Craig Boath has been greenkeeping at Carnoustie Golf Links for 23 years. He’s been in charge of the Championship Course for the past five and is looking forward to his third Open in charge.
How does the run-up to this year’s Open compare to the previous two?
“There is more pressure, but compared with ‘07, we know what to expect. The build-up to the tournament is more familiar than it was in ‘99. Working at two Opens as well as other tournaments, has been a great help. We know what to expect.”
What has the build-up to The Open been like?
“We’ve been quite busy throughout the winter. We’ve done a lot of work on bunkers and spectator mounding. But when we got to April, it felt like we were still in winter. Even by the middle of May, the temperatures had not really got up. It was a long winter and a bit annoying for basic things like getting proper growth or even enough grass there to get topdressing. But that’s the weather; you can’t do anything about it. In the middle May, I was asking for heat and now I’m looking for rain.”
Talk us through your preparations in July.
“Our programme works back from the start of The Open, so it’s a case of our last topdressing will be done by the start of July on greens, approaches and surrounds. It’s the same with feeding – you’ve got to time it to ensure the feed is waning out just as you get to the tournament. By the start of July, we start refining things – a little bit of grooming around collars and surrounds, that sort of thing.”
How large is your team for The Open?
“We’ve managed to get one member of staff from both the Burnside and the Buddon courses. When we come to the week before The Open, we’ll get the other guys in from those courses to help out as well. And then we get The Open support team – we get guys from most of the other Open venues that don’t have competitions on. So this year we have eight additional guys. To be honest, you can have too much help and you end up scratching about trying to find jobs for them to do.”
What sort of lead-in times do you need for topdressing?
“The Washed Dune sand from Hugh King settles in lovely, so it really doesn’t need too much time to settle in and it doesn’t need a lot of working in either. However, just on the off-chance that there might be some heavy dews that bring up the sand again, we’ll apply before the start of July.”
What sort of quantities will you apply?
“Roughly 10 tonnes a hectare, but it depends on growth, so that’s 15 tonnes in total. A light dusting on greens, approaches and surrounds. It’s more for smoothing things out. The firmness is there already.”
Will any other areas receive an application?
“The tees have already been done and there have been a couple of dressings on the fairways already this year. We’ve done some landing areas as well just to firm things up a little bit. We’ve done a lot of work getting more sand into the greens and the top part of the profile. We’ve also put quite a bit on our approaches and surrounds to give that consistency between the greens and the approaches. The idea is to get the smoothness, the trueness and the firmness all the way out.”
Will there be a difference between the course in 2007 and this year’s course?
“We’ve applied 150 tonnes of Hugh King sand per hectare on the Championship Course greens, but those quantities have probably come down a bit over the last few years since we’ve already done the hard work to achieve the firmness with Hugh King sand and now we’re just backing off a little as we are in our targets of performance.”
How important has Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand been to improving firmness?
“To present an Open Championship course is one thing, but to have consistency across the course is a must. You have to be consistent. Hugh King has helped us get there and the sand has been fundamental in that process. It’s the consistency of the sand which means you’re able to put it on and know you’re going to get consistency over the 18 greens. That’s been achieved by putting on Hugh King sand – it helps firmness and has been really good for our greens.”