It’s been a very hectic and busy few months for the team. The weather again as we all know hasn’t been ideal at all and has made things very difficult, not only from a maintenance and playing side but also planning and operations. Despite this the team have continued to excel, and I must yet again thank everyone on the greens staff for all the hard work and dedication over the winter months. Jonny Platt, who has served the club very well over the last 11 years will be leaving his role on our team at the end of this month and taking up a new challenge at Lytham Green Drive Golf Club. Personally, and on behalf of the club I’d like to thank Jonny for his efforts, and we wish him all the best for the future. While it is a shame to lose someone with Jonny’s experience, it opens the door on a fantastic opportunity to join a team and a club with some really exciting plans. I have been busy interviewing a number of candidates, and I will report back in due course once an appointment has been finalised.

As you will all know and hopefully appreciate this has been my first winter at Moor Allerton Golf Club, and one that I have learnt and documented a lot. I feel I now have a good understanding of what needs to be done and when, to ensure we have a course that is fit for play all year round. It was great to attend the members meeting held at the club and it was really good to meet and chat to a number of members about the golf course. It was pleasing to learn that a lot of the concerns that were raised, mainly drainage issues, are already high on my agenda, and are ones that the club had already asked me to produce longer term plans and costings for.

The winter programme is slowly coming to an end and I am hoping we will now be able to get right into the thick of preparing the course for the coming season.

Greens

I am really pleased with the surface we have been able to produce through a difficult period. The conditions that stop players from being able to use trolleys cause us even bigger problems by hampering the use of any heavy and sometimes even light equipment. Our optimum greens performance moisture content is between 22-30%. Since the 1st Dec as a result of the wet weather we have been averaging 65%. We have had to pick our moments and time any work in accordance with the weather. The grass coverage we have is superb and that has helped us greatly through some high disease pressure periods and also in the fight against any moss infestation. Through constant light aeration, use of the Air2G2 machine and also a light micro hollow core we have not had any standing water on the greens at all, and greens that may have had problem areas in the past such as 17, 14, and 5 have all come through really well.

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The high thatch, or organic matter content as it is properly referred to, is still a big issue, but one that we will begin to deal with during the April renovations. In April we have 9 holes closed each week respectively from the beginning of the month. I know that this is into the start of the season but we must use the advantage of having 27 holes to ensure any work we do is carried out properly, and in the correct conditions.

We will be carrying out a process called Graden Sand Injection. This is a machine operated by hand that will tear into the organic matter content to the depth we need, and at the same time replace the removed material with sand. This is the best way of removing as much of the OM in one hit, while keeping the surface structure solid. I am confident that it will have an immediate impact on the firmness of the greens.  The Graden Sand Injection is a very labour intensive operation for a small team such as ours, and it will see us deposit over 95 tonnes of Mansfield MM45 sand into the greens surfaces. With this in mind and still having to maintain 18 other holes I have managed to secure a deal with an outside contractor who will carry out the work, assisted by myself and another member of our staff. This will be a huge help, and will ensure we can have the greens back into play for the respective weekends.  I will report back on the process and results next month, but if interested please feel free to come and have a look when we carry out the work.

The captains drive in will signal the beginning of the new season and with that the upgrade in quality that I believe Moor Allerton should be accustomed to. The new Pins, Flags and Cups will be on display for the season opener.

Tees

The tees have received a similar programme of aeration over the last few months and the middle 9 tees have been micro hollow cored to a depth of 2”. They were done as part of a trial using a machine I had on demonstration. The Toro 648 pedestrian aerator is a piece of equipment we will look to build into next year’s fleet upgrade plan. It will give us a lot more flexibility and allow us to carry out a number of aeration and coring practices in conditions that may not favour a tractor mounted piece of kit. This will also limit the weight and footprint put across the greens.

During the greens renovation weeks while the holes are closed the tees and approaches will be hollow cored and top dressed.

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Fairways / Semi Rough

It’s been great to finally get out and start some work on the fairways. We dropped the heights down on the 2 large rotary rough mowers we have for the 1st cut, and then this week Andy Ivel will begin to lay down the first set of stripes with the cylinder fairway mowers. Once those lines have been put in and set we will then cut the second stripe line in. We will be altering a few of the shapes and sizes on the fairways and approaches this year to enhance the character of certain holes but also bring the course more into line with how it was designed. This will generally see areas of semi rough running out to fairway bunker edges, and a number of new swales introduced to greens surrounds and approaches.

The fairways and semi rough will be fertilised with a 6 month slow release product in April. This year I will be raising the application rate and extending the fertiliser plan to the greens surrounds and tee – fairway carries in an attempt to improve the grass cover and quality throughout the playing areas.

Bunkers

The Bunkers have had a torrid winter but thankfully we had an opportunity last week to get in and pump any standing water out. This gave us a head start on drying them out, and this week we will go through weeding, hand raking and fixing sand depth levels where possible. As part of a larger project we have begun investigating some of the more problematic bunkers. As I now have use of a 1 and 3.5T excavator we have been able to install new bunker drains into the 7th right green side bunker and also the 18th right green side bunker. If these are successful I will look to chip away at the rest of the problem bunkers once we have the time.  It was clear when working on these bunkers that the current drainage just wasn’t big enough to cope with the size of the bunker, and also the level water.

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Projects / Construction

14th Green

As many of you know the 14th green was subject to some quite substantial damage during the floods in January. After a slow and interrupted start, mainly down to the weather and ground conditions, we were able to start the construction and redevelopment work a few weeks ago and I am very pleased with the progress been made so far.  Martin Crompton is a very experienced golf course landscaper and shaper and has worked all over the world on some of the best courses. He is leading the ground works, with the help of Jonathan Gaunt who is our consulting architect. It’s been an honour to have an input and to be able to work closely with Martin and Jonathan on hopefully what will be a fantastic face lift to the hole. The 14th green will be playable during the Captains drive in with access only from the right hand path. Please respect the traffic management, by all means have a look at what is going on but please refrain from walking on the un-turfed areas.

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5th Tee Area

After the work carried out to the 5th hole perimeter and exposing the fantastic stream and woodland area, it would have been a real shame to not try and get the top 5th tee back into play. One of the main reasons this tee was taken out of use was due to the safety of the access. Building the new path was something we aimed to look at next year but due to the team being ahead of schedule I set them the challenge of trying to get it ready for this season. The sub base and ground excavation has been completed, and 20T of road plaining has been delivered to level and firm the base. I am hoping to try and have it open for access ASAP, and then re-visit to sort out the aesthetics at a later date.

While doing this work the team have also re-constructed the bottom tee path so it is now safer and more usable.

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Tee Signs and Accessories

You may notice that we have started to move a number of things around on the tee areas. By putting ball washers and bins in certain spots we can make the cutting time of the tee areas a lot more efficient.  The bins will be replaced by solid green trash mates, and they will be fixed to the ball washer. These are a lot less unsightly and will stop litter escaping.

I believe the current tee signs we have are out dated and a large number of them are either damaged or have been patched up. I have put a proposal together to update them to a new 1st class design. I  have a number of members, local businesses and suppliers who have expressed an interest in sponsoring a particular hole, and funding the cost of a new sign before putting this to market. If anyone else would be interested in doing this, please send me an email to: Adam.Matthews@MAGC.co.uk

Here are the designs we are looking at.

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Future Work

Myself and the Greens committee identified a number of areas of the golf course that we believed through achievable immediate redevelopment would enhance our great course. I’d like to thank the club in backing us with these plans and I am pleased to say we now have a format of works that will be carried out as soon as the 14th reconstruction has finished. This will include:

  • Re-grading of the ditch that runs from the 9th Tee and in front of the 1st and 10th green.
  • Re-design of the 17th green area
  • Installation of a full lake/pond in front of the 27th green
  • Ground and Improvement works at the Driving Range and Side practice green area.

We will try and limit the disruption to play as much as we can during the above works, but I am hoping you will all agree that any slight interference will be worth it.

New Season

With the new season around the corner I am confident the months of planning will stand us in good stead for a successful and enjoyable year. I would like to thank James Whittaker yet again for his help in making my wishes and ideas for our department come to task. James has been fundamental in helping me provide the team with a uniform that they will be proud to wear, and that really sets the tone for the work we want to produce. It’s been refreshing working alongside James, and to feed off his passion to see Moor Allerton Golf Club keep on improving.

Lastly on behalf of myself and the greens staff I’d like to wish Warner, Marilynne, Howard and Reece a successful year in office, and all members a healthy and enjoyable golfing season.