Archive for September, 2017

Sand plays major role in Kingsbarns summer success

21st September 2017


Kingsbarns Golf Links may be no stranger to accolades, but its distinction as the ideal setting for the Ricoh Women’s British Open has now been verified by one of golf’s most respected authorities. The Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) recorded excellent performance data during this summer’s tournament, resulting in some of the most consistent figures collated during championships.

What makes these findings even more impressive is that this year’s flagship event was mired by extreme weather conditions culminating in torrential downpours. Yet despite the unseasonal deluges, the course dried up quickly and the tournament was completed on time. The STRI has now confirmed that the women’s major was contested over an exceptional course with consistent sand top dressings being one of the primary reasons for success.

“The green speeds were some of the most consistent we have had during tournament testing,” said Richard Windows, STRI agronomy services manager. “It was a great example of the implementation of good agronomic practices executed by a team of expert greenkeepers.”

He continued: “Achieving the targets was particularly pleasing because of the challenging weather conditions experienced throughout the championship with heavy rain falling on most afternoons and evenings. The results were outstanding and the use of the sand was a major influence. Regular sanding provides the foundations for firmness which allows you to achieve target green speeds. If the greens had softened, we wouldn’t have achieved the results we recorded.”

With a client list that includes all nine Open Championship venues and many of Europe’s top clubs, the STRI collects performance data to deliver unparalleled benchmarking analysis. With this in mind, a threshold of six to eight inches is set between the fastest and slowest greens during tournament play. For this year’s Women’s Open, that difference was particularly good at Kingsbarns with a variance down to just three inches – a level of consistency not achieved before now.

“The consistency of the firmness between the greens was excellent,” said Windows. All the greens remained within target despite significant rainfall during the championship.”

Using a Stimpmeter, Windows was able to check the pace of the Kingsbarns greens twice daily in order to make fine adjustments when required. He also checked other key performance indicators such as firmness and smoothness. The consistency of results were unprecedented, as Innes Knight, course and facility manager at Kingsbarns explained.

“When we Stimped a green and it was not quite where we wanted it, we would cut it again,” said Knight. “We were able to get all 18 greens and the practice putting green to within three inches of each other. It was that close. A lot of them were exactly the same.”

Knight, who has been looking after the tees, greens and fairways at Kingsbarns since it opened in 2000, said the data was exceptional. “We’re not just talking about the smoothness and the speed, we’re also talking about the firmness,” he said. “So between the results for the stimping, the firmness and the smoothness, they were all consistent. I believe they’re some of the best readings ever.”

Sand is used on golf courses to reduce organic material and improve drainage. It also has a huge impact on putting surfaces, as Windows was keen to point out. “The sand influences firmness and because the greens retained a good level of firmness, it was easier to achieve the target green speeds and consistency between greens. This was achieved with the aid of Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand.”

Hugh King & Co supplies sands to over 120 golf courses including all Open Championship venues in Scotland, and Kingsbarns for the last 12 years. Here, Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand is used for topdressing greens, surrounds and fairways.

“Kingsbarns has a well-earned reputation for delivering an incredible golfing experience which has rightly propelled it to the top of many golfers’ wish lists,” said Graeme King, managing director of Hugh King & Co. “These results from the STRI clearly show this appreciation is founded on the meticulous preparation programme followed by the greenkeeping team at Kingsbarns. It is particularly gratifying to know that our Washed Dune sand is playing a central role in this effort.”

The Ricoh Women’s British Open was the first time the STRI had measured a women’s Major on behalf of The R&A following the amalgamation between the Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) and The R&A. It was also the first Major golf championship to be contested across Kingsbarns Golf Links.

Hugh King & Co is one of the country’s leading suppliers of sports sands. The family run firm has been delivering top-grade materials to key industry sectors for over 160 years.

The Course Manager’s Calendar – September

As course and facilities manager at Kingsbarns Golf Links, Innes Knight, has had a busy time of it. As well as preparing for the Dunhill Links Championship, he has overseen the small matter of this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open

How was it hosting your first Major?
“The tournament was a huge success. We really enjoyed it. The unpredictable weather made it extremely challenging but it was all worth it in the end. Arriving for morning set-up at 4:15am meant we witnessed some stunning sunrises – the weather gods were kind to us on that shift! Unfortunately evening maintenance was marred with continual downpours. This testing weather pattern forced us to use more of a reactive management style!”

How bad did the weather get?
“On the pro-am day, we had 10mm of rain in 15 minutes. You had to see it to believe it. It was absolutely incredible – rain drops like exclamation marks! I was down at the sixth green when the heavens opened – it wasn’t ideal. I must admit I was a little concerned. Fortunately the panic was short lived when things rapidly started to dry up.”

So the course responded well to the deluge?
“We received a lot of compliments about how quickly the place dried up, especially during the pro-am day. I’ve never seen anything like it. We had 15 minutes of torrential rain and the whole place started to flood. Tees, fairways, greens; everything. And then it stopped and the sun came out and the whole place dried up within 20 minutes.”

A bit stressful then?
“We had a lot of things thrown at us weather wise but we handled it all. We had long days. Some days we started 4:30am out of the shed and got home at 10:30pm at night.”

What part did Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand play in the ability of the course to drain?
“We’ve been building up the layer of sand in the rootzone, which gives us consistency. It also drains well and ensures the course performs how a links course should perform in terms of firmness. We stuck with our programme of topdressing on every maintenance day – we have 10 during the season when we topdress the fairways and the greens. We put down as much sand as we possibly can – today’s topdressing is tomorrow’s rootzone!”

What was the clean-up like?
“By the 18th of August, 99% of the infrastructure from the Women’s Open was away. The course had handled it well. There were a few repairs and some re-turfing to be done and we had to reinstate the carpark which got a bit of a beating with the weather we had.”

And now, full steam ahead for the Dunhill.
“In two weeks’ time, we start the build-up for the Dunhill. It’s nothing like the scale of the Women’s Open. And also, when we do the Dunhill, it’s the end of the season so there is a lot less activity on the golf course. With the Women’s Open, we were right in the middle of the season, so it was like, right boys we’re going to have 240 golfers tomorrow at 6:30am; so let’s go!