Remember, remember, how depressing it is in November!

Or is it? Sure, the days seem to get shorter once the clocks change, but I find that this time of year on the West coast of Scotland is rarely as bad as I expect it to be. We have certainly been enjoying our fair share of good weather lately. I always relate how I expect our grass to fare by comparing their health to how I feel myself. So if I am enjoying the late autumn sunshine, then I guess that the greens will be lapping it up too. This is why they have been performing so well. It has been easy to keep them in a state of almost suspended animation as we have managed to keep fertiliser inputs low, which has resulted in low-growth yields and only minimal attacks from disease pathogens. The result of the low yield and relatively good health has improved playability of the course since it becomes much easier to produce a fast, true surface if we are hardly removing any clippings when we cut the greens.

I am always aware of how quickly things can change at this time of year. If I react in a cautious manner when you tell me how good the greens have been good following an exceptional spell of weather, it is because I know from experience that there is always the potential for bad times to be hiding just around the corner. That is just the way it goes for greenkeepers. I suppose it will be the same for anybody who is charged with looking after any living entity. If you take your eye off the ball for a minute, you can spend weeks chasing your tail trying to get that ball back again!

Paralysis by Analysis

One of the tools we use to try and forecast problems is Soil Nutrient Analysis. We have recently sampled 4 of our greens at Machrihanish Dunes and had the results sent to us. Our greens were last analysed way back in 2011, it was interesting to compare the results from then and now as we try to guage how we are progressing in our quest to bring these young greens to full maturity. In the chart below, there are several indices that are of massive importance to us as we attempt to improve the physical make-up of these rootzones.

 

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  1. Organic Matter

This is a hot topic in Greenkeeping circles, as most established courses either have too much organic matter in the upper profile of their rootzones, or they think that they do! Excess organic matter, which builds up through leaf decay and the deposition of grass clippings, is the main cause of soft, thatchy surfaces. This results in slow, bumpy greens and outbreaks of turf disease. Preferential species of grass, such as fescue and bent, will be out-competed by poa annua in a rootzone that is too rich in organic matter. This aggravates the negative cycle, as poa annua is a plant that produces a lot of organic matter. The usual percentage range of organic matter in garden soil is considered to be between 2 and 10. I would expect any greenkeeper who has levels above 4 percent to be actively looking to reduce. This can be done by hollow-coring, applying light sandy topdressings and over-seeding with a preferential species of grass and then tailoring their maintenance regime in order to favour those species in preference to the dreaded poa annua. Their goal will be to reduce the level of organic matter in the rootzones to what is considered to be the holy grail of results: 2.5%.

You can clearly see from the Machrihanish Dunes results that our issues are the complete opposite of this: our organic matter levels range from 1% to 1.4%. I frequently write about how easy it is for us to manipulate these rootzones to provide surfaces that are good to putt on; a simple addition of one or two rolls a week or an extra cut can have a massively positive influence because the upper rootzones are so sandy and firm, and largely devoid of organic matter. There is a problem with this though: the preferential species of fescue and bent that we are trying to favour need to have a symbiotic relationship with the soil to survive. They cannot do that unless there is sufficient soil bacteria to form this bond. In order to survive, the soil bacteria need a supply of organic matter to work with. If they do not have this food source, they will starve to death and these grasses will not be able to form this natural bond that gives them a competitive advantage over poa annua during times of stress. In a perfect world, we should be able to use this natural bond that perennial grasses have with their surrounding environment to reduce inputs from fertiliser and water, starving out poa annua which cannot survive under these “links-like” conditions. However, if the rootzone is too inert to support the continued existence of these bacteria and micro-organisms, then the infrastructure of their world will collapse. Which will then require the fescue and bent to be fed and watered in the same way as annual grasses – and there is only going to be one winner in that scenario.

So how do we tailor our program in such a way that we enrichen these rootzones in the right way? Well, for starters, we have to think for ourselves rather than blindly following what everybody else is doing. Our set of “problems” are the complete opposite of what most other people are dealing with. The first thing I decided to do a long time ago was to avoid removing the precious organic matter that we do have. Although I do verticut occasionally during the mid-summer months to remove lateral growth and fine-tune the grass sward, I am careful not to go too deep – therefore avoiding the chance of removing organic material. I aerate a lot, but always with solid tines. I have never hollow-cored these greens, and cannot foresee myself doing that anytime soon. Aerating with solid tines ensures that there is sufficient air available in the upper rootzone. This will allow the low numbers of beneficial bacteria, which can survive healthily at current levels, to break down clippings and dead leaves into humus that provides the basis for a good source of food for themselves, for earthworms, and for uptake by grass roots. It does not remove any of the precious material that we have built up. Because we want to encourage the growth of perennial grasses, we deliberately keep fertility low. However, when we do feed the greens we use a balanced fertiliser with high levels of humus and micronutrients. The old adage that you should treat links greens with nothing but nitrogen only applies to greens that already have ample supplies of everything else, and that is not the case here. The current scenario does give us the opportunity to perfectly tailor our inputs and therefore build these rootzones up exactly the way we want them though, which is an idyllic position to be in!

The last weapon in our arsenal is topdressing. Many people use straight sand as their preferred topdressing medium, as that offers them the best dilution of their overly-rich rootzone. I can see the point in doing that in conjunction with hollow-coring, as it firms up greens instantly. I have always shied away from using straight sand as a regular topdressing (i.e. when used to build up a level of good material on the surface). This is because I believe that everybody needs to have some organic matter in the upper profile in order to preserve bacterial life. If we apply the recommended (i.e. massive!) amount of topdressing to golf greens per annum, then there is the potential for the top surface layer of the rootzone to become too inert and for the health of bacterial populations in that layer (the layer where we need them to live in order to work with our plant roots) to become compromised. The topdressing material we have been using for the last two years contains 80% sand and 20% soil. This material has been tested to show that it has an ideal organic matter level of 2.5%. If we keep building up the surface with this and keep following the rest of this program, we will take our organic matter levels in the right direction. This will result in an increased population of beneficial soil bacteria, which will then make it easier for us to grow the grasses we want to grow, which will, in turn, make our greens easier and cheaper to look after.

2) Nutrient Levels

There are so many figures contained within these results that you could get hung up on this subject forever, but there are a few useful factoids that have a major impact on how our greens perform. Calcium levels are high (as you would expect in a sand predominantly made up of shell), but not much of that is available to the plant. A high level of calcium is not in itself a major issue, but a knock-on effect of locking up other nutrients (especially phosphorus), making them unavailable to the plant. Our phosphorus levels (and available phosphorus levels) actually look alright, but this is definitely worth keeping an eye on. We have reduced the levels of locked-up calcium in our rootzones and have made it available to the plant by regularly using a spray product which is designed to do just that. Results in 2011 showed these greens as being massively deficient in magnesium. These latest results suggest we have made good progress in bulking up the rootzone with this nutrient. The ratio between calcium and magnesium is much more in line with optimum levels than it used to be! We were massively deficient in potassium 5 years ago, and we still are today, which tells me that we are either using all of what we are applying or we are losing it too easily due to leaching. Either way, we need to be extremely careful, because potassium is not only vital to plant health, it also competes with sodium in the pecking order of nutrients that plant roots uptake. Common sense tells us that our shoreside rootzones are going to be unusually high in salt (anybody who has played Mach Dunes in a westerly wind will attest to that!). The actual presence of salt is not an issue until there is the potential for the plant to take it up. If the grass roots cannot find an available source of potassium when they need it, then they will uptake sodium instead, with predictably catastrophic consequences. It is interesting to note that all the greens tested have similar levels of both soil attached and available potassium, but that the 5th green (the one we always struggle with in late winter) has a higher concentration of both chloride and bicarbonate salts than do the other three. So this winter I am going to experiment with an application of a slow-release granular potassium fertiliser. I will apply this just before I would expect the main gale season to start in early December. This should supply enough potassium nutrient to the greens to keep them topped up until March, and will hopefully avoid them up-taking any sodium from the soil. Let`s just see whether this has a positive impact on the health of these greens (and that 5th green in particular) going into spring, in comparison to last year.

This is all highly speculative and a lot of this unproven theorising is, of course, still just exactly that, despite me having the hard facts and figures right here in front of me. It does show the absolute need to have these rootzone analyses completed on a regular basis though. It also shows the need to apply the results to what we see on the ground and then to have the common sense and the flexibility to adjust our programs to suit our particular needs. I love a bit of science, so I do!

 

WINTER LEAGUE AND THE MEMBERS NIGHT

I mentioned our Winter League in last month`s update, and explained that entry was free, scores could be entered every Sunday between now and the last Sunday in March. The best 4-round final total will win the league and the mystery prize. The league is now well underway, so if you have not yet started amassing your 4-round total then you had best make arrangements to come down and play catch-up! There are plenty of Sundays still to come, but I am sure the weather will disrupt the schedule at some point.

That`s all for this month. I hope you enjoyed the science, and I hope you enjoy your golf as we head towards the last month of 2016!

A Long and Successful Season

Ok, I know there is still 6 weeks of proper golf season left before we even think about starting Winter projects and how to protect the course from the effects of Westerly gales, but typically the beginning of October is the time when we can mentally if not physically take our foot off the gas a bit. I’m not saying there is not plenty to do (there is actually a million things to do!), but once the days get a bit shorter and the peak daytime temperatures start to drop the necessity to be constantly on the ball to avoid potential catastrophic damage is replaced by the need to steadily toil away getting the playing areas prepared for the onslaught of Winter and ensuring that we have the greens, tees and fairways in even better shape going into next year. Yes, we are already thinking about next year. If you don`t think ahead, you`re falling behind!

This season has been relentless, and this is honestly the first time I have even had so much as a glance back to analyse how I think we have done. It seems like a lifetime since the Spring team challenge kicked off our year, but that early competition signalled the start of six weeks of outstanding weather that many people heralded as the beginning of the best Summer for 100 years. That turned out to be pretty much the worst prediction I’ve ever heard, for as soon as the utterance left their mouths the rain started and refused to stop, turning the fairways that had been baked and fast-running into grass factories that have really stretched the capabilities of our mower fleet. The greens that had been surviving just fine on a lean diet and an occasional sprinkle of water inevitably became hungry for nutrient and eventually, after several months of performing just the way we wanted them to, broke down and succumbed to a nasty outbreak of foliar anthracnose disease. The only way to deal with anthracnose is to properly feed the affected grass, which always pains us as it ruins the way balls run out on them and it makes it far more difficult for us to produce a decent surface to play on. In actual fact they have been ok though, we threw everything we had at them for the Black Sheep Open and most of the competitors seemed happy enough with them.

Which brings us to where we are now, with greens that have just been successfully aerated, overseeded and topdressed, tees which are lush and healthy (in direct contrast to how they appeared throughout the dry spell!) and fairways which look great when you cut them and then scruffy and hairy again the next day. There is a good stand of grass everywhere…even on that 5th green. Hopefully we will get a good mixture of weather through October so all that precious fescue seed we planted and germinated a few weeks ago will continue to mature and will help us through the Winter months so we can hit next season running, taking all that we learned this year with us!

The Frustration of Renovation

Ask any Scottish golfer whether they in all honesty think that Autumn aeration, overseeding and topdressing works are not just necessary but vital in order to ensure that the club`s greens staff keep their putting surfaces operating within a spiral of improvement rather than a spiral of decline and to a man they will tell you that they believe it is. Ask them why, and most of them will not be able to come up with a satisfactory answer. To me that is a pretty sad indictment on our complete failure to get the message regarding Autumn renovation across to them and to educate them as to exactly what it is that we are trying to achieve.

This year at Machrihanish Dunes we chose to focus on overseeding rather than aeration. We aerate regularly with solid tines throughout the year as a matter of course, which encourages air to circulate through the rootzones and helps create a favourable environment for microbes to break down thatch naturally. We also topdress with an 80/20 sand/soil mix on a very regular basis, which dilutes the organic matter that builds up on the surface when annual plant leaves die and grass clippings are inevitably spilled out of the mower boxes. In a way, we are building layered compost heaps on top of the green’s sandy base, which ensures that the surface hasn’t yet got soft, spongy and overly-rich enough for us to actually need to go hollow-coring. It takes a great deal of effort for us to build these rootzones up the way that we want them, so it would make no sense at all for us to remove that hard-earned preferential growing environment by tearing it out with hollow tines!

The solid tines we used during our recent program were much bigger in diameter than we would normally use, but this actually had little to do with a desire to increase the efficiency of the aeration. Fescue seeds are very large and it is difficult to integrate them into the soil profile using standard overseeding equipment, so we experimented with our Procore aerator fitted with a variety of different solid tines to see which diameter worked best to create a grid pattern of 1 inch deep holes for the precious seed to fall into. We found that the 10mm and 13mm tines made holes that were too small while the 19mm tines caused too much disruption to surfaces. Our solution was to run the 19mm tines over the tees first, then put them to work on the greens once they were worn in. This worked a treat, so we worked out a program where we would heavily topdress the green first, then aerate it, broadcast the seed using a fertiliser spreader and finally roll the greens out in two directions using handmowers fitted with stiff out-front brushes.

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A grid pattern of holes, full topdressing and the fescue seed!

 

You can see from this first picture just how effective this program was in getting the seed into the holes. Excellent growing weather throughout September ensured that we got a massive germination strike just at the time we were starting to back away from pushing the greens to their limits, which allowed us every opportunity to bring these new plants to maturity. Overseeding successfully is all about timing and forward planning- if you seed too early in the hope of taking advantage of higher soil temperatures then you risk cutting the new seedlings back out as your maintenance program will be too aggressive for them to handle, whereas if you seed too late it might be too cold to germinate much seed at all.

The most important facet of our program this year was the way it was carefully structured to avoid surface damage and to minimise disruption. Most people would core first and then topdress the sand into the holes but I do not understand why anyone would do that- why haul a massive topdresser loaded with sand over a green that has just been decompacted? Not only does that negate the effect of the aeration but it also creates loads of ruts which are grim to putt over and will then cause your mower to scalp. A lot of people would also insist that a dedicated machine is required to integrate seed into the rootzone, but I have never found a dimple seeder yet that is capable of making big enough holes to capture a good percentage of fescue seed. This is why we used the massively versatile Procore to make holes which were not only the right diameter but also the right depth. The sandy topdressing we had already applied readily fell into the holes along with the seed, creating a suitably oxygenated environment in which the seed can now germinate and mature. I have a very good 6 foot wide brush that I normally tow behind a triple mower to brush topdressing off the surface and down into the area around the crown of the plant but on this occasion it was left in the shed in favour of using handmowers with outfront brushes to force seed and sand into the holes. Again this was a carefully planned attempt to ensure that we avoided damaging and rutting the surfaces so we could re-instate them to a playable condition as quickly as possible. The large roller on the back of these handmowers compacts the surface just enough to tap down any undulations on the green and to add sufficient firmness to resist further damage being caused by foot and future machine traffic. This second picture shows just how effective this program has been…it was taken two days later! Every single hole on this green is filled with seed and sand, and yet it is already not bad to putt on at all.

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The 17th green 2 days after our programme had been implemented

This programme would not suit every golf course, and of course to avoid hollow-coring in the future we will have to go back at regular intervals and solid spike with a variety of different tines set at a variety of different depths, but it does show how it is possible to take some of the pain out of Autumn renovations just by taking the time to think about how you can avoid tearing up and rutting the surface. A lot of the time there is just no need for it!

 

Renovation Rewards

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The picture above was taken 8 days after the first pictures, and clearly shows the same grid pattern of holes now filled with fescue seedlings.

The germination we saw has been superb, with almost every hole filled with new grass plants which have now been brought to full maturity just in time, before the onset of more testing meteorological conditions. This entire program was completed with minimum disruption to our surfaces, and within the timescale for recovery that we were given. The picture below was taken on the morning of the Shepherd`s Cross, when the greens were rolling as good as they had been all year. Even though Craig has just mowed the 18th here, you can still clearly see all the lines of seedlings shining in the sun. It`s just a pity the whole day didn`t stay like that, but then it always seems to rain on the Shepherd`s Cross!!

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What’s Up Next?

With the main competition schedule now over, members can look forward to our Winter League which starts on the 15th October. Every Sunday we will hold a simple stableford sweep, with cards from that day going towards an amalgamated 4 round total. The highest 4 round total stableford points score when the Winter League finishes at the end of March wins the league, so the more Sundays you can come and play the more chance you have of winning. Monthly medals will be played as stableford rather than strokeplay throughout the Winter months, so even scores from these competitions can count towards your 4 round total. We really hope to see a good number of people entering this league and competing on as many Sundays as possible. If you have any questions regarding this competition feel free to email me at simon@machdunes.com, or phone Lorna or Peter at the Golf House on 01586810058.

 

Enjoy your golf in this coming October!

Sun and Soil

Scottish weather is so predictable, isn`t it? It is a national pastime of ours to talk about it, but sometimes I wonder why we waste our time. If you allow for the discrepancy of a degree here, and an extra dry day or two there, you can actually read it like a book. This year, we had our driest spring and early summer in several years, but – even though conditions were comparatively exceptional on the west coast – we still barely managed to scrape through Campbeltown Open weekend before the high pressure broke down and the jetstream cruised back in to herald the beginning of monsoon season. And it hasn`t stopped raining since!

This set of circumstances has suited us greenkeepers perfectly. Firstly, it gave us the opportunity to present a fast-running and testing course for competitors in The Campbeltown Open. Perhaps more importantly, it allowed us to dip into our IMP (That`s “integrated management plan” for those of you who didn`t read my update a couple of months back!) bag of tricks to relieve the surface tension in the greens in order to ensure that rooting depth and surface cover is not compromised for the rest of the season. In the lead up to the Campbeltown Open, we cut and rolled the greens more regularly than we normally would, and I tried to run them as dry as I dared in an attempt to produce the conditions that golfers love to play over when they come to the coast. The greens responded very well, and two dry mornings in a row over the weekend allowed us to give the greens an optimum cut and roll which resulted in them running true at a nice pace.

Remedial works began immediately after the event began with a reasonably heavy topdressing of our favoured 80/20 sand/soil mixture, which was brushed in before we aerated the surface with our Toro Procore (fitted with 10mm solid tines). Most mature links would require to use a deep tine aerator such as a Vertidrain or Weidemann to relieve all their tournament compaction in one fell swoop, but the light rootzones at Machrihanish Dunes are far easier to manipulate than most and we have found that using the Procore with these 10mm tines at a variety of depths and spacings does a more than adequate job for us. An added advantage is that, by using this method, we can complete the task much quicker and with far less ongoing disruption to surfaces. As time progresses and the rootzones naturally mature we will of course have to continually re-assess whether this method really remains sufficient, but for now, all we need to do after this process is roll the green out with a handmower and most people would be hard pushed to know we had even been there.

Gus brushes in the topdressing...
Gus brushes in the topdressing…
...Before Chris aerates with the procore
…Before Chris aerates with the procore
End Result
End Result

Tee Time

I usually have plenty to say about our greens at this time of year. Often, you will hear me wishing I had done this or that, pondering how much better they might have been had I timed my applications or mechanical procedures just a little better. On a site as windy as ours, we are always dependant on weather conditions being ideal in order to complete works or to apply products at just the right time in order to maximise the effectiveness of our program. Because of this, we have very small windows in which to get certain jobs done. Missing a window for applying a wetting agent, a certain pesticide or even a particular nutrient package can have detrimental knock-on effects that can last for many months. This year, I feel we have been more successful than ever in implementing our greens management plan (especially given how big a test the unusually dry weather gave us). The result of implementing this plan could clearly be seen over The Campbeltown Open weekend, as we had the necessary plant vigour to be able to present the greens the way we wanted them without negatively impacting on their future health.

The view from the 18th green on Campbeltown Open Sunday. Things have greened up a bit since then!
The view from the 18th green on Campbeltown Open Sunday. Things have greened up a bit since then!

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our tees, a few of which are looking quite sorry for themselves. It is easy to have a short memory and come down hard on ourselves now that the damage is already done.I must admit, however, that in hindsight, I can point to two specific instances where I clearly missed opportunities to apply products that would have reduced stress on our tees through the recent dry period and improved the percentage of grass cover as we view them today. Of course, if I put a positive spin on this, it is true that a comparison between the quality of surface on the greens and the surface on these tees shows just how well we have done with the greens and how important it was that we got every decision on them absolutely right. It is also true that there is no point crying about things now. It is far more worthwhile to learn from our mistakes than it is to beat ourselves up over what has already happened. What is important as we move forward is to take advantage of the current ideal growing conditions in order to re-instate full grass cover as quickly as possible. The time to act on that is right now and we have been doing just that.

The gents tee at the 13th. It had naturally recovered a bit by the time I took this picture, but I am expecting it to look a lot better by the middle of July following our remedial program of works.
The gents tee at the 13th. It had naturally recovered a bit by the time I took this picture, but I am expecting it to look a lot better by the middle of July following our remedial program of works.

We started by spraying a good quality wetting agent combined with a liquid fertiliser mixture which was heavily watered in before we ran our trusty old Blec overseeder over the tees. This created thousands of individual seedbeds into which the machine dropped our preferred blend of fescue seed. Our tees mix contains 30% hard fescue along with the usual mixture of creeping red cultivars that you might expect to find in a premium mix. The hard fescue grows extremely well in our particular environment, and requires very little feeding and watering in order to retain optimum growth. Once the seeder had done its work, we topdressed the tees by hand with our own indigenous sand, and this week we will follow that by relieving any surface compaction by Procoring them with the same 10mm tines that I mentioned earlier, as well as applying a granular feed. All of this is just regular maintenance of course, but then again our tees program is always tailored towards recovery and regeneration anyway. We have successfully hit the mid-season weather window with this work, and I would expect some real improvement from these weak tees in the next two to three weeks.

What’s Next For Mach Dunes?

The Campbeltown Open may have come and gone, but there is plenty more for us to look forward to! The Black Sheep Cup is next, on the 28th of August, and then the Shepherd`s Cross team event which has been moved to the 18th of September.

We had initially hoped to upgrade the Club Championship to 36 holes, but the general feeling is that the local golfing calendar is too cluttered at that time of year to allow some members the opportunity to compete at Machrihanish Dunes on consecutive days over a weekend in July. We want to ensure that these competitions get the entries they deserve, and we certainly don`t want to change the format of these competitions only to discover that members who have supported the club enthusiastically suddenly find themselves unable to compete in our premier events. We closely scrutinised the entry of the recent Campbeltown Open in order to try and make a decision for 2017 as to whether we should stick with the 36-hole format for next year or revert to the previously successful schedule of 18 holes followed by a buffet and prize giving evening.

None of the formats for any of our events are set in stone. As a fledgling club with a growing membership, we value your input massively. With that in mind, we’ve put together a wee survey that we hope our members will take a few moments to fill out.  We’d love your feedback!

We put a lot of work into preparing for these competitions and we discuss these issues constantly at Managers meetings, but we really feel that without input from as many of you as possible we will likely never come up with a schedule that is in the best interests of everyone. Please do come and tell us what you think about any of the issues that I have raised!

We hope you enjoy your golf throughout the month of August. I have a feeling that the good weather will return before long (if it hasn’t already at the time you’re reading this) and that this current spell of incessant rain is just a blip. It could be that I`m just basing that feeling on past experience and the laws of probability though, and that I`m not really as clever as I like to make out!!

The 14th green, gleaming in the sunshine. Does anybody fancy this pin position for the Club Championship? No, I thought not!!
The 14th green, gleaming in the sunshine. Does anybody fancy this pin position for the Club Championship? No, I thought not!!

In El Nino We Trust

Working for 15 years on a golf course with no irrigation at all gave me a keen interest in studying weather patterns. I desperately sought some kind of indication as to whether I could expect my greens to be good that year or whether I could expect them to turn into something that resembled a toasted digestive biscuit!

It was a breath of fresh air to move from Machrie to Machrihanish Dunes in 2014, and have that stress removed from my shoulders. I can tell you that at times like we are having now (6th June), it is still a joyous novelty for me to be able to type in a simple watering program on our computer and go home and leave the sprinklers and their decoders to do the work for me. Even plugging a hose into a box at the back of a green and water a green manually is a vast improvement.  I didn`t even have the technology to do that in my previous life!

I don`t know whether there actually are any indicators out there that can accurately be relied upon as a forecast for a “good” or “bad” summer, but one thing I have always kept an eye on is the El Nino effect in the Pacific. This year`s El Nino was one of the strongest on record, and it is interesting that this has coincided in one of the best starts to summer we have had in many years. The last time the El Nino effect was anywhere near as pronounced was the winter of 1997, which just happened to be followed by another fantastic early summer in Scotland. The jetstream that would usually bring South Westerly winds and rain from the Atlantic does appear to be weaker when El Nino is stronger, allowing warm air to be drawn in more readily from the Azores and Continental Europe during April, May and June. Of course, this effect will soon be neutralized by that other famous Scottish weather phenomenon, “The School Holidays Effect.” As soon as the schools break up for the summer, it inevitably starts raining, and then it forgets to stop. This particular weather cycle is not impacted upon by any outside forces…it does that every year!!

Anyway, regardless of whether or not I have any right to be walking around wearing a cloak of smugness after publicly airing my El Nino theory back in February, we have been positively basking in sunshine for weeks now on the West Coast of Scotland, and the course looks brilliantly fiery as a result. We have been keeping the moisture levels up at a healthy level on the greens and we have been watering tees by hand whenever we have had the chance, but the rest of the course has a stunning golden hue at the moment and those fairways must be an absolute joy to play from. Now if we could just get the pesky rabbits to stop digging in them…

The scorched 3rd fairway. That is surely just asking to have a bladed 3 iron drilled from it! Now if only I could remember where I left my skills?
The scorched 3rd fairway. That is surely just asking to have a bladed 3 iron drilled from it! Now if only I could remember where I left my skills? 
The approach into the 2nd green. There can`t be more than 1 or 2% moisture in these fairways, but as soon as it rains they`ll green right back up again. And it will rain. It is Scotland after all!!
The approach into the 2nd green. There can`t be more than 1 or 2% moisture in these fairways, but as soon as it rains they`ll green right back up again. And it will rain. It is Scotland after all!!   

Signs Of Improvement

Much of the criticism that we receive about the layout of Machrihanish Dunes almost always relate to two issues:

    1. The walk between the greens and the next tees are very long.
    2. The signage is poor and it is difficult for the first-time visitor to work out where they are supposed to be going.

We have attempted to reduce the impact of these issues by purchasing an extensive new signage package, which is being put in place as I write this. All of the current wooden signage will be removed from the course. It has served Machrihanish Dunes well since opening day, but the fact remains that wooden signs have a limited lifespan.

New Signage
One of the new signs set to be placed around the course.

One of these map signs will be placed on the walkway between every green and tee, giving the golfer all the information they need as they approach the next hole. Providing this level of information will not only make it easier for the player to find the specific teeing area that he or she is looking for, but will also create a point of interest midway down what some people might consider to be a fairly long and boring walk. At Machrihanish Dunes there are always rare flowers and insects to look at, but we accept that not everybody is as interested in the environmental aspects of our course maintenance as we are!

How’s That Turf Nursery Coming Along?

As promised last month, we removed the remaining vegetation from the site and turned the rootzone over using a tractor-mounted rotovator, which we borrowed from the Barrs at the neighbouring farm (thanks for that!). Craig has just started this task in the picture below.

Craig on Rotovator
Craig turning the rootzone in the turf nursery using the rotovator.

Once the rotovator had loosened everything up with two passes in a low gear, we raked and tramped the entire site until we had an even and consistent covering of soil and then we simply broadcast seed over it with a spreader, raked it in and added a pre-seeder fertiliser. In this picture you can see that I`m watering everything in once we`d finished.

3 weeks ago
Turf nursery three weeks ago.

So that was 3 weeks ago. Here is what it looked like yesterday. I love it when a plan comes together! Again, though, if it wasn`t for the luxury of that irrigation system we wouldn`t have found this project nearly so easy to implement. The combination of warm, sunny weather and regular applications of water in the evening have helped this to establish in record time.

today
Turf nursery today.

Golf Matters

This is the portion of the report when I usually remind you that we have a competition coming up…well, this month surely none of you need reminding that the Campbeltown Open is on over the weekend of the 25th/26th June. The first time as a 36-hole tournament, we are hopeful that this event will be bigger and better than ever, and we are once again running our junior “Drive, Pitch & Putt” competition in conjunction with this on the Sunday afternoon.

Junior tuition from qualified PGA professionals will be available for free at specified times throughout the weekend, so if you have children who are keen to play or to improve their game then Campbeltown Open weekend is a great time to bring them to Machrihanish Dunes for some coaching and a lot of fun.

For information on any of these events, or to book a tee time for the Campbeltown Open, please just phone Lorna or Peter at the Golf House on 01586810058 or click below.

Campbletown Open Details     Junior Chip, Putt, and Drive Details      Register Today 

Enjoy your golf in June, hopefully the El Nino effect (or whatever it actually is that is driving this summer) will ensure that the sun keeps shining for you long into the school holidays!

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Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

Nursing A Top-100 Course

April is a historically unpredictable month – we can never quite forecast what we are going to get. This year, despite temperatures being on average a couple of degrees lower than normal, we had an almost ideal mixture of dry conditions interspersed with rain just when we needed it. This spell of helpful weather has allowed us to do a lot of work which will stand us in good stead for the season – the greens, tees and aprons have been aerated and topdressed with sand, our wetting agent program has been implemented just as we would have hoped and we have had time to patch a lot of areas in the fairways which have sustained rabbit damage over the winter months.

The greens and tees look a bit lean at the moment, but we have avoided feeding them too much at this early stage as it has been too cold for the plants to use what we would have otherwise applied. We always judge our applications based on temperature and conditions rather than by following a rigid schedule based on the calendar. It is a costly waste to apply fertilisers that a semi-dormant plant cannot utilise – these products inevitably end up leaching to the sub-sand before they can be taken up by the roots.

The only disappointing feature of this colder than average April was the poor recovery of the 5th green. Despite regular overseedings and applications of a clever cocktail of feeds, we have seen precious little comeback from the battering it took from the winter storms. As of last week, though, it has definitely taken a turn for the better and I have high hopes that with a bit of the heat forecasted for May we will soon make massive strides towards the restoration of full grass cover.

Turf Nursery…The Second Coming

Over the course of the last year we have used every last block of turf from the 1500sq.m turf nursery that we constructed in June 2014. This project has been an unqualified success, but now that we have used up our precious supply, we are going to have to start all over again!

 

How our turf nursery used to look...
How our turf nursery used to look…
...and how it looks now. Time for an overhaul!
…and how it looks now. Time for an overhaul!

I have already cleared the debris from the site with an excavator, so the next job is to loosen up the rootzone with a tractor-mounted rotovator. Because the rootzone is compacted and bound together by turf roots, it would be impossible to create a successful seedbed without doing this. When we built the nursery, we imported enough topsoil to create a 6 inch depth of rootzone, which we formed by mixing the soil at a 50:50 ratio with indigenous links sand. That might seem like a strong mix to those of you who are used to hearing about the famous (and in my opinion pointlessly inert!) 80:20 USGA mixes. But the “soil” we used which was stripped from a site near the shoreline already contained a proportion of sand.

We set our turfcutter to strip turf at about a 2-inch depth, so we still have 4 inches of good material to play with, which is just enough. Next time we do this we will need to start again and import more soil, but on this occasion we will just set the rotovator to 4 inches and go for it. Once the rootzone has been loosened up with the machine, we will rake the lumps out of it by hand and simply spread seed over it using a fertiliser spreader, then rake it again to cover that up. All we need to do after that is apply a pre-seeder fertiliser, make sure the whole area stays damp during the germination phase, and wait for it to turn green!

Last time we seeded the nursery we experimented with different grass species, but we were so successful growing fescue on this rootzone that we are going to concentrate on that this time. For those of you that like details, we are going to seed half of it with Barenbrug`s Bar Trio, and half of it with Bar22. Bar Trio is a mixture of extremely salt tolerant fescues, designed to be used on fine turf surfaces near the shoreline, while Bar 22 is my favourite mixture for patching fairways as it almost perfectly mirrors the natural turf at Machrihanish Dunes and requires very little nutritional input.

We should be ready to undertake this work within the next couple of weeks, but it depends entirely on the weather. If there are any strong easterly winds in the forecast, we will delay this task until they have abated. I`ve seen an easterly wind strip the topsoil off a field in a single day and I definitely don`t want that happening to our nursery!

The Side-to-Side Roller and the IMP

A member who is a friend of mine recently asked me on behalf of another golf club whether I would recommend they purchased a side-to-side roller. You know the machine I`m talking about, the unstable-looking red and yellow thing with the handle on the front that you see greenkeepers at every big club bombing up and down the greens on. It is an interesting question, and it reminded me of a famous disclaimer our industry have used for years which goes something like this:

“[side-to-side rollers] can improve greens surfaces when used as part of an integrated management program (IMP)”

That is a classic management-speak “get out of jail free” card, but in the case of the greens iron it is absolutely true. You cannot buy and use one of these, do nothing to counteract its compaction action, and expect your greens to be faster and smoother without suffering any negative effects… life just does not work like that! Anybody who thinks about it can surely see that a greens-iron used repeatedly without due diligence will lead to surface tension and a reduction in the ability of the rootzone to breathe and to clear water from the surface.

  Trying to hold a straight line on our side-to-side roller.
                   Trying to hold a straight line on our side-to-side roller.

I am not saying that the greens-iron is a bad thing. Quite the opposite, I love mine. What I am saying, though, is that if you are going to use one as part of your management regime, you are going to have to also increase the frequency of some other facets of your “integrated management program” to make up for it. Successful greenkeeping is all about maintaining the status quo – if you can keep everything you do in a perfect balance then you can make steady and relentless progress towards your ultimate goals, but conversely, if you step out of line you can quickly find yourself locked into a downward spiral that inevitably results in poorer turf condition and the requirement to introduce invasive remedial practices and spend more money to fix the issues that you yourself have created.

So what conditions do you have to create to ensure that you can roll on a regular basis without impacting negatively on the health of your turf?

Firstly, you need to topdress regularly with a suitable sandy material that will not easily bind together. If you just start rolling on top of the organic material that sits in the upper portion of most turf rootzones, you will squash that organic material and compact it to the point where air and water cannot penetrate. If on the other hand you topdress at least monthly with good quality material, the roller will never come into contact with organic matter but will instead be rolling loose sand.

Think about the beach, and the difference in smoothness between the wet sand at the low tide mark that has recently been ironed out by the sea and the sand at the high tide mark that has been trampled all day by kids and dogs. A golf ball will come to a standstill almost immediately on the uneven sand, but will run forever down the freshly washed sand. This is precisely what the side-to-side roller does but it can only do this if it has loose topdressing around the crown of the plant to work with.

The other thing that is obviously crucially important is off-setting the compaction that the roller causes. Regardless of whether or not the roller has enough loose material to work with, it will inevitably squash everything together, so if it is to be used regularly you will also have to aerate more regularly than before. Luckily for us, the action of the aeration equipment that we use these days has become so smooth that we can use 8-10mm solid tines and follow that up with a simple roll from a handmower, and the average golfer would hardly know we had been there at all. Gone are the days of the old spoon-tines that would have members gnashing their teeth for weeks!

Every golf course is different. Some clubs may have been lucky enough to inherit a perfect rootzone and may already have been doing all the work that is required to allow them to integrate a greens iron into their program. Some clubs at the other end of the spectrum may have such a thick layer of dense organic matter and such a low budget that they could never hope to create the conditions necessary to get the best out of the machine and would only induce catastrophic damage by trying. Most courses lie somewhere in-between, but you need to think seriously about what extra work needs to be done in order to offset the impact that introducing one of these machines will inevitably have.

Like most links greenkeepers who work in an inherently sandy environment, I use my roller to great effect. In the shoulder months, I can dramatically increase green speed for a single day competition without having to lower my cutting height and subsequently impact on the health of my greens. During the high season, I can roll twice a week in conjunction with the same number of cuts at the same cutting height I have always used and easily produce a smoother, firmer, faster surface than I ever could have hoped to produce in the past.

Like everybody else I have rules though – I have learned from experience when I can “get away” with breaking out the greens iron and when I need to leave it in the shed to avoid negatively impacting on the health of the grass. Using common sense to work within that perfect balance is all part of creating our own IMP!

The Range

I`m sure you know that the driving range has been waterlogged and closed for almost the entire winter…well, good news, it is back open! Opening hours for May will be 9am to 5pm, so come and make the most of the opportunity to work the idiosyncrasies out of your swing.

Largs Golf Club

I’m happy to announce that following a kind arrangement with Largs Golf Club, Mach Dunes members may now golf at Largs for just a £25 green fee. I hope our members take advantage of this and go play on one of the finest parkland courses in Western Scotland.

 



Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

 

Germinating Seed & The Augusta Syndrome

GOOD START TO THE GREENKEEPING YEAR!
It would be out of character if I didn`t start a report by talking about the weather, but it really is one of the most important facets of our job – and the most unpredictable! March came in like a lion so we were pretty sure we would get a good spell, and it really was stunning for 10 whole days. Good thing too – I was on holiday for the second half of that! The Mach Dunes greenkeeping team did a great job of judging the watering that was required in my absence. Even though we know we`ll never suffer from a drought in Scotland in March, we have a lot of tees out there currently that have only recently been turfed, so it was very important to keep a close eye on them. It’s easy to get caught out when you`ve spent all winter moaning about the driving range being flooded!!

It seems we are back to typical April showers weather now (I`m writing this on April 1st- no fooling, I really am) which suits us just fine as the mixed conditions allow us to get into all the work that we need to do to set ourselves up for the season ahead. Just this last week we have got our first topdressing and our first application of wetting agent down, and it`s pouring rain today to wash that in nicely. All we need now is a bit of heat to germinate some of the seed we`ve planted into the 5th green as we try everything we can to get it back into play as soon as possible. It suffered during the storms in January and has lost a bit of cover – it probably wouldn`t be that bad to putt on, but if we open it too early it will suffer badly from foot traffic and will get worse before it gets better. Hopefully it`ll recover pretty quickly – it’s already thickening up.

Early season sunshine at Machrihanish Dunes. Who doesn`t enjoy a panorama from the 18th green? Amazing to think that this was taken in mid-February, it looks more like July!
Early season sunshine at Machrihanish Dunes. Who doesn`t enjoy a panorama from the 18th green? Amazing to think that this was taken in mid-February, it looks more like July!

 

WINTER PROJECTS
Those of you who haven`t played the course in a while will see quite a few tees have been rebuilt. Some of these were just weak, so we lifted them and added a bit of our homebrewed root-zone and covered them in new turf. The rooting we’ve seen already shows that the bought-in turf likes our sand/soil mixture a lot! There were one or two tees that we moved slightly or re-contoured; we moved the yellow tee at the 10th slightly left to make better use of the stunning view and Craig rebuilt the 14th tee to make much better use of the available space. There have been many other things going on out there but I`m not going to spoil the surprise for you.

I firmly believe that the work we have done this winter has helped make the course even more fun to play, and in many cases, also made it fairer. If you haven`t been down for a while, then you should pay us a visit and come and see for yourself.

The annual spring team competition on the 23rd/24th April would be a good date to put in your diary for a visit, this is being held in conjunction with Dunaverty GC. If you fancy this competition and you want to enter or find out more why not give Lorna a call at the Golf House (01586810058) and or email her for details. Lorna has recently been promoted to Senior Golf House Assistant, from now on she will be your contact at the Golf House.

The newly constructed yellow tee at the 10th. Another great panoramic Machrihanish Dunes vista, it`s just a shame the camera on my phone can`t cram it all in without distorting the foreground. Isn`t this view incredible though! We put a bench up here next to it so that you can sit and soak it in if the 4-ball in front are holding you up!!
The newly constructed yellow tee at the 10th. Another great panoramic Machrihanish Dunes vista, it`s just a shame the camera on my phone can`t cram it all in without distorting the foreground. Isn`t this view incredible though! We put a bench up here next to it so that you can sit and soak it in if the 4-ball in front are holding you up!!

 

AUGUSTA SYNDROME…IS IT DEAD AND BURIED?
We greenkeepers always dreaded the Masters. Not because we didn`t enjoy watching it as much as the next man, but because we all felt pressure from our members to produce ideal golfing conditions as soon as Augusta came on the telly – even though (as far as we were all concerned) it was still the end of winter and nothing was growing. It seems to me though that over recent times, the threat of “Augusta Syndrome” has become a little less overbearing than it used to be and I think this may be due to two things.

Firstly, I think we all start our spring preparation work just a little bit earlier than we used to. I don`t know if this is a subconscious reaction to Augusta Syndrome on our part, or if we are all bowing down under the weight of peer pressure because we don`t want our members to see the greenkeeper down the road getting out of the traps before we do – or maybe the last few winters haven`t ended quite as badly as we thought they had – but we seem to be willing to break out the topdressing and knock down the height of the mowers just a little bit earlier than we used to. Ride-on rollers help too – if an early season roll or two fits into your program and doesn`t cause any residual damage, then what is the harm in giving your members a wee treat around Masters week? I haven`t had mine out yet because some of our greens are a bit fragile around the edges and the rolling action can be quite harsh to new roots, but as I said earlier, the first sand and wetting agent is on and the greens got their winter coat ripped off them yesterday. I hope I don`t get a fortnight of Easterly wind now, that would serve me right!

The second reason I think Augusta Syndrome is not as much of an issue as it used to be is because our members get bombarded with golf coverage all year round now. Historically, The Masters was the first televised event of the year to hit our screens, and it got everybody keen for the game again. People who had stashed their clubs under the stairs after the last medal in September rushed to dust them off and get back out there, only to discover that the greens they had left in prime condition when they gave up for the winter – instead of pulling on an extra jumper – had deteriorated through six months of relentless rain and precious little sunlight. It`s changed days now though – we can now turn on Sky Sports (other sports broadcasters are available) any Thursday through Sunday and be entertained by our favourite golfers playing on prime surfaces in exotic locations from Honolulu to Hanoi. The constant drip-feed is diluted in comparison to the one-off hit we used to get from being flung straight up Magnolia Drive after half a year of cold turkey (that`s an addiction reference, not a Christmas one!), and I think it does get us greenkeepers off the hook a bit. It is still the year`s first major, and it is still a fantastic spectacle, but it just doesn`t seem like such a big boot into spring as it used to before we all became utterly spoiled by the widespread coverage emanating from our 50-inch flat screens.

SAD TIMES
Writing reports on a monthly basis does inevitably mean that sometimes the author will be behind the times. It can`t be helped. Despite the relative time-lapse, it would be remiss of me though if I did not finish this frivolous report on a sombre note by paying tribute to my friend Colin Chrystie, who sadly and suddenly passed away a few weeks ago. Unfortunately for me, I only had the opportunity to know this great character for a short period of time, but I enjoyed every minute of his company and latterly we really had become good friends. He was incredibly helpful to me when I first moved into town, introducing me to people he knew and recommending people to me who might be able to make my move here easier. His influence on the early success of Machrihanish Dunes cannot be underestimated, and the friendly welcome that everybody from first-time visitor to member would receive from him serves as a model for anyone employed in a position of customer care. He will be sadly missed by all who had the great pleasure of knowing him.

 

Simon Freeman
Head Greenskeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

New Year, Same Old Scottish Weather

As this is the first time I`ve updated this blog in 2016, I would be remiss not to begin by wishing a Happy New Year to all our members, their families and friends. I hope you all have a wonderful 2016!

I had hoped that maybe the weather would have made a resolution to be a bit less sodden and a bit more sunny once the calendar had turned and the days started to lengthen, but so far it has remained wild, wet, windy and true to form. When I see the devastation that has been caused in other areas of the country though, I can`t help but feel that we have got away lightly so far, and that maybe we would have a cheek to complain about the relatively superficial level of flooding that we have experienced up until now. In fact, the golf course remains almost entirely playable, with the main disruption confined to the areas around the 1st tee, the 9th fairway and the dune slack areas at 5, 7, 11 and 16. The links was of course routed with these dune slack areas uppermost in mind, for they are some of the most important ecological sites on the course map and therefore the holes themselves were directed away from the wetlands not only to keep golfers feet dry during the Winter months but also to protect the plants that they contained- plants that actually exist and thrive because of the regular and prolonged periods of flooding, rather than despite of it.

Does this mean that the period of flooding we are experiencing now will result in us enjoying an even larger than usual crop of spectacular wild flowers during the summer that will hopefully follow this miserable start to the year? Truth is, I actually don`t know, but I do know that it is our duty as custodians of the land to ensure that the correct movement of water around the course is maintained in order that the rare species that rely on these specific environmental conditions are allowed their optimum growing environment. We monitor this flow constantly, carefully checking areas that can easily become blocked and clearing water courses that are supposed to flow at a certain level in order to maintain the delicate natural balance. Fortunately, we are able to carry out this work without directly impacting any golfing areas on the course while we manage the waterways and outflows in order to ensure that unnecessary water is not held on the links that might negatively impact on the ecology and playability of the site in the future.

Simon Blog 1
Pictured above is the dune slack area at the left side of the 11th fairway, during autumn renovation and prior to annual widespread flooding. To maintain the preferred environment of the rare species that grow here, we leave the rough uncut for long periods to allow plants to complete their natural growth cycles without compromise, then cut down the rough in mid-Autumn and remove as much of the clippings as possible, ensuring the area is ready to accept the impending floodwaters and drain appropriately. This process is strictly adhered to as part of our managed environmental plan, and it appears to work very well indeed- combining the requirements of the indigenous vegetation with almost optimum playing conditions.

 

STRI Environment Awards

Some of you may remember that Machrihanish Dunes were recently nominated by the STRI as a finalist in their “Environmental Course of the Year” award. Four clubs across the U.K were given this prestigious honour, and myself and Craig Barr travelled down to the BTME exhibition at Harrogate to attend the awards. We were delighted to be surrounded by representatives from wide-ranging backgrounds- my naive anticipation was that we would be pitted against bigger clubs who may have had more resources available to instigate and carry through more ambitious projects than we could. This could not have been further from the truth and it was refreshing to be involved in an awards process where clubs were being judged purely on the merit of their application and their enthusiasm and ingenuity rather than how much marketing money they were willing to trade in return. The upshot of the evening was that we enjoyed fantastic food and company and met some people whose love of nature and the ecology of their golf course environments was truly inspiring, though sadly, we didn`t win.

In truth, despite my belief that our application was well written and that during the judge`s visit Craig and I showed off the natural beauty of our site and the fine work that my predecessors began, such as setting up many natural initiatives around the course to the best of our enthusiastic ability, we just hadn`t done as much as the winners did and to see the representatives from Pyecombe Golf Club in West Sussex accept their award with such pride more than made up for our disappointment at not coming away with the big trophy. Their initiatives were brilliant and they completely deserved their success. Their golf course looks stunning.

A simple but effective weather nesting box hidden under a pile of stones at Machrihanish Dunes- just one of the many projects that previous Head Greenkeepers initiated which prompted the STRI`s judges to nominate the club as a finalist in their Environmental Course of the Year category.
A simple but effective weather nesting box hidden under a pile of stones at Machrihanish Dunes- just one of the many projects that previous Head Greenkeepers initiated which prompted the STRI`s judges to nominate the club as a finalist in their Environmental Course of the Year category.

Fun Matters

One important facet of having a growing club membership is that it gives us a database of enthusiastic people to approach for feedback on what they enjoy about playing our course and where we could maybe improve the links in the future. When I speak to people who play regularly, the overpowering emotion I get from them is that they have great fun when they play at Machrihanish Dunes. That feeling of fun is a reaction that I would like to keep at the forefront of my mind as we move forward maintaining the course and making the occasional design tweak to improve Machrihanish Dunes. Although it was undoubtedly a daunting task to develop a patch of waterlogged, environmentally tainted grazing land into a world-class, full-size links golf course while only having planning permission to move 7 acres of sand, that restriction has left us with a site that retains all the idiosyncrasies that might easily have been bulldozed out had developers been granted permission to move material wherever they wanted to.

I have spent many years studying the topography of Britain`s historic seaside courses and I think there are very few examples of courses that have recently been built from scratch using heavy machinery that have not had much of the nonsense ironed out of them. I suppose it depends on what you deem to be fun, but for me the enjoyment of seeing a clever drive onto the backside of a hill rewarded with an extra 30 yards of run, or a misjudged pitch and run thwarted by thumping into a dastardly upslope that you had previously spotted and had intended to clear, cannot be matched by providing an unbroken vista of smooth bumps and hollows, carefully orchestrated to remove all potential unfairness from the equation, and to provide an unadulterated and manicured view for the lens of the fawning camera. Unfair bounces caused by links territory which has remained unsullied by bulldozer and excavator cause exasperation and amusement in equal doses but certrainly can never be described as dull. As a direct result of the “restrictions” that were placed on the developers of Machrihanish Dunes at the time of construction we have inherited a course that is brilliant fun to play for that exact reason. We know that we have plenty of scope to improve the golfing experience further without in any way compromising the environmental integrity of the site, and that there is a long way to go before the links can be spoken of in the same breath as some of the absolute classics that I made mention of earlier, but if people are choosing to play golf here specifically because they are having fun then the developers should be genuinely proud of having created something that in this modern era is very rare.

A classic links environment that might have been lost had a clever shaper been allowed to impact upon it with a bulldozer and make it more “perfect”. Would that have made this a fairer hole...or would it have taken away some of the fun?
A classic links environment that might have been lost had a clever shaper been allowed to impact upon it with a bulldozer and make it more “perfect”. Would that have made this a fairer hole…or would it have taken away some of the fun?

Please keep offering opinion and letting us know what you think- your input is very important to us. If there is any specific area on the course that is negatively impacting your enjoyment then we want to hear about it. It may well be something that we have in our plans to develop in the future, but it could just as easily be something we have missed altogether- it is easy to develop a one-dimensional outlook when working on a golf course that you see every day, and it is our belief that the end product can only benefit from more people bringing ideas to the table.

I hope you enjoy your golf in March and that maybe, just maybe we might see a glint of warm sunshine as the days get longer and we head into Spring!

Simon Freeman
Head Greenskeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

Preparing for a Wild West Winter

COURSE CONDITION

Well, what a fantastic September and start to October we have had. That is two in a row now, I`m starting to think that maybe summer has swapped places with autumn! A spell of weather like we had during that time is an absolute bonanza for Scottish greenkeepers, as it allows us to tailor our program to successfully undertake aeration and overseeding programs with the minimum of disruption and the maximum of efficiency. The greens at Machrihanish Dunes have been solid tined twice in the last month, and we have managed to germinate a good percentage of the Bar Trio fescue seed we planted a few weeks ago after the initial pass with the solid tines. We have seen good root development during the last 6 weeks and this has put us in a really good position going into the Wild West Winter.

New fescue plants can clearly be seen growing in the grid pattern in which they were planted.

Our mission now is to protect what we have at all costs in order that we can give you all a decent surface to play on over the winter and subsequently hit the ground running in 2016.

WINTER PROJECTS

We are well into our winter work, and have already completed the task of re-positioning the bunker that used to be located in the middle of the 1st fairway. This area beneath the marker post has been turfed over and the bunker is now situated on the left side of the fairway at the corner of the dog-leg. Not only does this make the 1st tee shot more fair and less daunting for the average player, but it also provides a much more positive aiming point for the longer hitter who wishes to “cut the corner.” A new golf path has been created in front of the 15th white tee, shortening the walk and removing the requirement for players to walk all the way around the back of the tee and then to share the path with maintenance machinery. This path will be completed shortly and will in due course be covered and protected by black rubber matting.

We have many other projects which we plan to undertake over the course of this winter – they are too numerous to mention here. If you are interested and would like to hear about what we are doing, please feel free to approach us at any time. Even if the weather is too grim for golf, you could always wrap up and come down for a walk then drop in to see Colin and Lorna for coffee or soup!

 

BESPOKE SOLUTIONS

What a horrible and over-used modern catchphrase that is, but it does sum up how we should all view the maintenance programs that are being undertaken by our greenkeepers. One of our more observant members passed favourable comment a week or so ago about the outfront brushes we have fitted to our Toro Flex 21 handmowers, and he was right to heap praise on what is a simple but extremely effective tool for our particular set of greens.

In common with all courses on the West Coast of Scotland our surfaces contain a mixture of different grasses, and while we maintain them in order to favour the perennial species of fescue and bentgrass that provide optimum playing conditions and also happen to be the least expensive and troublesome to maintain, it is almost impossible to disregard the percentage of annual meadow grass, Yorkshire fog and even perennial ryegrass which is guaranteed to be present in sportsturf which is presented in such a wet climate at what is an aggressively short height of cut.

Even if we were to look exclusively at fescue and bent, we would see that they require slightly different management regimes in order to produce optimum health and results, which unfortunately ensures that maintaining them together effectively in a sward will result in compromising the health of either or indeed both of them. Bentgrass maintained under stress will inevitably produce lateral growth which is impossible for a mower set even as low as our summer greens height to pick up, and if this growth is allowed to spread unchecked it will result in a slow, bumpy surface. It would seem obvious for us to use our verticutters or groomers (scarifiers with very fine, closely spaced lateral blades) to regularly control and refine this lateral growth while simultaneously thinning out the spread of annual meadow grass and removing its seed heads…were it not for the extremely negative impact that this practice would have on our fescue. Fescue is an important component of any links sward, for not only does it have an ultra-fine leaf that provides optimum putting conditions, but it is far more tolerant of the battering that our course gets from wind, rain and salt than are any of the other aforementioned grasses. While it may be naturally capable of surviving the worst conditions that a west coast winter can pummel it with, its fine leaves will soon have their photosynthetic ability catastrophically reduced if its light-capturing ability is regularly halved by over-use of a verticutter.

So what to do then? We can`t have bumpy greens, so we need to refine the lateral growth of the bentgrass and remove the seedheads from the poa annua. But we can`t hack into the greens with the verticutter as often as we`d like for fear of negatively impacting on the health of the fescue. We have already agreed that to provide our members with the best playing conditions that we can at all times of the year we need to look after the health of all three species and keep compromises to their collective health to an absolute minimum. What we have done at Machrihanish Dunes is to fit these outfront brushes to our handmowers so that we can lift the lateral growth of the bentgrass and the seedheads of the poa in order that the cylinder blades can control them in a conventional manner, without slashing mercilessly into the fescue plant with a lateral blade and compromising its health. It is so simple, but over the course of a season the regular use of these brushes in favour of semi-regular use of verticutters definitely helps us to achieve our long-term goal of optimum health in all three species. They also help to relocate topdressing sand into indentations (so forming a more even putting surface), remove disease mycelium and heavy dews from the surface of the green prior to the mower`s cylinder reaching the grass blades and break up organic matter which has accumulated on the surface (allowing oxygen to circulate better and help break that organic matter down into carbohydrates that can be utilised by grass plants.

In short, regular brushing and occasional verticutting works for us. Would we be so keen on this combination though, if we were maintaining swards of pure poa annua, or a mixture of poa annua and bentgrass where perhaps a more aggressive approach might yield better results? Perhaps in this instance a regular verticutting program would be better, combined with holocoring and more regular, light applications of topdressing. This is my point about bespoke solutions- just because we have had good results with a particular product or maintenance regime does not mean it will work on the course up the road. Every successful greenkeeper has thought long and hard about what best suits his particular course and whether he conveys that message to his members in poetically long-winded prose like I do or chooses to keep it close to his chest is entirely up to him!

We look forward to seeing you out on the course in this month. If you see us out there and you have any questions about our winter program or anything else we are doing please feel free to approach us and ask!

Simon_Update_img

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

 

The Naming of the Holes

THE WINNING ENTRY

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who entered our “Name the 6th Hole” competition. We struggled for weeks to pick just one out of the 800+ worthy entries, but we eventually settled on a fantastic entry from William Tevendale, who suggested we name it Fingal’s Footprint! William won more than just a Stay & Play at Mach Dunes – his selection will now be a part of the course’s history and charm!

Thanks to William, and to everyone who entered for your suggestions and your support!

THE NAMING OF THE HOLES

Now, I will freely admit that I am a history geek. When I was growing up and being chauffeured around the country by my father, receiving the best golfing education a teenager could ever hope for, I quickly became fascinated with the history of golf courses. Observing how the early architects used natural topography to create strategic hazards on ancient courses, and then being given the opportunity to view both good and bad examples of how modern designers attempted to replicate that early brilliance on tracts of inferior land interested me greatly, but nothing stirred my emotions on visits to these revered historic sites quite like the names that were given to holes and features by educated enthusiasts who came from a long-forgotten era but who obviously had similar romantic notions to myself.

Of course, for every Elysian Field and Principal`s Nose there is an Awa` Hame and a Ca` Canny, and it used to make me laugh when I visited yet another course that had an uphill par 3 called Spion Kop! There’s no doubt that naming the holes of a golf course is a great responsibility, and some clubs have been a lot more inventive and successful with this process than have others.

Throughout all the years of digesting the history of golf, from reading hilarious Bernard Darwin stories from the golden age of the game`s first boom (if you`ve not read Darwin yet, you really should) to researching the methods of the early architects and greenkeepers, I never thought I would have the opportunity and honour to be personally involved in a project to come up with names for the holes on a new golf course. Then I came to Machrihanish Dunes, and discovered that nobody had beaten me to it!

A chance discussion on Facebook one day (about something completely unrelated) started the ball rolling, and from there it was tentatively decided that we should put together a steering group of people to discuss and choose names from suggestions that we would encourage people from all backgrounds to bring to the . We wanted a list of names that would be entirely original and individual, names that would provoke intrigue and stir romantic notions not just today, but in fifty or a hundred years time. Most of all though, we wanted to make the very most of having the opportunity to introduce a bit of mischievous fun, just as the forefathers of golf did a century ago and more.

Here is what we came up with, and why.

1st hole, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland
#1 – KIDD’S HOLIDAYS

David McLay Kidd has often told the story of how for many years his Father Jimmy and his Mother June brought him to Kintyre for their annual holiday, and how the enjoyment of Summer days spent playing golf at Machrihanish were augmented by wistfully staring over the fence to the left of the 9th and wondering just what a spectacular golf course a young designer might be able to create on such an idyllic and unspoiled piece of linksland. Jimmy and June are regular visitors still, and Jimmy`s input into the continued architectural and agronomic development of Machrihanish Dunes cannot and should not be overlooked. For that reason, we decided that the 1st should be named in the Kidd family`s combined honour.

2nd hole behind fairway marker, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland
#2 – THE WATCHTOWER

The utilitarian and slightly disconcerting structure that previously allowed its incumbents to keep a beady eye on whatever dark secrets were housed behind the double barbed-wire fence of Site 2 (if indeed there ever were any!) would be rendered entirely defunct if it didn`t give us something not to aim at off the 2nd tee. It just catches your eye, even though it is actually miles off line. While this may seem a blindingly obvious name for this hole, I can`t help but wonder how long the tower will remain there before it is unceremoniously pulled down. Whatever happens to the base and however it is re-landscaped in the future it would be a shame if people forgot its connection to the golf course through its early years, and commemorating the Watchtower with a hole name seemed a fitting way to cement the relationship for the long term.

#3 – NIMROD

History has it that Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah, a mighty hunter and leader who commissioned the building of the tower of Babel, which he hoped would be so high that it would actually reach heaven. I suppose there is nothing wrong with being ambitious! Why the RAF chose to name a large reconnaissance plane after Nimrod I don`t actually know, but I do know that one of these mighty aircraft (no. R1 XV249) was stationed at Machrihanish during 1976 while their home runway at Kinloss was being re-surfaced. From what I can gather, there were 3 Nimrod squadrons based at Kinloss at the time, but I`m unsure as to whether all 3 “boltholed” to Machrihanish or whether it was just the one. HMS Nimrod was also the name of a World War 2 anti-submarine training camp, apparently located in the original Campbeltown Grammar School building. It seemed obvious to make mention of the area`s recent connections with the armed forces at the point on the course where the base is in closest proximity, and Nimrod seemed an evocative and poignant name with which to do it.

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#4 – SHEPHERD’S CROSS

The Shepherd`s Cross tournament is played every July and has so far always seen competitors play the first 9 holes at Machrihanish before crossing the fence to begin a composite 9 holes at Machrihanish Dunes, which begins here at the 4th and finishes at the 18th.

5th hole from tees, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland
#5 – UGADALE

The newly restored (read “rescued”), iconic Ugadale Hotel and its surrounding village can clearly be seen from this picture-perfect par 3, making it an obvious choice to name the hole after it.

#6 – FINGAL’S FOOTPRINT

Our competition winner. Despite involving everybody we could think of in the naming process we just could not come up with a name that would do justice to this recently renovated par 3. William Tevendale was the man with this flash of clever alliteration – not only does the name roll off the tongue well and make mention of the Giant who famously “built” the nearby causeway between the North Antrim coast and the island of Staffa, but what really sealed it for us was that the hole when viewed from the air actually does look like a giant`s right footprint. Very clever, and definitely worthy of inclusion.

#7 – MINEFIELD

Played from a low tee onto a high plateau where visibility is understandably impaired, this fairway is littered with hazards. There are 3 large natural bunkers, but also many smaller mounds and natural sink-holes, any of which could leave a golfer with an unpleasant hanging lie. It seemed obvious to the contributor to use this as a way of marking the history of the Machrihanish Colliery, which provided employment at pits near Machrihanish and in nearby Kilkivan from, it seems, the mid 18th century. More is made historically of the canal (opened in 1791) which was initially constructed to take coal to Campbeltown, and the light railway which succeeded it in around 1875 than of the mine itself, but I am sure it provided much needed employment to the area at the time. The row of well-maintained miner`s cottages in Drumlemble are a classic architectural feature on the road to Machrihanish, and the whole story combines to form a worthy inclusion on this list.

#8 – HIGH PARK

Whatever you make of Sir Paul McCartney`s music or lifestyle, there is no doubt that he and his wife Linda did much for tourism in Kintyre. The evocative lilt that bears the Mull`s name portrays the beauty and serenity of the area well, and has drawn in countless visitors over the years, eager to experience the magic for themselves. Although Sir Paul has not visited the area for some time, many people in the wider populous still associate the area with him and his family, so we felt it was a good idea to include the name of his beloved farm among our list of holes. Anyone who has walked up through the farm will know that the hill farm is spread over distinct lower and upper levels, much like the fairway on this hole.


#9 – CECIL’S CARAVAN

This is one of those classic personal monikers that I used to enjoy researching when I was a boy. St. Andrews has Granny Clark`s Wynd, Musselburgh has Mrs. Forman`s, Machrihanish Dunes now has Cecil`s Caravan. Cecil was a miner from the North East of England, who loved Kintyre just as much as Paul and Linda McCartney did. He spent every summer holiday for a number of years staying in a caravan which he parked on the site of the 9th green. In years to come, people will no doubt attempt to research who Cecil was, and why he and his caravan were deemed so important as to have a hole named after it. I don`t think it always needs to be important though, sometimes I think all you need is a bit of fun that just needs to roll off the tongue well and allow a frivolous image to develop in a visitor`s mind.

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#10 – HANG TEN

Many of us were keen to have a surfing reference on the course, and because the tee on this hole stares directly out towards the Atlantic and the breakers that form the perfect ocean playground to attract people from all over the country to come and tame its waves, this seemed the ideal place to do it. Golfers playing this hole will regularly walk side by side with their chilled-out neighbours as they stroll towards the green and beach respectively. As for the reference itself, I am no surfing guru but I understand that “hang ten” refers to a manoeuvre where the surfer allows the back of the board to be counter-balanced by a weight of water in order to allow him or her to move right to the front and hang all ten toes over the front lip. Feel free to correct me if I`m wrong! Clearly, we chose this term because it is the 10th hole.

Looking over to 11th green from 17th hole, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland
#11 – AUTOCROSS GRAVEYARD

During the early 1970s, some of the younger members of the local business community developed an interest in motorsport. Fuelled by images of heroic off-road legends such as Paddy Hopkirk and Roger Clark, the enthusiasts chose a suitable piece of ground at Clochkeil and set out a track on which to race their own cars. The racing was enthusiastically supported, but inevitably there were casualties and when cars stopped rolling either through terminal mechanical malfunctions or from catastrophic body distortion they were unceremoniously buried by a large Poclain excavator which was kept on-hand for crushing duties. I have no idea whether the remains of any of these iconic vehicles still lurk under the mounds of the 11th fairway, but if they do then they will continue to serve as a monument to the earliest era of motorsport in the area, which subsequently made the obvious move to the tarmac of the airbase.

#12 – DRUMLEMBLE

Sometimes an iconic name is enough, and a viable reason is not actually necessary. This is one of those names.

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#13 – BLACK SHEEP

The black sheep have become synonymous with Machrihanish Dunes. Originally employed as a method of helping control the ingress of ephemeral rough grasses, the flock of Hebridean sheep have since made their way onto sweaters, umbrellas, the shuttle buses and even above the door of the pub. One thing a club needs in order to successfully market a brand is a brilliant logo, and the black sheep is in my opinion one of the very best in the country. Will you see the sheep on your way around the golf course? You might, depending on the time of year. Their role has been reduced substantially since the purchase of dedicated rough mowers which are far more easily trained to control the growth in the exact areas of marram and ryegrass that we and our partners at Scottish Natural Heritage wish to remain relatively thin (in order to protect the continued health of selected rare species), but if, in future, the black sheep are utilised only by the marketing department of Machrihanish Dunes, then their employment is still a thoroughly worthy one.

#14 – RIFLE RANGE

In the days when the armed forces roamed the links, the large bank behind the 14th green used to be used as a training rifle range. Many spent shells have been recovered from there since the course was first constructed, and hopefully it has now been cleared up to the point where the sandmartins who have constructed high-rise flats in there can have the place to themselves.

#15 – JOHNNY CURRIE’S RIB

I never had the opportunity to meet John Currie, but during my previous existence on Islay, I spoke to him on the phone a couple of times and he was always very amiable and helpful. Legend has it he was a bear of a man – a sea-dog in the classic sense of the phrase – but he was also a great ambassador for his island of Rathlin and the small group of people who live there and struggle to keep their community alive. John piloted a large passenger-carrying rigid inflatable boat around the area through weather bad enough to keep most ordinary people sensibly housebound (he apparently used the Martini jingle to describe his charters “anytime, anyplace, anyweather”), and you would no doubt be able to see him doing that yet from the fairway of this hole had he not met an untimely death in 2011. A proper community hero is always worthy of remembrance.

#16 – BEINN AN OIR

None of the 3 Paps of Jura are high enough to reach the coveted Munro status, but because they rise straight out of the sea they look majestic and their steep, scree-infested slopes make them tough to scale even for experienced climbers. And, of course, because they are not surrounded by any other hills of notable height the view from the top is incredible (if you can ever get a day when the summit is not shrouded in cloud, that is!). The Paps dominate the skyline to the North of the 16th hole and the largest of them, Beinn an Oir, is steeped in mythology. Translated into English the hill would be called “mountain of gold” and it`s treasure was mythically believed to have been guarded by a huge giant of a woman, who formed the great scar down the mountain`s northern slope by sliding down it on her backside. Climbers who make it to the summit of Beinn an Oir can still make out the shelters which were apparently built out of the scree and rock by an unfortunate serviceman whose job it was to keep watch for approaching enemy ships during one of the World Wars. It is stunning up there, but I can`t imagine being stuck there for weeks on end through some of the winter gales we have to endure on the west coast. It must have been brutal! We tried to shy away from using nearby place names for the holes because, well, it really isn`t that interesting, but in this case it was so obvious that we couldn`t ignore it.

#17 – REST AND BE THANKFUL

Anyone attempting a drive down the long and winding A83 from Glasgow to Campbeltown inevitably has to take on this alpine-style pass, and although the long drag up the hill from Arrochar has been substantially sanitised since the wider high road replaced the switchbacks of the original single track, many will still breathe an audible sigh of relief at the summit as this really marks the point where the central belt is left behind in favour of fresh air, epic scenery and a more relaxed pace of life. Likewise, anybody reaching the sanctity of the bench below the black tee at the 17th on a windy day can take a momentary rest from the elements before tackling the most difficult hole on the golf course with a renewed sense of vigour.

#18 – CLOCHKEIL

The 3 standing stones of Clochkeil can be found in the deep rough to the left of the green site. They orientate in a NE/SW direction, although what that actually signifies is something only our ancestors can tell us. Many of you probably don`t even realise these artifacts are in there, something I plan to rectify in the near future with some regular strimming and maybe even an information board. It is a sin that I haven`t done this already. The farmland over which the golf course now resides is called Clochkeil farm, so it made sense to use this name for the last hole. It was after all a far better choice than Awa` Hame!

Many people had an involvement in the process of coming up with these names – I could thank them all individually here but they know who they are and I would imagine it will fill them with pride to know that their contributions have made the final 18.

TOURNAMENTS & COURSE WORK

We managed to complete our planned aeration works in perfect weather and with a minimum of disturbance, so the greens have settled down again very well. There is a lot of new seedlings already coming through on the putting green and chipping green, and we are hopeful that over the next few days we will see this mirrored over the rest of the greens (which were worked on a few days later). Sometimes when you undertake these works things don`t go according to plan – usually because of the weather – but this time we struck it lucky and now we just need to ensure that the new seedlings are allowed to mature so that they can help us provide a reasonable surface throughout the Winter and beyond. We have begun a similar program of works on our main tees that has likely been completed by the this email reaches you. After that, we will discuss what further aeration we can do while this spell of fine Autumn weather (which is ideal for root development) is still with us.

Members and non-members alike are reminded that our annual Autumn Pairs competition is being played at Machrihanish Dunes on Saturday October 10th – if you wish to participate in this event please contact the Golf House at your earliest convenience as the booking sheet is filling up fast. Competitors are reminded that there is an evening prize-giving and function planned to coordinate with this event, and I understand that our Head Chef has planned a very interesting Thai buffet for this. We would be delighted if you could join us.

That’s it for this month – see you on the course!

Simon_Update_img

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

The Wild Flowers of the Summer’s Hottest Golf Course

The weather conditions during July have been extremely conducive to growing grass, which does put a strain upon manpower and machine, but the upside of this is that if we are pro-active enough, these conditions also give us a great opportunity to do some successful overseeding work on the fine turf areas. In recent weeks, we have seen some fine ingression into the greens from indigenous Highland bentgrass, which I have always taken to be a sign that soil temperatures have become suitably elevated, allowing us to sow some extra bent into the greens without the usual risk of abject failure.

We set up for this overseeding mission by verticutting in two directions to thin out the sward before topdressing with our favoured 80/20 sand/soil material to give the new seed some fresh material to key into. We then seeded the greens using a walk behind Blec seeder with a dimpled roller. I am a big fan of this old machine because it does a really good job of aerating and decompacting the surface while leaving behind thousands of tiny holes for the seed to fall into, become trapped, and ready for germination. The whole job was timed to work alongside our monthly spray program, which contains humic acid and plenty of amino acids, simple carbohydrates and enzymes, which are critical to ensure that the potential for germination and initial growth is maximised. For me, there are few things more satisfying to see out on the course than a grid pattern of new seedlings that proved we timed our applications perfectly, and I am expecting good results – the weather we have experienced for the last two week has been absolutely perfect for this. Rubbish for golf, but good for seed germination!

A COLOURFUL COURSE

The other thing that satisfies me to see out on the course at this time of year is the incredible display of colour in the roughs – proof once again that our rough management program suits the continued health of the rare species of plants that Scottish Natural Heritage are so keen for us to protect. I can`t remember ever seeing a golf course provide such a stunning display of natural machair colour as ours has over the last month. Not only have we stared in awe at the field of assorted orchids at the back of the 6th green, but we have also enjoyed the white, yellow, blue and purple palette of low growth on many other areas of the course. Even the blown-out area between the 2nd and the 8th has been awash with colour, full of violets, different varieties of clover, wild thyme and flanked in the longer grass by more orchids and yellow bedstraw. The natural improvement of this area shows me that we are doing the right thing by reducing the topical growth from thick areas and removing clippings, and although there is not much of any ecological merit in the more agricultural part of the course (the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th fairways and the driving range and Golf House area), we have the opportunity to further improve the potential for spreading these rare plants across the rest of the site by continuing with what is a pretty simple mowing and clearing process.

I don`t have an awful lot more to say this month – it tends to be that way at this time of year when we are well into our cutting program and we do pretty much the same things every week. I don`t suppose any of you want to read about how much grass we are cutting! Instead, I thought I would share some of my wild flower photos with you, just in case you missed them on your way round. I know there are some people who read this blog who haven`t had the opportunity to visit the course recently, so these images are for their enjoyment too.

Wild thyme. This smells as good as it looks.

 

Clover is a pretty average looking plant on its own, but when yellow flowers mix with white and purple in one patch it really can look stunning. There is a massive patch of this between the 2nd and the 8th, which we will try to encourage while also filling in the bare sandy areas with some actual grass, so maybe you can get a decent lie in there for a change next year!

A variety of Leucanthemum I would imagine, I`d like to get smart with my description but “big white daisy” is the best I (and google!) can come up with!

Yellow Bedstraw. It has been seemingly everywhere these last few weeks, providing a great mat of colour to contrast with the purple of the orchids.

A fine specimen of a purple orchid, although I`m not actually sure whether this is an early marsh orchid or a pyramidal orchid. I`m going to go with the former- although it has a pyramidal shape, early marsh orchids can sometimes fool you when their lower display has opened while the upper portion is still closed.

The field of orchids behind the 6th green. This site really is stunning at this time of year, but it always proves very difficult to photograph. I`ve tried many times but I can never do it justice. The barrel-shaped orchids are called the “Early Marsh” varieties, the tall bushy one is a “Northern Marsh” orchid and the pyramid shaped ones are, unsurprisingly, “pyramidal” orchids.

It`s back to the technical updates for me next month, because I`m going to be talking about aeration. We all know that every golf course needs to be aerated in order to offset the compaction from foot and machine traffic and to ensure that water and oxygen can move through the profile effectively, but a specific action that suits one course will not necessarily suit the course down the road (or in our case “over the fence”). I will, of course, be focussing entirely on what we plan to do on our course, on why we are doing it and on what we hope to achieve. It is a favourite subject of mine because so many golfers have inaccurate perceptions of what aeration is all about, which is why this intrusive practise infuriates them so much. I want you to have all the facts before we get started!

We hope you enjoy your golf during August. We look forward to seeing you out there! Please remember the Black Sheep Cup is being played on Saturday 29th August. We have been discussing plans to make this event bigger and better than before, so if you are interested in taking part, you can get more information and enter for this competition by phoning the Golf House on 01586 810058 or emailing golfhouse@machdunes.com.

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club