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!


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

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club