Stuart Griffiths is a busy man. He not only oversees proceedings at Pitlochry Golf, which includes an 18-hole and six-hole academy course, he also manages the nine-hole layout at Blair Atholl Golf. Somehow he found time in his busy schedule to talk take-overs and sand.
With two sites and 40 holes, you must have a lot on your plate.
“This will be my third season as course manager. I started at Blair Atholl in 2010 and since 2015 I have been course manager of both courses. The slight disadvantage is the two courses are seven miles apart – if you’re looking after two courses, normally they’re side by side but these ones are a few miles apart, so there can be some issues with machinery breakdowns, but you then have the advantage of having the other machines to use.”
What winter projects have you been working on?
“We started a fairly big project at Pitlochry in November. We’re changing the design of our 12th hole by adding a pot bunker and a long bunker at the side of the green and moving the 13th tee for safety and traffic reasons. We’re three quarters of the way through that project. The weather is letting us get on with it, which is great. By the start of the season everything will be finished.”
Does the weather usually play a part in your winter maintenance?
“Where we’re situated in the Highlands, the temperature doesn’t allow us to do much, although this year we’ve had the opportunity to apply an extra topdressing, so we’re way ahead of where we have ever been before. It’s very good news.”
Why did you start using Hugh King sand?
“Before managing both sites, I didn’t use Hugh King sand. The sand we did use back then sat on the surface for a long time. When you were brushing it in, you had to go over it again and again. Because, Blair Atholl was a small club, it was more to do with financial restraints rather than using the best possible sand. However, when Blair Atholl was taken over by Pitlochry, that allowed me to choose the sand I wanted, and that was Hugh King’s sand. I can’t see anything beating it – it just seems to vanish into the canopy. It disappears.”
At first you started with a mixed blend.
“Yes, when we opted to go with Hugh King in 2015, we started with a mixed blend but latterly we changed to Washed Dune sand. Before that, we wouldn’t put any more than 30 tonnes of sand down at Pitlochry. Last year, we put on 100 tonnes of Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand and about 40 tonnes at Blair Atholl, and what a difference!
What changes have you noticed?
“The greens have never been firmer at Pitlochry – this comes from my owner who has been a member for nearly 45 years. He also said that before when they topdressed, the sand would lie for two or three weeks. Now, the members don’t see the sand at all – which is a massive plus.”
And at Blair Atholl?
“The Washed Dune sand mixes in really well with indigenous sands. The course is built on an old river bed, so it fits in perfectly. When it gets brushed in, it doesn’t sit on the plant. It just fits. You trust the sand a lot more because when it arrives from Hugh King, it comes in clean. I have never had an issue with any of the deliveries from Hugh King.”