Stewart Duff began his greenkeeping career at Gullane in 1985 left in 2002 and returned in 2006. He and his staff are busy working towards this year’s Scottish Open in July.
What’s the toughest thing to contend with in January?
“The highlight of January is just getting through the month without any major disruption or any severe weather that will cause closures. The weather is the main concern. Three years ago we had lying snow for a two-week period. We had a bit of fusarium develop on the greens which we couldn’t treat because of the snow cover. The fusarium scars healed up fully by March.
“The only reason we close the courses is through snowfall, fog or surface thawing after a prolonged spell of deep ground frost. We play on the full greens when it is frosty, so we’re hoping for not too many frost days or prolonged snow cover on the greens. We generally don’t get snow here but if we do it most likely falls from December to February.”
What keeps you busy in January?
“Bunker renovation and repairs. We’re doing 45 on No 1, 25 on No 2 and 25 on No 3. We rip out the old face and put in a new face. In terms of time, it depends on the size of the bunker but we can do a bunker in a day if we’re going really well, but it usually takes two days to complete. We close the bunkers for eight weeks to let them take root and then top up the bunkers with stored sand.
“We use Bunker 8 sand from Hugh King & Co, probably bringing in 80 tonnes of it. All the bunkers will be done by January, but it depends on the weather. There’s not a set point when everything goes back into play. On No 1 all the bunkers should be back in play by the end of January. It will be different for No 2 and No 3 because they have a later start date. At the latest, all the bunkers should be back in play by the end of February.”
How else do you use Hugh King & Co’s sand at this time of the year?
“January is a quiet month in terms of sand usage; we’re just trying to keep the course in relatively good condition. We started monthly top-dressing greens with Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand in October and that will lead right up to May. All the No 1 greens will get this plus two on No 2 and two on No 3. We review that during May by checking the organic matter levels and then we may go to top-dressing every two weeks on No 1, but that’s dependant on the organic matter readings.
“March/April time is when we go onto fairway top-dressing, topping up bunkers and top-dressing greens, so you’re probably talking the peak month for sand usage is March.”