Blog

December Course Closures

Closures during December: Since golf returned from lockdown 2 the course has been closed 5 times in December, considering we have had a considerable amount of heavy rainfall and not many windy drying days I feel we have done well to stay open. On many occasions recently we have been one of the few courses open despite heavy rainfall.

Number of tee times: So this is the big change for MGC, since lockdown 2 ended the BRS booking system has been fully booked daily from 07:50 – 14:00. So the norm for the months November to February is an average daily attendance of 25 – 45 golfers and on a Saturday 100. In December 2020 the average daily attendance is 85 – 110 golfers and 120 on a Saturday. This is exposing some of the weaknesses out on the course we have never seen before Due to the abnormal volume of golf.

Greens: So following on the information on tee time bookings, the normal amount of golf would see us use temp greens during wet or frozen periods, in December 2020 we have played on the main greens constantly as requested by the members, I feel the greens have performed very well with the rainfall but not with the volume of traffic.

So imagine going into your garden and walking on the spot for 2 minuets during a wet period like we currently have, water would rise and it would become soft and muddy. This is similar to whats happening on the greens, with the excess organic matter the greens still host and combined with the volume of traffic the greens are very soft and wet, especially 1/6/9/16. If you on the other hand go to the 14th green and take note it never floods, its getting better every year fed and watered properly and its very firm all year around under foot. This is because the 14th green has been constructed professionally to a USGA spec, it performs for 12 months to a good standard.

I hear many of the MGC members year on year comparing us to Bedlington Golf Club, I feel that being compared to Bedlington during the summer is a compliment as I feel Bedlington is one of the areas best conditioned courses and I have enjoyed playing on many occasions. I feel it is not a fair comparison during the winter period, Bedlington is a younger club than MGC and they have 18 USGA spec greens professionally constructed just like our 14th green which perform for 12 months, to have 18 USGA spec greens at MGC is my dream. The greens I manage at MGC are called pop up greens, I feel to produce greens that are as good as any about in the summer months, in the depth of winter they are very average. A pop up green is a clay base scraped out of the land in the early 1900s which were made to retain water as there was no irrigation, the popups are a handful for us during the winter but with light aeration and the correct nutrition programme they can be playable to a nice standard.

So as we move through the winter I will have to re introduce some temporary greens and on occasions close the first hole, hopefully everyone understands as I look to protect the course a little so we can have it playing excellent early 2021.

Tees: Historically we have always played on temp uneven tees, last year we had success playing from the main tees but this month with over four times the amount of golf they in some cases look like a goal mouth on a football pitch. As we enter the holiday period I will be moving the tees in to temporary positions on non competition days, this is to protect the course but also ensure golfers get full length golf as requested.

Restrictions around the course: At present I know there is a fair few ropes around greens etc, please follow them as I look to protect the immediate aprons. If anyone sees their playing partners or other golfers taking their trolleys over greens or tees please remind them they are causing damage.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been checking in on the other local courses to see what restrictions they have had in place, most have had carry bags only which The Board and Green staff feel isn’t acceptable for our membership given the average age. We feel winter/hogg wheels is sufficient and delighted so many members are on board with. I class a course being open with Cary bags only as good as being closed, but following the amount of recent resistance we may have to discuss this as an option again for small windows of play.

Thanks John Scurfield.

Lockdown two course update

Good evening, I’m sorry its taken me a little longer than I wanted but here is the lockdown 2 update as promised. We’ve really taken advantage of the golf free course over the last four weeks, taking on some nice little projects. Like I said in my previous blog there will be updates on the ongoing projects, machinery purchases and a little fun in meet the team, hope you find the information helpful and have a giggle at the end.

Stu Speirs on our new roller prepping for the return of our members
  • DRAINAGE

5th – The drain at the rear of the green has been installed and has been working very well during the recent wet periods. This is one of the hotspots on the course that causes closures throughout the year with flooding.

7th – The left side of the green has slowly became a small sink hole over the last 14 months, we have shot a drain across the green from the centre of the sinkhole off the back of the green. For the first time we have seen the fall off the back of the green full of water so the drain is working and drawing the water away from the putting surface.

9th – The rear of the green was so sub standard I made the decision to lift all the turf, install new drains as the old ones were poorly installed and extremely shallow, also a reshape the land to feed rainfall away and install new turf.

10th – The rear right of the green has slowly became worse puddling up and holding water during wet periods resulting in the land becoming a pudding. The drains we removed were shallow and unfit for purpose, the newly installed drain are giving fast relief to this area and is working very well.

  • FAIRWAYS

Vertidrained – We have deep tined all fairways and aprons giving the land a nice release after a long summer of heavy traffic. We should see many health benefits to plant health in the 2021 season following this important work.

Above shows the results of verti draining

Iron applications – Im midd way through applying iron to the fairways, this helps hold the moss back which dominates the vast areas of fine grasses we host.

  • GREENS

Below is a number of photos showing the different processes we have carried out on the greens over lock down 2, on your return they will have felt a little soft under foot following a lot of heavy disruption we would have not normally done due to the disruption to golf. Now they are settling nicely and feel a little firmer under foot again, also during this particular wet period of weather we are experiencing they are moving the water away from the surface nicely.

This is the first time since I joined MGC that we are not the club who is always shut first in the area during periods of poor weather which was always something I was uncomfortable with, in recent weeks many others around us have been closed and we have been open and fine to play competition golf on. This is huge progress for MGC as a club and very positive for our members.

A photo of the 11th green the day of return from lockdown 2
The greens have been deep vertigo drained twice, firstly with 12mm tines on maximum heave, secondly on 5% heave with 19 mm tines. Both times down to a depth of 240mm
The day before the golf returned from lockdown 2, I put a 6mm tine with very close spacing through the greens to tighten the larger holes up, this was followed be a double roll leaving the surface nice for play
  • DRILL & FILL

The drill and fill process, you can see below, was carried out at MGC in years gone by has stood up very well to the test of time, unfortunately I still feel the same about this process and still don’t think drill and fill is the correct process for MGC. As you can see below the white channels sand are perfectly in tact at the rear of the 9th but the thatch layer is still retaining a lot of water like a sponge. We will continue thinning out the thatch layer in the top 2 inches and maybe re visit the drill and fill in a few years time once we are happy we have the surface in order allowing rainfall to pass through not being held and be fed deeper away from play.

Above the top 3 inched of the green was pretty much a sponge of slop, underneath it was very dry and solid. I literally scraped it off with the bucket and dumped all the poorly conditioned turf
  • EXTRA JOBS AROUND THE COURSE

We have installed an astro turf passing point on the 6th bridge as it has become slippery in recent weeks. At the 4th hole the trees to the left have become a hot spot for lost balls, there is a number of reasons for the thinning of this area. Firstly this area becomes very wet during the winter months and causes problems over the 4th hole at the green and bunkers as the drains run through this area, in the coming months we can keep an eye on everything now its accessible. Secondly we thought all of the areas we thinned last year were very helpful to keeping play moving and also very nice on the eye. A focus for us all in the future is to make sure more intense grooming across the course is more wide spread as we look to take MGC to the next level.

The old entrance to the 11th tee box (below) was opened up again for the 2020 season, I think this looks very nice and would be complimented with a new set of sleeper steps. We have all the sleepers on site and they will be installed as soon as time and weather allow with new slip strips.

Now the leaves have all fallen we have started cleaning drain lines across the course before the depth of winter falls, if any members are available to help with these type of jobs any help will be much appreciated.

  • DISEASE PRESSURE AND MANAGEMENT

From October through to March all greenskeepers are on the lookout for disease on all areas especially greens, this is mainly because if a large outbreak occurs the poor growing conditions in winter don’t allow us to gain repair so scars can hang around for months until spring. This November the disease pressure has been crazy, I haven’t spoken to any greenskeepers that have stayed disease free during this period. We have been effected on the 12th/15th/16th/17th greens as when I sprayed my October preventative fungicide the sprayer broke, this prevented me from applying the control to these areas allowing for a larger outbreak. Despite the outbreak of Fusarium we have been fortunate that the unusually mild conditions have meant the disease is growing through thankfully.

A beautiful photo looking back up the 18th taken by Caroline Cazaly.
  • MACHINERY

John Deere 9009a

This will be our new rough cutter as the old one had became costly to the club in recent years, this mower has a wider cut than the old machine and larger units which give a real quality cut. The rough will again be maintained at 1.5 inches again next year and I look forward to seeing improvements in this area of the course.

John Deere SL220 mowers

For a few years now I have been desperate to get some quality hand mowers in to MGC, now we have them we can cut the greens through the winter months with minimal disruption and also give the greens a more fine tuned cut in the summer for our peak periods of competition golf.

True Turf Iron

Our old turf iron has had a few running repairs over the last few months and we were told it wouldn’t last much longer by the dealer. So the club have invested in a brand new one, this is a bigger model which will see improved performance and improved speed for 2021.

John Deere 3038 Tractor

Our oldest piece of equipment is our John Deere 410 compact tractor, this machine is a 2002 model so is clearly very tired and in need of a few repairs. We have just kept the 410 going for a few years now but given its a vital part of our fleet particularly for important aeration processes, the club have decided to renew the machine ensuring we will stay at full strength for the maintenance windows.

  • MEET THE TEAM

This section is a little bit of fun from us all, a little bit about ourselves and a few funny stories.

John Scurfield – Course Manager

Age: 35

Home town: Stakeford

Hobbies: Work, Golf, Football, Boxer dogs and Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Favourite job: My job is my hobby, I enjoy working more that playing golf. I love feeding the greens, knowing I will see the positive results within hours also ensuring our own high standards are met.

Favourite part of the course: I like the 13th/16th tee, its great to work on and play. I enjoy watching the golf as I work from there and its always a good opportunity for a chat with members.

Favourite member and why?: Its got to be Brian Douds, I enjoy how passionate he is about the club, his straight talking debates but most of all his top quality craic, he’s a top guy at MGC.

Where do you want to see the club in 5 years time: When I did the Toro greenskeeper of the year award in 2018 I said to the panel of judges, “you want me to say I will be head greenskeeper at St Andrews in 5/10 years time”? No! mine is “I want Morpeth Golf Club to be one of the best conditioned and busiest courses in the North in 5 years”. Thats the dream………..

Funny story in connection to the Club: So, my funny story was from the 16th hole whilst playing. I won’t say who was playing with but I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing the story as its funny. On the first tee my playing partner informed me that their guts had been pretty bad all week and were concerned about successfully making it around 18 holes. So we got all the way to the 16th, and off they ran down to the 16th burn with a toilet roll in hand, a couple of minutes later they appeared again, I shouted “u ok”? Reply “no I’m bl**dy not”! “U not make it” I shouted? “yes ” was the reply “the toilet roll rolled down the Bankside into the bl**dy burn before I got the chance to use it though” hahahahaha I was in creases.

Stu Speirs – D

Age: 45 

Home town: Morpeth 

Hobbies: football, cricket, cooking, old movies, USA 

Favorite job: Apart from going home, I love cutting fairways and vertidraining  

Favorite part of the course: 

Looking down the 14th and seeing those two magnificent specimen silver birch trees, gently swaying in the breeze longingly casting a gentle limb around the fourteenth green, knowing they’ll be protecting it for the next century at least, also from the thirteenth looking over all of the course  

Favorite member and why?:  

For me are probably the ones who are sadly no longer with us or cannot play anymore. Tom and Madge Weddle to name a couple. Tom taught me at chantry in the 80s and when I started at the golf course, he was the clubs secretary, he always had the time and patience for everyone. Madge who is 95 now and still going strong with her northern Irish wit would always put a smile on anyone face. Morpeth had some great characters, from Norman Lamb to Des Keith and Keith Kazaly seniors who always had a joke to tell.  

Where would you like to see Morpeth golf club in 5 years’ time:  

  • Ten staff 
  • 18 new USGA greens 
  • Drainage across all areas of the course 
  • New Tee boxes 
  • More sustainable bunkers/ less bunkers 

“I’ve seen some major forward steps taken over recent years, huge improvements on the course and with great support from directors/club officials allowing us as a team to progress along the way” 

Funny story in connection to the Club: 

I could probably write a book! I remember watching Des Keith zig zagging across the car park most days, one day he came back looking for his glasses still half cut, we were helping him look and I found them in the top dressing with a perfect print of his face and hands where he fell.  

Another was Teddy Hoy and his squad, now these fellows took more than six hours to play a game of golf and still never played the whole course. I remember once helping teddy up off the ground as he had walked into a branch, fell back and all of his clubs had fallen out on top of him while he still had his finger on the trigger of his electric trolley! 

 The story that sticks out for me is the one where these two old ladies came to the sheds and told me that she had lost her husband and had been given permission to spread his ashes on the first green. He caddied for golfers when he was younger and played golf before he moved away, she was telling me. She asked if I could take them up on a buggy “no problem, lets go” I said.  So off we went. We parked up at the green side bunker on the first. The two old ladies went on to the green and the one who’s husband it was began saying a few words just as she started emptying the ashes from the ern onto the green. Just then the wind suddenly picked up and blew the ashes onto the pair of them. They were covered from head to toe, their faces as white as snow. They got back on the buggy laughing hysterically and the widow said “he couldn’t leave me alone when he was alive; death hasn’t changed him” I took them back to their car when one of them said, how are we going to get this off us. I suggested I could blow it off with the compressor air gun. So there I stood, blowing this fellows ashes off the old ladies onto the sheds.

Ben Gray

Age: 17

Hometown: Morpeth

Hobbies: Gardening & Machinery

Favourite job: Cutting greens

Favourite part of the course: Looking down from the 14th tee

Thanks for reading my blog, from all the Greenstaff we wish all of the members and everyone associated with MGC a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lockdown 2 at MGC

Good evening to the members of Morpeth Golf Club, it is the end of the first day of lockdown 2 for myself. I want to take the opportunity over the next four weeks to do a detailed weekly diary/blog for the members to see how the green staff work, the prep that goes into our winter course preparation, and the finished results which will set us up for the 2021 season which I expect to see the course at its very best.

When I first saw the news of us being sent into the second lockdown of 2020 I was pretty disappointed, I feel 2020 has been a tough year for many people for many different reasons. Pretty much straight away I thought, this is a negative situation for myself and MGC, what can we do to make it a positive one? So I set to, I immediately cancelled the greenskeepers winter darts competition, all holidays for the green staff were cancelled and plans for some aggressive works for November were drafted up. I contacted friends Mark and Simon at Whitley Bay Golf Club to see if I could lend their trencher, thankfully they agreed to help me out so we could install drains in to the parts of the course that are currently closing us during bad weather especially during winter.

For example drainage at:

-5th Green

-7th Green

-9th Green

-10th Green

-18th Green

So these areas will have drains installed during the absence of the members, hopefully helping make Morpeth a stronger course during the winter months.

I also want to keep you all up to date with following parts of the course with the following practices.

Fairways:

-fairway aeration

-fairway nutrition programme

Greens:

-aeration

-fungal control

-nutrition programme

-preformance

Tees:

-aeration

-nutrition

Machinery:

In recent weeks myself along with General manager Martin Calder have been negotiating a deal on some exciting new machinery for the 2021 season at MGC. We have secured a deal with Sherrifs, Cramlington for some new John Deere machinery. I want to update you all on one machine per week as we have four new bits of kit ordered. To say the least I’m very excited and thankful to the Chairman, General Manager and Board of Directors for their continued support.

Meet the team:

I want to talk a little about each member of staff week by week starting with our new addition to the team Ben Gray, and finishing with a few club officials which could be fun.

It was nice to see some of the members out today walking the course and I’m sure we will see many more of you guys over the next four weeks, take care through the lockdown period and hope to see you all again soon. Please feel free to ask any questions either on here or on the members face book page.

Many thanks for following and reading my MGC blog, John Scurfield.

September greens maintenance progress report

Aeration September 2020

-Current facts about our greens!

At Morpeth we are currently tackling:

  • 2-3 inches of thatch (organic matter)
  • Greens built on solid clay with minimum drainage
  • Greens that hold moisture during winter months
  • 114 year old greens

Might all sound negative? NO we are making good progress beneath the ground and producing greens that perform.

-Importance of aeration

-Core removal

During the September maintenance we removed a 19mm core to a depth of 3 inches, this is by far the largest removal we have ever done at Morpeth. Over the years we normally remove 6-10mm cores and on occasions didn’t remove anything, this is why we now have a greater problem to fix.

In 2019 and 2020 we have certainly seen great progress in the quality and performance of the greens, this is down to the aggressive aeration programme we have embarked on.

In the coming years I expect to do more less disruptive greens maintenance as the greens will become more sustainable, with our current management programme we are making good progress towards achieving this.

-Sand installation

Over the last 10 years Morpeth have generally put 30 tons of sand onto the greens in the spring and 30 tons in the autumn, this is typical of a course with thatch problems and I believe this approach is not good for course that wants their greens to consistently perform well. During some periods like the 2011 season Morpeth only applied 20 tons in the whole year, that is less than a token gesture, the decision on how much maintenance is carried out is normally based on finance, around the 2011 time the country was in a resection.

In 2019/2020 we will have used near 200 tons on the greens alone, this is a very impressive number for Morpeth golf club and this shows how supportive the Management of the club are and their hunger for success at Morpeth.

-Over seed

On most golf courses the desired grass species on the greens in a mix of bent and fescue grass, at Morpeth we are near 100% Annual meadow grass. Over the last two maintenance windows I have chosen to over seed with a Dwarf Rye grass species. This is becoming a more popular choice as its a harder wearing grass, some studies say more decease tolerance, it doesn’t produce a seed head a low heights of cutting, has a fine leaf and its at a 3rd of the price of Bent or Fescue.

You may have noticed the the potting process we have going on at the moment on the greens. This is where the core has been removed, the core hole has been back filled with sand and seed. We have given the seed a chance to establish by letting them grow in the little pots and keeping them moist. Today 21/09/2020, we will be giving them their first cut since maintenance at a higher height of 5.5mm to keep the new addition to the sward stress free for a couple of weeks.

-Building back the performance

Over the next two weeks we will be slowly feeding in another 20 tons of sand to ensure we achieve the optimum performance possible. The main focus as we approach winter golf is to ensure we achieve summer trueness. Greens speed is not a focus for us to worry about between November and February.

-Winter aeration target areas and why?

During the winter months we will be opening the surface up on a fortnightly basis with the small slitter, also we have achieved our annual goal of again thinning the problem thatch layer out now we will look to work channels lower in the profile to a depth of 300mm ensuring optimum infiltration to the drain lines.

-Improvement of surfaces 2020/2021

Over the last 24 months I feel we have gone from producing good surfaces in 2019 on a fairly consistent basis, in 2020 I feel we have produces consistently good surfaces that perform well for a solid 5 months. This was my goal for this season so I’m very happy with what we have achieved for the membership. I feel this is now the average for Morpeth and I hope Morpeth becomes known for is good greens in the coming years.

My focus is now to look to extend the length of the playing season and ultimately achieve as close to a 12 month playing season as we possibly can in the future.

Thanks John Scurfield.

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Greens disease update 20/08/2020

Disease update on greens

I recently posted on our members Facebook group making you all aware that there may be some small changes to the cutting heights on the greens and some light aeration was to be carried out immediately.

This was necessary as we had an out break of Anthracnose disease, a turf disease pathogen which can severely attack Annual Meadow Grass which is the main grass species we host within our greens at Morpeth. I believe we had the outbreak due to high volumes of foot traffic, increased compaction which caused stress to the plant. This is not uncommon and many other Course Managers I speak to have had similar problems.

Example photo of Anthracnose disease

IMG_1947

I just wanted to do this simple update to show you what problems can arise for us throughout a season, what we do to address the problem, why holes in the greens are key to success and why cutting low all the time can cause problems. This blog is constantly accessible so in years to come members can look back at the content and hopefully this source of information specific to Morpeth will answer questions for the membership.

13th green 10/08/2020

6mm Tines

Firstly we tined the greens with 6mm tines to a depth of four inches, we did this process twice on all greens in the 10 day period,  the 13th and 14th greens were tined three times each, this process had a low impact on disruption to play. Normally I would of wanted to put our large verti-drain machine across the greens with a 12mm tine down 300mm with a considerable amount of heave on to release the compaction, but as this year is not a normal one for many reasons I want to limit the amount of disruption to the greens surfaces for the membership. Along with the tine holes members will have noticed a decrease in speed as the heights were raised by 1mm to 4.5mm.

IMG_2774

Release of compaction

If you focus in on the left image you can see lower compaction from 4 to 8 inches deep which was not disturbed by the tines.

In the right image, you can see the release of compaction from the surface down 4 inches. This process allows air, water and space for improved root growth under ground while unlocking a natural nutrient release for the plant.

I also applied a high nitrogen based feed to the greens, this was mixed on site from the straight fertilisers we use costing a total of £18.00. We resisted from buying a costly £700+ fungicide.

10 days on

10 days on and what a big difference, the diseased areas are looking much happier and on the way to recovery. The greens were cut today at 3.5mm and looked really nice.

Happy again, for now!

IMG_4324

Thanks

John Scurfield.

Head Greenkeeper Blog August 2020

Gerry Cramer

August 2020 saw the unexpected retirement of Gerry Cramer, Gerry has been at the club for 40 years in which most of his time he was Head Greenkeeper. Gerry managed the course through some of the busiest times in the clubs history and guided it through the boom of the 1990s, I always remember being excited to play Morpeth as a kid as it was always good. Gerry had been on the furlough scheme for the last few months and has fell in love with a more relaxed lifestyle ultimately leading him to make his decision.

All of the current Staff, Club Officials and I’m sure the membership wish him all the best with his new adventure of retirement. I must say he’s looking extremely fit after his daily 40 mile bike rides, Good luck Gerry.

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2020 season so far

General course:

On the announcement of lockdown, myself and Stu decided to start cutting as much rough back as possible to ensure golf was as enjoyable as possible on your return. I feel this has helped a lot with the enjoyment of the course as areas of rough were one of the failings of the 2019 season I feel.

I have tried to mix things up this year by moving tee marker positions around to see how they altered the enjoyment and scoring whilst playing the course for the members, the feed back has been very interesting and I have a few ideas to discuss with the different sections about the 2021 season for ways to give golfers more options.

I have also changed the pins around a lot this season, I will admit we have been laughing on occasions whilst cutting them during morning setup due to their difficulty. The pins have been changed twice weekly due to current staffing levels, I have taken notes on each position constantly then compared them with the difficulty of the hole ratings on competition days depending on the difficulty rating statistics, also wind speed, wind direction and weather were recorded. Myself and Tim Gorman will hopefully have a variety of setups for the coming 2021 season built on statistics and data collection enabling us to produce an easy course and a monster within which I look forward to putting out haha.

IMG_5208

This season has been one of the driest on record so at present all fairways and aprons are very dusty and fast, we host a large amount of fine grasses in these areas which Im confident will return when the wetter periods arrive.

IMG_4927

Greens:

I felt the greens were fairly consistent during the 2019 season and the greens played better than previous years, I took many positives from this year of play and built on them.

This season I have played the most golf since I was a 14 year old which I have thoroughly enjoyed and I feel the greens have been consistent for several months and continue to perform to date,  the greenstaff see as a massive achievement and will ensure that this is the set standard for the future. For the first time I have heard the word consistent mentioned a lot when discussing the greens with members and that is a big positive for the club. The target now is to prolong the summer standard of play for as long as possible now, I hope to see 9/10 months of quality surfaces in the coming years instead of 7/8.

IMG_8394

Staff:

During the lockdown period myself and Stu Speirs worked ensuring the course has been maintained to the best standards possible. As of May, Guy Anderson came back to make the greensatff up to a three man team leaving Gerry Cramer on the furlough scheme. Myself, Stu and Guy have maintained the course as a three this year and will continue through the winter as a three.

I am proud of the work we have all carried out and the standard of the course we have produced against all the odds. Well done lads.

IMG_1808

Volunteers:

This year has seen many new volunteers come it to help out from time to time, projects such as the 18th tee clearance, areas of rough cutback, the half way house, tree clearance among many other things have been carried out. I must say it has been a pleasure to work with the volunteers this year, Morpeth is a special place and the support you guys have shown has been brilliant, also a few budding male models out there too.  Id like to mention a few names,

Steve Jemmet, Martin Calder, Phil Simpson, Stan Parkinson, Ronnie Sanderson, Anne Calder, Keith Brown, Mick Smith and many more, thanks so much guys you all know who you are.

British Masters:

Stu Speirs was selected among some of the regions top greenkeepers to assist with the tournament setup team before each day of the British Masters at Close House. Stu was given the task of cutting the aprons each day in front of some of the worlds top players. During his experience Stu made many new friends through networking and also got the chance to see how a course with an unlimited budget is produced.

Well done Stu your a top gent and a credit to Morpeth Golf Club.

Winter works 2020/2021:

The Greens staff and will submit a winter works programme in the coming weeks carefully selecting areas of the course for improvement. Like last year I thought the meetings I held with the various sections and committees were very helpful so I would like to meet again in September this year to discuss areas of further improvement. If anyone has ideas on what has worked and what hasn’t this year it would be good to hear your feedback through your section/committee representatives.

Autumn maintenance

Hollow coring:

At Morpeth over the last 10 years we have pulled 6/8mm cores during autumn maintenance, last year pulled 10mm cores seeing vast improvements to the greens during a wet winter. During the work commencing on the 6th September, we look to pull 19mm cores. This is a significant increase in core size but we are still battling with the historic thatch layer which needs reduced. I expect too see a good improvement in play as we enter the winter months moving towards 2021.

60 tons of sand:

During a normal woking year on a competitive golf course looking to produce surfaces that perform to a high standard, 150 tons of sand is seen as the minimum. This year we have put out 200 tons which is amazing, I’m sure you have seen the difference for yourself during play especially on the greens this season. This is one example of the support the board are giving the green staff again this year to enable us to produce for the membership to enjoy.

Overseed:

At Morpeth we have not invested in overseeing the greens as the poor environment within the greens is not suitable for the newly germinated seed to survive. This year considering we are removing a larger core we will be investing in an overseed. Basically we will be creating small plant pots once the core is removed, back filling with seed and sand then given the opportunity to pop and establish. One the seed has popped the height of cut will be raised to approximately 6mm for a couple of weeks to encourage the seed to establish and become strong. The over seed will also ensure we get faster recovery and back producing good surfaces quickly again.

Thanks

John Scurfield

 

PLANNING AND PREPARATION IS KEY!

Thursday 6th February

Good evening all, I’m again doing my best to keep everyone up to date with the on goings out on the golf course as we fast approach the 2020 playing season.

At the moment the main focus of the greens staff is to ensure the greens are as healthy as possible and ready to perform for the long season ahead, despite the greens playing reasonably well in recent weeks we now look to prepare them for our spring maintenance which we hope to carry out In the last week of February.

In early 2019 we made the decision to carry out the spring maintenance early, this was a success as the members gained an extra six weeks of better surfaces. In the past we have carried out spring maintenance in mid April, this saw the greens reach a good standard in March/April to only be ripped apart leaving a further 4-5 weeks recovery leaving them average until late May. Having the same approach as 2019 in 2020 we hope to see the greens performing very well by late March continuing throughout the summer.

As of today we have verti-drained and solid tined the greens to ensure the greens are in the best shape possible as we approach spring maintenance.

Verti-drain:

This machine is used to break the compaction below which has built up over the last few months, the verti-drain reaches a maximum depth of 240mm. In years gone by the greens staff have used very large 20mm tines on this machine and looking back all staff feel this encouraged saturation with the large deep holes during very wet periods with no input of topdressing. In the last 14 months we have used tines between 8-10mm thick, I feel these tines have allowed us to achieve our goals and cause less disruption along the way to the greens for golf. The holes left by the verti-drain are an oval shape as this machine works with a desired amount of heave, todays treatment worked at 15% heave, the image below shows how the verti-drain works beneath the surface and what we look to achieve.IMG_5692Solid tine:

We solid tine the greens with our Aercore using a 8-10mm solid tine to a depth of 3 inches to ensure the surface in open consistently with closer spacing than the verti-drain, this helps relieve the greens of surface water keeping the target thatch layer as dry as possible as we move towards spring maintenance. Our historic thatch layer is to a depth of 2 inches, reducing thatch levels is something the team are working very hard with in order to give the membership better surfaces in the future. The image below shows what we look to achieve with the use of solid tines.

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The image below shows the difference between the two sets of holes members see on the greens.

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The 4th bunker now needs the edges of the new turf tied in with some root zone and seed, we are looking to do this in the third week of February as ground temperatures begin to rise for germination of the new seed.

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At the 15th hole the two new bunkers suffered a little as we finished them prior to all the heavy rain at the end of 2019, they suffered a little washout. This week we have addressed this by altering the drainage and re building the face, today we turfed the face and now look forward to seeing the new turf take ready for the season.

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Between the 15th/16th, the trees we thinned out created a lot of debris. The easiest approach was for us to burn the tree debris in this area avoiding transporting large amounts of heavy debris around the course during wet periods. As a result there is four large burn marks, we will have these areas cleaned and new turf layer down in the next couple of weeks.

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The bunker we filled at the 13th hole is now fully turfed, please remember all the turf used on the course is turf we have lifted from our practice facility free of charge, all the winter projects were based around the membership feedback I received at the end of the 2019 season after various section meetings. The proposed projects like the 13th are all based on zero cost to the club. The areas of turf will need a few topdressings and a little help with fertiliser to bring it up to standard as we look to cut this as fairway in 2020.

An area like this at 13, we would naturally look achieve a perfect level area. Im sure you will all agree a perfectly levelled area at 13 would have looked shocking, we have tried to cut a small rig and furrow in to the area and also create a couple of natural dips to make it fitting to the area.

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The four new bunkers at the 16th now just need a little help with a granular fertiliser, the base liner installed and the sand put in ready for play.

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To install all of the base liners and sand to all of the bunkers we have created will take two members of staff two days of work. Im not stressing about this at the moment as this  job will be done in the last couple of weeks before the season starts.

We look to carry out spring maintenance in the way of hollow coring to a depth of three inches followed by approximately 40 tons of topdressing soon. I would like to ask if any members are free and would fancy coming along to help us collect cores and be part of our brilliant volunteers section? It would be amazing to see a few more helpers. I will communicate the dates nearer the time if anyone is free, its a laugh nothing too heavy and you can enjoy a nice bacon sandwich out on the course with the team.

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Thanks for reading,

John Scurfield.

WINTER WORKS UPDATE

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.

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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.

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Stump grinding

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Greens

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”.

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Aeration:

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.

Maintenance:

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.

“22nd January I’m very happy with the course and especially greens, everything is on track for a great 2020 season”

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Fairways:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 admin@morpethgolf.co.uk thanks.

Thank you for reading, 

Head Greenkeeper, John Scurfield.

DECEMBER 2019 GREENS REPORT

Hi all, this is a look at some of the work we have going on around the course at present. Also a small insight into some of the other small plans we have prior to the 2020 season, the 2020 season is extremely important to the green staff as we look to produce the best quality course seen at Morpeth in recent years.

New home made tee markers:

The furniture on the course at present is beginning to look a little tired as nothing has been updated for a few years now, thanks to the seniors section for their kind donation of a new seat to the 18th green area “it looks great”.

The greens staff have been thinking of was to strengthen the look of the course without spending a fortune, so we decided to make some new tee box markers in house at a low-cost.

The materials we used are from one of our main sponsors MKM Morpeth, the markers have been made up by using 3 meter lengths of handrail, 6 inch nails, a sander, two grinding wheels, white/yellow/red gloss paint and some yacht varnish. The total cost of materials for the job was just over £50.00, a standard plastic teardrop tee marker is approximately £12.00 so for a set of 46 markers per (white/yellow/red) course we would have had to spend £1,987.20 with VAT.

The task has worked very well for the green staff too as usually we play darts all day when it rains so we had a rare chance to carry out some nice rewarding work. Taking in to account the cost saving exercise we think they are a great success and we can’t wait to see them on the tees.

This style of marker is used at many courses nation wide, even some of the top championship courses make their own markers in house in the same fashion.

These markers even saved my sanity during the “I’m a celebrity season” on tv, the kids helped and made sure they were drying properly and I hadn’t missed any numbers out, apparently my numbers got better after a few drams in the evenings too. My dog Ralph even enjoyed me working at home in the evenings, funny memories for my family as they all enjoy being part of helping out at Morpeth golf club.

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I got them all varnished and off the table just in time for the Christmas decorations, sorry to my wife haha.

Hopefully they look nice on the course in the 2020 season, they will bring a traditional look to the tee box areas.

13th/14th hole tree work:

The team have completed the thinning of the trees to the left of the 14th green and also took advantage of a little spare time which allowed us to thin the trees in a small pocket to the left of the 13th just short of the bank. At present there is a large amount of debris lying to the left of the green area which we look to dispose of before the end of January.

Next year we look to cut the semi wider on the left of the 13th and also cut into this small flat pocket to increase forgiveness.

At the 14th we have kept the two mature Silver Birch trees which ensure the 14th hole keeps its historical shape. We hope to see the two Silver Birch grow into more natural shapes as they are no longer suffocated by surrounding trees.

The stumps will be taken out in February at some point along with as many of the other 350 stumps we have across the course. Once removed we will be able to maintain this area with our large rough cutter.

The main benefits of tree removal to the 14th hole will be the improvement of the greens putting surface, this green has historically sat wet in the shade for most of the year and normally starts the year with 15-20% moss content. We now expect to see more air movement and reduced shade in this area. At present we have achieved using timely applications of iron and moisture control to the green it currently has less than 5% moss coverage. As we approach the season using cultural techniques we look to achieve a 100% moss free surface.

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Bunker works:

Immediately after the Christmas break we look to jump straight of with the completion of the bunker improvements at 4th/13th holes, also a few repairs at the 15th where a months worth of rain has washed the faces away. There is a nice little band of weather between Christmas and the middle of January forecast at present so hopefully we can complete these areas before the end of January.

The rest of the bunkers on the course will be slowly brought back into play from mid January and hopefully they will be fully in play by mid February ready for the season ahead, all bunkers will be turned over by our light weight rota rake to free up the sand to a depth of 3.5 inches, all bunkers will have a new edge cut back in and the sand will be raked up the faces.

Drainage work for February/March:

Many golfers will have noticed the wet slick at the back of the 16th green, this has been caused by blocked drains. The roots from the trees between 15/16 have invaded the drains and they are fully blocked.

The old drains Morpeth golf club has relied on in many areas of the course for over 100 years are the pipes laid over 150 years ago to a depth of 6ft before the course existed when it was farm land. They are now failing in multiple areas of the course and we need to look to install new more effective drainage which we can manage and maintain.

In the picture below the you can see the end of the clay pipe on the 15th fairway which runs he full length of this area, if you look you can see the pipe is completely full of roots.

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Below is the area near the 17th tee where the end of the roots came out, I pulled 1.5 meters worth of root out but the pipe is still full for over 200 yards at least.

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To dig and keep using and maintaining 150 year old pipes down to a depth of 6ft is not practical for us as we don’t have the man power or the equipment to do this.

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During February/March 2020 we will look to drain the 15th fairway from the mid point running adjacent with the natural fall of the land down to the 17th tee area, then we will create an open ditch to run behind the 16th green allowing us to drain the area into the 17th burn.

Greens maintenance:

Each morning the staff complete their morning duties which include removing the moisture from the putting surfaces, this is essential in our efforts to stay disease free.

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We have been applying very light feeds to the greens when windows of temperature have allowed in order to steal a small amount of growth and health. The holes we have put in the greens have allowed the profile to stay relatively dry and hopefully released a very small amount of nutrient during the process.

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We still have a long way to go with the greens in the way of addressing the historic thatch problem we have, but the last 6 months we have really seen a nice improvement of playability and their ability to cope with the wet weather.

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Fairway Maintenance:

We have applied applications of Iron and Ammonium Sulphate to help steal a bit of growth and improve plant health, the iron also helps keep the moss content of the fairways down a little which worked really well in 2018/2019.

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Winter course conditions and playability:

Tees:

The tees have been played on all winter so far, this was one of the requests from the membership form our 2019 appraisal. So far we have kept the wear to the fronts of the tees but its clear to see that the wear and tear is now present in many ares. In the spring we will look to over seed these areas and bring them back up to standard.

This year was a trial for the club so see if like many other clubs our tees could hold up with the winter play, in most cases they are fine but in some it looks like a few holes will benefit from purpose built winter tee boxes.

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Fairways:

The fairway protection has been a success again, thanks to everyone who has played golf this winter and followed our winter policy. The use of Hogg/winter wheels has been amazing too, there has been minimal areas of heavy wear.

Greens:

The main greens have held up really well considering all the rain, the green staff are very pleased with the amount of play the greens have taken, they also seem to be playing quite nice for winter golf.

Wildlife around the course:

We have a lovely family of deer living on the course, they are seen nearly every day and are becoming more familiar with our machinery.

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We had a rare chance to see a pair of Buzzards flying around on a Saturday morning shift.

Gerry Cramer 40th year of service with Morpeth Golf Club:

Congratulations to Gerry on completion of 40 years of consecutive service to the club, it is an amazing achievement for a great guy, well done Gerry. Gerry was presented with a gift from the club by Chairman Steve Jemmet on the evening of the annual general meeting in front of the membership.

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The green staff John, Stu, Gerry and Guy would like to wish all the membership and friends of Morpeth golf club a happy new year and all the best for 2020.

DECEMBER AERATION

Aeration

On 03/12/2019 the green staff have carried out a double pass on the greens with our Weiderman verti-drain and our John Deere Aercore. These two processes target two different depths in the greens, we went first with the verti-drain down to 240mm followed by the Aercore to a depth of 3 inches. This firstly loosens up the surface below then, secondly enables us to leave the surface open on top given we currently have a break in the repetitive wet weather.

Over the past few weeks we have been closely monitoring weather patterns and have waited to carry out these works at the first given chance,  this week is the first clear 3-4 day period we have had of recent so we planned to act on it.

The Aercore:

Below is a picture of the Aercore tines we have used, they are 8mm thick and will go to a depth of 3 inches with a spacing of 3 inches. The tines will leave a nice clean vertical hole  ensuring the surface is left open allowing air and water to pass.

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The verti-drain is the larger machine of the two, this reaches a depth of 240mm and we have used a 10mm wide tine to keep the disruption to a minimum. As the machine passes across the green the verti-drain not only reaches a depth of 240mm it adds a selected amount of heave allowing the tine to break the sub soil compaction beneath the green.

Below is a picture of the tined have used today at three inch spacings.

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The photos below are of the greens today 03/12/2019 after both processes are complete, they are clearly not going to be performing like summer but from a health and progress point of view we are happy with them. We look to leave them open for now during this dry windy spell, but as we move into next week they will get a light roll prior to the cold wet front falling back in which could also bring snow.

Tomorrow morning in front of the seniors competition the greens will receive an application of a penetrant wetting agent, a low nitrogen feed and some seaweed, this should help maintain good plant health moving into the Christmas period.

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If members study the image below this shows all the benefits of verti-draining, this is an essential piece of equipment for any greens shed.

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The image below shows benefits of aeration on a whole, we don’t choose to disrupt the greens surfaces we have to do these processes to ensure we can produce quality surfaces.

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Frost

In recent weeks we have seen a couple of periods of frost, frost is the only condition that will move us to winter greens for play. I know the winter greens are not ideal but they at least enable us to get out onto the course for social game and keep the swing going.

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Below are the effects of the green staff moving machinery around the course during frost coverage, we try to avoid passing the course during these conditions but on weekend mornings the staff only have a 30 minute window to do an initial assessment of the course so a machine is essential.

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Below is a picture of the back of the 15th green on the surround where some one has simply walked across the surround just off the green, this was most likely a morning dog walker. The results are clear to see on the close up picture where evidence of damage on the leaf is evident.

This piece is just an example to show members so they understand that we need to use winter greens during frosts and protect the main greens.

 

Thanks again to all the members for all your support of recent, with all the recent rain the green staff have been feeling the pressure too. On a typical morning we have to assess the course for safety then playability, this is a tough task when the membership hosts so many different types of physical capability. We will keep doing our best to keep the course open and safe, also thanks again for the membership feedback on personal experiences of playing during the wet conditions.

John Scurfield.