Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course Update – January, 2015

Our monthly golf course update from our Head Greenkeeper, Simon Freeman:

First off, best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015 from everyone here at Mach Dunes!This course has been getting even better with every passing year, and with the recent and current renovations, MDGC is sure to offer the best playing season yet. 

The bunkers we were re-constructing at the 8th last month have now been completed, and we are now focusing on extending some tees. We have lowered the yellow tee at the 2nd, creating a considerably less lethal walkway in the process, and have also worked on the tees at the 3rd and the 5th. We also plan to alter the playing angle of the white tee at the 4th next, and to extend the yellow tees at the 15th and 17th. Hopefully, as a result of this work, we can spread the wear and tear on the tees more effectively and avoid the smaller ones from wearing out before the end of the season.

We are seeing an increase in the levels of play at Machrihanish Dunes with every passing year, and this work of extending the tees which see the most play will help to increase year-round enjoyment of everybody in the years to come. Our work with the digger hasn`t been confined solely to the tees – we have also lowered and re-contoured the ridge before the gully at the 17th to allow for a better view of the green from the centre of the fairway. A new bridge has also been constructed across the gully, which provides a more direct and less steep access to the green than was previously afforded. The path that connects this bridge has not yet been completed, but we will be fitting rubber mats to both sides of this bridge to further aid traction and safety for foot and buggy traffic.

Course Conditions
As always, our main priority for the month of December has been to keep the greens as healthy as possible, which is not an easy task when the days are so short and sunshine is in short supply.
We all learned at school that plants can utilise available carbon dioxide and water via the photosynthesis process to produce natural sugars like glucose, energising themselves and emitting oxygen as a bi-product.  But to do that they must be able to convert light energy from the sun into chemical energy, and this becomes a lot more difficult to achieve when it’s light for only a few hours a day.
Making the most of the photosynthesis process becomes even more crucial when you are growing fine-leaved grass plants on a sandy rootzone that contains only minimal traces of the nutrients which form the building blocks of the chlorophyll molecule.
Compared to thicker-leaved meadow grasses and ryegrasses, the fine perennial fescues and bents that we would ideally like to have as the sole inhabitants of our greens struggle to photosynthesise simply because they have less surface area to soak in and store the light energy and smaller chloroplast sites where the photsynthesis process can take place.
This is why it’s essential for links greenkeepers who wish to maintain their populations of fine leaved grasses through to the spring to raise their cutting heights in the autumn and again in winter, for if leaf area is reduced still further by mechanical removal at a time when photosynthetic ability is already impaired by reduced volumes of sunlight then further decline will be inevitable and opportunistic annual meadow grass plants will take advantage of the gaps and populate the greens further.
Accurate soil analysis is vital in our battle to make the very most of the plants’ ability to photosynthesise during the relatively short window of opportunity afforded by the December weather, as the chlorophyll molecule is made up of several key nutrients which must all be available in suitable amounts for healthy and effective photosynthetic reactions to take place. We have found that although the free-draining, sandy Machrihanish Dunes rootzone provides an ideal platform upon which to play golf, it is also extremely deficient in magnesium – a key component of the chlorophyll molecule – so we have been regularly adding this nutrient for the last few months.  We also use a liquid product called Protesyn, which contains many of the amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and carbohydrates which are required by the plant to allow it to produce mature proteins and the sugars which energise it sufficiently to go about its daily life-preserving functions.
The manufacturer of Protesyn markets the product as “sunshine in a bottle.” A bit cute, perhaps, but accurate.  The product allows the plant to more easily produce its own chemical energy and subsequently retain its good cellular health despite the low levels of sunlight we have to endure during a West Coast Winter. So impressed have I been with the performance of Protesyn that I`ve occasionally pondered whether it might be a welcome tonic for a greenkeeper on a wet December morning!

This time of year is always a tough challenge for us greenkeepers, but that doesn’t mean the course can’t be a welcome challenge for players as well.  The winter weather may not make for ideal conditions, but the course is still ready for players who anxious to try and conquer it.
That said, we hope you to see you out there soon! If you have any questions or suggestions then please feel free to come and see us anytime, or leave a message for us. 


Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper