Barry McCulloch is man on a mission. Since starting at Caldwell Golf Club in January, the new course manager has been determined to tackle the effects of one of the wettest seasons on record by using kiln-dried sand.
After working at Whitecraigs Golf Club for 13 years, was it a big change coming to Caldwell?
“I started in January and it was slightly different. There is more rain here and the club experiences different temperatures, but I’m fairly used to those kind of conditions. When I arrived, we had just come off the back of one of the wettest seasons in 2017, so my aims and objectives were centred around getting the course open and in play as often as I could. I wanted to dry the place out as quickly as possible.”
How did you go about doing that?
“Having used dried sand at Whitecraigs, I believed that was the way to go, so we opted for Hugh King’s medium course dried sand to help with the surface drainage and worked it into the soil profile as quickly as possible. Using it from the silo was definitely the best way for us. Having worked with a silo at Whitecraigs, I knew it was the best way to progress and help improve the profile of the greens.”
Did you do anything else?
“We’ve done a bit of drilling and filling going down to 250mm and back-filling the holes with the kiln-dried sand. We wanted to dry the surfaces out as quickly as possible and keep the course open for play, especially the greens.”
How much dried sand have you used this year?
“We had the Hugh King silo delivered in February and we’ve taken delivery of 160 tonnes for this year, of which I have put 110 tonnes of sand onto the greens since February. We’re using Hugh King’s TD4 sand.”
What are the advantages of going for dried sand?
“Kiln-dried sand is moisture-free and taking it straight from the silo onto the greens as quickly as possible means we can apply more sand quicker. We were able to achieve 26 tonnes of sand – topdressing and brushing it into the greens – in one day. We had invested in new machinery, but that was only achievable because we had dried sand from the silo.”
What impact has this approach had?
“We’ve seen the results rather quickly in terms of the work that we’ve done so far. The members are certainly seeing the results and have spoken about the putting surfaces being firmer than before and have complimented us on the pace of the greens as well as the smoothness. These improvements have also been reflected in our STRI report with regards to the smoothness, trueness and hardness of the greens, which are all within target. The club has backed my goals and have invested in new machinery and the silo. Our membership has increased by 8% this year and we’re hoping that will increase over the next few months.”
Those are incredible results, especially since February.
“It’s had a big impact. The sheer quantity of sand we’ve put on the greens and the speed at which we apply it is really only achievable, I believe, because we have the silo. Being able to apply 26 tonnes in one working day is down to the machinery and, more importantly, the pure dried sand.”
You’re really going for it!
“We’ve just cored the greens in the middle of September and we are now grading them. That would be 70 tonnes of sand applied to the greens in eight weeks. By the time we’ve finished the grading, that will be 80 tonnes on the greens. That will be concluded by November, so during September and October, we will have applied 80 tonnes of sand to the greens.”
What impact will this have on the course next season?
“We’ll see a big difference in the playability of the putting surface. By the start of the season the greens should be firmer and allow us to prepare earlier for the season ahead.”