Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas one and all

Well, we haven't posted for a while now. The blogger app has disappeared from my phone - therefore catching a spare minute in between baby duties is rare!

We have managed to get the winter tee mats out now. They are a marmite issue with golfers and whilst not everyone's cup of tea, they give the tees a bit of a break from divots. We hope to get the last permanent mat installed by the 6th tee soon. The one above was installed at the 1st in November. It looks really good and should make a nice addition to what has become a truly transformed 1st tee area since last winter.

A good few trees have been removed recently. The ones above, right of the 11th tee, will improve the line of sight from the 2nd tee to the 2nd green. Tree encroachment often occurs gradually and before long, only half a tee is usable for golfers, increasing wear on that part of the tee and making the other part off the tee redundant. Hence the regular concentrated wear patterns to the left and centre of the 2nd tee during the main season.

The line of trees taken out of the right side of the 3rd hole were, again, part of our course masterplan to improve safety considerations to the housing left of the 3rd. But they also provide more of a direct golfing line into the approach and green. Such a tough hole, with trees galore, can be a bit of a chore sometimes without dozens of trees in the way of the approach shot into this green.

The stump grinder was brought in a week ago and about 40 stumps were removed. Each of these areas will be re-grassed in the run up to spring. They all need to consolidate first with some rain and compacting. Then we can re-level these areas.

With such a wet 2016, it is interesting to note some of the wet areas on the golf course. All of these areas have sat wet all year and since the horrendously wet winter of last year. You will notice them as you play. The area above behind the 7th tee and the areas below on the 8th and 9th holes.

The one thing these areas all have in common? All of them sit in shade all day long because they are north facing. Interestingly, all of them are close to trees. So the myth that tree roots absorb water is something of a nonsense. These areas will always sit wet so long as they get no sun or wind to dry them out. Trees serve a limited purpose on golf courses. If turf is suffering due to tree issues then tree removal is the best solution.

Recently, the greens were top dressed again and they were aerated with our slitter. The continued aeration and topdressing will continue to maintain dry, firm greens surfaces. Our greens should, without too much heavy rain, withstand winter golf and hopefully negate the need for temporary greens which will never be anything better than a hole in a fairway.

The greens are looking fairly good considering we are now officially in winter. They are not lightning fast but that cannot be expected at this time of the year. At least we have the opportunity to keep them in play for as much as possible. 

The leaves are nearly all gone now. A few odd piles remain but those that affected play the most are now gone. We might be able to start some winter work now!!!!

That is all for this year. Please enjoy your Christmas and New Year. All the best to each and every one of our members!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Repairing pitch marks - a great video

Thanks to David Moreno, Assistant Greenkeeper at Mendip Spring Golf Club, Bristol.

USGA Turf Minute: Should All Bunkers Play The Same?

Poulton Park Golf Club - Drone

November Rain

The last 2 weeks has seen a gradual shift towards winter. Leaves are now falling and we have had some cold mornings with leaf frosts. It's the time of year when we are carrying out a variety of tasks that best maximise the weather and ground conditions.

We have started to verti drain the greens. This gives us the opportunity to loosen any soil that has become too compact over the last few months. For us, it is important that the greens remain healthy over the coming months but also that they remain dry, firm and playability is not compromised.

We will do our best, weather permitting, to maintain play on regular greens throughout the winter. Frost and persistent heavy rain might prevent this at times but we hope that for the most part they will remain in play. The recent mild, wet weather has encouraged some red thread disease onto some of the greens.

This is evident particularly on the 3rd green. This green, given its thatch content above a very free draining sand, will be particularly susceptible to red thread. The disease is just a blight. It doesn't result in actual turf loss. It is common where nutrient levels, mainly Nitrogen, are low. Hence a very free draining sand will tend to leach nutrients more quickly. Surface thatch will harbour the disease pathogen. A liquid fertiliser was applied to the worst affected greens to discourage the disease.

We have continued to plug away (pun intended - see what i did there??!!) at the 8th green. We use the hole cutter to remove the heavy soil as seen above. This is just not capable of draining any real quantities of rainfall. All that happens is that the surface puddles because the rainfall exceeds the drainage rate. Golf greens built on heavy clay soils are destined to fail at some point with the UK climate. They simply hold water in wet weather.

The plugs are replaced with a sandy root zone. This is a painfully slow process that we turn to with a spare 30 minutes here and there. It will not provide a quick fix to wet weather but it is infinitely cheaper than a complete green reconstruction (£17-19000). This green will always be compromised until funds are available to rebuild it. In the meantime, what we are doing will not hurt and in a small way will improve this green.

The annual leaf drop has begun and we are appreciative of the volunteer assistance to help with leaf collection. Ray, Barry, Wally, John Newns, Dave Asprey, Tom and Len have all given their time to the cause. Many thanks to you guys for your help.

It is a big task and although it is necessary, the sheer quantity of leaves from trees causes us a headache. When many golf clubs have already started winter project work (drainage, tee/bunker/path construction etc), we have to address a huge leaf clear up operation. Precious time is lost simply with dealing with leaves. At this time of the year, every playing surface on the golf course is compromised because leaves have to be collected.

Talking of leaves, we have taken the opportunity to tidy the woodland to the left of the 3rd carry so that we can use this area as a dumping ground for leaves. Here they will rot down nicely out of the way of play. This area will, in time, look much more open and presentable. This work is inexpensive to execute and gives us the opportunity to improve the perimeters of the golf course over the winter.

Our winter topdressing continues. The greens are protected with a fungicide and this enables us to continue light topdressing on our greens to keep them firm, smooth and dry. This is essential if we are to maintain year round play on our greens. At certain times during the week, one green will be out of play for half an hour or so (a temporary green will be in play) until the green has been top dressed and brushed in. These greens will be back in play immediately following this operation.

A final thank you, before signing off, to John Newns for his fantastic divot bag holder that is located by the 1st tee. It looks amazing and hopefully is appreciated by all the members. Please use the divot mix to help maintain the fairways.

We hope you have patience with the recent wet weather. Bear in mind that other golf clubs will also be affected by heavy rain and frosts too. Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.

Have a great weekend and enjoy your golf.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A busy autumn

It has been a while since the last post so here is an extended blog to catch up on various work and areas of improvement.

Recently, a small group of volunteers (Captain, Vice Captain, Phil Lockett and Jeff Perkin) set about clearing the ditch to the left of the 4th hole. A great amount of clearing was achieved on the Saturday morning and this work will continue until this ditch has been fully cleared and looks tidier. We mustn't forget the dedicated work of volunteers at the golf club and it is down to many that the golf club is operated on this basis.

Our association with Mark, the chainsaw instructor, has continued this year and he recently held a tree felling course which resulted in the removal of several large trees adjacent to the 14th tee. These poplars were causing 2 issues; the first being a playability issue in that they were encroaching to such an extent that only the left half of this tee was usable by golfers to play down the hole. This was evident by the divot pattern on the tee. The second issue is that the poplars were blocking light into the 6th green and their roots are just destructive, even to the extent that new offshoots were appearing through the front of the 14th tee. Such work is necessary to retain the integrity of the hole from a golfing point of view above all else and it continues what has been laid out in the course improvement plan.

The chipping green area has (finally!! - apologies Freddy) had a bit of a makeover in the last week. Both bunkers have been edged to give them more definition. They just need a bit more bunker sand and then they should be perfect for practising those cute bunker shots. This practise area is now in decent nick and we hope to keep it looking good as best as we can.

Following the autumn renovation works (scarifying, hollow coring, topdressing), the greens have recovered well and they should stand up well to winter play and weather. They are firming up nicely and should remain dry this winter, save for any constant wet weather. Let's hope that last winter was a bad one out of the way and one we won't see again for a good few years! The photo above shows a tine hole that has been chewed away by leatherjacket grubs which are newly laid in the soil. The insecticide that we used to use to control them has since been withdrawn from the market due to it's carcinogenic links. Until we find a proven alternative, we will have to use other methods of controlling the damage caused by leatherjackets.

We recently trialled a soil conditioner product on a few greens that had caused a few problems due to casting earthworms. Their worm casts were not always welcome, particularly when preparing the greens for play. However, the product that we used has had a great effect and it contains tea seed saponins which are a worm irritant, as the photo above demonstrates! The intention is not to stop worm activity entirely. Worms are nature's natural soil aerators and they are important for our soil. We just need to strike a balance between their benefits and their limitations.

The greens were sprayed with a preventative fungicide last week, Fusarium activity was becoming evident and the mild conditions of late were perfect for it's spread. The fungicide will give the greens protection for the next month and will allow us to carry out aeration work on the greens without any further disease activity. With older chemicals being removed from the market, it will be that bit more challenging in the future to have such a wide choice of products to use for control of weeds, pests and diseases. Therefore it is imperative that we look to methods that include aeration, topdressing and judicious use of fertilisers to maintain good playing surfaces.

As we head into late autumn and early winter, the golf course will start to change with the seasons. Leaves will fall and days will be shorter with less sunlight. It is inevitable that the weather will deteriorate in one way or another too. Our thoughts now move towards winter projects which will hopefully improve the golf course but at the same time will be executed with less disruption and cost than in the previous 2 years.

We hope that these changes will be welcomed by members and visitors. It is important to remember that any changes are made for the benefit of the golf course and that the intention is not to destroy the foundations of the golf club. We acknowledge that many founder members were vital to the creation and development of this golf club. However, we are just trying to modify and tweak the golf course so that it remains relevant in a challenging market, and that it continues to appeal to a wide range of golfers. 9 hole golf courses could prove to be the future of golf, particularly with the demands on peoples' time these days. Poulton Park Golf Club really is moving in the right direction and it has the potential to be a cracking golf course.

Have a good weekend and enjoy your golf!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Three men went to mow

It has been a summer of growth. Lots of it. A perfect analogy would be comparing our mowing to painting the Forth Road bridge. I think you get the picture!

Greens were recently fertilised following some anthracnose disease showing on the poa (meadow grass). This usually occurs at the end of July following lots of close mowing and compaction. 

We have overseeded with bent grass to help fill in any areas where the poa dies off. The fertiliser just gives the greens a push to counter any thinning caused by the anthracnose attacking the poa. 

This may cause a slight slowing of greens speed in the short term. However, with all the rain this summer, it has hardly been a vintage year for getting any real greens speed. The poor weather has been something of a bugbear in that respect. 

We are doing our best to keep bunkers and other areas tidy. With less hours at our disposal compared to last summer, it is difficult, particularly when we are mowing more than one might expect in the summer.

Some great volunteer work helped to transform the approach into the 5th green. The pond rushes were removed, trees removed and suddenly the bunker is visible! Well done to all members who volunteered their time!

We have also continued some small project work near the 5th tee. Scrub had been removed and this creates a more open vista from the 4th green. We will do what we can in various areas to continue with course development.

Have a great weekend and enjoy your golf!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

July - more like January!

This was the scene that greeted us last Tuesday morning following 1 inch of rain on Monday. We did wonder if any mowing would get done this week. It seems as though the last 9 months has been like living on Neptune!

Fast forward to Friday afternoon and it wasn't quite so bad!

We have been fortunate that the golf course has held up well to persistent raining late although, understandably, some competition play has required temporary clean and place rulings.

James progress is superb. He has been employed at the golf club for just over 1 year now and he works extremely hard, is enthusiastic and wants to progress.

His mowing stripes are pretty decent too!

The 5th bunker got a makeover the other week. We had intended to do this last winter but constant rain interrupted progress with course improvement projects and we just ran out of time. However, it is now a better shape and should provide better playability with some new sand.

The greens were verti drained a couple of weeks ago. This is something that as recommended in the agronomy report as part of the ongoing greens maintenance program. 

I made the decision based upon how much wet weather we had had over the spring & summer months. Punching holes in greens is not, contrary to what golfers might think, an enjoyable task. But then again, seeing greens with standing water on them after persistent rain is not a great sight either. 

A light granular fertiliser helped to restore the surface back to where we want then to be. Some semblance of summer (ie dry weather) might help us to get the speed up for members. I live in hope.

The one issue with the greens that is out of my control at the moment is birds pecking for leather jacket grubs. The insecticide that we used to spray to control them was removed from the market last year. Please click the link below for more info:

Remaining products on the market are as yet unproven and significantly more expensive so we will look into these products more in the coming weeks.

A heatwave is on the way next week. For how long, I have no idea. Long may it remain but I am sceptical to say the least.

Enjoy your golf and stay dry!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Captain's Day

Another week, another deluge of rain. June is not the dry, summer like month we had wished for !

However, we have done our best in trying conditions to get the golf course looking right for Captain, David McIntyre and all the other competitors.

Fairways have been double cut, as have tees and approaches. Rough has all been cut too. The golf course is as good as 2 people can present it!

All greens have been double groomed to thin out the surface and help with speed - although the weather chucked a spanner in the works and the rain has surely slowed down the greens slightly.

We also had an attack of fusarium starting last weekend. It is usually brought on with wet, mild, humid weather conditions and attacks the meadow grass because it is so prone to disease.

Given that the weather was cooling during the week and just getting wetter, I applied a fungicide for disease control and I also mixed some liquid iron in the tank too. This gave the greens a little colour heading into the weekend.

We have done what we can to clear some logs and brash following the tree felling. As time is limited, we will do what we can each week to clear the areas closest to play.

Striking the balance between mowing, spraying, bunker raking, servicing machinery, topdressing etc between 2 staff is the trick. Unfortunately, all of this is not possible every week because there is just not the time available.

Next week, we would like a dry week. I hope Mother Nature is listening. Whether she delivers is another story!

Have a great weekend and enjoy your golf!