Although James Hutchinson has been head greenkeeper at Castle Stuart Golf Links for only two years, he has an intimate understanding of the much-praised Highland course.
Although you took over as head greenkeeper a couple of years ago, you’ve been at Castle Stuart from the start. How does that help you with your job?
“To be involved in a golf course from the very start, right through construction to the finished product is special. There’s a lot more underneath the finished product you’re able to understand, like the irrigation, drainage and rootzone. You know exactly what’s under there and you know what you’ll have to deal with later on.”
So what do have planned for June?
“We’ve been chasing a bit of grass on our fairways. Last spring and summer, we lost a bit of the fescue because we had to share our water supply with a local farmer, so we were restricted to how much water we could put on. We had to focus on greens and tees, and the fairways lost a bit of grass. So there has been a big over-seeding project and a lot of topdressing to get the fairway levels back.”
How does Hugh King’s sand help in this process?
“At the start of June, we’ll be applying a light topdressing. We tend to use more topdressing, but with light applications – we put a dusting on every fortnight. It creates a deep bed for all the seed we’re putting out.”
Do you put out heavier applications during your closed season?
“Yes. We open up in March and close in the middle of November, so by the end of February – towards the start of the season – we put out the heavier dressings to get the levels back after the winter work. Because we are a business, the greens have to be as good as they can possibly be. It’s about getting the course to the highest possible standards. So the lighter dressings mean the golfers don’t see the sand. They replicate what the dunes would do naturally on a windy day. You only get one chance. Whatever it takes to have the course immaculate, then that’s what we have to do.”
So light and often.
“Yes. If you apply too many heavy applications, you get layers and I don’t like layers. Little and often. With that you should stay away from the layers. We’ve also got a big wetting agent programme to complete in June which is even more important now as it will make sure we have recovery if we have another hot summer.”
How long has Castle Stuart used Hugh King sand?
“Since we’ve opened, it’s always been the Washed Dune sand from Hugh King. We use
150 tonnes a year.”
Why did you opt for Hugh King’s sand in the first place?
“The Hugh King sand was very similar to what we already had, so it helped with the rootzone plus you can put it out, cut the next day and it doesn’t hang about for too long. The sand gets down into the soil and protects the crown. It ticks all the boxes for us.”
How would you rate the service from Hugh King?
“Whenever we get in touch, there’s never a problem or a delay. In terms of the product, I have no complaints whatsoever. It’s clean. Even if it sits for a while, no weeds come up through it, and there are no stones in it. It is pristine.”