Thursday, 8 December 2016

6th medal tee

The 6th medal tee has been levelled off and enlarged a little.  The turf was delivered this morning and the tee is finished apart from a bit of tidying up around the edges.  We'll transplant some gorse into the area behind the tee to provide an evergreen screen that will hide the house beyond the boundary fence.

Finishing off the soil levelling
Laying the turf today

December course news

November was much colder than average so grass growth has slowed right down and mowing frequency has reduced.  The average green speed for the month was 8ft 9in, the same as October.  In the areas of greens surround treated with Rescue, some of the bare areas have been turfed with plugs from the 8th medal tee which is due for renovation.  Recovery from Rescue treatment of greens has been excellent on the river course and 7th green on the main course, good on the 8th and a little disappointing on the 11th.  White lines and hoops have been put out, to keep trolley traffic away from areas where heavy use would wear out the turf.  Members can help us to get the course through the winter in the best possible condition, by keeping trolleys well away from greens and especially any weak or renovated areas.  Please bear in mind that winter play has a much greater impact on course condition than summer golf as the turf isn’t growing enough to recover and the soil is moist and more prone to compaction. 

Course maintenance highlights during November
·         The winter aeration programme continued with shallow chisel tines on the greens
·         Renovation work continued on aprons and approaches
·         Some more cut and collect rough mowing was done
·         The 6th medal tee was re-constructed to improve levels and enlarge it a little.  Gorse will be transplanted to the area behind the tee to provide an evergreen screen.

Work programme for December

Work has started on rebuilding the 8th white and yellow tees and a hollow behind the 7th green to tie in with the new tee bank.  Once the turf has been stripped from the work area all players will need to take the route to the left of the green.  A temporary tee mat has been installed for use during the construction period.  Gorse coppicing and trimming will continue, particularly if we get more cold and frosty weather.  A practice mat will be installed at the back of the main course practice ground.  Work may also start on digging out the base of stony bunkers and lining them with clean soil.

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.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Weather summary for November

This year November was one of the coldest we've recorded.  The average temperature was 6.9°, quite a contrast with the 10.3 average in 2015.  The lowest temperature was -3.7° on the 29th, this was the lowest November temperature we've recorded since we first got a weather station in 2000.  The warmest day was the 15th when the temperature rose to 15°.  There was 75.6mm of rain, which is well above the 51.6mm average.  We've already had more frosts this winter than we had in the entire winter last year.

Thursday, 3 November 2016


We're now on Twitter
We'll use the twitter feed to keep you updated about what's happening on the course including;

  • Course closure
  • Course conditions such as hard frost
  • Work such as top dressing or aeration
  • Anything unusual or notable
Follow us on the following link


The first aeration of the greens this winter has just been completed, we used our Verti-drain which can penetrate up to 30cm into the soil.  We usually alternate between deep aeration with the Verti-drain and shallower but more closely spaced tining.  Aeration helps us maintain a healthy well drained soil with deep rooted fine grasses.  It is essential for the production of high quality playing surfaces all year round.

Verti-draining the 12th green

STRI visit

On the 18th of October we had our annual visit from Alistair Beggs our STRI agronomist.  We looked at many areas of the course but the emphasis is on greens.  Alistair brings some sophisticated tools so that we can objectively measure various aspects of green performance.  As usual our greens performed very well on smoothness, trueness and firmness.  Other factors affecting green performance, such as soil moisture and organic matter percentages at various depths in the soil profile are also measured.  The STRI now has a very extensive database of results from hundreds of golf courses all over the country and abroad and this data enables us to make objective comparisons of our performance.  The report is viewable on the members area of the website and there's a copy in the clubhouse.

Antony and Danny measuring green speed (It was windy so we were using the plastic tunnel for accuracy)

Nigel Robson measuring the firmness of the greens using a Clegg hammer

Alistair measuring trueness and smoothness 

Weather summary for October

Temperatures were close to average  at 11.8° with a high of 18.4° on the 3rd and a low of 5.4° on the 31st.  There was 57.6mm of rain, which is just above average, most of the rain fell early in the month and there was no rain after the 21st.

Heather management

We've cut the area of heather on the 13th carry.  This rejuvenates the heather and prevents it from becoming leggy.  It also provides us with seed rich brashings, that we can spread on other areas of the course.

Cutting the heather and collecting the brash and seed

Danny spreading brashings on the 12th carry

Renovation of green surrounds

Following on from treatment of the green surrounds to remove coarse grass, we've been renovating these areas to introduce fescue and bentgrass seed.  All of the surrounds were hollow cored and this was followed by overseeding and top dressing.  The seed has just started to come through so some of the areas with least grass cover will be hooped off to enable the seed to thrive.

Shane hollow coring

Danny, Neil and Antony collecting the cores
These were used for renovating pathways

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Weather summary for September

Another warm and dry month, making three on the trot.  July was the warmest we've recorded, August matched the previous high and so did September.  All three months had well below average rainfall and the September total was 28mm, well short of the 43.3mm average for the month.  Of the 28mm total, 22mm fell in one go on the 16th and 17th so a lot of this would have been lost to drainage and run off.  The average temperature was 17.9°, equaling the previous high for September recorded in 2006.  The highest temperature recorded was 26.3° on the 13th and the lowest 4.6° on the 26th

Friday, 7 October 2016

October course news

In early September we over-seeded the greens with high quality cultivars of fescue and bent grass.  Our aim is to increase the percentage of these grasses in our greens as they are capable of producing a much finer and denser putting surface than older cultivars.  The new 3rd green on the river course is a good example of what we’re striving for, as it was constructed with 100% fescue turf.  After over-seeding the greens required regular irrigation to enable the seed to germinate and to keep the new seedlings alive.  As a consequence of increased irrigation and other work such as top dressing to restore surface levels after the over-seeding the greens were much slower for the first couple of weeks of September and this dropped the average for the month to 8ft 1in - quite a contrast with the 10ft 9in average for August.  Once the new seed established, irrigation was stopped and the green speed increased to 9ft as they dried out.  Todays speed (6th Oct) is 9ft 8in and as it’s windy we’ve used a plastic tunnel to get more accurate readings.  Wind has a net slowing effect on stimpmeter readings even though the reading is an average of two rolls in opposite directions.  This was well illustrated today as on the exposed 14th there was a 10in difference in the speed with and without wind protection but on the sheltered 18th there was no difference.

A selective weed-killer (Rescue) that knocks out coarse Ryegrass and Yorkshire Fog in turf was applied to the immediate green surrounds and a few metres of the approach to the greens.  Coarse grass in these areas has been a long standing issue and we’re committed to improving this area of weakness.  The impact on the coarse grasses has been good and although many areas look patchy at present, they have been over-seeded and new finer grasses should fill in the gaps.  Getting  rid of the coarse grass completely will probably take several years but in subsequent years the impact will not be as great as for this first application. 

We’ve also undertaken another trial of using Rescue on the main course greens.  Theoretically this should be an excellent product for us, enabling us to bring about significant improvements to the greens by removing the coarser grasses.  Unfortunately, in practice things are a little more difficult.  Rescue can also have a strong negative impact on Highland bent, an old grass cultivar that makes up a significant percentage of our greens.  Although our greens would be improved in the long term by replacing Highland bent with modern cultivars the negative impact on the greens by removing it in one go would be considerable.  For this trial we’ve given the greens a little more fertiliser and water than normal, as other golf clubs have found that this reduces the impact on Highland.  It’s too early to tell how successful this has been but the early signs are good.

Course maintenance highlights during September
o   The greens over-seeding was very successful with very obvious lines of new seedlings coming through.
o   The first couple of weeks after seeding were very dry so regular irrigation was needed to encourage germination and keep the new seedlings alive.
o   The greens were top dressed twice, first immediately after seeding and then two weeks later
o   Topping up bunkers with sand continued
o   Rescue was sprayed on green surrounds and approaches to remove coarse grass
o   Rescue was applied to the river course greens, the 7th green on the main course and parts of the 8th and 11th greens.
o   Bracken spraying with Asulox continued
o   Gorse and bramble in the rough was sprayed with selective weed-killer.

Work programme for October
Renovation work to the areas of green surrounds and approaches treated with Rescue will include hollow coring, over-seeding and top dressing towards the end of the month.  Selective weed killer will be applied to some of the fairways, and work will continue on spraying encroaching gorse and bramble.
The final top dressing of the greens this year is scheduled for the week beginning the 24th October.
The programme of regular aeration work will start and this will continue throughout the winter and spring.  This aeration using deep tines alternating with shallower but more closely spaced tines is vital to combat the compaction caused by players and machinery. 

Our winter work programme will commence at the end of the month.  This winter rebuilding the 1st and 8th tees and levelling the 6th tee are the main priorities, together with the replacement of sprinklers on 2 or 3 holes.  We are also extending the irrigation system on the 2nd and 14th fairways to reflect the current playing lines and alongside the putting green/club house to improve conditions in this heavily trafficked area. 

STRI Inspection

The Clubs agronomist are due to carry out their annual visit to the course on 18th October.  This provides us with excellent impartial feedback on the condition of the course versus their huge database of courses across the UK including the Open Championship venues.  They also provide invaluable advice in connection with the ongoing maintenance and improvement regimes.  Their report will be available in the Club House and on the web site in due course.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Renovation work

It's three weeks since we over-seeded the greens and the results have been spectacularly good.  Lines of fine fescue seedlings are clearly visible on all of the greens particularly when the sun is low in the mornings and evenings.  For the first two weeks after seeding we kept the moisture level in the greens a little higher than our usual target to enable the new seedlings to germinate and get established.  The higher moisture level combined with high temperatures resulted in lush grass growth and slower greens over this period.  Now that the seed is well established we can dry the greens out a little more but we still need to provide enough moisture to support the new seedlings.  We also applied Rescue to the first three or four metres of approach and the collars of the greens, to kill off the coarse ryegrass in these areas.  This has also worked well and we've been putting in lots of seed to replace the rye with the over-seeder and by hand where required. Getting rid of the ryegrass completely will probably take a few years of repeat applications but subsequent applications will not have as dramatic an impact as the first.  We're also trialling rescue on some of the main course greens but it's too early to assess the results.  The 7th green has been sprayed, the front part of the 8th and the left side of the 11th, the treated areas look quite pale at present but the colour should come back over the next couple of weeks.

Fescue seed coming through on a green surround
Lines of seed coming through on an area of green treated with Rescue
Creating slots for the seed mix
Spreading top dressing mixed with seed
The 11th green with the Rescue treated area on the right

Late summer wildlife

There's a lot of wildlife around the course at present, the ivy bushes are literally buzzing with insect life on sunny afternoons, with large numbers of butterflies, bees and hoverflies taking advantage of this late season nectar source.  Reptiles are enjoying the warm weather and can be seen basking in sunny spots sheltered from any breeze.

There are at least 11 butterflies in this photo, mainly red admirals but there's a peacock and a couple of small coppers too

An adder on the right and grass snake on the left, the first time I've seen them together
Another adder, this one a little larger, in the afternoon sun

Friday, 2 September 2016

September course news

The dry spell that started in July continued into August (14mm August rainfall) and we’ve kept the greens relatively dry.  As always when our greens are dry the pace of the greens picks up and during August green speeds were generally between 10ft and 11ft, with an average of 10ft 9in and a high of 13ft 4in.  13ft is the upper limit (some would say beyond!) of playability for our greens, with very few workable pin positions and the likelihood that balls would blow off greens if any breeze picks up.  It’s worth noting, that the very high green speeds we’ve seen over the last few weeks are a side effect of drying out the greens to favour the finer grasses, we haven’t dried them out to get more speed.  Our routine target for green speed is between 8ft and 10ft but we aim to keep them above 9ft whenever possible.

Course maintenance highlights during August
·         The greens have been over-seeded this week
·         Irrigation was required on greens, tees and fairways. 
·         Topping up bunkers with sand
·         Mowing the denser areas of rough and removing the clippings, particularly where players are unable to reach the fairway off the tee.
·         Bracken spraying with Asulox

Work programme for September

Our main aim for the next week or two is to promote recovery from the over-seeding work and get the greens back to normal as soon as possible.  As soon as the top dressing that was applied this week has integrated into the sward, we’ll do another light top dressing to smooth out the putting surfaces.  The greens will be a little slower for a while as we increase irrigation to boost germination of the seed.

We have delayed the application of Rescue to the approaches as it is unwise to apply this product during a dry spell.  It selectively kills ryegrass and other coarse grasses in turf but will kill other grasses if they are under stress.  This work will be carried out over the next two weeks.  After treatment the areas will thin out for a while with some bare patches and a general yellowing of the turf but they should recover after a few weeks.  The approaches will be over-seeded with a mixture of fine fescue grasses with high wear and drought tolerance.  Bracken control will continue using Asulox and we’ll be spraying off encroaching scrub and brambles.  We’ve just started a programme of replacing worn out sprinklers as most of them are now 18 years old and are becoming unreliable.  Work has started on the 10th hole and we intend to replace the sprinklers on two or three holes per year.

Weather summary for August

August was very warm and dry, the average temperature was 18.3° which matches our previous high, recorded in 2009, we also recorded our second warmest August temperature with 28.5° on the 12th.
The lowest temperature was 7.1° on the 15th and this was the lowest August figure we've ever recorded.  Rainfall was very low with a total of 14.2mm, well below the 48.8mm average.


We've just completed over-seeding of greens to introduce modern cultivars of fine fescue and bent grass into the greens.  The fine grasses we're 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 over-seeding was followed by rolling to help restore surface levels and then top dressing.  We'll top dress again as soon as the current dressing has been integrated into the sward.

Overseeding in two directions
Vibro rolling after seeding
Top dressing
Brushing in

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Adders have right of way

I had to stop to let this adder cross the track between the 8th and 10th holes this afternoon.  It's about 60cm long.

Thursday, 18 August 2016


During the current dry and sunny spell there are very large numbers of butterflies and dragonflies present on the course, particularly in areas sheltered from the wind.  The buddleia bushes behind the practice shelter have been alive with butterflies and other insects at times and in the rough grassland Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies are present in large numbers.  In sunny glades in the woodland look out for Speckled Wood butterflies, these are the only British butterfly that can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, which gives them a very long flight season.

Male Common Blue

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Course work update

The current dry spell and subsequent reduced mowing frequency has given us a little more time to get on with other work.  We've been topping up sand in the bunkers over the last couple of weeks and we've almost finished, so we're probably due a few dry and windy days to blow the sand away again!
Topping up bunker sand

We've also been trying out our new 'Tree Popper' tool.  This is very effective for pulling up saplings, roots and all, and can cope with trees much bigger than the broom in the picture below.  Tree and scrub control is a vital part of our course management programme,  Neglecting this work would see the heathland develop into woodland in a few years.

Antony in Tree Popper action

Some of the rough areas out of play have been cut.  Our long term aim is to develop wispy, dry acid grassland in these areas but the work we do depends on what vegetation is present and what stage in the process we've reached.  The starting point is usually deep and dense bracken which we weaken by a combination of mowing and rolling.   After a couple of years of this we are able to spray with Asulox which will usually clear out the remaining bracken over a further year or two.  Once the bracken has gone we fine down the grasses by removing the cuttings when we mow.  We may cut up to twice per year in the early stages but as the process progresses the frequency drops until mowing is only required once every three or four years.  In the photo below we're mowing an area of bracken that is swallowing up regenerating heather left of the 11th hole.

Heather regeneration left of the 11th hole

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Green speed - 13ft 4in

After a couple of wet summers we've recently had the first opportunity for a while to dry the greens out properly.  We do this to stress out some of the weed grasses but also because our greens perform at their best when they are dry.  The breezy spell over the last few days meant that no dew formed overnight and the greens started the day dry.  This resulted in the green speed reaching 13ft 4in on a cutting height of 5mm.  Whilst greens of this speed have some novelty value and some players enjoyed them immensely, others found them far too difficult.  It's worth noting that we never actively manage the greens to get the speed into this range, the speed comes as a result of a combination of grass species composition and very dry conditions.  For the first 10 days of August green speeds have averaged just over 11ft.  Anything much above 11ft severely limits pin placement options on our undulating greens and 13ft probably represents the upper limit for playability. Irrigation overnight has settled the greens down to a much more manageable and sensible speed of just over 10ft.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Weather summary for July

July was one degree warmer than our long term average at  18.0°. The lowest temperature was 9.8° on the 14th and the highest 28.0° on the 17th.  The rainfall total was 27.4mm, well below the average of 46.3mm.  Although the rainfall figure was low, what rain we had was nicely spaced through the month so hardly any irrigation was needed.  This has been the pattern throughout the spring and early summer so we still haven't irrigated the fairways at all this year.

August course news

A relatively dry July enabled us to stress out the meadow grass in the greens a little and tilt the balance in favour of the fine grasses.  The fescue in the greens is doing particularly well, filling in the gaps vacated by the meadow grass.  We’ve been over-seeding the greens with the best cultivars of fine grasses for several years and although progress is slow, this is to be expected when sowing seed into established turf that already has a good botanical composition.  Green speeds were generally between 9ft and 10ft with an average of 9ft 2in.  This average would have been considerably higher without a low reading of 8ft 2in taken when the greens had not been cut after top dressing.  Warm wet weather towards the end of the month has seen strong grass growth which reduces green speed a little but we’ve compensated for that by increasing use of the roller.  Regular use of the growth regulating product Primo Maxx is also helping us to maintain slightly higher green speeds without resorting to the seemingly obvious but risky and not particularly effective option of reducing the height of cut.

Course maintenance highlights during July
·         Greens top dressed on the 18th
·         Fertiliser applied to greens during the last week of the month and to tees on the 1st of August.  This will be the last nitrogen fertiliser applied this year
·         Wetting agent, seaweed extract and iron applied to the greens (Wetting agent is a surfactant that enables us to manage soil water so that greens dry out evenly and we minimise water use.)
·         Minimal greens irrigation was needed despite the low rainfall because the rain was nicely spaced through the month.
·         Verti-cutting greens to remove lateral growth.  We can only do this work during periods of strong grass growth as it is an aggressive operation which adversely affects the finer grasses if they are not growing strongly.
·         Mowing the denser areas of rough and removing the clippings, particularly where players are unable to reach the fairway off the tee.
·         Mowing and removing clippings from fairway bunker banks where the grass has grown too dense.
·         Selective weed killer was applied to tees and some areas of semi rough including bunker banks.
·         Ragwort pulling
·         Bracken control has started and will continue over the next few weeks

Work programme for August

Whilst the current strong grass growth continues we will carry out frequent verti-cutting of the greens to help remove some of the coarser grass and refine the putting surfaces.  More verti-cutting will also be done on the approaches. 

Later in the month we will apply Rescue, a product that selectively kills ryegrass and other coarse grasses in turf to the approaches.  Following a successful trial on the 17th last year all the approaches will be sprayed this year.  The areas will be over-seeded first to help fill in the gaps left as the ryegrass dyes back.  After treatment the areas will thin out for a while but they should recover after a few weeks.

We also intend to trial Rescue again on some areas of main course greens.  The product has worked well on the river course greens but when we tried it on the 7th green on the main course in 2012 it adversely affected that green.  For this trial we will be applying the product earlier in the season and adjusting our greens maintenance programme to minimise turf stress prior to spraying.  Despite the previous adverse reaction on the 7th we believe trialling the product again is appropriate due to the significant benefits that it brings in terms of removing coarse grasses and improving green quality.

Greens over-seeding is scheduled to start on Wednesday the 31st of August.  Over-seeding will be followed by top dressing and the work should be completed in two or three days.  We require dry conditions for this work so if we are delayed by adverse weather the work may run into the following week.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sheep grazing

154 sheep (North Country Mules) were delivered to our stewardship grassland yesterday.  The fields have been grazed since 2013 and are managed to comply with our higher level and entry level stewardship agreements.  The aim is to develop species rich dry acid grassland and there is already a marked increase in the number of wild flowers present and and a larger percentage of fine grasses.
The grassland is situated to the north of the main course beyond the woodland.

Some of the 154 North Country Mules delivered yesterday

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Wildlife on the course

There's lots to see on the course at present, with many species of wild flowers putting on a show and the warm weather bringing out the butterflies and dragonflies.  We had some Egyptian geese on the river course last week and our first Pyramidal orchid.

Egyptian geese on the 3rd green on the river course

Pyramidal orchid on the river course
Small skipper (the very similar Essex skipper is also present)
Blue tailed damselfly
Ruddy darter

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Weather summary for June

The temperature was very close to average for June at 15.1° for the month with a low of 9.8° on the 10th and a high of 22.6° on the 4th.  These were the lowest high and highest low for June since we installed the weather station in 2000 so the temperature range was tiny.  We had 62.8mm of rainfall which is well over the 43.7mm average for the month.  For the first 10 days we had hardly any rain and then four days with over 10mm spread through the rest of the month.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Greens work

This week we've aerated the greens with our new Toro tractor mounted aerator and this was followed by over-seeding and top dressing.  The new machine does an excellent job and causes minimal disturbance to the green surface.  The top dressing has gone in very well - helped by subsequent heavy rain and the current spurt in grass growth.  Fertiliser was applied to the greens a couple of weeks ago and the growth resulting from this will be at its peak for the next week or so.

The new aeration machine
The aeration holes after one pass with a greens mower
Top dressing
Brushing in

Bunker banks

Dense rough has developed on some of the bunker banks and we're working our way round cutting those that are getting rather too penal.  As with the wider rough it is our aim to have wispy, natural looking but playable rough on the fairway bunker banks.  When it gets too long and heavy we cut and collect the clippings to remove nutrients which helps us to develop thinner rough for the future.

Before mowing
Mowing the bank
After mowing

Monday, 13 June 2016

What's about?

Up to five swans have been seen on the pond on the 7th hole on the river course, one benefit of this is that algae growth that has been problematic for the last few years seams to have been reduced by their activity.  The warmer weather has seen reptile activity increase, with several sightings of common lizards and grass snakes.

Grass snake on the 14th fairway

Fox gloves left of the 6th hole

Course update 13th June

After a week of preparation for the Suffolk Amateur we've started on some renovation work and rough cutting.  The lower part of the 4th tee took a bit of a hammering over the winter while we re-built the left hand section.  The lower tier has been hollow cored today and we'll top dress and over seed as soon as it stops raining!  Rough cutting has also started today, we're concentrating on the most dense areas close to the fairway.  This week we will aerate, top dress and over-seed the river course greens and next week it will be the turn of the main course.  Fertilizer has been applied to all of the greens today so we can expect a bit of a growth spurt, which should help with recovery from the aeration and top dressing.

Danny and Trevor hollow coring the 4th tee

Neil cutting some dense rough left of the 10th hole