The Course Manager’s Calendar – January

In the middle of a three-year bunker renovation project, Ian Kinley is shaping the future of Royal Porthcawl. The experienced course manager is also 12 months into a new sand regime that is creating significant year-round benefits.

It’s been a busy time for the club. Do you ever get a break?
“We’ve actually got two years’ grace after hosting two Senior Opens and an Amateur Championship in quick succession. That gives us the opportunity to look at all those things you put on the shelf. All those things you’ve wanted to do, but had to wait for. For instance, we’ve been given the green light for a new maintenance facility which will future-proof us for the foreseeable future. We should get spades in the ground around March or April.”

And on the course…
“We’re in the middle of a three-year bunker renovation project. We’re changing from traditional revetted pot bunkers and going back to a naturalised style with free-form edges. We’re in year two of that project, so we did some last winter and we’re doing a load this winter. Next year we’ll have two shapers come on site to do the bits that we can’t do.”

Does the new style cut down on maintenance?
“Yes and no. We only have eight naturalised bunkers so far and they are anything but maintanence-free. Grass tries to creep in and revegetate some areas, so keeping the bunkers clear of vegetation has been the biggest challenge.”

And how are you approaching your topdressing these days?
“This year, we slightly changed how we’ve been using Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand. We started topdressing the greens once a week every week. We work the sand in using dew brushes or irrigation. We do this once a week with six tonnes of sand. It’s a small amount, but because we do it over 52 weeks, we’re actually increasing our sand input.”

What prompted the change?
“We wanted to increase our sand usage on the greens to 300 tonnes per hectare. In order to apply that amount of sand, we calculated we would have to apply sand every week. We worked out that six tonnes every week for 52 weeks would be just over 300 tonnes. We’ve got just over a hectare of greens, so with our course maintenance fortnight during which we apply over a 100 tonnes of sand, we would be in excess of that figure.”

What impact has this increase had on the greens?
“It means all the benefits of topdressing are apparent 365 days of the year. Firmness is the key element we are driving towards. It’s a correlation between moisture content and firmness. We’re trying to dilute the organic content at the profile as much as possible to provide the firmness we want. A spin-off is the smoothness, trueness and speed – they all go hand in hand.”

Are there any other benefits?
“We’re applying the sand little and often, which means it doesn’t affect our cutting units as much and the golfers are unaware that we’ve topdressed. It’s been a big positive. Also, because we’re using dew brushes to incorporate the sand into the sword, it’s not abrasive to the finer grasses, so it’s favouring the finer grasses as well.”

In 2018, you used 420 tonnes of Washed Dune sand. How would you describe the service you received?
“The service has been very good. We’ve never had any significant issues. We use Hugh King’s sand because it’s the best sand for our environment. It’s a links sand, so it fits perfectly with our environment and what’s under the turf.”