Monday, 22 December 2014


There are a total of 85 bunkers over the 2 courses, with 68 on the Medal and 17 on the Broomfield course.
 This winter we plan to rebuild 25 of the bunkers.They are being rebuilt because their faces are starting to deteriorate and would likely collapse next season if they were left in their current condition. The fairly mild weather that we have experienced so far this winter has helped and we are already well underway with this bunker building programme. 
 Shown below are photographs of some of the bunker work that has been undertaken so far.
6th Medal hole
The right hand greenside bunker before the rebuild.

The new revetted face is finished and the relaying of the surrounding turf almost complete. Ricky Watt can be seen using the blower to keep the site tidy.

 Ricky putting in the base layer.

14th Medal hole

The two right hand greenside bunkers, one with the face already rebuilt the other in the process of being dug out.

Steve Doig and Gary Tough working on the second greenside bunker.
Steve and Gary getting there .

 Trying to get finished before they come off on their Christmas holidays.

16th Medal hole

Digging out the old face of the left hand bunker.

Liam Scott and Jamie Beedie building the wall.

Jamie our apprentice greenkeeper getting stuck in.

Liam and Jamie continuing to build the wall up.

Les Rae,
First Assistant, 
Montrose Golf Links Limited.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


The bunkers on the golf courses usually have to rebuilt  every 4 - 5 years but this is dependant on where the bunker is and how often it is used. Some of the lesser used bunkers may well last longer whilst those in constant use might have to be rebuilt sooner. The traditional method of constructing a links bunkers is to build a revetted face using turf sods in a brick wall like fashion. The angle of the face is dependant on whether it is a fairway or a greenside bunker, with the fairway bunkers faces not as steep as those of greenside ones. It takes 2 men about 3 - 4 days to re-build an average size bunker from start to finish but this depends on whether any major re-contouring work around the bunker is required.
 Anyone who has been out on the links recently will have no doubt seen a number of bunkers that have already been rebuilt or others that are still work in progress.

A brief step by step guide on how we build our bunkers can be seen below.

Left hand fairway bunker - 18th Medal course

The first step is to cut the turf around the bunker using a petrol turf cutter,  this turf is then lifted and kept for relaying at the end.  The old revetted wall is then dug out by hand. At this time, if it is felt that the walk in is too difficult to get in and out of, we will try and lower the ground leading in, as shown in the photo above.

Once the old face has been removed, the base of the bunker is levelled and firmed by foot. The first row of turf is then laid down to the desired shape and size. Turf being prepared for the second row can be seen around the outside of the bunker. Each turf is cut to roughly 2 feet in length by 6 inches wide. The joints between each row of turf is staggered from that of the row below to ensure the wall is strong and stable. 

Each row that is added has to be back-filled with soil and firmed up. It is very important to take time to do this properly as this is what is going to help support the turf wall. Each row is set back 2-3 inches from the previous row to achieve the desired angle. 

As the face progresses checks are made to ensure that the angle of the wall is straight. Because the face of the bunker increases in height from the back to the front, tapers are made at the ends of each row to ensure that the top edge of the face rises gently and evenly.

Because of issues with balls plugging near the face of bunkers, we have recently started to lay a base layer of upside down turf inside the inner edge of the bunker face ( shown in the above photo ). We curve these turves to create a bowl shape.  Previously we used to just build up sand around the bottom of the face to achieve this desired shape but this excess sand was causing  balls to plug. We now cover this base layer with about 2 inches of sand which reduces the chances of balls plugging up near the face.  Initial indications are positive and the problem seems to be diminishing.

Once all the building work is complete, the area around the bunker is finished off with soil, contoured and re-turfed. The face is cleaned up with the use of a blower, and the turfed areas top dressed with sand to fill in any small gaps.

The finished bunker will remain out of play until the start of the new season when it will be topped up with fresh sand and raked into shape.

Les Rae,
First Assistant,
Montrose Golf Links Limited.

Friday, 12 December 2014


Out with old and in with the new.
Our old Wiedenmann.
Our old Widenmann in the process of being loaded onto the trailer and taken away.  This 14  year old machine has served the Golf Courses well but a replacement machine was well overdue. For the last few years more and more costly repairs have had to be undertaken just to keep it running.
Our new Wiedenmann.
The new Wiedenmann Terra Spike GXi8 HD  being put through its paces. 2  representatives, one from Widenmann uk and the other from Fairways, the local dealership, visited us when we took delivery of the machine. They took time to explain all the operational  features and demonstrated the machine to ensure that we were familiar with this updated model. 

Group photo.
A number of the Greenkeeping Staff together with the Fairways  representative pictured with the new Wiedenmann Terra Spike.

In the coming weeks, weather permitting, the Wiedenmann will be seen out working on the Courses. It is a very important piece of machinery as it helps relieves  the compaction that has occurred during the playing season. The holes created by the tines, which can go down as much as 9 inches in depth, also allow surface water to drain away more quickly helping to keep the surface firmer while theses holes also encourage stronger and deeper root growth.

Les Rae,
First Assistant,
Montrose Golf Links.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Scurdie Ness Lighthouse.
A view of Scurdie Ness Lighthouse with Montrose beach in the foreground. The photo was taken from the 3rd Medal Tee.
 Together with Montrose steeple the lighthouse provide the main visual features when entering the town. Built by engineers David and Thomas Stevenson it was first lit 1870. During the second world war it was painted black and in 1987 it was automated. On a clear day from the top you can see as far as North Berwick (about 50 miles Away ).

 This month I will explain why large numbers of Pink feeted Geese either stop off or stay for the winter at Montrose. I have also included a number of other photographs of life that has been spotted on the golf courses this month.

Pink Footed Geese

 Every morning at this time of year, just as daylight comes in, large skenes of geese can be seen taking off from Montrose Basin and heading out to graze in the surrounding fields. Good views of the skenes can be viewed from the golf courses as they head north . As dusk begins to fall they return to the basin where they spend the night.


A skene of Pink Footed Geese.
The Pink Footed geese are only found at Montrose over the autumn and winter months. They start to arrive in September flying in from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland 2,250km away.
The geese are attracted to Montrose basin because of the safety of the roost site together with the ample feeding grounds on the surrounding land. Some spend the whole winter at Montrose, while others travel further south, some reaching as far as Norfolk and Suffolk.
 The reserve staff together with volunteers undertake counts to determine the number of geese present. On the 19th of October, just under 79,000 were counted which was the largest amount ever recorded.
A view over the basin to Montrose and the North Sea beyond.
The photograph above shows the basin with Montrose in the background and the North sea out in the distance. The golf courses are situated on a narrow strip of land between the town and the sea. As this picture shows Montrose itself sits very close to sea level and is surrounded by water on 3 sides. The basin reserve itself is home to wide variety of wildlife, this is due to the numerous different zones including fresh, sea and brackish water, mud,  marshland, reed beds and unmanaged arable land.

Montrose Basin visitor centre sign.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre is an excellent place to spend a few hours if you are in the area. It is full of information and items related to the reserve and the surrounding area. The glass fronted building affords great views of the basin and the Angus countryside beyond.  A good range of binoculars,  telescopes and books are provided to help view and identify the wildlife. There is also a well stocked shop with wildlife related items for sale.  Hot and cold drinks are also available. 
 There are also a number of smaller hides situated around the reserve which allow you to obtain a more close up view of life on the basin.
The winter opening hours for the visitor centre are:
1st Nov - 28th Feb
Fri, Sat and Sun.
10.30am - 4pm.


Other photographs of interest taken on the golf courses this month can be seen below.


Common Buzzard.

Common Buzzard.
This large bird of prey has been a frequent visitor to the golf course over the last few weeks. It has mostly been spotted at the north end of the course where it can be seen looking for worms on the fairways. Although during the summer these birds don't come onto the courses as often they can still be seen gliding high in the sky on thermals during hot spells of weather. I believe that they nest to the north of the courses in the Kinaber conifer plantations.

Grey Heron.

Grey Heron.
This striking bird is an occasional visitor to the golf courses. This single bird landed at the burn on the Broomfield course where it spent some time searching the water for prey, probably small fish and frogs of which the burn has plenty.

The large areas of gorse around the two courses provide good cover and numerous nesting sites for this common bird

Mucilago Crustacea.
Although not classed as fungus this unusual slime mould is studied by mycologists. A large number of these slime moulds could be seen in the rough grassland over the links during the last week of November . Its not something that I have come across before and has probably flourished due to the un-seasonably mild weather that we have experienced through November. It has the rather unpleasant common name of Dogs Vomit slime mould.
Next month I will highlight another Nature Reserve that can be seen from the Medal course together with any other pictures of wildlife etc that I have photographed on the courses during December.

Les Rae,
First Assistant,
Montrose Golf Links Limited.

Monday, 10 November 2014


This morning Solid Tining was started on the Medal Course using our John Deere Aer Core.  Pencil tines were used to make holes at a depth of 2.5 inches.  Hopefully this will resolve the issues we had recently with flooded greens after heavy rainfall.  Rain water should now drain better through the soil profile after this work is completed.

Greens on both courses will be solid tined and rolling will take place to smooth out the putting surfaces.  Work will be planned to cause minimal disruption to golfers.  

Sunday, 2 November 2014


A photo of a mist shrouded Broomfield course looking over towards the town with Montrose steeple in the background, this was taken from the 4th Medal tee early one morning at the start of October.  
This month I will highlight some of the life that can be seen on the golf courses that aren't always so welcome.


Young Rabbit.
The rabbit shown above may look cute but the damage that they can cause to the golf courses is considerable, especially when their numbers become out of control. They seem to love nothing better than to make a small scrape then move on to make another and then another!! They also love digging holes in the majority of the bunkers on a nightly basis. Although they never seem to make scrapes on the greens they do nibble these areas down to well below our cutting height , which compromises the smoothness and trueness of the putting surfaces.

Rabbit burrow.
The burrows that the rabbits make are normally within the cover of the many gorse bushes, but they often make them out in the open too, as pictured above. They are not only unsightly but also become trip hazards to both golfers and the general public alike. 

Adult Crane fly.
More commonly known as the Daddy - Longlegs, the adult crane fly are normally seen around September when they emerge from their pupal case. They mate immediately and lay between 200 -300 eggs per female insect. The eggs hatch out into larvae known as leatherjackets in about 14 days, and these larvae remain in the soil and turf for about 9 months. Eventually the larvae go into pupal stage where they remain for 9 -10 days and then when the pupa is ready it works it way out of the ground.
It is the leatherjacket that causes the damage both directly and indirectly. By spring they will have grown considerably in size and can eat the grass roots to such an extent that the grass dies back. Secondary damage can be caused by birds such as crows and starling ripping up the turf searching for the larvae.
Empty pupal case.
It is quite common to see the brown sheaths of the empty pupal cases sticking out of the turf after an emergence of a flight of crane fly. This year the a great number of these empty sheaths could be seen around the links,  this was especially noticeable on the broomfield fairways.

Britain has around 25 types of earthworm, although not all occur in turf areas. The fine fescue grasses that we try to promote favour a sandy soil with a PH that is slightly acidic. The majority of earthworms cannot tolerate these conditions, so we have a smaller population than you are likely to find on inland parkland courses. Of the 25 types of worm only 3 regularly produce casts.

Worm casts.
It is these casts that can cause the problems. When casting is heavy the material is unsightly; causes  uneven greens  and forms a muddy moisture retentive playing surface. These damp conditions can increase the likelihood of turf diseases such as fusarium taking a hold. The casts themselves also provide an ideal seed bed for weed seeds such as daisies to germinate.
However earthworms are also beneficial to the soil profile. Their tunnels create important routes for water and air movement through the soil, increasing the effectiveness of aeration, drainage and irrigation.  They also help to break down organic matter which would otherwise be likely turn into thatch. Thatch is the term given to the build up of dead organic material which can normally be found just below the base of the grass plant. Thatch build up can cause soft, water retentive greens, which in turn can encourage outbreaks of turf diseases all of which will detract from the playability of the greens.

The definition of a weed is "a plant growing in the wrong place". Many of the wild flowers that can be seen in the rough etc would be classed as a weed if they found their way onto the main playing surfaces. Pictured below are some of the more common weeds that are likely to be found on these playing surfaces.
One of the most recognisable weeds, daisy seed will geminate easily in worm casts and any other bare areas within the turf. Any that are found on the greens are weeded by hand.

Autumn Hawkbit.
This weed forms rosettes which can get a hold on the greens if left to do so. Again these are removed by hand if found in these areas. It is widespread on the links.

Another well known weed which can thrive on the links. They are most likely to be found on the tee banks or on the fairways.

Clover can become a major problem on all areas of the golf course. It can spread quickly and are most prominent in dry conditions and when nitrogen levels are low, this is when the bright green patches stand out from the pale grass.

We try to limit the use of chemicals on the golf courses for both financial and environmental reasons. However we do hire in a contractor to spray  the fairways when it is deemed necessary. For any of the smaller areas we either spray it out our self or if possible weed by hand. 

Pictured below is a selection of other photographs that I have taken this month.

Following on from last months pictures of fungi a few more species have been spotted around the courses this month.
Fly Agaric.

Fly Agaric.
The Fly Agaric is probably one of the most recognisable of all the mushrooms. The 2 pictured above were growing under the pine trees between the 10th and 11th holes of the Broomfield course. The Fly Agaric is a hallucinogen and considered poisonous. They normally grow together, sometimes in large groups, in woodland  re-appearing in the same location year after year. 
Blackening Waxcap.
Commonly known as the Blackening Waxcap, this very variable grassland mushroom is one of several species whose caps turn black with age. It can be distinguished from other similar Waxcaps by its long lasting fruitbodies which, once mature, turn jet black all over and can remain standing for many weeks.

Spiny Puffball.
A member of the Puffball family, these mushrooms can be seen in various locations on the links. This particular one was photographed just to the left of the 5th Medal green.

Shaggy Ink Cap.
The Shaggy Inkcap can often be seen growing in small groups. It is not a common sight on the links. The Inkcap pictured above was just one of a small group growing near our organic waste dump, up behind the 4th Medal fairway.

Yellow Brain Fungus.
Yellow Brain Fungus grows on dead wood. In the picture above it is growing on dead gorse branches, however it is not the dead wood that it feeds on, but that of Crust Fungi that themselves have been feeding on the wood. Yellow Brain must therefore be classed as a parasitic species.

The Waxcaps include some of the most spectacular gilled fungi but they are sensitive to pollution and nutrients. As a result, they usually disappear in land that is treated with chemicals or fertiliser. Large areas of the golf courses are low in nutrient and are left untreated making it ideal for this species of fungi to grow.  There is a large number of different varieties of Waxcaps making it very hard to identify one from another. 

Meadow Coral.
This coral fungus is common in unimproved grassland. In long grass the fruitbody is often tall and sparsely branching, however in close cropped turf, such as shown in the photo, it is nearly always more coral like.


The three photographs shown below of a Snow Bunting  were taken beside the 6th Medal fairway. It is the first time that I have seen one of these birds on the golf courses at Montrose.The single bird first appeared on the 20th of October and could still be seen around the 6th and 7th holes of the Medal course, where it stayed for over a week.

Snow buntings breed in upland areas of Scotland, although in very small numbers estimated to be around 50 pairs.

Over winter, Scotland receives around 250 - 500 Snow buntings from Norway, Sweden and Eastern Greenland. In addition Scotland also receives the Icelandic sub-species and in some years many thousands can appear. Most will winter in the north but some will migrate further south to England.

In winter they inhabit sparsely vegetated landscapes especially coastal dune land. They can be seen , if you are luck enough, from September to April with numbers peaking between October and November.

Next month I will highlight one of the best and most dramatic displays of bird life that can be viewed in Britain at this time of year and fortunately for us it happens over the skies of Montrose.

Les Rae,
First Assistant, 
Montrose Golf Links Limited.