Tuesday, 6 June 2017

June course news

May started out cool and very dry, giving slow growth and green speeds around 10ft.  Later in the month it was warm and wet which gave us a strong boost to growth which was much needed but slowed the greens down to about 8ft  We equalled our warmest average temperature for May (13.4 degrees) and rainfall was well above average (59.9mm) with almost all of the rain falling in the second half of the month.  The greens were top dressed and later in the month we took advantage of the strong growth to do some surface refinement on the greens through brushing and grooming to lift and mow off lateral growth.  The Poa annua seeding has now finished and this has also boosted smoothness and trueness.  The putting green extension was finished off and the turf is already rooting strongly.  As the summer progresses we will top dress it frequently and gradually reduce the height of cut but it won’t be cut at greens height until next year.  Selective weed-killer was applied to the greens and most of the fairways and work has started on spot spraying bramble and encroaching gorse.

During June we will finish off selective weed-killer applications to the fairways and continue with spot treatment of gorse and bramble.  Both of these tasks are weather dependent and require dry conditions and light winds.  Top dressing of greens is scheduled for the week of the 26th weather permitting.  Top dressing is a very important part of the greens maintenance programme.  It is our main tool for smoothing out putting surfaces and is vital for keeping the greens firm and preventing organic matter build up (thatch) at the turf surface.  We aim to spread a total of 100 tonnes of sandy top dressing (Fendress 90/10) on the greens each year over six to eight dressings.  

Weather summary for May

May was a month of two halves as they say.  The first half was cool and very dry with only 3mm of rain up to the 16th.  The second half was very warm for May and very wet, bringing the rainfall total to 59.9mm for the month, well above average.  The average temperature matched our previous record high of 13.4° recorded in 2011.  The highest temperature was 23.7° on the 27th and the lowest was 4° on the 10th.  So after six weeks of slow growth in April and early May the grass has been growing frantically for the last three weeks.  This is great for recovery from winter wear and tear but not so good for green speed.  Hopefully the boom or bust weather patterns we're experiencing will settle down soon.

Recent wildlife sightings

Young tawny owl in watering forest

Adder - quite a big one

Little egret on the river course 4th

Skylark - good numbers of these nesting on the course this year

Turtle dove - an increasingly rare sight

May course news

After a good growing month in March we’re back to normal with cold, dry easterly and northerly winds putting the brakes on grass growth.  This weather pattern is forecast to continue into next week, with the possibility of some very welcome rain at the end of the week.  The flowering of annual meadow grass in the greens and other areas is at its peak at present but this should reduce over the next few weeks.  The new tees on the 1st, 6th and 8th holes are coming on nicely, they’ve just been top dressed again and we’ll bring them into play in the next week or so.  The greens were top dressed again last week bringing the total number of dressings for the year to three.  The next top dressing is planned for the week beginning Monday 15th May.  Top dressing is our main tool for smoothing out the putting surfaces.  Once we come out of the current drought (only 89mm in the first four months of the year and only 10.6mm in April) we’ll apply selective weed-killer to the fairways.  We’ll also start the annual task of spraying encroaching gorse and bramble seedlings.  Later in May we’ll do some renovation work on the green surrounds, this will consist of hollow coring followed by over-seeding and top dressing.  The extension to the putting green is nearing completion and the turf will be delivered on the 23rd of May.  

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.


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.

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.