In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield: Edinburgh Rugby has a new home, a short pass away from the grandeur of BT Murrayfield. Scott MacCallum talks with Jim Dawson, head groundsman, to find out more.

As we enter a new year and say “Good riddance” to 2020, we can reflect on what has been an extraordinary difficult time for us all. One sector which has had more challenges to cope with than most is that of elite sport, where competition has continued but without crowds and all the related revenue streams that huge numbers of supporters generate.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

One of those bodies was the Scottish Rugby Union, but throughout everything Edinburgh Rugby’s new home was being constructed.

Just outside the main BT Murrayfield stadium the new stadium was conceived to provide a permanent home for Edinburgh in a more intimate environment of a 7,800-seater stadium.

That latter fact is a little ironic given  that Scotland, and every other northern hemisphere national team, have been busting a gut in front of empty seats since the autumn. But there is no doubt the ability to provide that 16th man is made more easy in a compact arena.

One man how has watched its development closely over its various developmental stages is Head Groundsman, Jim Dawson.

“The stadium is more or less complete. The stands are in, the carpet is in and the posts are going in as we speak,” said Jim, as we chatted towards the end of November and, by the time you read this, the ground would almost certainly have been Christened.

“The pitch is exactly the same as the one we have a Scotstoun (Home of Scotland’s other pro team Glasgow Warriors) which has been down four or five years and which has been brilliant,” said Jim, who is in charge of both the BT Murrayfield and Scotstoun surfaces.

The new pitch is a Greenfields MX Elite. Pile Height: 60mm; Total thickness: 62 mm; Number of tufts per square metre: 4,750; Number of filaments per square metre: 114,000; Roll Width: 400 cm; Colour Fastness: Xenon test: blue-scale more than 7, grey-scale more than 4.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

“Paddy (Ferrie) won the Best Managed Artificial Surface of the Year at the 2017/18 IOG Awards for the pitch, and the work he does is second to none. He does an absolutely fantastic job in the way he maintains the carpet and we will just incorporate the practices he carries out at the new ground.”

With an artificial training pitch already at BT Murrayfield, Jim doesn’t need to add to his machinery inventory to cope with the new pitch.

“We have the brushes we need and the Campey Unirake, while the pitch does come with a one year warranty from Malcolm’s so they will be coming in and do whatever needs to be done for the first 12 months.

“We will carry on with the same testing that Paddy does at Scotstoun, measuring the depth of rubber crumb, and using the Clegg Hammer to ensure that it always plays its best.”

While the new build adds to the variety of work for Jim and his team, it will also be a real change for Head Coach Richard Cockerill and his Edinburgh team.

“They have been used to playing on a top quality grass pitch and to go and train and play on an artificial every day will be a bit different for them.”

Throughout the pandemic the pitch will be fully disinfected every week. Previously it had been once every six weeks.

“We are all really looking forward to taking the new pitch on board and it’s really good for Edinburgh to finally have their own home.

Back at the main BT Murrayfield Jim dealt with a full autumn schedule which this year incorporate the Nations Cup – all of which went on without crowds. Jim and his team had just prepared the pitch for the visit of France.

“Alex (Latto) and I watched the game from the disabled bay and, without crowd noise, you really do hear the big tackles going in as the players making their calls on the pitch,” said Jim, who also acknowledged he did notice how the lack of crowd meant that the build up of tension which Murrayfield normally sees just wasn’t there in the last five minutes of the game.

The BT Murrayfield DESSO pitch is now six years old but with loving and expert care, Jim reckons he can look forward to a 13-14 year lifespan.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

One of the main issues with which Jim has to deal, ironically enough for Scotland’s national stadium, is that it is in Scotland.

“We are the most northerly rugby stadium in Britain. The main difference between ourselves and Twickenham is daylight. As soon as the clocks change the grass wants to lie flat and shut itself down. With our stadium lighting and our undersoil heating we’re telling it not to go to sleep and to keep working which does stress it out.”

Jim and Deputy, Alex, review turf management practices regularly including their fertiliser programmes and to keep even more on top of things they are looking at reviewing more regularly.

“It has got to the stage that we are looking at things on a weekly, rather than a monthly, basis. Sometimes it’s just to tweak things a little but it might also mean leaving it alone for three or four days. And all groundsmen know, that to do nothing, is the hardest thing for us.”

Unlike the majority of the Scottish Rugby staff Jim was retained for most of the time during lockdown as, like so many in his position, he had to ensure the pitch continued to be cut, rather than left to its own devices.

But his workload didn’t stop there. “I got a couple of weeks in but was trying to spin so many plates and that fact that the weather had improved, I asked if Alex could come back too. He’d been climbing the walls. He’s a keen cyclist but had done virtually every route close to his home so he was delighted.

That helped me a lot, particularly with the back pitches and the many bankings that we have on the site.”

One of the jobs that they, and the Facilities Team – a total of seven – had to carry out, wouldn’t necessarily appear on any Job Description for a groundsman role.

“We had to turn every tap in the stadium on for five minutes to flush the system and prevent any outbreak of Legionella. We had a system where we had cable ties on them to keep them on otherwise it would have been a struggle,” said Jim with a degree of understatement.

All in a day’s work for Jim and his team at BT Murrayfield.

‘I’m much more worried about you’

‘I’m much more worried about you’: Jim Dawson speaks candidly about how stress got too much – and how support was quickly forthcoming.

Jim Dawson has been a Liverpool supporter since he was a boy growing up on the Isle of Bute. He’d taken his dad’s advice not to align himself to either of the Old Firm, and with Kenny Dalglish having recently moved to Liverpool it was the Reds who became his team from then on.

2’I’m much more worried about you’

So there was huge excitement when his beloved team, recently crowned European and World Champions, were scheduled to play a friendly match against Napoli at BT Murrayfield in July 2019.

BT Murrayfield got the call as a result of the pitch at Anfield being renovated, and delays to the completion of the second option, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“I was one of the most excited people at BT Murrayfield when it was announced,” recalls Jim, the IOG Groundsman of the Year in 2015

There was just one issue. A Spice Girls concert was due to be held at the Stadium, and then the pitch was going to be renovated by Premier Pitches, with the big match five and a half weeks later.

So, while The Spice Girls were doing their stuff on the stage what Jim wanted, what he really, really wanted, was a bit more time to ensure that the pitch was in perfect shape for his heroes.

“Premier Pitches did a first class job, but I was so keen that the pitch be perfect that I was checking the pitch every day and, to me, the seed wasn’t coming through fast enough.

“We had a couple of weeks when it was dark and overcast with hardly any sunshine and it wasn’t coming on strong enough. Well, to me it wasn’t coming on strongly enough… because I was looking at it every day.”

Even the reassuring words of his Deputy, Alex Latto, weren’t helping, and Jim was just getting himself more and more worked up.

“It all came to a head. I think it was week three. To me, it wasn’t coming through and thickening up and we were having the Champions of Europe – World Champions – my team, coming to play on my pitch. People like Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

“So many thoughts were going through my head. It was just building and building. Normally, I’d go in and make myself and Kenny Scott, the Facilities Manager, a coffee and we’d go through to the bothy,” recalled Jim.

“On this day, I just went through to my office and shut the door. Kenny asked if I was ok and I said that, no I was struggling. So, we had a chat and then a walk over the pitch.”

Kenny reassured him that his pitch was fantastic, while, at the same time, Jim was explaining where he could see all the faults.

“We then sat in the stand and I talked through everything with him. I was in tears,” Kenny, an ex-Army man, explained to Jim that it was as though he was on a march, carrying a rucksack, and picking up everyone else’s troubles.

“He said that I just wasn’t flinging them back off again. It was a good thought.” What happened next is a gold-plated example of best practice for any mental health sufferer and any organisation with an employee who comes to them with a mental health issue.

Jim decided to speak with the HR (Human Resources) Department, where, again, he broke down in tears. He was taken into the Board room where he explained everything and how it was affecting him.

He then asked if he could speak with Dominic McKay, Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Within five minutes Dom was with me, and I told him all my worries about the pitch and my concerns about whether it was going to be ready.

“The one thing that really changed my thinking was what Dom said to me.

“He said that they could play on sand for all he cared and that he was much more worried about me and your mental health. He then asked what he could do to help,” revealed Jim.

“That one sentence took the rucksack off my back and I was able to calm myself down. Dom has a great manner, and an ability to make you believe that your problem is his problem. He has a way of talking to you which makes you feel good.”

After talking to Dom, Jim returned to HR where he was asked if he felt that he needed to see a specialist.

“I said that I thought that I still needed some help so within an hour I was sitting in a consultation with a psychiatrist. That’s how fast it was from me breaking the news to them and me seeing someone. That was the level of support that I had,” said Jim, who had his only other episode in 2014, equally well dealt with by Scottish Rugby, when the catalyst was the nematode infestation on the BT Murrayfield pitch.

Once he’d had his talk with HR and Dom, Jim then went to his own team and explained everything and what was going to be happening.

“They were right behind me. The whole team here at BT Murrayfield have each other’s backs which is a big thing. We are always there for each other. Even young Callum, who has come through our ranks wonderfully, often asks if I’m alright and if there is anything he can do for me.”

Scottish Rugby booked Jim a series of consultations, where he was able to talk through how he could better manage his feelings.

“Some people need to take medication for mental health, but I was one of those who didn’t. Talking to people helps me get through my mental health issues,” explained Jim.

To assist with the process, he went to Turkey on holiday for two weeks, leaving Alex to tend the pitch towards its inevitable high standard in time for the match.

“I didn’t take my phone and didn’t have any contact with work while I was away. I flew back into Scotland on the Wednesday before the Saturday match and Alex had done a fantastic job while I was away. The pitch had come together at the last minute.”

The day of the match is something that Jim will remember for the rest of his career.

“It was an absolute pleasure to go out and cut that pitch for those guys, knowing the quality of player who was going to be playing on it.”

The cherry on top came after the game while Jim and the team were doing their divoting.

“I was radioed and asked to go to the tunnel. When I arrived there was Dom, along with one of the Liverpool executives, and I was presented with a football, signed by Jurgen Klopp, to thank me for my efforts.”

Jim continued his consultations after the game, but the specialist said that they could see a change in him.

“They saw a happier human being. But I already knew that I was feeling a whole lot better with the pressure of the match over.”

For a man who is used to his pitch being played on by rugby superstars and seen by 67,000 supporters and millions on television it does seem strange that the change in ball shape resulted in such stress.

“Doing international rugby matches is just second nature to me and those people who come and lend a hand on match day are just blown away by the experience but having my own football team – Champions of Europe and Champions of the World – come to BT Murrayfield, meant everything came together and I just couldn’t handle.”

So, having been through the experience and come through the other side what advice does Jim have for other groundsmen or greenkeepers who might be struggling to cope?

“The hardest thing is to acknowledge that you have an issue, because you can think that you are admitting defeat. Sometimes you just have to say to yourself that you need help.

“People deal with things differently and some are able to manage their own aspirations, but I think it is always good to talk to somebody. It might be that you are the one helping them the next time,” explained Jim.

Eighteen months on Jim is feeling back to his best and getting ready for another Guinness 6 Nations where he will be preparing the BT Murrayfield pitch for the visit of Wales, Ireland and Italy.

And that Jurgen Klopp signed football? Well, that has pride of place in the Dawson home – sitting proudly above the fish tank.

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why: John Ryan, Founder of Lawn Care Legends, gives Turf Matters an insight to the thinking behind one of the fastest growing groups in the industry.

I’m John Ryan and I am a self-employed lawn care contractor based in Bangor, Northern Ireland and the founder of Lawn Care Legends, who grew from an idea formed back in July, 2017.

Lawn Care Legends - Who, What and Why

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why

My thinking was that the lawn care community has expanded on social media across the world from YouTube to Facebook and Instagram particularly.

However, an unfortunate aspect of social media in this day and age, is that it creates a platform often with little accountability and, depending on an individual’s position, perhaps anonymity. This makes it easy for those who would choose to belittle or criticise anyone wanting to learn more about their trade, craft or industry to do so without any consequences.

This can typically be seen in Facebook groups across a range of industries. Where someone will ask a question, in the hope that someone with experience and knowledge would be willing to share their knowledge to help a peer achieve better results either in their current project or self-development, but be met with mocking and abuse. (Sometimes as banter, but mostly in criticism).

These prevalent negative attitudes see people holding back from asking questions, or not feeling comfortable to share their views perspectives or to ask questions for fear of being ridiculed.

Lawn Care Legends - Who, What and Why

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why

This prompted me to create Lawn Care Legends, the Facebook group.

Our aims are simple. To create a Facebook group where we try to operate on the basis of respect, encouragement and passion for what we do in a professional environment on social media. An international collective.

One aspect of the lawn care community online is the difference that can be seen across the globe with varying styles and approaches to our respective trades.

Although each country has its own standards for operation in our industry, I felt Lawn Care Legends could benefit from the various perspectives that people from different countries could add as valuable content. In an industry that has a lot of service providers, it can be difficult to stand out and so with the ability to access information shared by people from other countries as well as our own we can gain inspiration and drive for our businesses.

So, Lawn Care Legends allowed the development of a new addition to the community we are all a part of in one way or another. We enjoy members contributions mainly from the UK, Ireland but we have members who contribute from the USA, Norway, France, Australia, Canada, Serbia and more which makes for a lot of variety.

To run a Facebook group is not an easy task and the people behind the scenes that make this possible are the admin team of LCL. A friendly bunch with a wide variety of skills, qualifications and knowledge in all aspects of the lawn care industry.

From the basics of grass cutting, shrub/tree cutting, to treatments, landscaping, pond installations and maintenance, and also insight from the dealers side of the industry.

The admin team is currently made up of: Alan Adams from (NI); Paul McGill (Scot); Ryan Powala Higgins (Eng); Richard Jones (Eng); Kaz Dunsmore (Scot); Robert Ross (Scot); Tom Duchesne (Eng); Jay Chillingworth (Eng); Danny Clegg (Eng); Ben Morrison (Scot), and Di Dodds (Aus).

Lawn Care Legends - Who, What and Why

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why

There have been many people who have contributed to the success of LCL during their time on the admin team before moving onto other projects or priorities. One key individual who really helped LCL become more connected with manufacturers and reps, is Ashley Bevan, from Weston Garden Machinery. His amazing support really played a huge role in get the industry to support the LCL Awards.

As we encountered more and more people on-line, I think we’ll agree that we still enjoy a good meet up with people in the real world. It is hard to replace the benefits of shaking someone’s hand and getting to know others better without giving your thumbs or fingers an ache from typing.

So, one thing that we have tried to do is organise LCL meet ups where possible. We started doing this in early 2018, with our first meet up at Rochford’s Garden Machinery, in Wincanton, and we have gone on to host meet ups in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with the intention to organise and host more events in the future.

We hope to organise an LCL business training event in 2021 as well as an LCL demo day, then we will combine those events into one event in 2022 for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If it proves successful we will look to more locations, with the aim of helping more people.

The purpose is simple really. Everyone loves a good meet up and it is a great way to network, training and education. It allows people, who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance, to demo machinery and get a feel for different brands and their equipment.

Back in January of 2020 we had organised a factory tour and LCL meet up at the Ariens factory, in Oxford, where we were greeted with amazing hospitality and open arms by another manufacturer that wanted to support our community and the desire to connect people better. We had demos of Ariens zero turns as these are now made at the facility.

We also took part in a zero turn challenge with prizes awarded, while Ariens collaborated with Kawasaki Engines Europe to conduct a workshop class on engine maintenance on xero turns. We even had our own pizza van on the day and topped off with a swag bag with gifts and discount vouchers to buy some products.

It took around five months from the time Lawn Care Legends was created, to start gaining traction and membership started to increase. From that point it has grown to over 5,000 members representing.

To make the group stand out and to try and bring value to the members, the idea of LCL awards was floated, with the aim of creating our own event within the industry to celebrate the small business owner.

And so the Lawn Care Legends Awards were created. Of course, they would be operated online, in the spirit that this new digital age that has benefited so many in different ways. However, there is still a lot to be said for face-to-face contact and discussions with people.

I then set out to see if it was possible to collaborate with an industry event that would allow us to host our Awards’ presentation.

An obvious choice was to reach out to the IOG, so named at the time, and Saltex. I pitched the idea of a little Awards’ event, that would celebrate the average business owner in our trade. I believe if you don’t ask, you are guaranteed the answer is “No”.

Lawn Care Legends - Who, What and Why

Lawn Care Legends – Who, What and Why

Well, I got an amazing reply that displayed a real desire to work with us.

From originally asking if it was possible to use a little corner of the show, we were being allocated the use of a large private room. Fusion Media also produced a press release about our awards, which got our name out to industry magazines and online media platforms.

In addition, we were featured in the opening letter by the IOG CEO Geoff Webb. So, in 2018, we held our first LCL Saltex Awards. We had an amazing turn out of over 100 members. We had started with a little vision and pitched the idea to just a few companies to gain support on which we could build.

The first company to see the potential of a positive contribution to our community, came from Weibang Ireland. They were so excited about the idea and wanted to be a part of it and offered a lawn mower as the first prize.

Those first Awards began with just three sponsors: The IOG, Weibang Ireland and Blinc NI. By the time we came back a year later we had grown our sponsors to 12: Weibang Ireland and Weibang UK, ECHO, EGO, Hendon Ladders, Kawasaki Engines Europe, Ferris Mowers UK, Wright Mowers UK, Cub Cadet, Jobber, Green Touch Industries and the IOG.

Despite so many things having been disrupted in 2020, we already have over 20 sponsors lined up for the LCL Saltex Awards 2021, with around £10,000 worth of prizes.

We just want to be able to give the average guy in our industry the opportunity to have his picture taken, be praised for his high standard of work, be presented with a trophy and win awesome equipment which will contribute to his business and service for the better.

It is all part of our dream, and with the support and recognition from industry manufacturers, to spur our community on to do better and take pride, we can come together in a positive manner… and that includes everyone from the end user; landscapers; greenkeepers; groundsmen; gardeners; business owners/operators; dealers; distributors and manufacturers.

Some might think that we are just a little Facebook group, but we are determined to be so much more, and have already come a long way.

Perhaps we might see you guys around some day, either in our group or at one of our events – something positive for us all to look forward to.

Superb in Singapore

Superb in Singapore: Sentosa Golf Club is widely respected as one of the world’s greatest golf clubs. 

It is also home to two world-class championship golf courses – The Tanjong and The Serapong – with the latter recently being voted ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the second year in a row at the World Golf Awards.

Superb in Singapore

Superb in Singapore

The Serapong re-opened in December after an extensive renovations project, led by the club’s General Manager & Director of Agronomy, Andrew Johnston, to maintain and rejuvenate the world-class standards the course has set in recent years.

The club is also one of the world’s leading environmentally sustainable golf clubs, having implemented a number of initiatives through its two ground-breaking campaigns, #KeepItGreen and GAME ON, and were named the ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ at last year’s World Golf Awards.

We sat down with Andrew Johnston to discuss what makes Sentosa’s environmental vision so unique and how they managed to maintain it throughout The Serapong’s renovations.

Sentosa Golf Club was named the ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ in the latest edition of the World Golf Awards. What does it mean to the club to receive this accolade?

It is an exciting, proud and humbling achievement to be recognised as the ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ by our fellow industry professionals and golf consumers throughout the world.

There is nothing more critical and important than taking care of the world we live in, and the culture we have created and implemented at the club, from our committee all the way down to our guests, is based around our environmental sustainability vision for the future.

Tell us a bit more about the sustainability work that the club has undertaken in the last 12 months?

With everything that has happened in the world over the past year, it definitely would have been the year that we would all look back on and wish we could hit the reset button. However, for the team at Sentosa, it was another ground-breaking year in terms of our sustainability work at the club.

In July, we became a full-time member of GEO Foundation, as well as the first golf club to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which looks to guide the sports industry on a path to achieving climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

We also set out plans for the redevelopment of our herb garden, as well as building and installing electric car charging points through a partnership with Porsche. The development of a floating solar farm is also another initiative that is on our agenda for 2021 and more news will be announced on these initiatives soon.

The Circuit Breaker left us in an awkward position, but we continued to press forward with our plans. The most important thing for the club moving forward now is to establish our carbon footprint number, so that we can work towards becoming carbon zero.

Superb in Singapore

Superb in Singapore

Are there any further sustainability projects that you are looking to implemented in the near future? And what is the ultimate goal in terms of sustainability for SGC?

We hope to convert our energy source from brown to green, as well as develop the carbon free rounds of golf. This involves mapping out each of our golfers at Sentosa and adding one dollar to their games, so that it can be used to purchase local Renewable Energy Certificate.

The club also aims to develop its relationship with GEO Foundation by becoming GEO Certified, a comprehensive modern certification that recognises facilities around the world for their outstanding and ongoing commitment to sustainable golf.

The Serapong was also named ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the second year in a row. How do you manage to maintain such high-quality course conditions, while dedicating so much attention to a sustainability agenda?

We are lucky to have such a strong team who are dedicated to achieving excellence day in day out on The Serapong. While it was named ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the second year in a row, the course has also previously collected the same accolade at the Asian Golf Awards for 16 years in a row, as well as being named Number One for 18 years out of the past two decades in Golf Digest’s Singapore rankings.

Our sustainability agenda is part of the club culture, so all the staff and team have bought into it ever since we launched our Keep it Green campaign in 2018. In fact, Keep it Green has become a way of life at the club now. As an example, every member of staff is challenged to pick at least 15 weeds a day before they leave the property. It’s measures like these, and others such as our sustainable herb gardens and bee colonies, that help inject energy and fun, as well as a sense of team camaraderie, into our sustainability agenda and day to day life at the club.

Do you have a specific strategy that helps set up the golf courses on a daily basis/for tournaments, such as the SMBC Singapore Open?

Our set up strategy for tournaments, such as the SMBC Singapore Open, takes us nearly four months to follow and prepare the course. This involves a detailed fertility plan that is custom built each year in order for the course to reach peak conditions for event week.

What equipment/processes do you operate to maintain the golf courses and how do these fall in-line with your sustainability agenda?

We have recently acquired six new GPS spray rigs that are extremely high-tech, but also really help us to make a big impact in regard to our sustainability agenda. The rigs are so intelligent they will automatically turn off the nozzles if they cross over any location that has previously been sprayed.

How many staff do you have working in your agronomy/golf course maintenance team? And what does a normal day look like for them out on the golf courses?

We currently have 75 people working in our agronomy and course maintenance team. Every day starts the same for our team with a morning briefing before we head out on the courses early to set them up ahead of the days play. However, in reality, we are always making tactical adjustments to our work in order to be as efficient as we possibly can be.

How do changing weather patterns, especially heavy downpours frequently seen in Singapore, affect the maintenance of the courses?

We are very prepared for handling the changing weather patterns that are often seen in the region. The club invested in a drainage infrastructure that can handle the heavy monsoonal weather very well and allows our members and guests to be back playing golf within 30 minutes of any storm event. Additionally, the SubAir investment in our greens has made for an excellent tool to combat the excessive moisture created.

The club recently re-opened The Serapong after closing it for renovations back in March last year. Can you tell us about the specific works that took place?

As part of the renovations, we removed the existing grass surface on the fairways to rejuvenate them with grading adjustments and improved drainage strategies. We also re-lasered the tee boxes to reinstate a tabletop, flat finish and maintain the grass at a super low mowing height of 3mm.

The bunkers were also renovated with the caps and bays being restored, and a serrated edge look has been introduced to really transform The Serapong deeper into a world-class location.

What was the thinking behind renovating The Serapong?

The Serapong is one of the world’s greatest courses and having to maintain and improve it year on year is a tremendous responsibility. The thoughtprocess behind the renovations was to keep driving excellence, be better than we were the previous year and maintain the high-quality standards that are set 365 days of the year for our members and guests, whilst also looking to find new improvements to the course. We try to instil a mantra into the team of ‘nobody cares about the awards you won yesterday’. That drives us to better ourselves each and every day.

Finally, what would you say to other golf clubs who are looking to implement sustainable initiatives on-site but also want to maintain high-quality course conditions?

There is no substitute for maintaining quality. If you want to become a world-class facility, then this is critical to your business plan. However, while always maintaining quality is crucial, the development of on-site sustainability measures is of even more importance now. Golf clubs can no longer sit on the bench and watch.

Everyone must get onboard and begin to participate, otherwise we will soon reach the point of no return in our fight against climate change. In our view, when it comes to climate change, it isn’t game over. It’s very much game on!

Dew diligence

Dew diligence: Water management is an essential element of every turf maintenance programme. We work hard to keep the soil moisture content at the right level to maintain good turf health and to optimise surface playing qualities. We aerate, top dress, install drainage and try to keep soil organic matter content under control to create a soil profile with the required water retention and drainage properties. We also have irrigation systems to supplement soil moisture deficits and we guide their careful use with the help of accurate moisture probes.

Surfactant technologies are also used to help optimise the penetration, spread and retention of water within the soil profile. Moisture management is of huge importance and it is at the heart of all our modern turf maintenance programmes.

Dew diligence

Dew diligence

But it is not only the soil water content that needs managing. Moisture at the turf surface and within the sward canopy also needs to be controlled. Damp autumn/winter conditions can lead to the deposition of a significant amount of moisture at the turf surface in the form of dew. This condensation of atmospheric water can adversely affect playing qualities, it can reduce the effectiveness of maintenance operations and it can encourage the rapid development of fungal disease activity.

These are the reasons that we commonly employ switching, brushing, blowing and surfactant-based dew dispersants to remove the moisture from the surface and alleviate the potentially significant negative impacts.

We know the main problem with the physical methods of dew dispersal (switching, brushing, blowing etc.) is that they can be temporary and the dew can continue to form afterwards. This is where the surfactant-based dew dispersants come into their own, because during the time of their activity they continue to work 24 hours a day.

A close look at turf successfully treated with a surfactant-based dew dispersant will reveal an amazing reduction in moisture being held within the leaf canopy. The significant reduction in canopy moisture provided by H2Pro DewSmart has been repeatedly shown in independent trials to slow down the rate of development of Microdochium patch disease and can credibly be included as an important element within autumn ITM disease control programmes.

The problem with surfactant-based dew dispersants, however, is getting them to work consistently for more than a couple of weeks. This is because to work effectively, we generally need to stick them to a dry leaf and a truly dry leaf can be a rare commodity during the autumn and winter period. Of course, any late autumn growth and subsequent mowing will also remove the surfactant from the treated leaf blade, shortening the longevity of dew dispersion.

You will find that some “penetrant” surfactant based formulations will also suppress dew for a short period, but again reasonable longevity is the problem. In our trials we have found that the most effective results in terms of effectively contributing to an autumn disease reduction programme is to alternate between treatments of H2Pro DewSmart and H2Pro FlowSmart penetrant surfactant every fortnight during late autumn and early winter because it brings together the benefits of taking both approaches.

Moisture management is always an important part of turf maintenance and leaf moisture management during the autumn and winter is no different. There are several approaches that you can take, ranging from switching the surface through to spraying a dew dispersant surfactant and because all of them have their limitations then you should probably be employing them all to some degree at different times. We know that dew dispersants can be really effective and can play an important part in a progressive ITM programme but they need to be applied correctly. Rest assured that a new generation of dew dispersants could soon become available where the surface conditions are not so critical to achieving successful results. In the meantime, a diligent approach is needed with different techniques being employed when conditions allow to help maintain turf health and playing qualities throughout this most difficult time of the year.

Further accolade for Turf Matters in top awards

Further accolade for Turf Matters in top awards: Turf Matters proved that last year’s triumph in the International Turf and Ornamental Communicators Awards was no fluke by winning big again in the delayed 2020 Awards.

Turf Matters Designer, Tim Moat, won two categories for Best Cover (May-June 2019) and Best Single Page Design, while Editor, Scott MacCallum, also took two Firsts – a first equal in the same category of Best Writing, for Stadium of the Future (NovDecember 2019) and What a Rush! (Sept-Oct 2019).

Further accolade for Turf Matters in top awards

Further accolade for Turf Matters in top awards

In addition, for the second year in a row, Scott was awarded the Gardner Award for the Best Overall International Entry for his Stadium of the Future, article which focussed on the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium and the great work Darren Baldwin and his team carry out.

“Tim and I are absolutely delighted. We always strive to bring our readers the best possible magazine and we feel that by winning awards our work is rubber stamped,” said Scott.

“Having independent industry experts assess our work is a useful exercise whether we win Awards or not. That said, it is much more gratifying to win!” he added.

Turf Matters was joined in the winners’ enclosure by Greenkeeper International Editor, Karl Hansell, and Designer Libbie Waddleton, who also picked up several awards.

Turf Matters’ winning entries can be viewed at turfmatters.co.uk – magazine

Embracing new technology

Embracing new technology: One silver lining among the heartache of the pandemic is an acceleration in the adoption of new – and better – ways of working…

Craig Earnshaw, Course Manager at Harleyford GC, in Buckinghamshire, is a man on a mission and has been fast to embrace the modern approach to managing, communicating and training that today’s advancing technology can offer.

Embracing new technology

Embracing new technology

Communicating daily tasks to the team was always a fundamental activity practised by Craig, but he felt that this could not only be improved but made more relevant in the digital age where everyone has a mobile phone and many have tablets.

Craig’s aim was never to replace the daily verbal brief, however, when looking at digital software systems and what they can offer, the digital whiteboard aspect and the power of reporting and communicating remotely was an area of significant interest.

Having looked at various options, Craig decided TurfKeeper offered exactly what he was looking for and saw that the system offered a major leap forward in complementing what he was doing on a verbal, face-to-face or messaging on a whiteboard basis.

On a more personal note, Craig explained that the system has helped his communication as he is dyslexic and no longer had to rely on his deputy to write up his instructions on the white board.

“This harnessing of digital technology benefits me as a manager, my team and therefore ultimately the club.”

To start with, a large screen TV was installed in the clubs new maintenance facility and with the use of the digital whiteboard feature the day’s preplan activity can be done online and displayed. This is then is keyed into the system and displayed on the TV so the whole team can see what has been assigned; any key notes, machinery and stock to be used is also displayed as well as the weather forecast and such important direction of cut details for any area are to mowed.

A key to success of this system has been the staff ‘buy in’ and them seeing the benefits beyond the traditional whiteboard and pen,” said Craig.

“It also offers the ability to view the tasks out on the course via the phone and this has not just increased efficiency and productivity, but has been a real game changer during the Covid-19 crisis,” he added.

“Using the TurfKeeper system, we have been able to plan and communicate from a far. The team can log onto the system and know what task or activity is required even before they arrive at work, in some cases even before they leave home!”

Avoiding close contact during this pandemic is a must and by utilising modern technology such as this, the team has been able to work around it.

“If I am out on the course and forget to add anything or maybe a new task has cropped up, the web-based TurfKeeper technology allows the inputting of a task via the phone and have it appear on everyone else’s, including also the jobs board.”

Embracing new technology

Embracing new technology

The TurfKeeper ethos is directed towards the modern, digital, web-based way of planning, recording and communicating. There is nothing wrong with a paper diary and handwriting, but when you need quick fire information to fan out the flames, the digital approach delivers with speed and ease.

Take for example the preCovid-19 situation. Seven staff members working 40 hours per week at a total of 280 hours.

In a usual year, bunkers need daily raking, greens rolled 2-3 times per week, empting bins, ball washer and moving tee blocks prior to cutting and all that jazz,” said Craig.

“And oh yes… of course… working around the golf! When all the aforementioned is factored in, this takes a huge amount of time, and hence the good reason why we need all the staff.

“Now cue Furlough… no need to cut daily, certainly minimal to zero rolling or bunker raking. No course furniture to move or service in the way of bins and ball washers, and oh yes… no golfers. Never have courses been easier to maintain in terms of bare minimum and cutting. No golf to work around, so less waiting time and the result… cutting the time in half it usually takes to mow most of the areas.

Cue now to the inquisitions… do we need that many staff members? Course looks good to me and there is only three of you. what did you do with all those labour hours before?

“These are not unreasonable question to be fair. We are lucky in the fact that staff numbers have not been brought into question. I did get asked how come we can get everything cut with only three staff but it was a light hearted comment. Nonetheless, that is where the advent of modern technology plays it part. Unlike a traditional paper diary, I can just enter a date range, click a button and the data instantly; all the labour hours, costs, effort, stock used etc. Looking through the reports, I can balance off last year v this year and communicate to the board exactly where all of the hours go, as the reports detail every last task. It’s very clear to see how long bunkers took this year v last year or even identify work that hasn’t needed to be done. It really helps to hammer home the facts,” he explained.

“So, to sum it all up, it’s quite simple for me. I rely heavily on irrigation software system, digital moisture meters and various other technological tools to monitor surface performance, so why not also other aspect of the job?

“TurfKeeper allows me to extend the technological side of management and communication but in addition, the planning, budgeting, stock control, machinery maintenance and reporting. Such a system is a valuable asset and working example of the technology we should all be embracing in the modern age in which we now operate.”

The greenkeeping team at Harleyford Golf Club in Buckinghamshire won the 2019 BIGGA Championship Greenkeeping Performance of the Year award for its work in preparing the course for The Matchroom Sport Championship.

TurfKeeper is a web-based management system that provides turf industry professionals a fully integrated operations and management solution. Designed by turf industry professionals, the system, in a completely personalised, single environment, provides complete control over and insight into staff management, task planning, machinery management, inventory control, chemical applications planning and recording, and budgeting and expense management.

With detailed reporting on all areas readily available, and a resource library provision, the system becomes the home of all turf management planning, actions, and facility history.

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege: Scott MacCallum talks with Adam King, Head of Grounds at Radley College in Oxford, and learns that while there is competitiveness to do your best, that doesn’t necessarily mean with each other.

I had a pretty normal school education. I got sufficient grades to go on to do the journalism course that I wanted to take, while I also enjoyed the sporting side of things, playing rugby for the school in my early years.

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

In fact, I enjoy all sports but, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been very good – the archetypal Jack of all Trades… You know the rest.

But things might have been different. I enjoy golf, but grew up in a town where the golf club had no professional, so my swing was, and still is, hand built – more Heath Robinson than Rolls Royce. At my school our PE staff were more facilitators than coaches, allowing us access to sport but without any genuine coaching, while our playing fields were sloped to such an extent that I could run 100 metres in around 11 seconds in one direction and 22 seconds in the other.

So, while I’ve always been grateful for the education I received, I am, and have always been, envious of those people who benefited from a private education. And even more so, of those who boarded. Nothing to do with Harry Potter, but these guys had access to fabulous sports facilities, plenty of time for sport on the timetables and coaches to ensure that proper foundations are put into technique, whether that be batting, scrummaging or golfing.

Not so sure about quidditching.

I certainly don’t feel underprivileged, but those thoughts did come flooding back when I spoke with Adam King, Head of Grounds at Radley College, in Oxford, and particularly resonated when he talked about two of the newest additions to facilities, neither of which, funnily enough, require input from himself from an agronomic perspective.

We used to include pictures of well presented pitches on our school prospectus. Now we have pictures of our Strength and Conditioning Unit, which cost close to £1 million, and our rowing tank, which enables the boys to train right the way through winter,” explained Adam.

Strength and Conditioning Unit! What I would have given to have had access to that. I went from scrawny to overweight in the blink of an eye.

Radley is one of only four all boarding boys’ schools in the entire country – the others being Eton, Harrow and Winchester. There are currently 737 boys on roll and this will grow to 750 when the latest boarding house becomes fully operational. Among the Old Boys are Peter Cook, Ted Dexter, Andrew Straus, Brough Scott, Nigel Twiston-Davis and Lord Scarman.

“Sports plays a major part of what the boys do here,” said Adam, merely confirming my long-standing jealousy.

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

“They are out four afternoons a week, plus Saturdays and when we are playing against our big ‘rival’ schools there can be 24 rugby teams out at the same time. It’s a great sight.”

With everyone on site including the teaching staff, who all live in school houses, retaining a school bubble is easier than for some.

“We are a campus school, spread over 800 acres, so we don’t have the same worries that Eton, Harrow and Winchester, for example, have of boys walking around the town. We are in one massive bubble and with so many sports on offer – touch rugby only at the moment; football, cricket, hockey, athletics, tennis, golf and rowing it means that the boys are nicely spaced out and can enjoy what they are doing,” said Adam, who has been at the school since 2000.

During the March to June lockdown Adam’s regular staff of 19 was reduced to four to enable essential work on the gardens and grounds to be carried out, and two greenkeepers to maintain the school’s nine hole golf course, which has its own membership of 350.

“In many ways it took me back to my days back in 1989 at Stowmarket Golf Club, sitting on a tractor pulling a set of Lloyds gangs. Tranquil times, with no phone, no interruptions. It was quite surreal, but quite pleasant at the same time,” he recalled.

“Then it dawned on us that the boys weren’t coming back for the summer term and that we were, therefore, not going to have any cricket, and the mood went the other way. Everyone got a bit down and the implications of what was happening began to hit home. It was a really odd summer.

“At times we were wondering where it was all leading and whether the boys would be coming back in September.

“We are in a much more fortunate position now and, as a school, we are the fullest we have ever been. We only have 10 or 12 of our international students who are currently distance learning.”

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

Staff gradually began returning and the Grounds Team had a full complement by mid September, when work on cricket pitches began in earnest in preparation for matches later in the year.

“The Old Boys played a Twenty20 last week against another school and there are another few fixtures planned for the next few weeks,” said Adam, speaking the day after the Prime Minister had announced further restrictions which could stretch well into 2021.

“Our plan was to go to play touch rugby until half term in October and then go to rugby after half term at the beginning of November.

What we’ve heard now is that that is probably not going to happen and we will continue to play touch rugby or go to football or hockey.

As a school we are very keen that every boy does something every day – we can’t have them sitting around their boarding houses,” said Adam, whose advice to anyone new to school groundsmanship is to get involved with the school as much as possible. He himself coaches cricket and football.

The pandemic came on the back of a period of weather which had had Adam bemoaning the wet weather of last winter and spring.

“We are always in the hands of Mother Nature and she was working against us but ironically she then worked with us for a long time. We had a hot dry spell in April to May. It was a Godsend. If there had been a flush we would have been in all sorts of trouble trying to keep on top of things with our reduced numbers. Then there was a flush in August which was brilliant which got everything up and running.”

It is possible to give the weather credit for doing its best to assist there are many more elements which have gone towards the improved standards that can be seen at schools up and down the country.

I do wonder what Jim Arthur would be thinking now, with all the technology that is available. Things have move on massively in the last 20 years and we are lucky to have all the tools in the tool box that we need to create the top sports surfaces we want for the boys to play sport on,” said Adam, who name checked the Koro and Primo Maxx as two of the significant developments in recent years.

That ability to produce surfaces across a range of sports is one of the things which marks a top school and university groundsman out from the crowd. Radley is just completing a five year deal with Toro for machinery while what can’t be done with the machinery in house – Koroing is carried out by ALS, who have been working at the school as long as Adam has been there.

“Being multi skilled is what keeps us all in the job but you grow into some of those skills. For example, cricket and rugby pitches were easy, but I didn’t know much about astro pitches when I started. You grow into those roles.

“The nice thing about the groundsmen on the circuit is that there is competitiveness to do our best but not with each other. Some do great jobs on much smaller budgets than I have, and probably do a better job but ultimately everyone is always judged on the cricket season,” said Adam, who added that he and his Deputy would visit other grounds two or three times a season to watch games and share thoughts and ideas with fellow groundsmen.

All the guys are pulling hard to produce the best surfaces they can and it is fantastic for the industry.”

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

It is an industry, however, that Adam feels is not supported as well as it should be.

“We’ve never been well supported by the organisations and we’ve always had to fend for ourselves, but I could talk about that for two weeks,” said Adam, who added that a notable exception was ICL who host an annual Schools’ Seminar.

As an explanation, Adam points to the fact that other sectors have a much higher profile with the top football and rugby groundsmen having their work seen on television on a weekly basis during the season.

“Whereas here, nobody sees our work apart from the boys, their parents and ourselves. That said we don’t crave that sort of exposure.”

Adam considers himself extremely privileged to be working at such an extraordinary place, a place where work on the sports surfaces has to be combined with maintaining the grounds of the numerous properties in the Radley portfolio.

The summer is the time when many staff come and go and we have to ensure that their gardens are neat and tidy, so it is a major project for the gardening team. We’ve just finished laying 3,000 square metres of turf around the new Boarding House.”

Variety is very much the spice of life and Adam is grateful to his superb team – many sportsmen in their own right – who, in addition to being skilled gardeners, greenkeepers and groundsmen, contribute to a great team spirit.

Looking ahead Adam see the industry flattening out over the next five year.

“I can’t see companies investing millions in producing a new machine at the moment because they are not going to sell too many,” said Adam, while acknowledging that the move towards hybrid and electric will be maintained.

Despite the pandemic, and the uncertainty caused, Adam sees a great future ahead for the school, while I’m hoping to do some sort of Benjamin Button so I can go back and enjoy all the benefits of being a boarding school boy.

The men who made it happen

The men who made it happen: When Malcolm Campbell struck the official first drive to open Dumbarnie Links in early summer it was a proud moment and one that he sometimes felt he wouldn’t be around to see.

Malcolm, a respected golf writer, who had the dubious pleasure of being my boss in the mid 80s, had been the driving force behind the golf course and the man who had experienced first-hand the highs and lows of turning a dream into reality.

The men who made it happen

The men who made it happen

“We moved to Lower Largo in 1993 and had a disused railway line at the bottom of the garden. One day we walked about a mile along it towards Elie and I came across land that I thought was just waiting to have a golf course built on it. It was all fescue bent on pure sand and you could see where sheep had dug out what could have been old fashioned bunkers,” recalled Malcolm.

In many ways, however, having identified the land for a potentially world class golf course was the easy bit. Who owned the land? Could they be persuaded to turn it over to a golf course? Who would invest the type of money required to build such a course? Would it get through planning? Will the various pressure groups be appeased? Who could design a golf course to fulfil the potential of the land?

That last question was the only one with a straight-forward answer.

Malcolm had long been friends with Clive Clark, the former Ryder Cup player, BBC commentator and award winning golf course architect.

“I visit Clive every year at his home in Palm Springs, California and one evening we were sitting having a gin and tonic and I started telling him about this piece of land. I told him that he’d make a great job of it but that we’d need to find a developer, investors and convince the owner,” explained Malcolm, who had by this stage found out that Lord Balniel, the owner of Balcarnes Estate, was the man who would need to be persuaded.

One might have thought that dangling the carrot of a new Fife links course in front of potential investors would have drawn quite a crowd but Malcolm and Clive found it harder than they had hoped and the initial investor actually pulled out when the project was well into the planning process.

“It then took another year for Clive to put together another group of private investors and we had to start the planning process again from the very beginning.”

Having been persuaded that his land would make a world class golf course, Lord Balniel was on board, even agreeing to free up more land when Malcolm showed him what moving the original site up to some higher ground could offer.

“It was a huge site and from the escarpment the views were incredible stretching all the way from Elie across the Firth to Edinburgh. When I visited it with Lord Balniel he said we could take what we needed. So I went back to Clive and we reappraised the plans and he did a fantastic job on the newly agreed land, with 13 holes looking out to sea and only two holes, the 7th and 17th playing uphill,” explained Malcolm, who had ladled more pressure on his old friend by saying that it needed to be a course ranked in the world’s top 100.

“There was no use just building another golf course. It needs to be ranked in the top 100 to tap into the American market and, let’s face it, if you are going to build a links golf course near St Andrews it would have to be in the top 100 worldwide.”

But judging by the now completed and opened course, neither Malcolm nor Clive need worry. It is stunning and there is one other course somewhere out there, which is going to drop out of that elite listing.

Due to Covid, Clive couldn’t make it over to the grand opening so it was left to Malcolm to play the opening shot but while he was disappointed not to have his old friend there doing the honours Malcolm revealed that they had played many rounds the previous summer, with only minor tweaks being made by Clive along the way.

Malcolm can rest happy that golf course he “discovered” is now being shared by golfers and will be for as long as golf continues to be played.

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait: Scott MacCallum celebrates the opening – at last – of a fine addition to the long list of magnificent Scottish golf courses, uncovering American connections along the way…

There is a beach in Fife which is only really known by locals. Shell Bay, on the East Neuk of the Kingdom, doesn’t have the iconic status of the West Sands at St Andrews, but it does have all you would ever want from a beach.

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

I know this because I was brought up not 15 miles away and spent the occasional sunny Sunday afternoon enjoying the delights of the beach.

But just between Shell Bay and the village of Lower Largo is a stretch of land, at one time unassuming fields occupied by cattle and sheep, which has just been turned into Scotland’s newest and most talked about golf course – a wonderful addition to the unbeatable stable of courses the Home of Golf has to offer.

Dumbarnie Links opened to the public in May and there can be noone prouder than Grahame Taylor, who has been with the project from the turning of the first sod. He was appointed Course Manager, initially being in charge of the “Seed in the Ground” contract, before taking on the day-to-day maintenance.

A born and bred Fifer, Grahame already had a stellar CV, containing the names Leven Links, Polaris WorldSpain, Gleneagles and The Old Course St Andrews. Then came along the amazing opportunity to be involved in a fantastic new project that could not be overlooked at Dumbarnie Links.

It was while at Leven that the jungle drums about a new course near Shell Bay started to beat a little louder, reaffirming a plan which had its origins back in the 1920s, and which had it come to fruition would have changed the landscape of Scotland’s hospitality and golfing sector.

The story goes that the Directors of Caledonian Railways were travelling through Scotland looking to identify a location for a fabulous new hotel they hoped to add to their property portfolio. They came up with two places, Dumbarnie and Gleneagles. It was the Perthshire site that was chosen and the iconic Gleneagles Hotel, with its wonderful Scottish Open, Ryder and Solheim Cup courses, was the result.

It may have taken a full century to do so but Dumbarnie is now fulfilling that potential.

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

“I first learned that a golf course was being planned over 10 years ago when I heard that the land had potential for golf,” explained Grahame, as we spoke in his superb new maintenance facility, full of brand new John Deere kit, supplied by Double A, based not far away in Cupar.

What had put the spark back in the plan was down to an old boss of mine. Malcolm Campbell, a former Editor of Golf Monthly magazine and a highly respected golf writer, lives close by and had, like Caledonian Railways, known for some time of the golfing potential of the land. Close friends with former Ryder Cup player, Clive Clark, now golf course architect, based in the United States, Malcolm tipped Clive off about the site, and he became equally enamoured.

A consortium was put together and the land, part of the 5,000 acre Balcarres Estate, was purchased from Lord Balniel. Planning for the new course was approved in 2017.

Remarkably, the construction and overall management was and is conducted by American companies – Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited constructed the course and it is operated by OB Sports Golf Management, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was designed by Clive Clark who was on site for the construction phase and had Paul Kimber also on site throughout as Project Manager.

“I think they wanted someone with a lot of Links golf experience and ideally a local guy to manage the course and I’d been at Leven for 10 years, had Open and Ryder Cup experience and was also very experienced in irrigation,” explained Grahame.

His boss is Luke Beardmore, Senior Vice President of Agronomy, Construction and Landscape with OB Sports Golf Management.

“Luke interviewed me on site, and we have built a great working relationship, even though he is 5,000 miles away. We speak every day, either by phone, Zoom or Facetime.

I feel really privileged to have such a great working relationship. Luke is an agronomist and has grown-in around 30 golf courses. OB Sports have been a fantastic support for me on site.”

Turning bland fields into a characterful golf course is no mean feat but in the case of Dumbarnie, in part due to the dry summer of 2018, it was constructed in a remarkable 12 weeks – the first sod was turned on June 1, 2018 with the final green seeded on October 8th.

“Shapers, four of them, were brought in from the States and the site was swarming with 30 tonne dumper trucks and dozers. They moved 600,000 cubic tones of dirt and in doing so created a dune-scape indistinguishable from the land which previously existed,” revealed Grahame.

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

With the construction moving at such a pace it would have been easy for Grahame to lose focus, however taking one day at a time and staying organised was key to a successful day.

“To be on site from day one was very important to see where everything from drainage to irrigation is going in the ground.

Working as one team with Clive and Paul was a good opportunity to put forward my views on any contours that would affect the maintenance of the course moving forward, Clive would sometimes ask me ‘Is it maintainable?’” said Grahame.

“If they perhaps needed a slight tweak they could be softened off a little. It was quite straightforward and the consultation worked well.”

The areas in which Grahame’s views were considered most valuable where in ensuring there were sufficient pin positions on greens and would fairway mowers cope with some of the undulations the shapers had created.

When it came to the seeding of the greens and surrounds Grahame and his team took it upon themselves to complete the job and were delighted with the results.

“It is important that you get it right the first time as you get one shot at it.” Barenbrug supplied the seed. The greens and surrounds were fescue – chewings and slender with a very small percentage of Charles bent.

“I asked for some bent as it gives us a little more scope as there would otherwise be a greater risk of balls oscillating in high winds. In terms of wear having a bit of bent in there gives you more options.”

Those winds were such that they did cause issues during the grow in, a problem caused by the fact that the dunes were brand new and initially didn’t have anything to bind them together.

“The dunes were all hydro seeded but had no irrigation, so you were left hoping that nature would provide some rain to germinate the seed before the winds arrive in the spring,” revealed Grahame, adding that the course had wall-to-wall Toro irrigation, which offers him excellent control.

Unfortunately some winds did prove to be an issue in the spring of 2019 and, despite miles of fences, and piles of pallets, acting as wind breaks, Grahame and the team would come in and discover entire fairways were buried in up to four inches of sand.

In his own words, “It was a like a war zone out there at times” sums up the scene after the winds had done their damage.

“The fescue was at a young stage and any amount of brushing the sand off was not ideal.”

This was the toughest spell during the grow-in phase for the agronomy team. “I have a fantastic team who I work alongside with who gave everything to the course during that difficult spell.”

“Take one day at a time and feel like you have won the battle when you head home. The next day is a new set of challenges to overcome. There is always a solution, you just have to find it.” His philosophy during the growin period was to be aggressive from the start in terms of agronomy.

“There is no point in pussy-footing around. You have to take control right from the beginning, or you will get beaten up. I always went with my gut instinct and stuck to that, if you are second guessing yourself you are not going to win the battle.”

The course itself is stunning. Designed to be an enjoyable round for most standards of golfer the length is a spread from 5,334 yards, off the front tees, to an eye-watering 7,620 yards from the Championship tips. That would even have Bryson DeChambeau reaching for a mid-iron occasionally and perhaps hints at longer term ambitions for the course.

One of the features of the course, which is already adding to the flora and fauna on the site, is the bunkers. Half of them are beautifully revetted, while the other half are described as natural. “The revetted bunkers, 72 of them, are actually Eco Bunker, with layers of astroturf. You’d never know and they have turned out magnificently and Richard Allen has told us that they will stand for 25 years.

“We keep the natural bunkers clear by hand weeding them,” explained Grahame, whose team has grown from 11 during the grow-in to 18 now, including South African Deputy Course Manager, Era van Zyl, who joined Grahame from the Castle Course, in St Andrews.

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Dumbarnie: It’s worth the wait

Covid-19 has had an impact on Dumbarnie, although the opening only slid by a fortnight from the original date of May 16.

“At that point we were still aiming to have the course ready and, while we knew it was struggle for some of our suppliers, we were working towards that date without easing off.

“The thing that sticks in my mind about lockdown was that we were on a hectic schedule to get the clubhouse finished and we thought it was achievable. There were 40 to 50 people working on the clubhouse pushing hard… and the next day everyone left. It was a very eerie feeling. All my guys had cut back on their hours and it was just Era and myself sometimes. I cannot thank Era enough for his dedication. It was a very strange feeling. We just did not know what was going to happen,” recalled Grahame.

“My main concern was the guys’ health. You have to look after your team. When we started to come back, I split them into smaller groups and they were doing essential maintenance and then going home for the day.”

Speaking in September with a temporary car park packed, a clubhouse, which has been designed to look like two converted barns due for completion within a few weeks, and rave reviews for the course, Grahame could not be more pleased.

“I’m incredibly proud. Our international bookings have understandably been cancelled but many have rescheduled, while we have been full with Scottish residents playing, many of them coming back two three or even four times.

“I am honoured to be Course Manager at Dumbarnie Links. It has been a joy to be involved here from the start and I haven’t looked back. I never planned out my career. If a chance comes along you just have to have the courage to take it.”

And take it he has. You can be sure that now that Shell Bay shares its space with a world class golf course it will no longer be just the guilty secret of the Fife locals.