Interview with Graeme King of Hugh King & Co.

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Graeme King has been at the helm of Hugh King for longer than he would care to mention. Supplying golf courses across the UK as well as all of the Open Championship venues in Scotland, he is acutely aware of the seasonal variations that affect golf course maintenance, and how to anticipate them.

Winter is a busy time for golf courses. How does it affect your business?
“A lot of the top-dressing takes place in October and some jobs carry on through into November utilising products like Washed Dune sand and our Medium Coarse blend. It does, however, start to tail off as we head into winter and there is a definite move to our root zone material. There is a switch from topdressing to construction jobs where greens and tees are being rebuilt over the winter months.”

With construction in mind, what sort of quantities do clubs order?
“It is very much dependent on the project and the club, and it can be hit and miss – you either have a project or you don’t. But one of our clients rebuilt three of its greens and used 750 tonnes of RZ2 last December. That was a fairly big order, but it can be indicative of quantities required.”

Winter weather can scupper the best plans. How does the weather affect you?
“Some clubs will pencil-in projects and wait to see if the weather plays ball. Sometimes the entire thing gets cancelled because the weather is rubbish. And then we have a winter like we had last year, which was one of the driest ever. That was good for us and good for our clients.”

How do you prepare for the winter rush, or otherwise?
“We readily keep sand in stock. Washed Dune sand, for example, is an ongoing product that we have ready at all times of year. We will, however, use the winter to build up stock across the board. For instance, we are conscious of how much root-zone material clubs could use during the winter and we want to be ready to service any orders that come in. At the moment, I am looking to add 1000 tonnes of stock in preparation for what may or may not happen.”

So the winter period can be quite busy at the quarry?
“The sand-soil rootzone mix comes into its own at this time of year, so we want to make sure we are properly stocked so we can send out deliveries throughout the winter. Generally though, we take the opportunity to build stock during the winter. What also helps is we have our fleet on site to help shift material between the sand pits and the washing plants. It’s an opportunity to use the fleet internally.”

But it’s not just golf clubs that order sand. Do other sports facilities have similar seasonal variations?
“It depends on the sport. For instance, a busy time of year for bowling clubs is September and October. They use our dried top-dressing product. It’s a clock-change thing. So it’s to do with when people play; be it bowls, golf or football. For instance, the main break in the football season is the summer, so that’s when they do a lot work. It’s about timing it to coincide with a period when there are the least number of players on the pitch so that the staff can get access to maintain the surfaces properly.”