Course Managers Report Summer 2013 We are now into early August and although the recent heatwave would now seem to be over, we had previously been experiencing some of the fairest, driest weather that this course has seen some time. It is during weather like this that our tees can tend to suffer, but apart from this obvious disadvantage I feel the parched appearance to the fairways adds a certain something to the game and certainly adds a few yards to most drives with some good scores being recorded. During the dry weather the health of the greens has been comfortably maintained through the use of the irrigation system, with the exception of a few drier patches on some greens which have already recovered with the recent rain. Looking back, it was a particularly cold and slow spring start, but the greens eventually picked up and have gone on to offer a satisfactory playing surface for the majority of golfers with some pleasing feedback coming from visiting clubs. The 8th green has come on leaps and bounds since it was amended and re-turfed over the winter. However, it has recently suffered from a bout of take-all patch. Take-all patch (Gaeumannomyces graminis) is a fungal disease common to newly establishing areas of close-mown turf. In these situations, the amended soils have had insufficient time to build up the necessary populations of beneficial microscopic flora and fauna which collaborate and compete to reduce the prevalence of fungal pathogens such as take-all patch, thus allowing the disease to spread unchallenged. The alkaline nature of most topdressing sands will also contribute to problem by causing a pH shock which will further knock any establishing beneficial biology and open the door to fungal attack. Very little chemical treatment is available to treat this fungus and most fungicides only act to compound the problem by indiscriminately wiping out all soil biology be it beneficial or pathogenic, thus entering a vicious cycle of infection and inoculation. In truth, the only way this disease is cured is with time and sensitive greenkeeping practices which encourage the healthy development of young soils. The mowing height of the 8th green has recently been reduced from 6mm to 5mm. Since works were completed on the 8th, an intensified programme of remedial operations has been initiated on the 9th green in the belief that this most attractive of greens can be salvaged from the issues that have caused this green to be problematic in the past. In late summer 2012, the green was hollow tined with 10mm tines and the resulting holes backfilled with 1.25 tonnes of granulated volcanic zeolite to absorb water and improve drainage. In October a vertical drain was installed in the lowest point of the green where a large puddle would develop during wet weather. This drain is keyed into the underlying drainage stone and has been observed to take away considerable quantities of water in heavy rain and we have not yet had to physically pump this green since its installation. In November 2012 the green received a double pass from an Immants deep soil decompactor which essentially slits the soil into block sections while shifting each of these sections sideways to fracture and decompact the ground thus improving drainage. In spring 2013 we initiated a stepped up programme of aeration facilitated by our recently purchased pedestrian aerator and inoculated the green with a thatch degrading fungi which will decompose the high levels of spongy organic matter and recycle the nutrients back into the soil to feed the grass. The net result of all this time, money and effort has brought tangible improvements to the performance and playability of the 9th green with a noticeable change in the appearance of the thatch layers that are ultimately responsible for the problems observed in this green. Having previously been a stinking yellow mat of un-decomposed organic fibre, it now appears chestnut brown in colour, sweet smelling with visible horizons of topdressing sand which clearly indicates that this thatch is being physically broken down and recycled through a combination of improved aeration and biological activity. 9th green November 2012. Foul-smelling, spongy mass of tightly matter organic matter, light brown/yellow in colour with no visible sign of mineral horizons from past topdressings. Quantities of water could be squeezed from this sample. 9th green August 2013. The thatch has turned a darker shade of chestnut brown and the foul smell has gone. Clear definition can now be seen between organic and mineral horizons. An altogether drier sample. This being the case, and not having given the work on the 8th the test of time, it is agreed that the 9th green will not be receiving the same treatment that the 8th did in the winter of 2012. Although initial signs on the 8th may be satisfactory at this point, it remains that the work carried out was a knee-jerk response to an exceptional set of circumstances which left no choice other than do something with what little money there was available at the time. The same heavy, compaction-prone soil remains (albeit without the over-lying thatch) and the depth of soil is only just deep enough to sink a hole cup. To jump into applying the same untested methodology to our largest, most shapely green would, in my opinion, be unwise at this moment in time particularly given the advances made over the last 12 months. The department has invested in a shiny new John Deere 2520 compact tractor to replace the over-sized and seldom used orange Kioti tractor. The new tractor is ideally sized for driving on the greens and will perform a wide range of tasks from loading sand and towing trailers to topdressing, sarrel rolling and spraying, as well as having the option to covert to a rotary mowing tractor should our small blue Ford ever give up the ghost. The deal was struck with Turner Groundscare and was largely negotiated with our collection of unused and/or damaged equipment which left the deal almost cash neutral. Requests have been made to extend the out of bounds areas at the rear of the 5th green to accommodate shots that run through and beyond the close mown areas immediately behind the putting surface. This is very rough ground which has now been populated by a host of weeds and young trees, some as much as 12tf in height. Efforts have recently been made by Ryan and myself in collaboration with our Tuesday work experience helper Sam to clear the area of sapling trees in readiness for strimming. The area will never be cut with a conventional ride-on mower due to its rough and uneven nature, however periodic strimming should offer the golfer a shot out which would previously have cost him/her a shot penalty. Out of bounds posts will be repositioned once the groundwork is complete. Comments from members has also lead to alterations being made to the areas of conservation rough which filled the gap between the 7th medal tee and the forward 7th and 16th tees, in order to aid the retrieval of those shots that fail to make it beyond the initial 50 yards. This area had been left fallow after the ground was found to be too wet and uneven to consistently present in an aesthetically pleasing manner without causing damage to our equipment or getting bogged down. During periods of wet weather this will remain to be the case in this area, and this supports my policy to challenge any mowing which is not deemed to be absolutely necessary or practical due to the benefits brought by reduced mowing time and increased ecological value. However, in this case the sustained appeal for change has resulted in a compromise. The work in this area has also prompted the heading back of the overgrown embankments the left of the 16th and 7th medal tees as well as the path leading down from the 15th tee. Discussions are ongoing in review of the trees down the right of the 5th/14th. It is intended that selective pruning and/or removal of some trees in this area will reduce the occurrence of ball strikes on the Kinross Close properties by encouraging players to aim further right. Given the time of year, it is suggested that any work identified as necessary should be contracted out to a suitable tree surgeon so it can be completed with the minimum of disruption to golf and downtime from the hectic peak season maintenance schedule. Since the employment of Ryan back in February 2012, I feel confident in saying that as a team we are now presenting the course far better and far more consistently than was ever the case leading up that point. We currently still rely on the assistance of Len Dillnutt and Tom Frame to mow the rough and offer much appreciated weekend cover, and this will remain the case until the club can support a third member of greens staff, but I do feel that the current condition of the course stands as testament to the importance of employing full-time, career-minded professionals when attempting to consistently present a golf course. My thanks go to Tom and Len for their continued efforts but particularly to Ryan for his dependable assistance and support in the daily presentation of the course. James Billington Course Manager.