James Parker, Head Greenkeeper,
After a spell at Close House James Parker became head greenkeeper at Ranfurly Castle Golf Club last year. Attracted by a busy programme of improvements, his packed winter schedule shows no signs of letting up during February.
How is February shaping up for you?
February for us will involve quite a lot of construction work depending on the ground conditions. We are currently taking out some mounds and re-doing quite a few bunkers to bring the course back into play length wise. This includes moving bunkers and instating a new tee. We’ve got quite a lot of tree management to do around then as well.
For most golf courses, February is a quiet month, but we’re trying to take on as much as we can. It’s obviously weather dependent as to how much we can get through, but we’re taking it on to progress the golf course through the winter as much as we can.
While I was at Close House, we built part of a new golf course and renovated our second golf course. Coming here and seeing some of the issues they had construction-wise was something we thought we could rectify. Fortunately we have a chairman and greens committee who are that way inclined as well.
How many new bunkers are you introducing?
We’ll be filling in a dozen bunkers and constructing six or seven new ones. The bunkers haven’t really had any work done on them for the last seven years, so we’re tidying them up.
The 12 bunkers that are coming out were redundant as they’re short off the tee. They were only punishing high handicappers and our lady members, so the plan is to take those out and start introducing bunkers that are more in play for the category one golfer.
The new tee on the par three 7th is to give us more teeing ground. The tees were quite small, so we decided to put in a new tee slightly further back. We’re only talking 10-15 yards, but that will give us a lot more teeing area so we can spread the wear a lot better.
The trees also haven’t been touched for a number of years. Because we’re on moorland, we have a lot of self-seeding birch and rowan that creeps into our land which is altering the characteristic of the golf course. Some have been detrimental to turf health behind the greens in particular. The plan, when the weather isn’t as favourable, is to get a lot of those out opening up these areas so they fit into the environment and improve the green surrounds.
How important is Hugh King’s sand in the work planned for February?
This will be the first year we’ve used Hugh King bunker sand, so bunker-wise, we’re not sure what quantity we’re going to use because we still have a stockpile of sand available onsite. We have looked through the various bunker sands that Hugh King supplies and we will be going for King Bunker 7.
It’s to do with colour, but also stability. Bunker 7 is very stable in high wind conditions. We’re on a very wet, exposed site up on the moor. On bunkers that face west to east, we get a lot of sand blow where sand moves from one corner to the other. It’s about the stability of the sand.
We’ll introduce the new sand in February. They’re reasonably consistent with what we have so they won’t be out of place when we introduce them. The sands perform well in that they drain freely but still hold on to a bit of moisture meaning the bunker plays as we want it, which is reasonably firm.
We also use a lot of sand throughout the year for top-dressing. For instance, we continue to top-dress the greens during winter. We use 3-4 tonnes for light dressing about every four weeks during the winter. So we’ll keep going with Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand to keep the quantities high. Thankfully there are times during the winter where conditions will allow us to do that.