Monday, 9 December 2013

River course flooding update

Water levels have subsided over the weekend but the 3rd green is still being covered at high tide.  The river course is now open but a temporary green is in play on the 3rd.  The river wall has been breached in several places and it seems likely, given the extent of damage, that repairs will take some time.  We're hoping to get more information from the environment agency over the next few days.

Here are some photos taken today of a couple of the holes in the river wall.  They were taken a little before low tide and the water is flowing from the marshes out into the river Alde. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

River course flooding

Parts of the river course were flooded during the storm surge last night and as the river wall was breached in a couple of places, water levels were rising again this afternoon.  The river course is closed until the water levels drop.  There is likely to be some damage to the turf but the severity will depend on how long the areas remain flooded, the salinity of the water and how much silt and other debris has been deposited.

The 3rd green

The 7th tee and the pond, which is rather larger than usual!
Trevor starting the clear up

The 6th green and fairway, looking towards the 8th
The 6th green

The 4th green with the debris left at high tide

The 3rd green and fairway with Hazlewood marshes in the background
Looking towards the 6th from the 9th: at its height the water reached across the 8th fairway

A rather lethargic Adder was woken from hibernation by the flood

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Practice ground development

Work is in progress on extending the chipping green, creating some humps and hollows and building a new, deeper bunker.  On the river course the old practice bunker has been filled in and a new one is being built out of the firing line from the soon to be constructed tee.

The chipping green extension and new bunker,ready for topsoil

The river course practice bunker

Craig on the mini digger and Neil shaping the banks

Monday, 2 December 2013

Weather summary for November

35.2 mm of rain fell in November, well below the 50.5mm average for the month.  It was also a little colder than average at 7.2 degrees compared with the long term average of 8.1.  The highest temperature recorded was 14.4 degrees on the 6th and the lowest was -1 on the 20th.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pitch mark repair

Although pitch marks on the greens are not a major problem at Aldeburgh due to the firm nature of the putting surfaces it's still worthwhile learning how to repair them properly.   Click the link below for an excellent video on pitch mark repair created by the STRI.

USA trip

Last week I was privileged to attend the rather grandly titled John Deere Golf Global Leadership Summit in Florida.  Course Managers and Superintendents from high end golf clubs on both sides of the Atlantic were invited to discuss a variety of topics including
  • Measuring greens quality
  • Major golf event management
  • The challenges of operating a prestigious golf facility
  • Equipment trends and technical needs
  • Golf course construction and renovation 
About twenty course managers from Europe and a similar number from north America attended and many big name clubs were represented.  Spending a few days in the company of Course Managers from clubs including Augusta, TPC Sawgrass, Kiawah, Atlanta Athletic Club, Royal Aberdeen, St Enedoc, Queenwood and Royal Blackheath was a marvellous experience.

The event also included the John Deere Ryder cup where teams of sixteen greenkeepers from Europe and north America competed.  Europe lost 3.5 to 4.5 but it was a fantastic occasion played in a great spirit.  We played golf on three courses, Plantation Bay near Daytona, the stadium course at TPC Sawgrass and the Valley course at TPC Sawgrass over which the Ryder cup match was played.

Warming up for the big match on the amazing practice facilities

 Assessing the effects of various operations such as mowing, grooming and rolling on greens quality                        Measured with the STRI trueness meter

The 11th on the stadium course

The iconic 17th

The 18th on the stadium course
One of the jobs of the greenkeeping team is dealing with the alligators when they get too large
I learned how to catch one but I'm hoping never to have the opportunity to put this knowledge into practice!

Monday, 4 November 2013

October weather summary

The average figures for the last 30 years show October as the wettest month and this year we had 63mm, by far the wettest of the year so far.  It was the first month this year with higher than average rainfall but well short of our October record of 130mm in 2000.  The total for the year is still only 299mm.  It was also warmer than average at 13 degrees compared with the long term average of 11.9.  October was only slightly cooler than June this year which averaged 13.6.  We recorded a high of 20.9 degrees on the 8th and a low of 4.1 on the 30th. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Stormy weather

The high winds on Monday brought down many trees on the course and in the woodland. (Up to 67.8 mph was recorded at Slaughden)  The clearing up will take a few weeks.

Here is a selection of photos

Several poplars down on golf lane

Behind the 2nd green on the river course

Jerry Jones making a start on the clearance work
The pump house right of the 9th, several other trees were brought down in this copse

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

October rainfall

We're half way through the month and it's already the wettest of the year with 36.2mm so far!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Verti-draining greens

We've just started Verti-draining the greens on the river course.  This work will be completed in a couple of days and later this week we'll start on the main course.

Aeration is a vitally important aspect of our management regime enabling us to maintain firm dry surfaces all year round.  It counteracts the compacting effects of foot traffic and machinery.

Although aeration has a short term detrimental effect on the playing surfaces - particularly greens, there are many benefits.
  • It improves the air content of the soil creating healthy growing conditions
  • Root mass and depth is increased
  • Drainage is improved and surface penetration of rainfall and irrigation is faster
  • Drought resistance is increased
  • Thatch accumulation is reduced
We aim to Verti-drain the greens every four to six weeks throughout the winter and spring.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Weather summary for August and September

The average temperature for August was 18 degrees, the second warmest on our records.  The highest temperature recorded was 25.8 and the lowest 10.3.  The total rainfall was 22.6mm which is less than half the average for August.
September was close to average temperature wise at 14.5 degrees with a high of 26.2 and a low of 6.5.  There was 34mm of rainfall, which kept the trend going of every month this year having below average rainfall.
The total rainfall so far this year is 235mm so unless the remainder of the year is incredibly wet it looks like we're going to have another sub 400mm year.
The four driest years on record (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011 were all under 400mm) have fallen in the last seven years.  2011 was the driest with only 298mm. 
Our average annual rainfall is 546mm and the wettest year on record is 2001 with 750mm.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Grass snake on the 7th fairway

Views of grass snakes are usually brief but today one decided to cross the 7th fairway around midday.  Most of the ones that we see are fairly small but this one was about 80cm long.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


It was misty and damp this morning and large areas of the gorse and long grass were covered in amazing cobwebs.

Monday, 16 September 2013


We're over seeding the greens this week to get more of the fine fescue grasses established.  The greens will be hollow cored first, followed by over seeding and top dressing.  The work will take a few days as the hollow coring and clearing up afterwards is a slow process.  Our aim is to keep all of the greens in play and minimise the impact on members. 

Danny top dressing the 16th green

Thursday, 22 August 2013

White-letter Hairstreak

A White-letter Hairstreak was seen on the 7th tee on Tuesday.  This butterfly is uncommon nowadays because the caterpillars feed exclusively on elm trees which were decimated in the 1970s. 

White-letter Hairstreak

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Will Law

Will Law is leaving us at the end of this month to start a new job as Deputy Head Groundsman at Ipswich Town Football Club.  Will has made a great contribution to the greenkeeping team over the last two and a half years and we'll miss him.  The move to a supervisory role is an excellent career development and we wish him all the best in his new job and for the rest of his career.

Monday, 12 August 2013


We've made an early start on the over-seeding in the hope that with good growth we'll be able to over-seed again before the end of the season.  The slit seeder used in the spring was too aggressive for our greens, with the lines still visible in some places, so we're trying a different method this time.  After hollow coring, top dressing and seed is spread on the greens and the sand and seed is brushed into the holes.  The hollow tine holes act as little pots for the seed to germinate in.

Jerry hollow coreing and Will blowing the cores into heaps for collection

Danny top dressing

Monday, 5 August 2013

Bunker work

We lost a lot of sand from the bunkers during the very dry and windy spell in July so we're topping up at present.  When adding sand to the bunkers we aim for a relatively thin layer a few centimetres deep so that it firms up quickly and reduces the number of plugged lies.

Andrew topping up sand
The thunder storm last Friday washed out the sand from many of the bunker faces and edges.  Sorting out 101 bunkers that look like the one pictured below is quite a daunting task.

Friday, 2 August 2013


The river course irrigation system was upgraded last Winter and some new areas had sprinklers installed on the main course.  On the river course irrigation was installed on some of the approaches and on the main course we are now able to irrigate some green surrounds and walkways.

For once we have had an early return on our investment as the photographs below illustrate.  On the 8th fairway on the river course there is a stark contrast between the irrigated and  non-irrigated areas and on the paths to and from the 5th tee the contrast is even greater. 

River course 8th fairway and approach

Path from 4th green to 5th tee (irrigated)
Path from 5th tee to fairway (not irrigated)

Greens update

Members will have noticed the small pock marks/bare areas present in the greens.  These are due to the die back of the grass species Poa annua during the recent dry spell.  We dried the greens out deliberately to achieve this but the exceptionally hot weather resulted in an abrupt loss of Poa plants, whilst we would have preferred a more gradual die back.  In the long term the loss of Poa is, however, essential for maintaining our green quality.

We aim to keep the percentage of Poa annua in the greens as low as possible as it is the fine Fescue and Bent grasses that give us the highest quality and most consistent putting surfaces.  Our entire maintenance programme is formed around encouraging the finer grasses and discouraging Poa annua.  Everything from height of cut and fertiliser programme to aeration has an impact but moisture levels in the soil strongly influence the ability of Poa annua to get established and survive in our greens. 
The summer of 2012 was very wet so we had no opportunities to undertake our usual annual exercise of drying out the greens and putting the Poa annua under stress.  Consequently we came into 2013 with a higher than normal percentage of Poa in the greens and the very cold weather from March to May this year gave the Poa a further opportunity to spread with little competition from the slower growing fescue.  With more Poa present the evidence of the die back that we have achieved is therefore much more visible this year.
The importance of keeping a low percentage of Poa in the greens can’t be overemphasised.  As long as we have just a few per cent Poa, we can be quite aggressive in the measures we take to keep it from increasing.  With an increased percentage it is more difficult to remove as the impact on greens quality is greater as we are currently experiencing.  Keeping Fescue dominated greens with a very low percentage of Poa is fundamental to maintaining high quality putting surfaces all year round.

We will promote more grass growth than usual over the next couple of weeks and top dress again to fill in the gaps as quickly as possible. 
Our usual annual over seeding of greens is programmed for the week starting Monday 21st August.  We will hollow core followed by top dressing and over seeding.  The seed we are using is pure Fescue and the modern cultivars have far superior performance to the old varieties present in our greens. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Weather summary for July

July was very dry with only 11.8mm of rainfall, about a quarter of the 46.9mm average for this month.  The average temperature was 17.7 degrees with a high of 27.5 on the 24th and a low of 11.2 on the 15th.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Gorse coppicing

The photos below are of the same gorse plant, the first was taken on the 8th of May and the second on the 31st of July.  By the end of the season the growth will be 50cm high.  Not all of the stumps recover at this rate but the vast majority do.  Recovery is often slowest from stumps of gorse that hasn't been coppiced for many years.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Wild flowers

It's worth looking out for some very nice wild flowers that are present in the rough and on bunker banks at the moment.  Typically they are quite small and inconspicuous but they're well worth a closer look.

Some examples are pictured below.

Biting stonecrop

A spectacular display left of the 6th tee

Sheeps-Bit (blue) and Lady's Bedstraw (yellow)
Various parts of the course but left of the 8th on the river course is a good spot

Green speed

The greens were running at around 13ft on the stimpmeter yesterday, these were the highest stimpmeter readings we've ever measured.  Whilst putting on greens this fast has some novelty value, it probably represents the limit of playability for contoured greens like ours.  The high green speeds we've had recently have happened as a result of drying out fescue dominated greens not because we're chasing speed.  We're taking opportunities to dry the greens out this year to put the Poa annua under stress and when our greens are dry they are fast.  The height of cut on greens is still 5mm and we reduce the cutting frequency when the greens are dry.

As a general rule we don't alter our day to day maintenance work to attain a particular green speed apart from when we have a major tournament.  We do have targets of 8 to 10ft for regular play and 10 to 11ft for tournaments but these are used to help us formulate long term maintenance plans rather than dictate daily work.  Well drained greens with a high percentage of fine fescue grasses enable us to meet our targets consistently throughout the year.

The greens were irrigated last night and this morning the stimpmeter reading is around 9ft in slightly drizzly conditions.  This demonstrates the significant influence that moisture levels have on green speed at Aldeburgh.

Danny measuring green speed
Down to a more manageable 9ft today

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Rough cutting

We're cutting a few sections of rough where the grass has grown particularly long and dense.  We use a flail mower that collects the cuttings, as over a few years removing the cuttings creates thinner, more wispy rough.  Later in the season we may cut larger areas with the machine but this depends on how the rough develops over the next few weeks.

Monday, 1 July 2013

7th green overseeding

We started hollow coring the 7th green this morning with the intention of top dressing and over seeding into the holes.  The machine broke down just after the photograph below was taken, so the work will be completed in a couple of days once the required parts have arrived and been fitted.

Weather summary for June

June was much drier than usual with 21.4mm of rain compared with the 45.7mm average, 8.4mm of the total for the month fell in one day on the 15th.  The temperature was lower than the average for June at 13.6 degrees compared with 14.9 degrees.  The highest temperature was 26.5 degrees on the 30th with a low of 6.1 degrees on the 3rd.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

What's about?

Now the weather has finally warmed up a bit there are a few butterflies on the wing.  Green Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Common Blue, Small Heath, Large White and Small White have all been seen this week.

Green Hairstreak
Inconspicuous as it spends a lot of time perched but look in sunny sheltered areas

Small Heath
Rough grassland

Speckled Wood
Woodland rides and woodland edge