Hi all, this is a small update on the ongoings of winter works across the course at present, hopefully this answers a few questions from the members and keeps everyone up to date with the winter works as we move towards the season.
The winter works programme we have taken on this year is the most ambitious yet I’m sure its fair to say, thanks to all the members for their support as many areas have been work in progress for the last 10 weeks and maybe look a little messy.
I know there has been more areas open this year than ever before but I see this as positive progress for the club and course, The way I see the winter works programme is, the months 1st November to 1st April is the window I have to complete the entire winter works programme after this period I have to ensure the course looking good ready for summer play.
Areas like the bunker work at 4th/13th/15th/16th had to be opened up and pushed on in early November all in one go as we had the free use of a 360 excavator for one week so I had to ensure all the heavy plant work was complete in this period to avoid any cost to the club, please remember all of the winter works we have suggested for the 2019/2020 programme are all based on zero cost to the club. The works left in these areas is just levelling by hand and turfing, although they have been work in progress for a while there is very little work left for us to reach completion.
The small costs that will occur for the likes of the stump grinder hire, turf lifter hire, I have raised the funds by arranging small contracts of works local throughout the 2019 year allowing us to raise a small amount of money for the club to use on extras.
Over the years Morpeth Golf Club have not invested in a tree management programme resulting in vast areas of overgrown woodland. As of 2018 we now have a solid tree management programme in place along with a full tree felling licence.
At present we currently have approximately 350 stumps across the course from recent clearance, we didn’t manage to find the right contact for the end of the 2018/2019 winter programme to come to site and remove the stumps, but during the last year I have arranged to get the use of a stump grinder for an affordable price for a 2 week period.
We will have the stump grinder for two weeks with works commencing on the 2nd March, I have not rushed into getting the grinder early as I would like the staff to work split shifts allowing the team to take advantage of the extra sun light in the month of March.
Im not sure how many stumps we will be able to grind in the 2 week period but ideally I would like to make busy areas like either side of the 11th and in between 15th/16th priority allowing us to maintain these areas with our larger machinery into and throughout the season.
4th hole bunker works
Thursday 23rd January the greens staff look to finish levelling and turfing the 4th bunker only leaving the installation of the drain line, the base layer and sand to be installed. Again this is part of the zero cost winter works project so we are lifting all the turf from the practice area free of cost.
We have exposed the original drain on the 4th hole which works fine so we will tap into this again helping us avoid cost for extra materials.
14h hole tree work
The 14th hole has had tree debris to the left of the hole for about 3 weeks now, I have purposely left these areas for now as we will fall back to the clearing of these areas when we get frosty mornings as they are ideal for burning. The piles of debris look substantial but I predict we can dispose of them all in 2 working days.
15th hole bunker works
The second bunker we built has had its problems as we have had to re direct a 150 year old drain that was working fine, during the period of heavy rain the bunker face washed out leaving it in need of attention. This will be repaired and re built in one shift by two members of staff once the 4th and 13th bunker improvements have been completed, the subsurface is fine so this is just a finishing job.
16th hole bunker works
The four bunkers of the 16th hole just need the base layer installed and the sand put in before they can be brought back into play, we will also fertilise the new turf as the temperatures rise encouraging some nice growth and turf health.
General bunker work
All of the bunkers have now been edged across the whole course and looking nice and sharp, all bunkers are now back in play and will remain that way as we move towards the season.
During the process of edging the bunkers the staff uncovered all the drain lines and disturbed the sand above them, hopefully this will encourage water easily into the drains through out wet periods of the 2020 season.
In the past the club has topped up bunkers with topdressing sand the same as what we use for the greens maintenance, this is too fine for bunkers and easily becomes contaminated and compact within bunker bases, the new sand we used in the new bunkers is purpose made bunker sand with a much bigger particle size resulting in less contamination and compaction and it is much easier to bring back into play after wet periods.
Feeding & Health:
I have been applying many very light feeds throughout the winter periods when weather has allowed, I think everyone would agree the greens are a little soft under foot due to our historic thatch problem but they look really good and roll nicely. These regular applications have also helped the greens stand up to the heavy play during this winter, I think its fair to say there has been limited use of winter greens apart from frosty periods.
“I like to try and take my sidekick “Ralph” to work as much as possible especially on spray days, he likes the odd bark to the golfers and a chase of a golf ball”.
This winter we have continuously spiked and slit the surface to help keep the surface open and moisture away from the playing surface, these treatments are far less disruptive forms of aeration but equally as effective to us.
Greens maintenance which is scheduled for April/May currently which will be in the form of hollow coring and 30 tons of topdressing, like last year I will continue to monitor the greens and as soon as an opportunity allows we will carry out the maintenance to ensure the members again like last year get a longer playing season on better surfaces with less disturbance.
The fairways have been cut twice in recent weeks ready for the staff and volunteers to do an intense devoting session, all fairways have had an application of iron and an application of nitrogen. These will help hold back any moss and give the sward a little tickle to help with growth and health quality moving towards warmer temperatures. You may have noticed areas of blackening or darkening this is where the iron has been applied.
Wood chip areas:
Bases of trees:
The areas to the right and left of the 11th hole, right and left of the 15th/16th holes will have small neat piles of bark places around the bases of the trees to discourage growth and avoid the use of weed killer.
Rear of the 12th green:
Last year we levelled and wood chipped the areas behind the 12th green which looked nice, this was a case of levelling and thinning the area ready for a base layer in 2020 followed by another few tons of wood chip, we never intended to maintain the area during the 2019 season which is why the weeds invaded it was always a work in progress for the 2020 winter works programme, this time we look to keep the area nice and maintained all season now its in better shape for finishing.
Rear of the 6th green:
The wood chipped area we opened up last year was again a work in progress for future plans, we have a few ideas for this area likes of ways to encourage wld life, one idea I have and would love to see is a further small amount of clearing allowing us to create a space possibly for some local bee keepers to locate some honey bee hives.
If any members know any local bee keepers maybe you could put us in touch with them? If anyone knows any one please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org thanks.
Thank you for reading,
Head Greenkeeper, John Scurfield.