The Course Manager’s Calendar – May

Goswick Golf Club may be a traditional links course, but that doesn’t mean things have to stay the same. Course manager Ryan McCulloch explains how Goswick Golf Club is benefitting from moving with the times

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What are your greatest achievements at Goswick?
“I started in April 1998, which was 20 years ago just past. My boss retired in April 2016 which is when I took over as course manager. George had worked at Goswick for 50 years and his dad was the head greenkeeper before him, so there hasn’t been many of us. When I started, the club had plans to extend the course to championship length in the hope of getting Open qualifying, which involved building five new championship tees and extending four greens. We were given the Open qualifying from 2008 until 2012 which was fantastic. And we’ve just been given the qualifying back again this June. It’s very nice the way it’s happened.”

Although Goswick is a traditional links, there have been some changes, including sourcing new sand. How did that come about?
“Apart from the changes we made 20 years ago, things have always been as they were. It’s a very traditional links with minimal inputs. It’s just stayed the same. We always used our own dune sand on the greens, tees and fairways for topdressing. But there was a shortage of it, and it was very time-consuming to screen all the sand on site. So a couple of years ago, we decided to look at some options which included Hugh King Washed Dune sand for the greens.”

How time-consuming was it to prepare your own sand?
“It would be a two-man job and take about a day to get 30 tonnes of sand out – and then it would have to be screened. So it would be a couple of days to get the sand to the stage where we could use it, and that would happen every six weeks. Using Hugh King sand is saving us man hours.”

How did you source the right sand?
“We have the STRI on board, so we sent them samples of our sand to get it matched up with something very similar. It turned out that Hugh King’s Washed Dune sand couldn’t have been a better fit. It was perfect. So that’s what we’ve been using for topdressing our greens and approaches since 2016.”

That must have been a big decision for the club to make.
“It was. We had never really budgeted for sand because we had our own. It was a big decision, but the club is really happy because the new sand is working perfectly. It has taken things up another level.”

Were there any other advantages of changing the sand?
“The sand we used before was a bit inconsistent and due to having a bit of debris in it some tidying was required after applying it to our greens. Now, with the Hugh King sand, we know deliveries can be here the next day and the sand is ready to go straight on. It’s so consistent. We topdressed this morning and by the time we brushed and cut the greens, you couldn’t tell any sand had been applied.”

How much sand do you use?
“We budget for 90 tonnes of sand for the greens, so we get three loads from Hugh King every year. Before we would use only about 50 tonnes because it was so time-consuming to get the sand ready. We’ve increased that to 90 tonnes because we have the sand ready to go. We start about February time and continue right up to until mid May for the regional qualifying. We’ll start again at the end of July/August and then right through until about October.”

What impact has the increased sand usage had on the greens?
“The greens are a lot firmer and truer, that was my main aim. We wanted to get more consistency across all 19 greens, including the practice putting green. We wanted to get more sand on – a little and often – to refine the greens and take them to that next level. We’re getting so many comments about the greens being truer and firmer as a result of using the sand. Having the Hugh King sand means the greens are a lot firmer and faster naturally.

You also used your own sand for the bunkers. Have you made the switch here too?
“We always used our own dune sand in the bunkers. The problem was we spent forever clearing them up. Every time there was some wind, the sand blew out of the bunkers. So about 10 years ago, we started experimenting with different sands. It kind of worked, but the sand we used was a heavier, white, parkland course sand and I didn’t like it at all. What I really wanted was a good links bunker sand.”

What convinced you to change to Hugh King’s Bunker 8?
“Last winter we started a new bunker rebuilding project and decided to rebuild them from scratch starting with getting all the bases sorted out. We also wanted to source a sand that was the right colour and texture and was free-draining. We decided to get a load of Hugh King’s Bunker 8 sand in and it has been a huge success. The sand has certainly been tested with the amount of wind and rain we’ve had, and it’s worked perfectly.

What’s the feeling in the clubhouse?
“The members love it, so we feel like we’ve found the right sand. We’re hoping in the next few years that all the bunkers will be filled with Bunker 8 sand.