Head Greenkeeper Report – November 2019

Head Greenkeeper Report – November 2019

This will be the last report of 2019 I hope you have enjoyed reading the updates provided as much as I have enjoyed putting them together.

We have received two pieces of really positive news this month. First of all our Deputy Les Rae has for the third consecutive year been nominated by The STRI for Conservation Greenkeeper of the year, anyone who knows Les will know how passionate and committed he is not only to Ecology but to Greenkeeping in general and no-one deserves the accolade more. Les has for many years been central to the clubs policy of environmental awareness as well as the management and improvement of habitats for all different kinds of animals including nesting birds. Les along with Paul Teviotdale and our Head Golf Professional Jason has also played a major role in the Montrose links golf trail educating local primary school kids on ecology, golf course design and etiquette.  We will be travelling down to Harrogate for the Golf Environment Awards in January 2020 and will be hoping its third time lucky.  I am sure you will all join me in wishing Les the best of luck.

This month the 1562 Course entered National Club Golfer magazine Scotland’s top 100 golf courses at number 32. This is a fantastic achievement given the courses we are in and around let alone been ranked above. I have said before on numerous occasions in terms of available resource we are punching well above our weight and long may this continue. This alongside our Carnoustie Country feedback, STRI report and on-going 59 club reviews which have scored us superbly high, make for a very positive season in terms of the feedback received from both Season Ticket Holders and visitors alike.  I would like to think we have all seen fairly rapid improvements in the past 16-17 months and would hope for as equally good reviews next year or better.

Course update

I spoke last month a little about the compaction issues we have under the green surfaces at a depth of around 5-7 inches. This forced us to close full greens after overnight rain – something none of like to see. As a links we pride ourselves in being open for play as much as possible but when faced with the sheer amount of surface water we simply had no option. I also spoke not only about the benefits of verti-draining but the fact that this operation is absolutely crucial in order to have greens which are playable 365 days of the year. Last month prior to verti-draining (Friday 18th October) we received 21mm of rain overnight which as stated closed our greens, last Saturday (23rd Nov) we received 27mm overnight and following a verti-drain to the depth of 7 inches we had absolutely no surface water therefore full greens were in operation as normal (see figure 1 & 2). The verti-drain relieved compaction and allowed our greens to drain far more effectively.


Figure 1. 4th green 1562 Course showing no surface water post v-drain after even more rainfall

Figure 1. 4th green 1562 Course showing no surface water post v-drain after even more rainfall

Figure 2. Again the v-drain at 9th green 1562 Course allowing the greens to remain in play after higher rainfall

Operating a golf course maintenance program in the modern age requires a balance of what is fair to the paying season ticket holder/visitor and plant health. As stated in the previous newsletter the golf green is where the vast majority of traffic/weight is concentrated therefore we must alleviate some of this stress by way of aeration. This method has a proven track record of success over many decades; and we must continue this on a regular basis in the over the winter period. As with Organic matter we will then reach acceptable thresholds with the percolation of water which will allow us to ease off this procedure slightly. As I said this is a fine balance, we must ensure our greens are not only open but are performing to a consistently high standard all year round, something I believe we are well on our way to achieving, and aeration is central to this objective.

Growth and recovery

This September we carried out our maintenance period to greens on both courses and despite a few breakdowns things went relatively smoothly. I have explained in a few newsletters about Growth Potential (GP) so I won’t go into it again but will just point out the major benefits of carrying the maintenance out while soil temperatures are still high (see figure 3).

Figure 3. GP graph contrasting strong growth in September with October

Figure 3. GP graph contrasting strong growth in September with October

As you can see from the chart above the blue line represents growth in September and the red line growth in October.  On the first day of our renovations (16th Sep) we witnessed a spike in temperatures lasting almost ten days – perfect weather for top-dressing and over-seeding greens. If we compare this period with the following month we see a sharp drop in temperatures. Why does this matter? The simple answer is recovery higher temps = stronger growth = faster recovery = greens back in play quicker.  Obviously our Scottish climate does not always play along, I’ve witnessed many a maintenance week been carried out between showers, but the general rule of thumb is carry out the work as early as possible in the season. This however, as with everything else regarding on-course maintenance, is a fine-balance and we aim to keep our season ticket holders and visitors as happy as possible – communication is key.

Thank you

I would like to finish off 2019 by thanking all our volunteers who have helped out on the course this year, Jim Calder with the brilliant team for the monthly divot operations on the fairways and also Ian Robertson for helping our mechanic Sean in the workshop and also his hard work during Open Week.  The help we receive is absolutely fantastic, we very much appreciate it and they are all central to the progress we are making at Montrose Golf Links.

Last but by no means least the greenstaff here would like to wish our former Chairman of 24 years Alan Crow a speedy recovery. Alan was in hospital for an extended period of time but has happily returned home in the past week.  Having spoken to Alan myself last week I am pleased to say he is looking well and looking forward to getting back out walking the dogs over the course.  Great news indeed!!

I hope you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year

Regards for now

Darren McLaughlan

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