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

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Weather summary for May

The mean temperature was just above the long term average at 12.4° for the month with a low of 1.3° on the 1st and a high of 19.7° on the 29th.  It was a dry month with 26.8mm of rainfall of which over half fell on the 31st.  Our average rainfall for May is 45.2mm.

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.