The Course Manager’s Calendar – March

The greens at Crieff Golf Club have never been drier. We catch up with course manager Charlie Macdonald to find out how kiln-dried sand has helped realise the club’s ambitious improvements.

Charlie, the last time we spoke, you were completing a big drainage project. How did that turn out?
“Well, at the back end of last year, we verti-drained down 10 inches and applied a tonne and half of Hugh King kiln-dried sand on each green. That really helped the greens drain especially after we put in all the drainage. We’re just tying up the drainage with the verti-draining, so together it will make a huge difference. The greens are absolutely bone dry. There’s not a green on the course that’s wet.”

How long did the verti-draining take?
“We started in the middle of October and it took us roughly two and half weeks to do all the greens because we hand-brushed the greens after. So it took five members of staff about two hours to do a green. It was a tough job, but it was worth spending that time to get the sand down deeper into the profile. The top two inches is already quite full of sand because of the amount of top-dressing we’ve put down.”

How long have you been using Hugh King’s kiln-dried sand?
“We’ve used the kiln-dried sand the last five or six years. We use it in September or October and then we use Hugh King’s medium coarse blend sand for top-dressing during the summer. We’ve used about 40 tonnes on the greens this winter.”

Was this done on both courses?
“Yes, we’ve got 29 greens. We did the nine-hole course in September. It has smaller greens so they probably took about half a tonne a green. It didn’t take us long; we were getting through five of them a day.”

What impact has this had on the greens?
“The greens are looking really healthy and dry. All the verti-drained holes have recovered so we have full grass coverage on all the greens. They’re looking pretty strong going into March which sets them up well for the spring. If your greens are dry throughout the winter, they’re a lot healthier going into the start of the season.”

Job done?
“Nearly. With the kiln-dried sand we have left, we’re going to give them a solid tine down to about 3 inches. We’ll probably use another 15 tonnes of sand for the 29 greens. We’ll be doing that in March weather permitting.”

And then you’re into the playing season.
“It’s a constant programme. You’ve got to keep going. If you stop, the thatch layer will start to build up again, so we’re constantly going over the greens every five or six weeks with vert-drains going down 9 inches followed by an application of sand and a rolling.”

How does that affect play?
“With the sweep-and-fill brush, we can get rid of the sand no problem. It just disappears. It’s great to use a sand that disappears with a few brushes. And it literally is a couple of brushes and it’s gone. If it’s dry first thing, one brush after a light application is good enough. Then we give it a cut and a roll and after that the surfaces are back to normal. Some of the golfers don’t even know it’s been done. The golfers don’t moan about it, which is a bonus.”

Those greens have been well looked after!
“We use a lot of sand, and we have always used dried sand at the back end of the year so the sand can penetrate down into the profile which has made a huge impact. The greens are firm and dry 12 months of the year. We have a parkland course in the centre of Scotland, so it just shows you how dry they are when you can ride a triple over them right through the winter. The sand has definitely helped. It’s been fantastic.”

How would you rate the service you’ve received from Hugh King?
“Hugh King has been fantastic. We get bunker sand, rootzone, topdressing and dry sand, and it is all so consistent. We’ve never had a bad load of any sand. It’s been absolutely spot on. I wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t good, and I wouldn’t tell you it was good if it wasn’t.”