The Course Manager’s Calendar – April

Bob Meikle has been working at Crail Golfing Society for 27 years. Now the venue’s golf course manager, he joined straight from school and has seen one of the oldest golf clubs in the world flourish.

What are your responsibilities?
“I look after both golf courses, the driving range and all surrounding areas. Everything. If the light bulbs need changing in the clubhouse, I’ll probably get asked to do that. You have to be flexible.”

You’ve been here for 27 years. You must have seen some changes over the years.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes. Crail only had 18 holes when I started. They had bought the land for the new golf course, but hadn’t started building it. I saw the construction and grow-in of the Craighead Links course. It’s great to be a part of that, to see how they construct tees and greens and how they shape it. There aren’t many people who have witnessed that.”

What’s on the agenda for April?
“During the first couple of weeks on the Balcomie course we’ll start overseeding and putting down Hugh King sand. We’ll put about 12 tonnes down. We also try to put sand down during the winter because the weather’s not that bad for us down at the coast. It means we can put down some topdressing during the winter months as well. We’ve been able to put a couple of applications down at six tonnes per application. After that, we’ll put down sand fortnightly but with just four tonnes a hectare. We’re so busy during the summer, we can’t interfere with play, so we put down sand every couple of weeks at a low rate so we can just wash it in.”

How many rounds are played at Crail?
“The Balcomie course will have at least 35,000 rounds and Craighead will take 20,000 – it’s getting busier all the time, so we do very light applications. We don’t even rub in the sand, we’ll just wash it in so we’re not interfering with the surface. Golfers will come an hour later and not know we’ve even done it. The STRI recommended we do that because we are so busy. Light and often, so no one knows you’re doing it.”

How long have you been following that strategy?
“We started last year. Before that, we were putting heavier dressings on but not as frequently. The new way is a one man job. Once the guys have cut the greens, you’ll go behind with the spinning topdresser and put down a very light dusting. We put the sprinkler heads on for two minutes a head and that’ll wash the sand in. And that’s it. It’s an easier operation.”

What improvements have you noticed since introducing this practice?
“We’re trying to put as much sand down as we can, but we have to find a balance. I’m getting my way, but the golfers don’t know about it. We’re getting the greens firmer, drier and smoother. The last four years we’ve been aiming to put more sand on, and as a result we’re finding the greens are draining faster, playing better and we’re diluting the thatch more. It takes time, but we’re getting there.”

When did you switch to Hugh King?
“We’ve been using Hugh King for four years now. The Hugh King sand blends in better because it’s slightly darker. Every load we get is pretty much the same. It’s always clean, there are never any stones or contamination. It’s consistent. I usually get a call the day before they deliver and the driver calls when he’s half an hour away. We have that communication, which is really good.”

How would you rate Hugh King?
“We’ve never had any issues. We’ve had good communication with them. Every load has come in when they said it would and it is always very consistent. We’re really pleased.”