Recently Hugh King & Co were featured in the Transport and Logistics magazine, you can view the article by clicking on the following link.
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When Archie Dunn arrived at Auchterarder Golf Club, he was meant to stand in initially for six months. Twenty three years later, he is now the club’s cornerstone golf course manger.
We’re into the golfing season proper now, so what are your plans for May?
“May is a hectic month as we try to get as much aeration and top dressing done on all areas during a busy golfing period with member and visitor play increasing as the weather improves.”
What in particular will you be doing?
“Our greens and approaches programme will consist of us solid tinning areas with 12mm tines and top dressing with10-12 tonnes medium course sand. This will then be brushed in using our trailed rotary brush. We will also slit tine the same areas with a planet air machine down to around 75mm, add further sand and brush it in. We will also follow both procedures with our true turf rollers to level out and smooth surfaces to improve ball roll.
As the weather over winter and early spring has been so wet – we recorded 173% higher rainfall levels than our 25-year average this winter – we will also hollowcore four of our wettest greens and sand to fill holes. This will hopefully firm up and reduce organic matter on these poorer areas.
As May progresses we will increase our presentation of the golf course and this will become our main focus. We will cut the greens most days with pedestrian and triple mowers at around 4mm depending on temperatures. With tees and surrounds being cut twice weekly at 8mm, fairways and intermediate cut once a week and semi rough cut as required by growth levels, there’s certainly a lot to do.”
How long have you been using Hugh King sand?
“We’ve been using it for a couple of years. Before we had a locally sourced sand that came from three miles down the road, but we changed because we wanted better quality, more consistency and more reliable deliveries. The quality of the Hugh King sand is definitely better, but it’s the consistency that’s the main thing.”
What changes have you noticed since using Hugh King sand?
“When we’re top dressing, we get a much cleaner finish and we get it brushed in a lot easier. It produces a far cleaner surface. When we’re hollow-coring the greens, we get the sand down the holes much quicker. We’ve had 60 tonnes on the greens so far this year and we’re planning to go with another 10 tonnes next week so hopefully we’ll be applying 10 tonnes every fortnight for the next month or six weeks until we get the greens firmed up, but that depends on the golf.”
What sand blend are you using?
“We use the medium-coarse blend. It’s a transition from the sand we were using previously. We didn’t want to go straight to Washed Dune sand because it would have been too fine. We were using a medium-coarse before so we didn’t want to go straight to a medium-fine in case it clogged things up. Once we’ve had a couple of years on the medium-coarse, then we’ll change to Washed Dune sand further down the line.”
How are you using the sand and what are the results?
“We’re top-dressing greens and approaches. The members are delighted because the sand is brushing in much better, which is great for putting, and the greens are getting much smoother and firmer. Surface drainage has also improved dramatically with consistent sand and better particle size.”
Colin Powrie has spent half his life at Ladybank Golf Club in Fife, although he admits it doesn’t feel like 25 years have passed since he started there. He clearly loves what he does and has built up a wealth of heathland knowledge.
Does the start of spring herald better conditions for you?
“April is a difficult month for everyone in this area. You get these north-easterly winds which the grass doesn’t like. Ladybank’s greens are around 70-80% bent grass with the remaining made up of Poa and fescue. With April being a difficult month for growth with dry, cold, north easterly winds stunting Poa, surfaces can be inconsistent in terms of trueness, smoothness and playability. To help improve this we apply light dressings of TD4 little and often throughout April to help hit our targets. Our aim in April is to get the surfaces on the greens just right.”
How much sand do you apply at this time of year?
“We apply a light dusting every 10 days of 10 tonnes per hectare on green surfaces. At the same time we’re keeping organic matter under control. This process has helped us halve our organic content in the last five years which means the greens are a lot firmer all year round. We’re part of the STRI testing programme so we get a lot of testing done by them. We exceed all our targets on a regular basis.”
What advantages do you get from using Hugh King’s dry top-dressing sands?
Hugh King’s TD4 is a kiln-dried, medium-coarse sand that complements our existing soil. It’s free-draining and we’re seeing great results with it. It gets pumped into the silo we have on site so we have dried material on demand. This is important especially after aeration because when you’re using dried material, it filters into any aeration holes and down into the canopy so much better and a lot quicker.
How does this help?
“Because the sand isn’t lying on the surface, you can come along with cutting units. If you were using undried sand, you would potentially lose material through pick-up and you could also get problems with blunt cutting units. If the sand is down in the canopy, it’s in the right place. I would also recommend using a silo because of the consistency of the material. It produces a better putting surface.”
Do you use any other Hugh King sands?
“Another sand we use from Hugh King is Washed Dune Sand, which we use for topdressing tees and approaches. It is consistent throughout the particle-size range which helps when brushing it in. We are also trialling Washed Dune Sand in some bunkers as an alternative to our existing sand. We’ll see how it performs and get some feedback from the members. We’re thinking long term.”
This March sees the completion of a far-reaching project to revamp the drainage under the greens at Crieff Golf Club. In charge has been the club’s course manager for 18 years, Charlie Macdonald.
You’re coming to the end of a big drainage project – are you happy with the results?
“We’re hoping to get all the turfing and construction jobs finished by the first week in March. We’ve done four greens for the last three winters, so that’s 12 in total. It was hard going with all the materials which we did by hand. There were no machines used to move the 90 tonnes of root zone into the drainage lines. But if you do it by hand, you don’t have any mess. It’s time-consuming, but you don’t have any machines running up and down your greens. So it comes out really well.
As well as Hugh King’ root zone, what other Hugh King products do you use?
From March through to October we top-dress the greens fortnightly with Hugh King’s medium coarse blend top-dressing sand. We used about 120 tonnes of it last year. It keeps the surfaces dry; we wanted something quite coarse because our soil is quite coarse – we needed something to blend into the soil. In October, we then use the kiln-dried sand when we hollow core the surfaces. We use a big brush to sweep the dried sand down the holes. Last year we used about 60 tonnes.”
You also use the Bunker 7 sand – that’s a lot of product.
“We’re using four different types of Hugh King sand. That’s about 300 tonnes of sand and rootzone every year. It’s a fair bit. All sands we use on the golf course are Hugh King’s. It has been great because it has been so consistent – we’ve never had a bad load of sand. They’ve been absolutely superb.”
How long have you been using Hugh King’s sand?
“It will be three years in March. The sand has really firmed up the greens and made the drainage a lot better. The root zone we’ve used as part of the drainage work has been superb, really consistent and free-draining. It is fantastic. It gets the surface water off the greens a lot quicker than ever before. It’s a vast improvement in firmness and drainage rates.
Sandy Reid has been at Carnoustie for 19 years, taking over the top job from John Philp three and a half years ago. We find out how he’s getting on.
It’s been a tough winter. What are your plans for February?
“We’ll be mixing rootzone for a new green using Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand. By the end of the month we’ll also be top dressing the Championship course fairways with it at about 12 tonnes per hectare. Given favourable weather, we’ll get it done in two or three days.”
How long has Carnoustie been using Hugh King sands?
“The Championship course was the last course to start using Hugh King sands. We actually started using them on the other two courses back in 2004. It was 2008 when we started using the sands on the Championship course. That’s when we started using Hugh King’s sand exclusively.”
So how do you use the sands today?
“We use the Washed Dune Sand for top dressing greens, tees and surrounds on all three courses, and top dress the Championship fairways once a year with it as well. We also add it to our root zone mix which gets used in our divot mix and on all construction jobs. Although we primarily use Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand, we also use the Bunker 6 sand on the Burnside and Buddon courses. In total, we bring in about 1,000 tonnes a year – that’s a mixture of both sands although the majority of it is Washed Dune Sand.”
You also use Hugh King’s kiln-dried sand.
“Yes, we use it to make up our own fertiliser and sulphate-of-iron mixes. It’s almost impossible to spread a straight fertiliser lightly, so you have to use sand as a carrier. The sand needs to be dry to go through a spreader and we felt Hugh King’s sand was the best. It’s something we do two or three times a year, although we also use it for drill-and-fill type work. There is a machine we could use but we prefer to do it by hand; by deep verti-draining and/or coring with wide tines then going on our hands and knees with funnels filling up the holes with kiln-dried sand. It goes down the funnel and into the hole nice and easy because it’s so dry. You can’t do it with moist sand.
“We’re trying to improve percolation and drainage through the soil. We did it on the 13th green on the Championship course on an area that was poor for drainage. It makes a connection from the top through to the natural sand underneath.”
Why is Hugh King’s Washed Dune Sand so well suited for Carnoustie?
“It’s very similar to our indigenous sand. It has a consistent particle size and the particle shape is good too. It is very compatible with what have. Even the colour is nice. Because it’s not white or anything like that, it blends in. It allows us to keep the greens smooth, firm and draining well.”
I understand you’re heading to Wales shortly on a fact-finding mission.
“Yes, we’re building a brand new green on The Burnside Course and we want to use the hollow-core method where you take hollow cores from your existing greens and spread them on the new green. Royal Porthcawl has done this on a couple of greens already. For that job we’re going to use quite a lot of Washed Dune Sand in the rootzone mix – Royal Porthcawl has been using Hugh King sand for the last couple of years. The idea is you get something that is very similar to the other 17 greens on the course and it establishes a bit quicker.”
How would you describe Hugh King sand?
“It is a quality sand that allows us to help reduce and maintain organic matter levels whilst complimenting the indigenous soil structure. Specifically on the greens, it has allowed us to produce firmer, truer, smoother and freer draining playing surfaces, as well as allowing us to encourage the fine grass content – the fescue and bent grasses.”