Graeme Taylor has been looking after the turf at St Andrews for 17 years. In 2009 his responsibilities doubled when he was assigned the New Course as well as the Jubilee. Despite his long tenure and it being a busy Open Championship year, he isn’t afraid to try something new.
With the start of the season, April must be a busy month for you.
The start of the season in St Andrews begins in March, that’s when we start getting a lot of competitions especially on the New and Jubilee. Saying that, it is full-year golf – it never stops. In April, we start getting more visitors and expectations grow accordingly. We need to cut more, the course furniture is refreshed with new flags, new flag pins, and we hope to have all the winter maintenance programmes wrapped up.
It depends on growth, but we also look to cut every area at least once a week with greens maybe four or five times a week. During the winter that would drop to a minimum of once a week. We also start getting seasonals so we have more staff and we can do more hand cutting.
More work, more staff…things really ramp up then.
When the seasonals arrive, a lot of time is spent training them up so they are ready to go out on the golf course with minimum supervision in May. We also get a lot of guys who come back year after year. In fact, we’ve got such a high standard of returning greenkeepers at St Andrews, especially in an Open Championship year, you sometimes just need to see them on the machine and that’s good enough.”
I understand you have a fairly regimented sand regime.
We use Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand which helps maintain firm, fast, free-draining surfaces and that it is consistent with our existing soil profile. We have a once-monthly sanding programme for greens and surrounds – we try to apply 20 tonnes of Hugh King sand on each course every month. It depends on growth how much we can get into the sward, but generally 20 tonnes is a rule of thumb that gets us to our target of 240 tonnes for the year.
We are, however, looking to change it this summer. Instead of giving each course a 20-tonne application, we’re going to split that into two 10-tonnes applications which will disrupt the golfers less. At the moment, we do one application of 20 tonnes one week on the New Course, and then 20 tonnes on the Jubilee the next week. This high season we want to put 10 tonnes on the New followed by 10 tonnes on the Jubilee the next week and so on, and keep that going throughout the season.
What advantages are there to splitting up the applications?
Dependant on the weather and competitions, by applying 10 tonnes each time, we hope it will be less disruptive to the golfers. Also, the more sand you put on, the quicker you lose the quality of the cut. If we have less sand going on more frequently, the quality of surface will improve because we will have sharper mowers for longer. We’re looking to start this at the end of April beginning of May.