions 

Some of the pathways around the yard have been made wider and areas cleared to allow more room via the side of the maintenance facility. Thanks must go to Graham from Trant engineering for all his help with this and the container (moving into place). 

It's been a busy period for us with alot going on. We know there are other areas that now need our attention like the pathways for example but we have a plan and are working our way through it methodically. 

The greenstaff again have been working very hard and I must say with the Heather turfing plus all the other jobs they have impressed me with there dedication. We want the course and the club to improve just as much as the membership do. We are still investing time into training (more next blog) which keeps adding new skills to the team.  They are determined to keep improving the course. If you see them, make sure you say Hi! 

That's enough from me I think... Sorry it's a long one but lots going on. 

Hopefully Spring will arrive soon and we can enjoy some sunny golf! 



  1. Fantastic blog again Matt. Enjoyable read and always good to know what's going on and your thought process behind it. Keep up the great work. Cheers Darren Bartlett