Peter Hall has been at Whitecraigs Golf Club for 26 years. The course manager has seen many changes over the years, but none more significant than the ongoing comprehensive redesign of the James Braid-designed course.
Peter, there’s a lot going on at Whitecraigs.
“Yes. We rebunkered the 9th hole and redesigned our 14th which made a huge difference.Right now we’re changing bits of the course because the weather we’re getting means the bunkers are getting washed out constantly. Last year we put in two capillary concrete bunkers just to try it out. That was particularly successful, so we are going to do the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 18th holes and we’re going to make some changes to the bunkers while we’re at it, taking some away that aren’t being used much.”
How many bunkers are being removed?
“We’re removing three bunkers and redesigning seven. It’s not major redesign work – a few of them have steep faces which we’ll roll over with turf.”
More generally, how significant is the overall programme of works?
“It’s pretty big. Most of the things we’ve done so far, the members were wary of. But once they’re done; they love it. A lot of the folk here think the course shouldn’t be changed, but we have to progress.”
When will you start work on 1, 2, 3 and 18?
“The work should have happened by now, but the contractors have been held up by the weather. This weather is holding everybody up. To be honest, I’m quite happy they’re not here right now because the ground conditions are miserable.”
How long will the work take when you get it going?
“We’re hoping to get it done within two weeks. The contractors are coming in to do the shaping, draining and installing the capillary concrete and my guys will do all the turfing. When they do a bunker, we’ll get right in behind them – that’s the plan anyway.”
Moving on to topdressing, what sand do you use?
“We have a Hugh King silo on site filled with kiln-dried sand. We use that for topdressing and graden work. This year it’s been so wet that we’ve been verti-draining the greens and filling them with sand, just to help the surface drainage.”
Why did you bring the silo on site?
“We had a thatch problem on greens so we acquired a graden, sand-injection machine and we were using bagged sand from another supplier. But we found some of the bags were damaged or burst. If we were getting 40 bags in a palette, quite often 10% were burst and we couldn’t put the sand through the graden machine. It varied for each load or how long the bags were lying in the yard. Someone suggested using the silo system, which turned out to be a top idea.”
What are the benefits of using the silo?
“We were losing sand, whereas the silo is secure – that’s the big difference. Perhaps as importantly, the sand is always dry when it comes out so it works very well. And it’s always on site, so we don’t have to call in orders all the time.”
What impact has this had on the course?
“Ripping out the thatch and putting in the sand has made a big difference to the greens. In fact, we haven’t graded this winter because the thatch levels have been so low. We just carry out constant, light topdressings every fortnight. And with the kiln-dried sand, we can just go out and get it done. It doesn’t interrupt play at all. It disappears. Before, when we brought in the bagged sand for the graden, all our topdressing was done with bulk loads which were kept outside and were wet and interfered with play. We’ve found that the dried sand is a lot better.”