The Course Manager’s Calendar – March

It’s all change at Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club. Course manager, Brian Finlayson describes the developments at the Ayrshire course and explains how sand is playing a vital role

Barassie Golf Club, Brian Findlayson

Barassie Golf Club, Brian Findlayson

What’s been happening at Barassie?
“We’ve just finished a course-improvement programme. We’ve built a brand-new par three from scratch with a championship tee, fairway, green and bunkers. It will be the new thirteenth when it’s in operation. We have the old par three which we will use as a relief hole in the winter. We’ve also got four new tees right on the railway line on the 7th which will now play as a straight hole. It has a brand new fairway and bunkering, which are spectacular. Paul Kimber was the architect.”

Sounds like a lot of work.
“We started in the middle of August and we’ve moved 8,000 tonnes of material. It’s been a big job. We’ll have the new par three ready be the end of June, although that depends on the kind of the spring we get. There isn’t any real hurry to open it because we’ve got the old hole anyway. The plan is to open the new hole until October and then close it to rest it and then go again the following May. We don’t want to beat the hole up.”

How has the grow-in gone?
“Everything is turfed. The tees and the banking have been turfed and the bunkers have been revetted. We’re doing the grow-in now. The new green was seeded onto compressed hollow cores and has had a tonne and a half of topdressing already. The seven new tees have been topdressed with Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand and we’ve done parts of the fairways this week. Everything is matching up perfectly. All the rootzone tested on site is bang-on compatible with Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand. That means everything will be topdressed with Hugh King sand which is the ideal sand with what we’ve got on site.”

What are the advantages of getting such a close match?
“Everything has been tested at the STRI to ensure compatibility, which means you’re starting off with the right particle size for the indigenous stuff below, which in turn means you’re not going to get a sealed layer. That’s also the advantage of keeping your sand consistent throughout your site. During the grow-in, there will be regular topdressings on the new turf and some light aeration.

How much sand do you use during a typical season?
“Last year we used 280 tonnes on tees, greens, surrounds and parts of fairways – that’s the most we’ve ever used in a season over our 27 holes. We’ve had some really wet winters over the last five years so we’ve been extending the maintenance out over the fairways.”

What effect has this had on the condition of the course?
“We’re trying to firm up certain areas by getting more sand in there to help the turf drain better. It’s already had an impact with the soil standing up well to winter play – we get a lot of winter play at Barassie.”

Is this part of a broader improvement plan?
“Yes, it’s an ongoing thing. The greens are getting firmer year-on-year and we’re seeing real improvements in the playability of the surfaces which are a lot firmer and draining very well.”

How important has sand been in this project?
“The last eight years, we’ve significantly increased our use of sand by 6o tonnes each year. And we are seeing the benefits for it. Our agronomist is happy with the condition of the course. The members are saying the greens are a lot firmer and faster now. In fact, the way the course is just now, I would say the greens are probably the firmest they’ve been. With the introduction of quality grass seed and a more sustained top-dressing programme, I would say they are probably as good as they’ve been for a long time.”