Thursday, 4 May 2017

Weather summary for April

April was a very dry month with only 10.6mm of rainfall, most of it in the last week.  Our total rainfall for the year so far is only 89.7mm.  The average temperature for the month was 9.1°, exactly the same as March.  The highest temperature was 16.9° on the 9th and this was lower than the highs for March (18.3°) and February (17.5°).  The lowest temperature was -0.2° on the 27th, much lower than the March minimum of 2.8°.  Low night temperatures have a significant effect on grass growth and the cold dry winds at the end of the month have slowed grass growth right down.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dawn chorus walk

On Thursday 20th of April we had our annual dawn chorus walk, this year led by Steve Piotrowski. Despite it being a cold and grey morning we saw or heard a total of 40 bird species during the two hour walk.  The bird of the morning was an early Hobby, a summer migrant raptor which feeds on dragonflies and small birds.  We also saw two buzzards, four little egrets and good numbers of linnets. The full species list is below.  Many thanks to Steve for an interesting and entertaining morning.  An adder was seen basking, later in the day when the sun appeared.



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Easter foursomes course update.

Greens, tees, aprons, approaches, fairways and semi rough have been cut today and we're ready to go for the Easter weekend.  The new 1st and 6th tees will be in play and the 8th hole will be played from the championship tee.  The newly turfed area behind the 7th green is also in play.  All of the newly turfed areas are still quite delicate so please keep practice swings and traffic to a minimum.  Over the weekend the greens will be cut and rolled daily if weather conditions are suitable (frost is still a possibility).  We'll ease off on the rolling if green speeds get too high, they were 9ft 8in today with no roll and if it stays dry things could get silly!  There is rain forecast for Friday night which the course desperately needs as we've gone three weeks without any rain.  The holes will be changed on Friday, Saturday and Monday and the bunkers will be raked every morning.

Spring wildlife

A pair of mallard duck have nested by the pond on the 7th hole on the river course.  There were five ducklings present today and also a pair of teal and a pair of moorhens.  Teal is another first for the golf club to add to the green sandpiper seen a few weeks ago.  Very good numbers of linnet and yellowhammer are present on the course with at least two woodlark singing and several skylark present.  The number of summer migrant birds is increasing daily, blackcaps have been around for a week or two and our first nightingale of the year was heard yesterday.  Our first grass snake of the year was seen on the 15th of March.

Mallard

Teal
Green sandpiper

Grass snake

April course news

The mild march weather gave us some good grass growth to work with and most of the playing surfaces are quite advanced for the time of year.  Grass growth is about two weeks ahead of last year, a month ahead of 2015, about the same as 2014 and six weeks ahead of 2013.  The new tees on the 1st, 6th and 8th holes are growing in well and could be in play in a few weeks if the weather stays mild.  During March we top dressed the greens twice and the green surrounds once.  We’ve been topping up bunkers with sand and cutting fairway bunker banks and removing the cuttings.  As with rough cutting, removing the cuttings takes away nutrients and helps us to develop wispy rough.  Lots of brambles have been cut back around the course and this work will continue over the next few weeks.  Our programme of work to improve the green surrounds will continue over the next few weeks and throughout the season.  The first phase of this work was the application of a weed-killer that selectively kills ryegrass and other coarse grasses last Autumn.  In areas that had the highest percentage of coarse grass, particularly if they were areas prone to drought stress and wear, the gaps created by the loss of coarse grass will take a while to recover.  We’ve made some changes to the maintenance regime for the surrounds and approaches this year with the intention of improving turf quality.  We’re using a hand mower for the first cut around the greens and an old greens triple for mowing the surrounds and approaches, this will give us a better quality of cut and reduced wear.  Some more sprinklers have been fitted so that we can irrigate some of the weak areas of green surround and we intend to do more hand watering where the pop up sprinklers will not reach.  Weak areas will be over-seeded with a fine but hard wearing seed mix and more aeration and top dressing work will be done.


April work programme

Hopefully the warm spring weather will continue to provide good growing conditions but this is by no means guaranteed.  The average temperature for this March was higher than the April average for four of the last five years.  The frequency of mowing will increase for all areas as growth rates increase and the height of cut on the greens will be reduced from the winter height of 6mm to the summer height of 5mm.
The next top dressing of the greens will be after the ladies’ spring meeting.  Work on topping up bunker sand and cutting back brambles will continue and it’s likely that we will need to apply selective weed-killer to the fairways as clover appears over the next few weeks.


Twitter
A Twitter account has been started so that we can keep members up to date with course activity and anything of interest.  The user name is Greens_AGC.


Weather summary for March

The dry start to the year continued with only 25.5mm of rain in March, well below the 36.7mm average for the month.  The total rainfall for the year so far is 79mm.  It was the warmest March since we installed a weather station in 2000 with an average temperature of 9.1°.  This was warmer than the April average for four of the last five years.  The lowest temperature was 2.8° on the 7th and the highest was 18.3° on the 30th.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

March course news

We’re beginning to see a little grass growth but as always, this is very limited at this time of year.  We’re behind last year in growth potential terms but ahead of 2015 when growth was minimal in January and February.  The fairways have been cut for the first time this year and we’ve sprayed them with iron to control moss.  The first tee has been turfed and is rooting well and the 8th tee and 6th medal tee are well established and ready for a first top dressing.  Our aim is to get these tees in play as soon as possible but the weather over the next few weeks will dictate just how early this happens.  Three of our stonier bunkers have been dug out and lined with clean soil to prevent stones coming to the surface.  (Left of the 2nd fairway, 1st left on 16 and the big bunker left of the 17th green.)  Our original plan to turf the bare area on the 18th green didn’t work out because the turf on the putting green was breaking up when we cut it.  We’re using deep plugs from the putting green to renovate the area instead.


March work programme


The greens will be top dressed in the next suitable weather window and we’ll be doing what we can to encourage early grass growth.  Air and soil temperature are the main limiting factors for early season growth, so hopefully we’ll get a relatively mild spring this year.  Renovation of the green surrounds will continue with top dressing fertiliser and over-seeding.  Work will start on the extension of the putting green next week.  Over the next two or three weeks we’ll be having a bit of a blitz on bramble cutting.

Weather summary for February

February was relatively mild with an average temperature of 6.7°, well above the 5° long term average.  The maximum temperature was 17.5° on the 20th, the second warmest February day we've recorded, the highest was 18.1° in 2012.  The minimum temperature was 0.7° on the 11th.  Total rainfall was 23mm, well below the 36.2mm average for February.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Aeration

Aeration is a key part of our maintenance programme.  Jim Arthur, our STRI agronomist in the 1970s and 1980s stated that aeration was the most important aspect of turf management.

Why do we aerate?
Technically, when we aerate we are increasing the air content of the soil, by increasing the amount of pore space between soil particles.  The aeration work counteracts the compacting effects of foot traffic and maintenance machinery.  Every footstep and machinery pass pushes soil particles closer together, reducing pore space.  With increasing numbers of rounds being played (particularly winter golf.) and more intensive maintenance such as rolling, the need for aeration is greater now than it has ever been.

Roots at 20cm depth at the bottom of a core when changing holes, these roots have followed tine holes.

What are the benefits of aeration?
  • Improved drainage and soil porosity keeps the turf firm and dry, particularly after rainfall or irrigation.  (This has a double benefit as firm and dry soil is much less prone to compaction than wet soil.)
  • Deeper rooting and increased root mass
  • Improved drought resistance
  • Improved wear tolerance
  • Faster breakdown of thatch / lower organic matter content in the soil  (The organic matter content of the soil has a big impact on play-ability.  More organic matter leads to more foot-printing and pitch marks and the organic matter retains moisture leading to increased disease.  It is key to meeting our firmness targets which give us greens that reward a well struck shot.)
  • Less fertiliser is required and fertiliser is used by the plant more effectively
  • Reduced need for irrigation
  • Reduced dry patch
  • Reduced incidence of disease
  • Play during frost with reduced turf damage
  • Faster greens (Our greens are quicker when they are dry)
  • Well aerated soil is a healthy soil where the whole soil biology is in balance
  • Healthier turf with a higher percentage of fine grasses and less moss and weed growth

What happens if we don't do enough aeration?

All of the bullet points listed above as benefits of aeration are turned around.  Compaction increases leading to impeded drainage and softer surfaces that are even more prone to compaction.  The weed grass Poa annua gains a big advantage in compacted soils and the finer fescue and bent grasses struggle to survive.  Ultimately we would end up with soft, thatchy, bumpy, slow and disease prone greens and the need for temporary greens and even course closure in winter.

The disadvantages of compacted soil can be clearly seen on areas of the course subject to concentrated traffic.  In these areas the finer grasses do not thrive and the sward is dominated by Poa annua and Ryegrass.


Our aeration programme

Although we have the advantage of soil that is sandy and naturally well drained, we still need to do aeration work to maintain the soil in that state and prevent the deterioration that would be inevitable without it.  There are examples locally of golf courses on equally well drained soil with greens that are soft in winter and where foot-printing and deep pitch-marks are a real issue.  At Aldeburgh the aeration work we do is not remedial work to solve problems as it is at many clubs.  We aim to at least maintain and if possible improve on where we are now.  There is nothing new about this, we have STRI agronomists reports dating back to the 70s that recommend frequent (up to weekly!) aeration work on the greens.  A common thread that runs through the reports and advice of all of the agronomists visiting Aldeburgh over the last 40 years is the need for an effective aeration programme.

The majority of our aeration work is done during the winter months and we aim to alternate between deep and shallow aeration.  Summer aeration is also beneficial and we fit it into the work programme if we can but with a full fixture list it can be difficult to balance short term disturbance with our long term goals.  We aim to aerate five or six times over the winter (October to April) and at least twice during the Summer.  If levels of play continue to increasing and more frequent mowing and rolling become the norm we will have to increase the amount of aeration work we do.

Shallow aeration with the Procore 864
This time with chisel tines but we can fit solid round tines or hollow core tines

Deep fairway aeration with the Terra spike

Summary

Aeration work has been a fundamental part of the maintenance programme at Aldeburgh Golf Club for over 40 years.  It gives us the well drained, firm conditions that set Aldeburgh apart from many clubs.  It is essential for promoting healthy soil, a healthy, fine grass dominated sward and better playing surfaces all year round.

Monday, 6 February 2017

February course news

The 8th tee alterations and the new hollow behind the 7th green have been turfed and good progress has been made on the 1st tee.  With favourable weather the 1st tee should be ready for turfing in a couple of weeks.  Some changes have been made to the fairway irrigation on the 2nd and 14th fairways.  In both cases the line of the fairway has been altered and the pipes and sprinklers needed to be moved to match.  Work has started on installing irrigation in the area between the clubhouse and the 1st tee.  This is an area of high wear and without irrigation, we’ve struggled to keep good grass cover.  Although the very cold, frosty period in January slowed progress on the construction projects, we were able to make good progress on gorse coppicing.  We also did a bit of work cutting back encroaching gorse and breaking up large stands of gorse, particularly where bramble was taking over.  There has also been good progress on woodland management where a substantial block has been thinned. 


February work programme

We’re a little behind with our aeration programme due to the hard frosts we’ve recently experienced, so we’ll be intensifying both deep and shallow solid tine aeration.  Deep aeration of the fairways will start and we hope to do shallow tining of the greens during the next week, with deeper aeration later in the month.  We aim to have the 1st tee levelled and turfed by the end of February and the re-turfing of the damaged area on the 18th green will be done over the next couple of weeks.  We may dig out one or two of the stony bunkers and put in a base layer of clean soil, to prevent stone coming to the surface.