With 36,000 rounds played annually over a narrow stretch of land bound by Scotland’s east coast, one of Paul Armour’s priorities is to prepare the course at Dunbar Golf Club without disrupting play. Another is cutting organic matter by applying as Hugh King sand
With summer coming to an end, what’s next for the greenkeeping team at Dunbar?
“Throughout the winter we level-off tees. We do two every winter. We’ll strip the turf and relevel the tees using Hugh King’s root zone and then put new turf down. The root zone is very similar to what we already have, so it knits in nicely. It’s consistent with the land we’ve got.”
Do you have any specific plans for October?
“We’ll start focussing on our winter work; stripping any bare areas and turfing any areas where we’ve lost grass. We’ll finish off overseeding the fairways and topdressing, and we’ll start to cutting back and collecting the rough. It’ll be busy.”
You left your role at The Old Course in St Andrews two years ago. What changes have you implemented since then?
“We’ve been increasing everything we do and still aiming for minimal disruption to the golfer. So we spend a lot of time in the evenings and early mornings trying to work around golf rather than during it. We’ll come in on Sunday nights to get the week started early so there’s minimal disruption on Monday morning for members and visitors. The course extends over a narrow strip of land, so when you’re driving about in vehicles, everything can get congested. So we try to work around golf as best we can.”
You say you’re trying to increase everything you do. Can you be more specific?
“We’re overseeding a lot more because we’re trying to get more fescue and bent into some of the greens. We’ve also set a target of reducing our organic matter down to 5%. We got it down, but because of the dry summer and the watering we’ve been doing, we’ve seen a slight increase. This autumn, however, we’re topdressing every second week with 10 tonnes of Washed Dune sand from Hugh King. We eased off during the main golf season, but we’ll be doing that until the weather allows, which should be well into November. This year we’re looking apply 160 tonnes per hectare.”
That will be about 240 tonnes in total.
“Over 1.5 hectares, it soon disappears. That’s one of things I like best about the Hugh King sand; the consistency, and how well it rubs into the profile with minimal disruption to play and the mowers, which is just as important. Because the sand is so good and rubs in so well, the golfers don’t even know if we’ve topdressed the night before. It also means that when we’re mowing the day after topdressing or that afternoon if it’s dry, the mowers don’t collect sand which could blunt them, so there is no need to sharpen them as often as we would if we were using a different sand. If the sand wasn’t as consistent as Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand or had stones through it, that would affect the mowers, which would mean downtime to get them sharpened, which costs money.”
So with the increased tonnage of sand to tackle the organic matter, has this increased mower maintenance at all?
“No, it’s remained the same – even though we’ve increased the amount of sand used, the mowers are still maintaining their cut quality.”
Has Hugh King helped in other ways?
“Because we work around golf, we like to take advantage of any spaces on the tee sheet. Hugh King helps with this because they are very good with prompt deliveries. We’re also restricted to deliveries before 9am because the car park gets too busy to allow in articulated lorries. Hugh King will be here at 8am as long as you give them a wee bit of notice, which is great. Hugh King is part of the journey.”