Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Course update

There's lots going on at the moment - not all of it good!

Work has been completed today on the construction of the 12th tee, as usual when a lorry load of turf turns up it starts to rain but we got the job done before the rain got very heavy.  The overseeding of the greens we did last month has been a great success with a really high germination rate, especially given that it was quite late in the season for this work.  Of course seasons aren't what they used to be and the first half of November has been incredibly mild with temperatures around 4° higher than average for the month.  The average is likely to drop later in the month but it looks likely that a few more weather records will fall.  We've already had the warmest November overnight temperature.
The first week of the month saw wet, humid and very warm weather with hardly any wind and this led to the first serious attack of fusarium patch disease on the greens for 17 years.  Many greenkeepers are reporting the worst disease outbreaks they've ever seen so we're not alone in facing this issue.  Once the weather conditions changed a little (drying winds and slightly cooler temperatures) the disease became less active and our naturally disease resistant turf is recovering.

Turfing the 12th tee

Germinating fescue seed
One of the worst patches of disease

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Overseeding greens

The second overseeding of the greens has been completed this week.  After overseeding the greens were rolled and top dressed.  The greens will settle back to normal in a few days.
As per the early September overseeding post:
'The fine fescue grasses we are introducing will help us develop a denser more fine leaved sward.  Modern grass cultivars bred for use in golf greens perform much better than the varieties that were used many years ago when our greens were constructed.  This is not a quick fix but a long term strategy for developing smoother truer and more robust putting greens'.

The overseeding machine on the 9th green

12th tee construction

Work is well under way on the construction of the new 12th tee.  The base has been raised, the irrigation pipes installed and we've started bringing in and levelling the topsoil.  The turf is due to be delivered in mid November and given reasonable growing weather in the spring the tee should be ready for play by early summer.

Levelling the subsoil base

Weather summary for September

There was a dry start, a wet middle and a dry end to the month, the total rainfall was 48.2mm with 33mm of this falling between the 13th and 18th of the month.  The 48.2mm total was a little over the 43.2mm average for September.  The temperature was 1° below average for the month at 14°.  The highest temperature recorded was 20.9° on the 12th and the lowest was 6.7° on the 26th. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Overseeding greens

We've just finished overseeding the greens with our new machine, which places the seed in shallow slits at the optimum depth for good germination.  The fine fescue grasses we are introducing will help us develop a denser more fine leaved sward.  Modern grass cultivars bred for use in golf greens perform much better than the varieties that were used many years ago when our greens were constructed.  This is not a quick fix but a long term strategy for developing smoother truer and more robust putting greens. 

The overseeding was followed by rolling to help restore surface levels and then top dressing.

The overseeder in action

Weather summary for August

Temperatures were close to normal with an average of 17.4° for the month, 0.1 degree cooler than July.  The highest temperature recorded was 25.1° on the 3rd and the lowest was 9.8° on the 17th.  Rainfall was higher than average with a total of 54.2mm, of this 13.8mm fell on the 18th.

One of our bunkers after heavy rain.  Getting all 100 bunkers back to normal afterwards is quite a task.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Craig Cameron

Craig is leaving us to take on a fabulous job as Head Greenkeeper at Golf Club St Leon-Rot in Germany. https://www.gc-slr.de/en/  The club has two 18 hole championship courses, a nine hole course and a children's course.  Craig will have a greenkeeping staff of 28 to manage the courses and machinery and facilities that most greenkeepers can only dream of.  The club is one of the very best in Germany and is hosting the Solheim cup in September, it has also been the venue for the German open four times.

Craig has worked extremely hard to reach this point in his career and thoroughly deserves this opportunity.  He's been a great asset to Aldeburgh Golf Club over the last six years and we'll miss him.  We wish him all the best and will follow his ongoing career with interest.

Here's a photo of the course - quite a contrast to Aldeburgh!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Weather summary for July

 July was a little warmer than the norm with an average temperature of  17.5°, the highest temperature was 28.9° on the 4th and lowest 9.2° on the 31st.  It was the wettest month of the year so far with a total of 61mm, well above the 45.9mm average for July.  Over half of the 61mm total fell over the weekend of the 24th / 26th.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Ragwort control

The annual ragwort pull is underway, we aim to remove it before the seed is set.  After many years of sustained effort there is far less ragwort on the course but it still takes a few days to remove most of it.

Danny and Shane pulling ragwort on the river course

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Drone photos

Craig has  been using his drone to take some great aerial photos and video of the course.  Here are a few examples and a link  https://youtu.be/JthA-Oy7KUE   to a short video.

4th Green

12th Green

17th Green

Craig and drone (Craig is the one on the right!)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Adder rescue

We found an adder on the river course this morning, tangled in some nylon netting.  Extricating it was quite a challenge as the adder was uncooperative but it was soon on its way. 

The adder - in a bit of bother
Removing the netting
Back in business

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Weather summary for June

 June was a dry month but with temperatures very close to average.  The total rainfall was only 16.2mm and 8.2mm of that fell in one day (actually about 10 minutes!) on the 5th.  There are only three drier Junes in our records, the driest of which was 1996 with 6.8mm. Our long term average for June rainfall is 44.5mm.  The average temperature was 15.1° which is close to normal, and the high and low temperatures were also very close to the long term average.  The highest temperature recorded was 25.2° on the 17th and the lowest 6.8° on the 1st.

Although there have been forecasts of very high temperatures in the south east of England we rarely see these extremes here on the coast.  Since we first got a weather station in 2000 we've never recorded a temperature over 30°.  We've got close, with highest being 29.8° in July 2006, the highest June temperature we've had is 27.3°

Just as the temperatures have picked up enough for strong grass growth we're into a drought, so the irrigation system is running at full capacity.   The system runs from 10pm through to around 7am at full tilt but hand watering is still essential to reach areas not covered by the automatic system and to top up high and dry spots

Andrew Scott hand watering high spots in the green surrounds
Pop up sprinklers in action on the 10th green

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wild Flower Walk

Last week we had a wild flower walk led by Susan Stone of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.  The dry acid grassland at Aldeburgh Golf Club supports a large number of wild flowers, many of them tiny and quite difficult to spot.  Susan has a sharp eye for these plants and often we would discover many species within a few metres.  We were given an insight into the adaptations that enable these plants to survive in the harsh heathland environment.

It's worth noting that the management work we do to create the whispy rough that provides a golfing challenge without large numbers of lost balls, also promotes the establishment of many wild flower species.

Many thanks to Susan for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon.

English Stonecrop
Bladder Campion

Friday, 12 June 2015

River course update

The reconstructed 3rd hole on the river course was opened for play today, a year and a half after the first tidal surge.  We've suffered a few setbacks during the construction process, not least the second tidal surge the night after we finished turfing!  Many of the pines in the block right of the fairway have been completely killed by the salt water but others, including the one next to the fairway are showing signs of recovery.

The first golfers to play the new 3rd green

A reminder of what it looked like in December 2013

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Weather summary for May

A very average May about sums it up.  The average temperature was 11.9° which is bang on the long term average for May, with a maximum of  23.1° on the 11th and a minimum of 2.6° on the 2nd.  The highest temperature for May was lower than the 23.9° we recorded on the 15th of April!  Rainfall was also very close to average with 44.6mm.  Grass growth is still slow but it's picking up.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Grass snake on the 6th green

A grass snake was spotted on the 6th green yesterday and adders are still being seen fairly regularly. The first Turtle doves of the summer have been heard and there are at least six singing male Nightingales present on the course.  The pair of Woodlark nesting right of the 11th fairway have successfully fledged young.  The warmer weather has brought out a few butterflies and Orange tip, Speckled  wood, Peacock, Small heath and Small copper were on the wing yesterday.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Weather summary for April

The dry spring continued with only 13.4mm of rain during April compared to the 36.4 average.  The temperature was slightly lower than average but as for March it felt even cooler because on most days there was significant wind chill.  The average temperature was 8.7°, more than 2° lower than last year, with a minimum of 1.8° on the 7th and a maximum of 23.9° on the 15th.  This is the highest maximum temperature we have recorded during April, the previous highest was 22.7° in 2011.  Over the last couple of weeks we have had several ground frosts including one this morning (1st May).  In terms of grass growth we're still about  five weeks behind 2014 but ahead of 2013.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Arthur Whiting

Arthur Whiting retires next week after 18 years working on the greenkeeping team.  There was a presentation in the clubhouse today to mark his retirement and many members gathered to thank him for his years of excellent service to the club.

Arthur is the sort of person that every manager wants on their team - always willing, quietly getting on with his work and getting on well with the rest of the team.

We all wish him a very happy retirement.

Arthur with his wife Monica at the presentation today flanked by the captain,  Mike Jones and Mark Broughton

Greens update

The Poa annua (Poa) in the greens is flowering at present and it will be evident to members that there is a higher percentage of this weed grass than in previous years.  The reasons for this are three fold:-
·         The last two winters have been mild and wet and these conditions are ideal for Poa, which is a winter annual that sets its seed in the spring, germinates in the autumn,  establishes over the winter before seeding again.

·         The summer of 2014 was wetter than average so we had few opportunities to dry out the greens.  Poa dies back under drought stress which is our main weapon against it.  Our inability to create such stress during the summer meant we came into 2015 with a higher than normal percentage of Poa in the greens.

·         The colder than average weather this spring has given the Poa the opportunity to get established with little competition from the slower growing fescue, which also starts growing later in the spring, and has given rise to the increased seeding we now see.

The photo on the left shows Poa annua with seed heads in amongst fescue on a green and the right photo is Poa annua under drought stress in apron turf.  The wiry grass that is still green in the right hand photo is the fescue that we want to be the dominant species

The importance of keeping a low percentage of Poa in the greens can’t be overemphasised as it is the fine Fescue and Bent grasses that give us the highest quality and most consistent year round putting surfaces.  Our entire maintenance programme is formed around encouraging the finer grasses and discouraging Poa.  Everything from height of cut and fertiliser programme to aeration has an impact but moisture levels in the soil are the strongest influence on the ability of Poa to get established and survive in our greens. 

The increased level of Poa currently present in the greens means we will be taking an aggressive approach to removing it through cycles of drying out whenever the weather permits.  During the drying cycles members may notice the greens being a little firmer than usual with the potential for loss of sward density as the Poa dies out.  Whilst we will monitor and control these cycles very carefully this essential action may have a short term negative impact on the quality of the putting surfaces.  However, it is necessary to prevent long term deterioration and maintain our reputation for high quality greens all year round. 

We are expecting delivery of a new over seeding machine next month and this will be used over the next few years to continue our programme of sowing high quality fescue cultivars into the greens.  Having our own machine will enable us to choose the optimum moment(s) during the year to undertake this over seeding rather than having to book a hire slot several months in advance in the hope that the weather conditions are optimal when it arrives.

As highlighted in the Course Development Plan increasing the percentage of modern fescue cultivars, which have far superior performance to the old varieties present in our greens, is a central part of our strategy for maintaining and improving green quality over the coming years.  These cultivars produce a denser, finer leaved turf which is more resistant to Poa ingress than the more open turf produced by the older cultivars.  As these modern cultivars fully establish the need to undertake aggressive drying out cycles, such as planned this year, will diminish which will also assist in maintaining high green standards going forward.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Wildlife walk

The ever popular annual wildlife walk took place this morning under cool and dull conditions. This year our leader was Steve Piotrowski - an independent environmental consultant who runs many bird identification courses for the British Trust for Ornithology and the Field Studies Council.  Steve did an excellent job of imparting his knowledge of birds, particularly given the wide range of abilities of those attending.  I think we all came away having learned something.  We saw or heard a total of 38 bird species which is a record for these walks.  This total is all the more impressive when we factor in the late arrival of birds such as whitethroat and willow warbler which we would normally expect to see on the course in late April.  The highlights of the walk were woodlark nesting on the course, several whimbrel on the set aside and a ring ouzel passing through (probably on its way to Scandinavia).  At least five nightingales were heard, two red deer were seen in the woodland and we had very good views of a fox making a hopeless attempt to catch up with a flying pheasant!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Whats about?

This is the best time of year to see many of the resident and migrant birds that are present on the course.  There are lots of singing linnets and yellowhammers establishing territories and at least two woodlark have been present.  The first of the spring migrants have arrived, chiffchaffs have been around for a couple of weeks and I heard my first blackcap on the 8th of April.  Little egrets are regularly seen on the river course, particularly by the new pond on the 4th.  I expect the first nightingales to start singing this week, most years we hear our first on either the 14th or 15th of April.

Some of the tiny wild flowers are taking advantage of this period before the larger plants and grasses get going.  

Whitlow grass
A tiny plant with flowers under 5mm across
Its latin name Erophila verna means fond of spring (erophila) and spring like (verna) - very springy!

Mossy stonecrop

Recent work on the course

The first top dressing was applied to the greens and tees during March as was the first fertiliser.  We use lawn sand fertiliser to start things off in the spring as it's fast acting and helps to control any moss that has got established over the winter.  The fairways were cut for the first time towards the end of March which contrasts with 2014 when they were cut in mid February.  Grass growth is picking up and over the next few weeks mowing will take up more and more of our time.  The shelter at the 5th tee was falling apart so it has been replaced.

Removing the old shelter

Craig and Shane constructing the new shelter

The end result

Weather summary for March

March was a dry month with a total of 19.5mm which is just over half the average.  The vast majority of this rain (16.6mm) fell in the last week so for the first 3/4 of the month we had drought conditions. The temperature was close to average at 6.8° but it felt much colder in the relentless winds.  The maximum temperature was 15.1° on the 28th and the minimum 1.1° on the 23rd.

Grass growth has been minimal in the first three months of the year,  We're about 5 weeks behind 2014 in growth potential but 3 weeks ahead of 2013.  (2014 was our warmest spring on record with 8.4° and 2013 our coldest with 2.9°.)  The monthly average temperature figure can mask big variations in grass growth potential.  When the daily average temperature remains below about 6° there is minimal grass growth but we can get the same monthly average with the daily temperatures hovering around 6° as we can during a month when temperatures fluctuate between cold and warm spells.  In the latter example we can get significant growth during the mild spells but in the first there is none.  On the 26th of March this year we had reached 43.6 points on our degree day model (A measure of grass growth potential),  in 2014 we had reached this level by the 14th of February and on the 26th March 2014 we had reached 135.7 points.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Tree work

Some tree surgery work was done on the river course pines today as some of them had dangerous hanging branches that had been broken by the winter storms.

Work in progress on one of the pines

Scrub clearance

We've cleared out the very untidy area of brambles, dead gorse and broom from behind the 5th medal tee.  Gorse has been transplanted to the area with the aim  of providing a good evergreen screen between the 5th tee and the 7th fairway within a few years.

Another area has been cleared right of the 16th green to open up a new route route to the 17th tee. The phenomenal rate at which the gorse can expand was evidenced by the fact that we found a junction box for the irrigation system in the middle of the cleared area.  17 years ago the area must have been open grassland for the large machinery that installed the pipes to get access.

Over the winter good progress has been made on the gorse coppicing programme with most of the work being done on holes 9 to 12.  Coppicing work has finished for this winter as the bird nesting season is upon us.

The photos below show the work behind the 5th tee
Before - Looking from the 7th

Before - Looking from the 5th medal tee

Planting the gorse
The finished job

Monday, 2 March 2015

Weather summary for February

We had 31mm of rain in February which is a little below average and the temperature was close to average with 4.6°.  Last year the February average was 7° which gave us significant grass growth but this year there has been none.  The maximum temperature was 10.8° on the 25th and the minimum was -1.8° on the 2nd.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Bunker renovation

Over the last few weeks we've been re-shaping the bases of some bunkers and at the same time removing stony subsoil that migrates to the surface and contaminates the sand.  We dig out the stony material (In some areas of the course the subsoil is more gravel than sand.) re-shape the base and put in a layer of stone free soil before topping up with sand.  When shaping the base, we aim for a bowl shape with the lowest point about two thirds back from the bunker face, so that most balls will roll away from the face.

Neil digging out stony subsoil on the 4th

Management of the rough

We're currently doing work on the rough grassland areas flail mowing and collecting the clippings. To get a clear idea of the purpose of this work it helps to think of it as nutrient removal rather than mowing.  By removing the clippings we reduce the nutrients available and this helps to develop finer grasses that thrive in impoverished soils.  The aim is to develop wispy rough that enables errant golf balls to be found and makes playing a shot more difficult but not too difficult.  Without intervention from mowing or grazing, the natural succession is from fine grasses to coarser grasses and then on to scrub followed by woodland.  Clipping removal enables us to replace coarse grass with fine grass where necessary and to reverse or halt this succession process.  In areas that already have fine rough cutting may only be required once every two to five years to maintain the current state but the coarsest areas on the course may be cut as often as twice per year.

The other important rough management task is the removal of invasive scrub and trees from the grassland.  We aim to maintain a balanced heathland mosaic and without the removal of seedling trees and shrubs we would soon have a woodland golf course.  This work is generally carried out during the winter months.

Whilst there are obvious benefits from this work in terms of playability and maintaining the heathland character of the course, there are also ecological benefits.  The sparser sward that develops enables wild flowers such as harebell, sorrel and large thyme (it's actually quite small)  to thrive. From an ecological standpoint the dry acid grassland that provides the ideal golfing rough is very desirable and improving this grassland is one of our targets within the environmental stewardship scheme we're participating in.

Flail mowing and collecting the clippings

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Weather summary for January

The unusual thing about the weather this January was that there was nothing very unusual about it!
In recent years we've become accustomed to such extremes of weather that an average month comes as quite a shock.  Rainfall was close to average with 51.6mm as was the mean temperature at 4.9°.
The lowest temperature recorded was -2.4° on the 20th and the highest was 14.6° on the 9th.

Monday, 26 January 2015

January course work

The main tasks we've been working on this month are

  • Verti-draining greens, tees and areas such as paths and worn parts of green surrounds.  This aeration work is probably the most essential winter renovation task as it alleviates the compacting effects of golf and vehicle traffic.
  • Gorse coppicing to rejuvenate old leggy gorse, mostly on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th holes.
  • Sapling cutting in the rough and gorse to prevent the course turning from heathland into woodland.  We remove large numbers of seedlings every winter and without this work the transition to woodland would be surprisingly rapid.
  • Topping up sand in the bunkers where it has blown or washed away.
  • Renovating the bunker left of the 3rd fairway.  (Don't worry - although it looks very deep at present, the final sand level will be similar to that before work started.  We're digging out deep because this area is very stony and we intend to put in a layer of clean soil to prevent stone being brought to the surface.)
Neil and Danny working on the 3rd bunker - some of the stony areas were so compact that a pick axe was needed to loosen it

Andrew and Shane topping up bunker sand

Trevor vertidraining

Monday, 5 January 2015

Weather summary for December

The temperature in December was a little above average at 6° (the average is 5.3°)The lowest temperature was -0.8° on the 30th and the highest 14° on the 18th.  After the wettest November on record December was also relatively wet with 59.7mm compared with the average of 50.7mm.  The total rainfall for the year was 654.7mm, making it the wettest year since 2001 when we had 750mm.  The 2014 rainfall total was nearly 300mm higher than that recorded in 2013!