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.