Friday, 11 August 2017

Barn owls, kingfishers and orchids

After several years of owls using our barn owl boxes for roosting, two of the boxes were occupied this year, with two chicks in each box.  These were ringed for monitoring purposes through the Suffolk barn owl project.  Another first has been a kingfisher nest on the course, the adults are currently feeding young.  2017 has been a good year for bee orchids on the river course.

There were several bee orchids on the river course this year.

July course news

Record breaking temperatures and well above average rainfall during June saw strong grass growth and a maintenance programme dominated by mowing grass.  The warmer than average and very wet weather continued into July and we broke the previous rainfall record for July with 118.6mm in total.  The greens were top dressed during the last week in June and we’ve taken advantage of the strong growth to do some greens surface refinement through brushing, verti-cutting and occasional double cutting.  These operations help to improve smoothness, trueness and green speed.  The roller has been used regularly to counteract the slowing effect that the weather has had on the greens.  Selective weed-killer was applied to the tees and some fairways.  The annual ragwort pull is in progress, we’re just over half way round the course and will finish the job before the ragwort goes to seed.  The approaches and green surrounds have been verticut several times over the last few weeks to help fine down the coarser grasses.  We’re also boxing off the cuttings from these areas to help refine the sward.  Fertiliser was applied to the greens on the 17th of July.

Here is a summary of a typical week of routine course maintenance.
Greens 7x (1 or 2x by hand), tees 3x, Aprons 3x, Approaches 2 or 3x, Fairways 2x, Semi rough 1x, bunker surrounds 1x.

The bunkers are raked daily, the holes are changed twice per week or more often if there are major events and tee divoting is done weekly.

July/August maintenance work
We’re planning a light top dressing of the greens early next week if the weather is suitable or failing that the week after golf week.  We’ll also top dress green surrounds and approaches.  We’ve started cutting some of the areas of coarser rough around the course and this work will continue over the coming weeks wherever the rough gets too thick to be playable.  The greens renovation and over-seeding work is due to start on the 31st of August.

For members who would like to be kept up to date with course activity and anything of interest on the course we have a twitter account.  Follow the link below.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Weather summary for June and July

After matching our previous record average temperature in May we had a new record for June with an average temperature of 16.8°, about two degrees warmer than the average for June (The previous high was 16° in 2003).  The highest temperature in June was 27.2° on the 19th and the lowest 9° on the 30th.  Rainfall was a little below average with 44.2mm in total, with over half of it falling during the first week of the month followed by three dry weeks and then 20.6mm in one day on the 28th.

The record breaking trend continued in July, with 118.6mm of rain beating the previous high of 106mm (2012) by a decent margin.  (July average rainfall is 45.8mm)  82mm of the July total fell on the 10th, 11th and 12th with 51mm on the 10th alone, this made quite a mess of the bunkers!  It was also the second warmest July we've recorded with an average of 18.5°, a high of 25.8° on the 19th and a low of 10.8° on the 21st.  The record breaking rainfall and temperatures have resulted in unprecedented grass growth and a golf course looking much greener than we would normally expect during the summer months.

This is what all of our 100 bunkers look like after 51mm of rain in a couple of hours.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

June course news

May started out cool and very dry, giving slow growth and green speeds around 10ft.  Later in the month it was warm and wet which gave us a strong boost to growth which was much needed but slowed the greens down to about 8ft  We equalled our warmest average temperature for May (13.4 degrees) and rainfall was well above average (59.9mm) with almost all of the rain falling in the second half of the month.  The greens were top dressed and later in the month we took advantage of the strong growth to do some surface refinement on the greens through brushing and grooming to lift and mow off lateral growth.  The Poa annua seeding has now finished and this has also boosted smoothness and trueness.  The putting green extension was finished off and the turf is already rooting strongly.  As the summer progresses we will top dress it frequently and gradually reduce the height of cut but it won’t be cut at greens height until next year.  Selective weed-killer was applied to the greens and most of the fairways and work has started on spot spraying bramble and encroaching gorse.

During June we will finish off selective weed-killer applications to the fairways and continue with spot treatment of gorse and bramble.  Both of these tasks are weather dependent and require dry conditions and light winds.  Top dressing of greens is scheduled for the week of the 26th weather permitting.  Top dressing is a very important part of the greens maintenance programme.  It is our main tool for smoothing out putting surfaces and is vital for keeping the greens firm and preventing organic matter build up (thatch) at the turf surface.  We aim to spread a total of 100 tonnes of sandy top dressing (Fendress 90/10) on the greens each year over six to eight dressings.  

Weather summary for May

May was a month of two halves as they say.  The first half was cool and very dry with only 3mm of rain up to the 16th.  The second half was very warm for May and very wet, bringing the rainfall total to 59.9mm for the month, well above average.  The average temperature matched our previous record high of 13.4° recorded in 2011.  The highest temperature was 23.7° on the 27th and the lowest was 4° on the 10th.  So after six weeks of slow growth in April and early May the grass has been growing frantically for the last three weeks.  This is great for recovery from winter wear and tear but not so good for green speed.  Hopefully the boom or bust weather patterns we're experiencing will settle down soon.

Recent wildlife sightings

Young tawny owl in watering forest

Adder - quite a big one

Little egret on the river course 4th

Skylark - good numbers of these nesting on the course this year

Turtle dove - an increasingly rare sight

May course news

After a good growing month in March we’re back to normal with cold, dry easterly and northerly winds putting the brakes on grass growth.  This weather pattern is forecast to continue into next week, with the possibility of some very welcome rain at the end of the week.  The flowering of annual meadow grass in the greens and other areas is at its peak at present but this should reduce over the next few weeks.  The new tees on the 1st, 6th and 8th holes are coming on nicely, they’ve just been top dressed again and we’ll bring them into play in the next week or so.  The greens were top dressed again last week bringing the total number of dressings for the year to three.  The next top dressing is planned for the week beginning Monday 15th May.  Top dressing is our main tool for smoothing out the putting surfaces.  Once we come out of the current drought (only 89mm in the first four months of the year and only 10.6mm in April) we’ll apply selective weed-killer to the fairways.  We’ll also start the annual task of spraying encroaching gorse and bramble seedlings.  Later in May we’ll do some renovation work on the green surrounds, this will consist of hollow coring followed by over-seeding and top dressing.  The extension to the putting green is nearing completion and the turf will be delivered on the 23rd of May.  

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Weather summary for April

April was a very dry month with only 10.6mm of rainfall, most of it in the last week.  Our total rainfall for the year so far is only 89.7mm.  The average temperature for the month was 9.1°, exactly the same as March.  The highest temperature was 16.9° on the 9th and this was lower than the highs for March (18.3°) and February (17.5°).  The lowest temperature was -0.2° on the 27th, much lower than the March minimum of 2.8°.  Low night temperatures have a significant effect on grass growth and the cold dry winds at the end of the month have slowed grass growth right down.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dawn chorus walk

On Thursday 20th of April we had our annual dawn chorus walk, this year led by Steve Piotrowski. Despite it being a cold and grey morning we saw or heard a total of 40 bird species during the two hour walk.  The bird of the morning was an early Hobby, a summer migrant raptor which feeds on dragonflies and small birds.  We also saw two buzzards, four little egrets and good numbers of linnets. The full species list is below.  Many thanks to Steve for an interesting and entertaining morning.  An adder was seen basking, later in the day when the sun appeared.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Easter foursomes course update.

Greens, tees, aprons, approaches, fairways and semi rough have been cut today and we're ready to go for the Easter weekend.  The new 1st and 6th tees will be in play and the 8th hole will be played from the championship tee.  The newly turfed area behind the 7th green is also in play.  All of the newly turfed areas are still quite delicate so please keep practice swings and traffic to a minimum.  Over the weekend the greens will be cut and rolled daily if weather conditions are suitable (frost is still a possibility).  We'll ease off on the rolling if green speeds get too high, they were 9ft 8in today with no roll and if it stays dry things could get silly!  There is rain forecast for Friday night which the course desperately needs as we've gone three weeks without any rain.  The holes will be changed on Friday, Saturday and Monday and the bunkers will be raked every morning.

Spring wildlife

A pair of mallard duck have nested by the pond on the 7th hole on the river course.  There were five ducklings present today and also a pair of teal and a pair of moorhens.  Teal is another first for the golf club to add to the green sandpiper seen a few weeks ago.  Very good numbers of linnet and yellowhammer are present on the course with at least two woodlark singing and several skylark present.  The number of summer migrant birds is increasing daily, blackcaps have been around for a week or two and our first nightingale of the year was heard yesterday.  Our first grass snake of the year was seen on the 15th of March.


Green sandpiper

Grass snake

April course news

The mild march weather gave us some good grass growth to work with and most of the playing surfaces are quite advanced for the time of year.  Grass growth is about two weeks ahead of last year, a month ahead of 2015, about the same as 2014 and six weeks ahead of 2013.  The new tees on the 1st, 6th and 8th holes are growing in well and could be in play in a few weeks if the weather stays mild.  During March we top dressed the greens twice and the green surrounds once.  We’ve been topping up bunkers with sand and cutting fairway bunker banks and removing the cuttings.  As with rough cutting, removing the cuttings takes away nutrients and helps us to develop wispy rough.  Lots of brambles have been cut back around the course and this work will continue over the next few weeks.  Our programme of work to improve the green surrounds will continue over the next few weeks and throughout the season.  The first phase of this work was the application of a weed-killer that selectively kills ryegrass and other coarse grasses last Autumn.  In areas that had the highest percentage of coarse grass, particularly if they were areas prone to drought stress and wear, the gaps created by the loss of coarse grass will take a while to recover.  We’ve made some changes to the maintenance regime for the surrounds and approaches this year with the intention of improving turf quality.  We’re using a hand mower for the first cut around the greens and an old greens triple for mowing the surrounds and approaches, this will give us a better quality of cut and reduced wear.  Some more sprinklers have been fitted so that we can irrigate some of the weak areas of green surround and we intend to do more hand watering where the pop up sprinklers will not reach.  Weak areas will be over-seeded with a fine but hard wearing seed mix and more aeration and top dressing work will be done.

April work programme

Hopefully the warm spring weather will continue to provide good growing conditions but this is by no means guaranteed.  The average temperature for this March was higher than the April average for four of the last five years.  The frequency of mowing will increase for all areas as growth rates increase and the height of cut on the greens will be reduced from the winter height of 6mm to the summer height of 5mm.
The next top dressing of the greens will be after the ladies’ spring meeting.  Work on topping up bunker sand and cutting back brambles will continue and it’s likely that we will need to apply selective weed-killer to the fairways as clover appears over the next few weeks.

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.

Weather summary for March

The dry start to the year continued with only 25.5mm of rain in March, well below the 36.7mm average for the month.  The total rainfall for the year so far is 79mm.  It was the warmest March since we installed a weather station in 2000 with an average temperature of 9.1°.  This was warmer than the April average for four of the last five years.  The lowest temperature was 2.8° on the 7th and the highest was 18.3° on the 30th.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

March course news

We’re beginning to see a little grass growth but as always, this is very limited at this time of year.  We’re behind last year in growth potential terms but ahead of 2015 when growth was minimal in January and February.  The fairways have been cut for the first time this year and we’ve sprayed them with iron to control moss.  The first tee has been turfed and is rooting well and the 8th tee and 6th medal tee are well established and ready for a first top dressing.  Our aim is to get these tees in play as soon as possible but the weather over the next few weeks will dictate just how early this happens.  Three of our stonier bunkers have been dug out and lined with clean soil to prevent stones coming to the surface.  (Left of the 2nd fairway, 1st left on 16 and the big bunker left of the 17th green.)  Our original plan to turf the bare area on the 18th green didn’t work out because the turf on the putting green was breaking up when we cut it.  We’re using deep plugs from the putting green to renovate the area instead.

March work programme

The greens will be top dressed in the next suitable weather window and we’ll be doing what we can to encourage early grass growth.  Air and soil temperature are the main limiting factors for early season growth, so hopefully we’ll get a relatively mild spring this year.  Renovation of the green surrounds will continue with top dressing fertiliser and over-seeding.  Work will start on the extension of the putting green next week.  Over the next two or three weeks we’ll be having a bit of a blitz on bramble cutting.

Weather summary for February

February was relatively mild with an average temperature of 6.7°, well above the 5° long term average.  The maximum temperature was 17.5° on the 20th, the second warmest February day we've recorded, the highest was 18.1° in 2012.  The minimum temperature was 0.7° on the 11th.  Total rainfall was 23mm, well below the 36.2mm average for February.

Thursday, 9 February 2017


Aeration is a key part of our maintenance programme.  Jim Arthur, our STRI agronomist in the 1970s and 1980s stated that aeration was the most important aspect of turf management.

Why do we aerate?
Technically, when we aerate we are increasing the air content of the soil, by increasing the amount of pore space between soil particles.  The aeration work counteracts the compacting effects of foot traffic and maintenance machinery.  Every footstep and machinery pass pushes soil particles closer together, reducing pore space.  With increasing numbers of rounds being played (particularly winter golf.) and more intensive maintenance such as rolling, the need for aeration is greater now than it has ever been.

Roots at 20cm depth at the bottom of a core when changing holes, these roots have followed tine holes.

What are the benefits of aeration?
  • Improved drainage and soil porosity keeps the turf firm and dry, particularly after rainfall or irrigation.  (This has a double benefit as firm and dry soil is much less prone to compaction than wet soil.)
  • Deeper rooting and increased root mass
  • Improved drought resistance
  • Improved wear tolerance
  • Faster breakdown of thatch / lower organic matter content in the soil  (The organic matter content of the soil has a big impact on play-ability.  More organic matter leads to more foot-printing and pitch marks and the organic matter retains moisture leading to increased disease.  It is key to meeting our firmness targets which give us greens that reward a well struck shot.)
  • Less fertiliser is required and fertiliser is used by the plant more effectively
  • Reduced need for irrigation
  • Reduced dry patch
  • Reduced incidence of disease
  • Play during frost with reduced turf damage
  • Faster greens (Our greens are quicker when they are dry)
  • Well aerated soil is a healthy soil where the whole soil biology is in balance
  • Healthier turf with a higher percentage of fine grasses and less moss and weed growth

What happens if we don't do enough aeration?

All of the bullet points listed above as benefits of aeration are turned around.  Compaction increases leading to impeded drainage and softer surfaces that are even more prone to compaction.  The weed grass Poa annua gains a big advantage in compacted soils and the finer fescue and bent grasses struggle to survive.  Ultimately we would end up with soft, thatchy, bumpy, slow and disease prone greens and the need for temporary greens and even course closure in winter.

The disadvantages of compacted soil can be clearly seen on areas of the course subject to concentrated traffic.  In these areas the finer grasses do not thrive and the sward is dominated by Poa annua and Ryegrass.

Our aeration programme

Although we have the advantage of soil that is sandy and naturally well drained, we still need to do aeration work to maintain the soil in that state and prevent the deterioration that would be inevitable without it.  There are examples locally of golf courses on equally well drained soil with greens that are soft in winter and where foot-printing and deep pitch-marks are a real issue.  At Aldeburgh the aeration work we do is not remedial work to solve problems as it is at many clubs.  We aim to at least maintain and if possible improve on where we are now.  There is nothing new about this, we have STRI agronomists reports dating back to the 70s that recommend frequent (up to weekly!) aeration work on the greens.  A common thread that runs through the reports and advice of all of the agronomists visiting Aldeburgh over the last 40 years is the need for an effective aeration programme.

The majority of our aeration work is done during the winter months and we aim to alternate between deep and shallow aeration.  Summer aeration is also beneficial and we fit it into the work programme if we can but with a full fixture list it can be difficult to balance short term disturbance with our long term goals.  We aim to aerate five or six times over the winter (October to April) and at least twice during the Summer.  If levels of play continue to increasing and more frequent mowing and rolling become the norm we will have to increase the amount of aeration work we do.

Shallow aeration with the Procore 864
This time with chisel tines but we can fit solid round tines or hollow core tines

Deep fairway aeration with the Terra spike


Aeration work has been a fundamental part of the maintenance programme at Aldeburgh Golf Club for over 40 years.  It gives us the well drained, firm conditions that set Aldeburgh apart from many clubs.  It is essential for promoting healthy soil, a healthy, fine grass dominated sward and better playing surfaces all year round.

Monday, 6 February 2017

February course news

The 8th tee alterations and the new hollow behind the 7th green have been turfed and good progress has been made on the 1st tee.  With favourable weather the 1st tee should be ready for turfing in a couple of weeks.  Some changes have been made to the fairway irrigation on the 2nd and 14th fairways.  In both cases the line of the fairway has been altered and the pipes and sprinklers needed to be moved to match.  Work has started on installing irrigation in the area between the clubhouse and the 1st tee.  This is an area of high wear and without irrigation, we’ve struggled to keep good grass cover.  Although the very cold, frosty period in January slowed progress on the construction projects, we were able to make good progress on gorse coppicing.  We also did a bit of work cutting back encroaching gorse and breaking up large stands of gorse, particularly where bramble was taking over.  There has also been good progress on woodland management where a substantial block has been thinned. 

February work programme

We’re a little behind with our aeration programme due to the hard frosts we’ve recently experienced, so we’ll be intensifying both deep and shallow solid tine aeration.  Deep aeration of the fairways will start and we hope to do shallow tining of the greens during the next week, with deeper aeration later in the month.  We aim to have the 1st tee levelled and turfed by the end of February and the re-turfing of the damaged area on the 18th green will be done over the next couple of weeks.  We may dig out one or two of the stony bunkers and put in a base layer of clean soil, to prevent stone coming to the surface.  

Weather summary for January

January was colder than average and much colder than the last four years.  The average temperature was 4°, with a maximum of 10.3° on the 11th and a minimum of -2.7° on the 22nd.  Total rainfall was  a fairly low 31.6mm, the long term average is 46.6mm.  There were hard frosts on about half the mornings and on several occasions the ground remained frozen solid all day.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Development work

New irrigation pipes and control cables have been put in on the 2nd and 14th fairways to deal with the changes to the fairway lines on these holes.  The new 8th tee and 7th green surround area was turfed on Thursday.

Pipes going in on the 14th fairway

Turfing the 8th tee

Turfing the new hollow behind the 7th green

Happy turfers - Left to right, Danny, Shane, Trevor, Neil, Andrew, Jerry and Antony

Danny Perring

Our 1st assistant greenkeeper, Danny Perring is leaving to take on the job of Course Manager at Gorleston Golf Club.  Danny started work at Aldeburgh ten years ago as an apprentice greenkeeper and right from the start it was obvious he had great potential.  We wish him all the best in his new role .

Recent and ongoing work on the course

We've installed a new mat on the main course practice ground, plenty of gorse coppicing has been done recently and we're making good progress on the 8th and 1st tees.

The new mat on the practice ground

Cutting back gorse and bramble behind the 10th green

Stripping the turf from the 1st tee

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tidal surge update

Last night's tidal surge was close to the height of the one in December 2013.  There is flooding on the 3rd and 4th holes on the river course.  This will take a while to subside as all of the water has to drain out of a couple of flap valves in the river wall.  The water came close to the 4th green and covered most of the 3rd green for a while.

The 3rd island green

The 4th green

The view from the 3rd green

Caution - deep water!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Tidal surge

There was a tidal surge yesterday and the river over-topped the river wall but fortunately not enough to flood the river course.  The field left of the 3rd green was flooded to about 60cm.  There's another tidal surge expected tonight and I'll update this post if anything notable happens on or around the course.

View from the 3rd fairway early Thursday morning

Looking South from the 3rd green

View from the river wall looking back to the 3rd and 4th holes

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Weather summary - December and 2016

December was a very dry month with a total of only 11.7mm of rainfall.  Despite this the course never really dried out, as there were many still, mild nights with heavy dew and several frosts. Temperatures were a little above average but nowhere near the extremes of December 2015.  The average was 6.4° (10.3° in 2015) whilst the maximum was 13.3° on the 25th.  We recorded our second lowest December minimum on the 28th with -5.1°, quite a contrast with the 3.8° minimum in December 2015.  The frequent frosts kept soil temperatures low so there was very little grass growth.

2016 weather in brief
The rainfall total was 463mm which continued the trend for annual rainfall well below the average of 540mm for 1979 to 2016.  The average for the last ten years is 457mm so maybe this is the new normal.  Rainfall early in the year was unremarkable but then we had a relatively dry May followed by a very wet June and dry July and August.  We finished off the year with the wettest month in November (75.6mm) followed by the driest in  December (11.7mm).  January was relatively mild followed by two months of temperatures close to average.  April was very cold - just when we were hoping for some grass growth and the trend for colder May weather continued.  July, August and September were all more than a degree warmer than the average (nearly 3° warmer in September).
October was fairly typical temperature-wise but November was very cold with the 2nd lowest average we've recorded and the lowest minimum with -3.7°.

January course news

Most of the earth moving and shaping work is finished in the new hollow behind the 7th green and the 8th tee is at the final levelling stage.  Recent hard frosts have delayed progress on this construction work but hopefully we’ll catch up over the next couple of weeks.  Work has started on cutting back and coppicing gorse and scrub around the course.  Coppicing work involves cutting leggy gorse down close to ground level with the intention of promoting dense new growth.  In other areas we will be opening up sight lines for foursome players walking forward and restoring the fairway, semi rough, rough, gorse progression where gorse has encroached too close to the fairway.  Gorse coppicing also gives us an opportunity to control bramble.  A new tee mat has been installed at the back of the main course practice ground.

Work programme for January

Work will continue on the alterations in the 7th green/8th tee area and we hope to have this ready for turfing by the end of the month.  We will start work on the re-building of the 1st tee next week, the new tee will be larger and on the same level as the current medal tee.  Whilst work is in progress the recently installed tee mat will be used.  Gorse coppicing and trimming will continue, particularly if we get more cold and frosty weather.  Work may also start on digging out the base of stony bunkers and lining them with clean soil.  Due to the cold weather during November and December the growth of the seeded area at the back of the 18th green has been disappointing.  We have decided to turf the area as this will give us the best chance of getting the area back into play as early as possible.  The turf will be harvested from the bottom end of the putting green to provide the best match for the existing turf.  We will then extend and raise the lower part of the putting green to provide a flat area for practice.  Deep aeration of the greens is scheduled for next week but as always with this and much of the other work mentioned above, the work is weather dependent.