Thursday, 2 June 2016

Course update

The cold dry weather has been limiting growth on the greens over the last few weeks and this has resulted in them looking very patchy as the difference between the fine grasses and the struggling meadow grass is emphasized.  Things are now warming up slowly and the heavy rain on the 31st of May (doubling the monthly total) will give us some growth to work with.

This winter’s very mild and wet winter has given the meadow grass a real boost which is unhelpful as our long term strategy is to minimise the percentage of this weed grass in the greens.  The fine grasses that dominate our greens give us the best chance of providing high quality playing surfaces all year round. We can’t afford to let the meadow grass get too much of a foothold and after this winter it is at historically high levels.  We will therefore be making a big effort to create conditions that favour the fine grasses over the coming months.  This primarily involves putting the weed grasses under mild drought stress, so expect the greens to continue slightly drier and firmer over the summer.

Our overall work programme will be very similar to previous years and as always is based on low inputs of fertiliser and water combined with over-seeding with fine grasses. 

Key elements of the greens maintenance programme include:
  • Maintain a height of cut of 5mm or above unless a slightly lower height is required for major events.  Rest the greens from mowing at least one day per week and more when they are under drought stress and growth is limited.  There is clear evidence to show that as cutting heights are reduced the chances of maintaining fine fescue grasses also reduces.
  •  Use nitrogen only fertilisers from acidifying sources at low rates.  We plan to increase slightly our application levels from previous years to maintain green health under the planned mild drought stress.  Timing of the main fertiliser applications will be from June to the end of July when the fescue grasses are at their strongest. 
  • Keeping the greens as dry as possible without stressing the fine grasses too much.  Irrigation will be applied to maintain a moisture content of circa 10% so that we maximise the time that the greens are under mild drought stress.
  •  Using groomers, brushes, verti-cuts and rollers just enough to maintain surface refinement but no more as any over use favours the meadow grass.
  • Top dressing every four to six weeks to maintain smooth surfaces
  • Regular aeration to maintain a free draining, uncompacted soil which encourages deep rooting and a healthy soil
  • Over-seeding to increase the percentage of fine modern grass cultivars in the greens

Green speed
Our strategy for maintaining all year target green speeds between 8 and 10ft for normal play centres on developing greens dominated by fine grasses that naturally provide higher speed and keeping the greens as dry as possible.  Many of the standard practices for increasing green speed such as lowering the height of cut and increasing the frequency of rolling, brushing and grooming are known to adversely affect the finer grasses – particularly the fescues which dominate at Aldeburgh.  We therefore have less short term ability to influence green conditions than other courses with non fescue greens, our conditions being reliant on excellent long term management techniques.  If we push too hard we will lose out in the long term.  As can be seen in the key elements of greens maintenance section above we are attempting to strike a very fine balance with many aspects of greens maintenance.

The mild winter gave clover in the fairways a real boost and this spring there was much more than we normally see.  As soon as the weather warmed up enough in May for good growth the fairways were sprayed with selective weed killer.  This has been very effective in knocking back the clover.

The mild winter has seen the formation of a dense base to much of the long rough contrary to our aim of maintaining wispy rough during the summer which is thin enough for golf balls to be found but challenging to play out of.  We are closely monitoring the position and some areas have already been cut as it was getting too thick. 

Last year the rough remained thin throughout the summer but this year it looks like we’ll have to cut the thickest areas when they get too dense and penal.  When we cut the rough we always remove the cuttings as this helps to thin out the sward by removing nutrients.

Our approaches are an area of weakness with too much coarse ryegrass which is unsightly and has a detrimental effect on playing quality.  This year we intend to focus on improving these areas through, over seeding, top dressing, aeration, verti-cutting and use of a selective herbicide called Rescue which controls ryegrass and Yorkshire fog.  We tried this product out on the 17th approach last year and it worked well.  The weed control work will take place in late summer and will result in temporary discolouration and thinning of the turf.

Gorse, bramble and bracken control

Over the last few weeks we have been spot spraying encroaching bramble and gorse.  This work will continue over the summer.  Later in the summer we will continue with bracken control work throughout the course and heathland.  

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