The Course Manager’s Calendar – October

Twenty five years ago, Bob Meikle left school and went straight to Crail Golfing Society. Now in charge of both courses, the driving range and surrounding areas, Crail’s golf course manager explains his busy autumn schedule

With Autumn well and truly with us, what are your plans for October?
“We will be deep-tining, seeding and topdressing the greens on the Balcomie course. We’ve just completed Craighead last week although those greens were just micro-cored and top-dressed. The greens and surrounds on both courses will be top-dressed monthly going into the winter, if weather permits, as we are out of high season.”

How do you timetable this work?
“At this time of year, we are still really busy, but we’ve tried coring three or four weeks down the line and we just don’t get the full recovery going into the winter. Doing it as early as possible gives us a lot of spin-offs because while other courses are closed for frost or flooding, we’re still very busy in the winter. This is the earliest we could do this work. If I could bring it forward two weeks that would be fantastic, but there are too many medals.”

How do you balance that work with access to the course?
“Fortunately, we have two courses so when one is closed, the other takes all the golf. It means we can close each course for three or four days while we do the work. As soon as the work is completed, the course is opened to members only for the first couple of weeks and then visitors get it at a reduced rate.”

How important is green preparation ahead of the winter months?
“You want the greens to go into the winter in really good condition because they look after you when get to the spring. We get all our work done and get the sand on so that going into the winter, the greens drain well which means when we get to spring, they’re in better condition. It works out quite well.”

How long have you been using Hugh King sand?
“We’ve been using Hugh King sand for a year. I wanted to get more light dressings on the greens but the product we were using before didn’t rub in as well as the Washed Dune sand does. The Washed Dune sand rubs in so much better which means we can get more sand onto and absorbed into the surfaces which means the greens are more playable.”

How does this help maintain the course?
“The Washed Dune sand rubs into the profile better which allows us to get surfaces back to playing conditions without the golfers even knowing we’ve put down sand. Because we’ve been able to get more sand on this year, the greens are getting firmer, but it is still quite early to tell. I think it will take a couple more years and then we’ll notice a bigger difference.”

Any other advantages?
“Because the sand absorbs so well, it doesn’t affect the quality of the cut or the blades on our mowers. That was a big issue before. We’ve noticed we’re getting less damage to our cutting units because the sand is rubbing in so well. It’s a big thing. To strip down a unit and get the blades sharpened or send them away, it’s a big inconvenience plus a lot of cost.”

You top-dress greens, surrounds and tees. How much sand do you use annually?
“We’re using over 200 tonnes of Washed Dune sand for both courses. That’s what we’re aiming for, but you have to work with the weather. Before we changed sands, we would only be able to apply about 160 tonnes. The top-dressings we’ve done so far have been just light dressings. Next week, we will put on at least 30 tonnes. This will be our first big aeration with Hugh King sand. We’re hoping to go into next spring and notice a difference, but that depends on the weather. So far, putting more sand down is working well for us.”