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.  

Weather summary for January

January was colder than average and much colder than the last four years.  The average temperature was 4°, with a maximum of 10.3° on the 11th and a minimum of -2.7° on the 22nd.  Total rainfall was  a fairly low 31.6mm, the long term average is 46.6mm.  There were hard frosts on about half the mornings and on several occasions the ground remained frozen solid all day.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Development work

New irrigation pipes and control cables have been put in on the 2nd and 14th fairways to deal with the changes to the fairway lines on these holes.  The new 8th tee and 7th green surround area was turfed on Thursday.





Pipes going in on the 14th fairway

Turfing the 8th tee

Turfing the new hollow behind the 7th green

Happy turfers - Left to right, Danny, Shane, Trevor, Neil, Andrew, Jerry and Antony

Danny Perring


Our 1st assistant greenkeeper, Danny Perring is leaving to take on the job of Course Manager at Gorleston Golf Club.  Danny started work at Aldeburgh ten years ago as an apprentice greenkeeper and right from the start it was obvious he had great potential.  We wish him all the best in his new role .


Recent and ongoing work on the course

We've installed a new mat on the main course practice ground, plenty of gorse coppicing has been done recently and we're making good progress on the 8th and 1st tees.

The new mat on the practice ground

Cutting back gorse and bramble behind the 10th green

Stripping the turf from the 1st tee

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tidal surge update

Last night's tidal surge was close to the height of the one in December 2013.  There is flooding on the 3rd and 4th holes on the river course.  This will take a while to subside as all of the water has to drain out of a couple of flap valves in the river wall.  The water came close to the 4th green and covered most of the 3rd green for a while.

The 3rd island green


The 4th green

The view from the 3rd green

Caution - deep water!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Tidal surge

There was a tidal surge yesterday and the river over-topped the river wall but fortunately not enough to flood the river course.  The field left of the 3rd green was flooded to about 60cm.  There's another tidal surge expected tonight and I'll update this post if anything notable happens on or around the course.

View from the 3rd fairway early Thursday morning

Looking South from the 3rd green

View from the river wall looking back to the 3rd and 4th holes