My name is John Watson and I have been Head Greenkeeper at Downfield GC since March 2012
I am a keen golfer and like football and motorsport

John continues to make Downfield golf course the envy of all around. 

February 2019


After a mild end to 2018 winter has finally hit us with snow and freezing temperatures meaning we need to put our big coats on now.
The course has been closed recently due to the snow and ice but the greenkeeper’s have been busy carrying out various tasks such as servicing machinery, painting the course furniture and doing some tree management.


With the mild end to the year our greens were hit with some disease (fusarium) the worst affected being the 3rd and 6th. Usually when we see disease outbreaks we would spray a contact fungicide but over the last couple of years the most effective contact fungicides have been withdrawn from the amenity market meaning we have to look at a more preventative, cultural and biological approach. This can be done by controlling nutritional inputs, keeping the plant drier by removing dew or spraying a dew dispersant and creating a better environment around the green to allow sun light and greater air flow in. We have crown raised and thinned out the trees surrounding the 3rd hole to give us this better growing environment and hopefully reduce disease outbreaks and create a healthier sward.

With the wetter weather in December we noticed that the 10th green was holding water more than the others so we made the decision to spike the green with 12mm solid tines then hollow core with 12mm tines then apply sand.
With the busy season ahead we are planning on not doing any coring works in August.
The aeration works will take place before the season starts and will consist of solid tining the surface with 12mm tines to a depth of 200mm then hollow coring with 12mm tines to a depth of 75mm. Once the surface has been cleared of debris we will apply 4 tons of kiln dried sand per green to fill the holes. These works are essential and the weather is key to them being a success. If we have a cold spring the recovery will be a little slower than we would like but it means the greens should be excellent all summer.

Bunker Renovation

The bunker to the left hand side of the 5th green has been filled in and made into a swail. The positioning of the bunker was more relevant to the old green and for a bunker of that size it was never really in play unless there was a tight left pin so we made the decision to fill it in and create a different type of hazard
This is the left hand bunker at 6. We have taken the front face off, re-shaped it, raised the base up and installed a drain in the centre. The surrounding areas will be shaped once the ground conditions allow us to work them.
This is the right hand side bunker at 6 which has been re positioned to make the walkway bigger, the front face lowered, the base raised and surrounding areas contoured so everything rolls into the bunker. We have put a sump at the wet area to the back of the bunker and will turf some of the path to the right of the bunker making it smaller.

Other works

During the adverse weather we have been crown raising trees and thinning selected areas around the course to improve sunlight and air flow. It is also more aesthetically pleasing and means if you hit your ball in the trees you will have more chance of finding it and actually having a shot.
The trees that we have been taking out have been getting cut up and split into logs for us to sell in the future
All of our machinery has been serviced and checked over ready for the start of the season.

Planned works

Spike and hollow core greens
Hollow core tees and aprons (depending on the weather)
Finish preparing the bunkers at the 6th and re turf them
Flymo and edge all bunkers

The Greens Team

Greens Blog - July 2018

We seem to have gone from one extreme to the other with the weather with it being one of the coldest/wettest winters to the warmest/driest summers we have ever had! I think most of you will agree that they will take a harsh winter if you were guaranteed a summer like we have had!
The good weather does bring its problems on the course with us having to do all the watering manually as the electrical side of the irrigation system is beyond repair. The greenkeepers have been working around the clock watering to minimise disruption to play and maximise water usage.
I have recently managed to get some second hand sprinklers from a local club so we are in the process of replacing the old impact drive heads on the tees and aprons so please be patient while these works are taking place.  


The greens have held up pretty well throughout the dry spell as we have sprinklers on every green. The coverage of the sprinklers is not great so there are a few areas that have dried out slightly mainly where trees are close to greens and the roots are going under them and where the drain lines were installed a number of years ago. These areas have been getting hand watered with a wetting agent to help retain moisture and boost recovery. If they don’t recover well enough any bare areas will be plugged out or brae seeded.During the dry spell the weaker grasses such as Poa Annua are struggling as they are shallow rooted meaning they don’t get as much moisture as the bent grasses which have deeper roots. This can make the surfaces look patchy and a little bumpy. Once the normal British summer returns and we get good growth we will top dress them and they will be running superb again.We are planning on starting our aeration works to greens on the evening of Sunday the 5th of August and if everything goes to plan we will have them all deep tined, hollow cored and sanded within a couple of days but it is all weather dependant. We have chosen to do these essential maintenance works in August as the growing conditions are more favourable than in September or October meaning the recovery will be a lot quicker

Course Maintenance

This dry spell has really slowed down the growth meaning we are only cutting fairways, tees and aprons once a week. We have had to reduce cutting frequency and raise the height of cut up on these areas to stop them burning up and reduce the stress on the plant.
The roughs are being cut once a fortnight.
The ponds and ditch have been flymoed
Bunkers have been getting raked regularly but haven’t been great as the sand has been so dry its hard to keep it up the bunker faces and the stones have been coming through. We can pick all the stones out of a bunker one day then go back to it the next day and it have loads more in! Really these bunkers need dug out and a liner installed but that is very costly.

8th Hole

The feedback on the new medal tee has been great and is not far from being maintained the same way as the other tees.
The fairway was sand banded in the winter to help with drainage but these lines have dried out meaning cracks have opened up. Once we get some rain it will recover and hopefully work a treat.
In the mean time the fairway is preferred lies.

Other works

We have soiled up the side of the new road but have yet to seed it as there has been no rain. This will be seeded once the weather conditions are suitable.
A reminder to members that there are passing places on the road and not to drive on the grass!
The strip on the practice area where we took turf from in the winter has been rovated by Hamish Brown and will be prepared and seeded once the weather is suitable.


Some of you may have seen the fairway mower being towed in from the 14th fairway recently, this was an expensive break down resulting in us having to install a whole new planetary drive assembly on the front axle. Other than a couple of broken hydraulic hoses the machine seems to be running fine now.
The reduced cutting on the course means there is less pressure on the machinery so it has just been regular servicing and sharpening mainly.
With it being so dusty and hot we need to make sure the radiators are blown out regularly and coolant levels checked or the machines will overheat

We are sure everything you have read sums up what has been happening on the course and behind the scenes since our last blog.

The Greens Team

Greens Blog - March 2018

Greenkeepers blog
March 2018

Hello and welcome to our latest blog. Firstly, We would like to thank everyone for their positive feedback on our first blog of the year in January, it seemed to be very popular. There isn’t too much to report this month due to the awful weather we have been experiencing but hopefully this will keep you up to date with what has been going on and what we have planned before the start of the season.


Unfortunately, the weather throughout February was very cold and it has not really improved going in to March with heavy snow falling at the start of the month . This meant a compete shut down for 2 weeks where there was no golf played and very little work being carried out on the course! We do however have freshly painted maintenance sheds and course furniture!


On the 14th of March we cut greens at 5.5mm, rolled them and sprayed them with Iron , calcium, premium K and ascophite. This tank mix of nutrients will keep the plant healthy, toughen it up through the harsh weather and help with disease prevention.
There are a few visible disease scars on the greens but they have been sprayed with a fungicide so are no longer active. Once we get some growth these scars will grow out.
We are planning on doing some light aeration work to the greens once we get our new spiker and the weather allows us to do the works. This will involve deep pencil tining them and then sanding with kiln dried sand.

Woodland management

We have been continuing with our woodland management plan over the last month. Most of our work taking place on the right of the 15th and right of the 16th holes. We have been removing all the self-seeded trees that are not going to mature where they have grown. We have also spent some of our time crown raising the branches on the edge of the woodland. Hopefully this will mean the branches will not interfere with golfers playing shots and hopefully it will give a clearer view of where your ball lands should you happen to hit a wayward shot in that area. Within this area logs and stumps have also been getting removed to tidy it up.

8th tee

Since January we have made good progress with the 8th tee despite the terrible weather conditions. The tee is now shaped and all the necessary drainage and irrigation has been installed. We have now reached the stage where filling the tee with soil is nearly complete and the next stage will be to prepare the area ready for turffing. We have to say a big thank you to Hamish Brown for helping us with this task. Hamish has used his 3cx digger to move a large amount of the soil while digging the tee. A massive thank you also to Jock Peebles who continues to help us out with all kinds of digger operations. He has been a great help to us while building the new tee. Fingers crossed for good weather, so we can get the final stages completed.

Other works

We have been busy updating all our risk assessments and coshh assessments, making sure they are all up to date with the current legislation. This will be on going for a number of months as we are basically starting from scratch and modernising our whole management system.

Course Etiquette

During the recent frosty weather, it has highlighted an area that needs to be addressed. We are seeing a number of trolley marks on the tees! Can we please ask members to keep trolleys and buggy’s off the teeing areas as this is only good etiquette. It’s your golf course and you as members are responsible to keep it in good condition as much as anyone else. This also includes repairing pitch marks - if you repair your own pitch mark and maybe one other every green you will be keeping the course in good condition for you and your fellow golfers.

Any other news

We have had a new member of staff join our team. We would like to welcome Chris Scott to the team, Chris previously worked at Dullater and Blairgowrie Golf Club. We wish him all the best in his new role as Assistant Greenkeeper. If you see him about on the course be sure to say hello.

For anyone who may be interested there is a new magazine which should be available in the club house. This magazine gives you a very good insight into the life of a greenkeeper. I would urge all members to give it a read next time you’re in the clubhouse. The magazine is called Your Course and is full of great information.

We are sure everything you have read sums up what has been happening on the course and behind the scenes since our last blog.

The Greens Team

January 2018


Hello and welcome to our fresh new blog for 2018. We have decided to bring our blog back this year as I feel it’s a good way for the greenkeeping department to let you know what’s going on around the course. Hopefully the blog will also explain the reasoning behind our tasks and will help to better educate the golfers and possibly reduce the number of moans and groans that we are receiving. Our intention is to release a new blog once a month and try to include as much information as we can on what’s been happening on the golf course.


As you will all be aware we have experienced a bad run of weather in the last few months. I think the last time the full course was open would have been around about the end of November. The forecast for the next few weeks is not looking much better. We understand it can be frustrating for you as golfers to either be playing on winter greens or not being able to play at all due to course closure, but spare a thought for the greenkeepers too as we have several jobs which need to be done but unfortunately can’t due to the weather. It’s very frustrating to say the least.


Since the greens have not been played on since November not many of you will have noticed the disease marks on the greens called fusarium patch. This disease can be sprayed out with a fungicide. We have known about this problem since the middle of December but unfortunately, we have not had the right ground or weather conditions to be able to spray them. Fortunately, the weather allowed and on Monday 15th of January we were able to spray the fungicide. Winter greens also got a small feed to help them along.

Winter greens

Throughout the winter you may have noticed that the winter greens are now getting a little worn. Due to these greens being smaller they are not really designed for as much play as they have been getting in the recent months. Changing the hole on these greens can be difficult due to the stony ground and carrying out this job could cause damage to our hole changing equipment. As golfers we have to be thankful that winter greens is an option as this still allows us to play golf when the ground conditions are not at their best.
Sand banding on 8th fairway

At the end of last year, we were lucky enough to get a trial of a sand master from the Fairmont in St. Andrews. This machine is used to put deep slits about 6 inches into the ground, it then fills the slit with sand and this is what’s called secondary drainage. This is to link up to our main drainage system that was put in a few years. As we only had this machine for a short time we trialled it on 8th fairway to see how it works as this can be one of the wetter fairways on the course. In its present state it looks quite rough, but it will soon be rolled down to become a smoother surface. I am hopeful by the summer we will see the benefits of this operation.
Forestry management

During the winter you may have noticed we have been doing a lot of work in the trees. Hopefully you will see a big difference in the woods to the right of 17th and 18th holes where we have removed all the self-seeding trees which would never have matured in the areas they were growing. We have also cleared any scrub that was there which has now opened the whole area up to let vital air and light into key play areas of the golf course. Wind and light are vital to good quality turf. At this time the area may not be looking its best but by end of the year when the grass grows, and the leaves appear back on the trees it will be looking much better. This should improve the turf quality in areas which may have been weak in previous years.
We have also been doing a lot of tree work to the left of the 5th hole and to the back of the green at 5. This has been done for the same reasons as explained previously - to let the precious wind and light in to the playing surfaces and to generally make the place look a lot tidier.
The team have been doing a lot of crown raising on several areas of the course to make ease of play better. This will also prevent machines from being damaged by low branches.
8th tee

The reconstruction of the 8th tee has been started but unfortunately this is taking longer than we would have liked it too due to the recent weather conditions. The first phase of this process was removing the turf which has almost been completed. We are hopeful we can start to make some progress on this task in the next few weeks as we know the start of the season will be here very soon.

Other works

With all the bad weather we have been experiencing recently our team have taken the opportunity to upgrade the maintenance facility. We have installed new LED low cost lighting, new heaters in the drying rooms and freshly painted the workshop, toilets, canteen and office to brighten the place up. Tee markers have also started to be painted.
Course Closures

You’ll all be aware that with recent weather the course has been closed numerous times in recent months and the all too common saying that can be heard from golfers is “we have played in worse than that before”. Unfortunately living in a world where health and safety has taking over almost everything and developed the now blame culture where if someone falls the first thing they think about is who can they claim money off rather than the old school it was my own stupid fault?? I am quite sure that most of you would manage to go out and play no problem in bad conditions, but it only takes one person to fall and sustain an injury and the club could be looking at a claim against them it’s a horrible society to be in nowadays but that’s the reality of it. So now we have to protect you as golfers and ourselves as greenkeepers. So, we are not closing the course for the sake of it, it all comes down to SAFETY.

Any other news

We have had some changes in the greenkeeping team over the last year. We welcomed Chris Hunter to the team as a mechanic/greenkeeper. Chris has a great knowledge of car mechanics and previously worked as a landscaper, he joined the team in March last year and has fitted in well with the team. Ryan Queen one of our assistant greenkeepers has left us for pastures new so we wish him all the best in his new venture. We are currently advertising for new staff to join our team.

Hopefully I have managed to cover most things that have been happening on and off the course in the last few months and that the blog gives you some insight into some of the tasks we as greenkeepers have been carrying out. Fingers crossed for better weather and I hope we will be able to start making some more progress on the course.

David Cooper
Deputy Head Greenkeeper
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