Archive for July, 2015

The Course Manager’s Calendar – August

During the last 12 months Neil Sadler has overseen Portlethen Golf Club’s transition from using medium course sand to medium fine sand. If that wasn’t enough, he is preparing for the BIGGA Scottish Golf Championships in August.

What prompted you to move to Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand last year?

“Particle sizes. We were using a medium-coarse sand before and the coarse particles were very coarse and weren’t brushing into the greens properly. It was like little stones had been left behind which were dulling the mowers which then needed to be taken away for re-sharpening. On two occasions we had to go round afterwards to pick up the worst of them by hand. Nobody has the time for that. It just wasn’t working so we had to find another sand and that’s when Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand was brought to my attention. Other greenkeepers told me it was fantastic, so I checked the data sheets and thought; let’s give it a try.

We have a small budget so we can only afford 150 tonnes of dressing annually, so we only use it on the greens. But in the year we’ve been using the Washed Dune Sand it has firmed up the putting surfaces, kept them open so they drain better which has been important this summer and the playability is far more consistent throughout the whole season. I am absolutely delighted; it’s a brilliant product.”

Have the members noticed the change?

“They have noticed a difference especially in the improved playability but they don’t know why. I don’t go into that level of detail with them. It has been a good transition. The particles in Hugh King’s sand are so round and so clean, it hasn’t caused us any problems what so ever.”

What are your plans for August?

“This is the first year we haven’t needed to hollow core the greens. Normally that happens in August because the recovery rates are so good. We used to get a lot of moans and groans from the members, but we found it was a good time to do it.

This year we don’t have to do it because we’ve got the level of organic matter down to 5% in the first 20mm. With the STRI’s advice, we no longer need to do any more coring for thatch removal. Because we’re getting regular sand dressings throughout the year, we’ve been able to dilute the thatch. The sand has played a big part in that. We’re doing light dressings more often because it is easy to integrate the medium-fine sand into the canopy. The golfers don’t notice we’ve done it so we can do it more often. Now we no longer need to do the hollow coring, which saves my ears.”

Anything else on the horizon?

“We do have the Scottish Greenkeeping Championship in August, so there’s going to be 90 other greenkeepers here each with a critical eye on the course. You know yourself; if you’ve got your peers visiting, you want everything to be spot on.”

The Course Manager’s Calendar – July

Gordon McKie looks after the most famous golf course in the world. How is the course manager at the Old Course in St Andrews preparing for the 144th Open Championship?

How much sand do you use when you top-dress the Old Course?

“On Sunday we used about 20 tonnes of top-dressing on the greens and another 20 tonnes on the green surrounds. So we put 40 tonnes on over four hectares. I actually do a lot of my top-dressing during the winter simply because of the impact it has on our cutting machines. I try to get a lot of my sand on during the winter when there’s not the same pressure to cut the greens. You can top-dress and leave it and there’s not the pressure to get all the cylinders sharpened up again.

Once the Dunhill has passed, we will top-dress every fortnight during October. When we get to November, I cut it back to once a month through to the beginning of March and then we pick it up again to once a fortnight through to early June. For the height of the season, we’ll look at the surfaces and probably top-dress once a month. I decided to change it around about four years ago. The textbooks say not to top-dress during the winter, but we’ve found it’s a good way of getting the amount of sand we want to get on annually.”

Are your normal maintenance schedules affected by the Open?

“We try to produce the same conditions year in, year out, and not do things differently for an Open year. But it all depends on the weather. In the last three or four years, we have upped the amount of sand we’ve been using. We’re trying to get on annually between 100 and 120 tonnes per hectare on the greens alone. We want to help firm them up and make them perform better with better ball-turf interaction, and make them drain more freely. Annually, we aim to put 300 tonnes on the greens and the same on our fairways. It’s a lot of sand – we’ve really upped our game.

How important is Hugh King’s sand to your operation?

“We’re using the Washed Dune sand and the biggest advantage of that is the cleanliness of the product and the colour, which is a big thing for us because it means we can get more on and it doesn’t stand out. The process they go through at the quarry really fine tunes the sand so there’s no contamination in it. It’s a really good product.

We have chopped and changed with sand over the years, but we came across Hugh King sand by speaking to others and finding out what they were using. It does a big job for us.”

How far advanced are your preparations for the Open?

“With a couple of weeks to go before the Open, the most pressing thing is getting the performance of the greens absolutely right. Fifty percent of the game is played there so that’s our main focus. If I do put any more sand on, it would happen in about two weeks time, but that decision is still to be made. We have to get the timing absolutely right.

The last opportunity to top-dress would be 10-14 days prior to the Open. I would try to get my last top-dressing on then so that would give us two weeks to get things perfect.”