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Amenity Forum publishes its Annual Report

Amenity Forum publishes its Annual Report: The Amenity Forum is the UK Voluntary Initiative promoting best practice in all aspects of the management of amenity spaces and sports surfaces.

It seeks to bring together all who work in this diverse and essential sector providing support and guidance and acting as an independent link between the sector and policy makers. The Annual Report for 2021 covers the year up to the end of July this year. Whilst a report on activities, it also provides information on how the sector has progressed in meeting UK targets and identifies key issues facing all involved in, what without any doubt, are extremely challenging times.

Amenity Forum publishes its Annual Report

Amenity Forum publishes its Annual Report

Writing in the Report, the Forum’s independent chairman, Professor John Moverley OBE says ‘’Even without the implications of the Pandemic, this has certainly been another year full of change, challenge and opportunity for the Forum. There is much going on at policy level with the UK Government finalising its review of the National Action Plan and a further review of pesticide policy ongoing. The Forum is fully contributing to the process where requested and appropriate with UK and national governments and indeed all involved in policy making and implementation.

The report shows that the Forum continues to respond to a wide range of consultations and has been fully engaged with partners and all stakeholders dealing with the implications of the pandemic. The role of amenity managers during this time has been essential maintaining our transport networks, parks and more. It has not been easy working conditions and they deserve all our thanks.

It is important to ensure the debate is not an either or but based on an integrated approach making use of all the tools available in the most effective way. The year has also seen the debate widened to take account of the environmental costs of different approaches particularly in determining carbon sums from the various methods employed. Out of change inevitably comes challenge – but the professional amenity sector is robust and ready. There is much to be proud of in the professionalism of our sector’’.

The report identifies that some  key priorities in the year have been in assisting everyone engaged to further develop integrated management  approaches, promoting the sector wide Amenity Standard and to significantly increasing communications both to the public and within the sector. The full report is available on the Amenity Forum website in the resources section https://amenityforum.co.uk/resources/amenity-forum-2021-annual-report/

The report identifies that there is much change ahead and in this regard the timing of the 2021 Amenity Forum conference, to be held on October 21st, could not be better and its title ‘Facing the Future’ very apt indeed including some eminent speakers and good opportunity to network and catch up on developments in the exhibition area. A day not to be missed and, given the support from organisations, very competitively priced at £95 per delegate. For further information, contact Kate at admin@amenityforum.net

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The school with its own sports village

The school with its own sports village: There is a school in North Yorkshire which marches to its own beat. Celebrating the individual is at the heart of its ethos, with academic results to back-up its unique approach.

Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, in Thorpe Underwood, half-way between York and Harrogate, is one of most prestigious schools in the country.

The school with its own sports village

The school with its own sports village

In a trail blazing move in 2015 the school invested heavily in a new multi-million-pound Sports Village on the campus. Well, six years on that Sports Village is now well established, offering Queen Ethelburga’s pupils some of the finest facilities to be found anywhere and attracting top level professional teams for summer training.

The man whose role is to maintain the spectacular range of pitches and continually improve what is in place is someone whose own CV contains some of the biggest names and finest sporting venues around.

Ben Grigor was attracted by “a big advert” posted by Queen Ethelburga’s in the trade press and decided that what was on offer was an opportunity too good to miss.

“From memory it showed the pitches under construction,” recalled Ben.

“It very much looked like a job which would be a dream come true for whoever got it – to be building something from scratch ,” added the man whose CV contains the names of Rangers, at both Murray Park and Ibrox, and SIS Pitches, for which he was part of the early preparations for the Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the 2018 World Cup final, as well as other top sporting venues.

Having secured his interview, Ben’s approach during questioning was, to say the least, “high risk”.

“The CEO asked what I thought of the newly laid pitches. I’d had a walk round earlier in the day and picked up on a few things. So I said, ‘Can I be honest?’ When she agreed, I told her that actually the natural pitches needed improving.”

When constructed, the clay topsoil had been removed to install the drainage and the irrigation and then that original soil was put back on top.

“You are not going to get a high-performance pitch built on clay.

Ben’s honest assessment was taken in the spirit it was intended and the job was his. Things have not looked back since.

The school with its own sports village

The school with its own sports village

“We agree a budget at the beginning of the year and we then get on with it,” said Ben, tempting fate by adding that he hadn’t had a complaint in five years.

On day one Ben arrived with no staff and no equipment, but it was building the right team which was his priority.

“Machinery is only as good as the people using it. So, I wanted a good team. I set up the rotas and procedures at a level that you would expect at a top-level training ground or stadium,” said Ben.

“I needed people who weren’t concerned when told that they weren’t going to get a day off in July, when we might have Newcastle United or England Ladies here doing double training sessions. I needed a team who were happy to be going in at 7am and finishing at 8pm and enjoying doing the work for the teams.”

“I’ve got a fantastic team now, many of them have worked at stadiums in the Premier League environment,” said Ben.

With the closure of schools as part of the Government enforced lockdown, Ben placed himself on flexible furlough during the pandemic to enable him to spend more time with his children in Glasgow, but also to make more working hours available to his guys.

“I was very conscious of their own circumstances.”

As to the machinery, there may be some manufacturers kicking themselves for not paying more attention when Ben put his requirements out to tender.

“I’d created a list of our needs and specifications. For example, what we needed from a tractor – air con, number of kilos it would need to lift, the width etc. The Toro Pro Core was the only one that had a company name attached to it.

“I put it out to all the main names in the industry but only a couple got back to me at the time. Perhaps they thought we were just a small school!”

Ben works to ensure the team is getting the best deal long-term as his purchase of a Koro proves, “We started Koroing pitches in-house, when timings suit us best.

It paid for itself very quickly when set against bringing in contractors to do the work.”

Ben has taken on board a working practice that he first experienced when a young greenkeeper at Crow Wood Golf Club, just outside Glasgow.

“The two other greenkeepers and I were given our own six holes to look after and it created great competition between the three of us. You always take pride in what is yours. So here the guys have their own pitches to look after.

If there is a limited amount of fertiliser left they will ask if they can have it for their pitches and that creates a bit of healthy argument about who gets it,” said Ben.

Having teams set up training camps during the 10 weeks of the summer break is very much part of the estates commercial offer.

The school with its own sports village

The school with its own sports village

“Last summer when teams couldn’t go abroad, we hosted Newcastle United here. I think the team may have had reservations about coming to a school, but they were amazed at the quality of our facilities. So much so that they are looking to return again this year, if they are training in country again.” said Ben, who added that Leeds United also used the facilities while their own training ground was being renovated.

Queen Ethelburga’s facilities include five artificial pitches and a workout area, constructed by S&C Slatter; a five-a-bay cricket practice net facility; two multi-games areas for football, basketball and netball, a larger multi-games area for netball, tennis and basketball, a water-based hockey pitch. Every pitch is floodlit to a standard good enough for HD filming.

“We’ve also got three underwater treadmills, ice bath recovery and a sport science area. The CEO visited St George’s Park to see what was there before the project started.

Our facilities are equal to many of those in the Premiership.”

So why does Queen Ethelburga’s have such stunning sporting facilities, and what was the catalyst for investment such a vast sum of money?

Well, the school threw its hat into the ring in 2013 to be training base for one of the Rugby Union World Cup 2015 finalists only to be knocked back because the facilities weren’t up to the required standard.

“We were told that we were a lovely place but that our facilities were not up to it. All we were at the time was a traditional school playing field with no irrigation or anything else in place. They said that the accommodation and everything else required was great.” explained Ben.

While the new facilities have helped to maximise the sporting talents of some to move into the professional game, the ethos of Queen Ethelburga’s is very much to enhance the talents of their own students, right from nursery age, rather than to bring in pupils who have already been identified as having sporting potential.

One of those is certainly 17 year-old Jason Qareqare, who made a huge impact on his debut for Castleford Tigers against Hull. With his very first touch in professional rugby league, and less than a minute into the match he scored a brilliant try – a try you could say born on the playing fields of Queen Ethelburga’s.

Speaking with Ben you very much get a feeling of a man not only on top of his job but relishing the challenge of meeting the expectations of an ambitious school, prepared to invest in making itself the best it can be.

And while the career ladder for an ambitious groundsman might see a top school as a stopping off point on the way to a high-profile professional club, the job of a Head of Grounds at a top school can be very much a career pinnacle.

“Initially I think there were reservations by the school about how long I would stay, but I really I can’t see myself going anywhere else,” admitted Ben.

The improvements to the school pitches, which were the subject of Ben’s honest feedback at his interview, have been built and improved on as part of a planned phased programme.

The school with its own sports village

The school with its own sports village

“We’ve been rejuvenating the surfaces. As I say they were clay-based and while they had put in sand bands it wasn’t enough, so what we’ve been doing is stripping the surfaces off and replacing them with a sand profile on the surface.

“It has meant a fair amount of time and investment, but I’m pleased to say that they trusted me.

“Once we’d done the first pitch, the benefits were clear,” said Ben, whose aim is to get every pitch to the same level across the complex.

Much of the renovation work was carried out last year, whilst the campus had to remain closed to all but key worker students, but now the aim is to have all the pitches back and available all year.

“The school is our primary focus.

We want the teachers to be happy and we want the students to be happy with the service we provide.”

While Queen Ethelburga’s might have been ahead of the pack when investing in their facilities, other schools have since followed suit.

“What we achieved, nobody else was even considering, we were ahead of our time. We’ll need to keep being dedicated to continuous improvement though, to remain at the top of our game.”

That’s Queen Ethelburga’s. Always marching to that beat of its own drum.

It’s Multigreen® magic for W R Sandow

It’s Multigreen® magic for W R Sandow: Sports turf contractors W R Sandow have come to swear by Multigreen® temperature-controlled release fertiliser from Headland Amenity, to satisfy the nutritional requirements of more than 60 winter sport pitches.

The introduction of feeding programmes is a relatively recent addition to the list of services offered by the Cornish contractors, but in a short space of time the consistency of results and superior technical support from the Headland team has really impressed Director Andrew Sandow.

It’s Multigreen® magic for W R Sandow

It’s Multigreen® magic for W R Sandow

Established in 1964 and based just outside Penzance, family-run W R Sandow offer the full package when it comes to the construction, installation and maintenance of both natural and artificial playing surfaces. “Until recently, we would go in and do the mechanical maintenance and leave clubs to apply product themselves, but you’d often find that due to time or financial constraints, this wasn’t being done” explains Andrew. “After many discussions and support from the Pitch Advisory Service at The GMA, we began advocating fertiliser programmes based around Headland’s Multigreen®.”

Multigreen® features urea or potassium nitrate prills within a permeable polymer-resin coating which only start to release their solubilised nutrients once soil temperatures rise above 6oc – in line with the requirements of the grass. Nutrient availability is gentle and controlled by temperature alone, avoiding ‘flush’ growth and producing a strong, healthy sward that is sustained for up to six months depending on the analysis.

“We had conducted some trials of controlled-release products and were seriously impressed with the long-lasting results we achieved with Multigreen®. On the back of this, we now use Multigreen® on the vast majority of our football pitches, together with a number of rugby surfaces and cricket outfields, in two different formulations – 28-3-15 which is applied in the spring, following any renovation work and 15-0-22+5MgO which goes down in the autumn. Its consistent release pattern gives the clubs season-long nutrition from a single application, with minimal leaching and without flushes of growth.”

In addition to the performance of the product, Andrew has also been impressed with the support received from Headland. “Whenever we’ve needed technical advice our Regional Technical Manager Andy Lane has been fantastic. Headland were even kind enough to donate some product for a recovery project we were working on, following vandalism at one of our clubs in the spring of 2020. With Headland, alongside the right equipment and expertise, we now consider ourselves to be a one-stop shop to support our customers with their surface needs – from sports pitches to amenity areas, from Lands End to Exeter.”

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Turf Tank makes its mark at Nottingham Forest

Turf Tank makes its mark at Nottingham Forest: Since their Turf Tank One arrived at the Nigel Doughty Academy, Nottingham Forest Football Club has marked every pitch and grid they have with the GPS line marking robot.

The club’s interest in the Turf Tank One began at the end of a hectic 2019/20 Championship season when a high volume of games were played before a short renovation window led straight into the 2020/21 season. With initially marking the pitches taking two or three days, the Turf Tank was brought in to mark everything comfortably within one. And after seeing it in action, it was difficult for Grounds Manager Ewan Hunter and Academy Head Groundsman Matt Tietjen to let it leave the site.

Turf Tank makes its mark at Nottingham Forest

Turf Tank makes its mark at Nottingham Forest

“I was very, very impressed. Obviously, I had never seen it before, and as soon as it started marking out, I was like, wow, this is brilliant,” Matt begins. “It’s very, very accurate, and every time it goes out, it’s spot on.

“It saves us a hell of a lot of time. To mark one pitch, it would take myself or two of my staff an hour, an hour and a half to two hours. But obviously, with the Turf Tank to mark one pitch alone, it takes 20 to 25 minutes. Another factor for us is it allows our staff to carry on with the other jobs that need to be done, and the machine can basically look after itself. Generally, we’d use five to six litres of paint to mark a pitch, but with the Turf Tank, we probably use four litres.

“If you are able to use a tablet or are reasonably good with technology, it’s very, very simple to use, and the programme is very straight forward. I’m not particularly brilliant with technology, but it takes five minutes to set it up, and then you can go and do other jobs while it marks out.

Adding the Turf Tank One to their team initially relieved pressure during a busy time, but the benefits of saving time, being able to work while the robot marks and the accuracy of the lines have all been vital during another packed season.

Using the Turf Tank tablet, custom grids are regularly overmarked within pitches, as well as custom goalkeeping areas and other pitch markings. This is just another reason why the robot has worked so well at Forest, but for Ewan, it’s the accuracy that really impresses.

“We have got some really good staff, and they can do some really good marking. And the lines looked straight, and they looked to be in the right place,” Ewan explains.

“It wasn’t until we used the GPS machine that it highlighted the fact that when you come to mark a line freehand, they creep a bit. And then they creep a little bit more. And then they creep a little bit more, and you don’t really notice the little bit of creeping until you get a GPS line marker overmarking the pitches that were already there. You realise that they’ve moved a considerable amount of distance, and it kind of highlights that the lines were actually in the wrong place.

“They managed to plot it with all of the additional markings on top of the pitches. So we’ve got dashes and little grids and five-a-side pitches and full-size pitches, and it can basically do whatever you plot it to do, and it takes care of all the markings on the whole site now.”

For more information on the Turf Tank One or to have a demonstration contact alex@turftank.co.uk (southern UK) or matt@turftank.co.uk (northern UK).

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The battery that knows what it’s doing

The battery that knows what it’s doing: Intelligent Lithium-Ion batteries are the heart of the new Mountfield cordless range. Batteries that recognise the mower or tool that they are fitted to and tune the power appropriately to maximise battery life and deliver the right amount of power to get the job done.

These new intelligent batteries – believed to be a world first – will help British gardeners roll out the Quiet Revolution of Mountfield battery powered equipment that focusses on ease of use.

The battery that knows what it's doing

The battery that knows what it’s doing

Battery power is rapidly replacing petrol and electric cables as a lifestyle trend in gardening. In the UK in 2020, 12.5% of lawn mower sales were battery and this trend is projected to increase to 23% by 2025. At Mountfield the focus is on delivering cleaner, safer and more reliable energy supply.

All the battery lawnmowers and hand-held tools in the Mountfield range, new for 2021, are built from lightweight, robust materials. Whether mowing, cutting, trimming or clearing, they are as powerful and long-lasting as their petrol equivalents but with none of the noise, fumes and hassle of engine maintenance.

This cut away of the STIGA 48V battery clearly shows how cooling air can freely circulate around the battery cells to help prolong operating and shorten recharge times.

E-Power works ‘smart’ in both the 20V and 48V battery systems. In the freedom100 Series of lawnmowers and hand-held tools, the 20V battery has a microchip. The Smart Tool Recognition System recognises the type of tool and tunes the power appropriately to maximise battery life and performance of the machine being used. This cost-effective, adaptive battery performance is unique to Mountfield and none of the main competitors in this price segment offer this. The 48V battery has an internal memory that registers all working parameters and communicates any issues between the battery, the tool and even the charger. The self-propelled mowers in this range are powered by two 48V batteries that work as a synchro pair – the powertrain balancing the energy load and synchronising the discharge for maximum efficiency and cutting performance.

Mountfield batteries are tested at a full, “real-life” usage current that goes far beyond the test widely used in the industry, that is less demanding. Industry Standard tests only 300 charges at 20% of the “real-life” usage current. The Mountfield E-Power batteries, developed, tested and produced at STIGA’s Italian plant, were still gong strong after 600 charges. That is the equivalent of an owner running down and recharging the battery twice a week for six years.

From the family-friendly simplicity of the Freedom100 series to the longer-lasting power of the Freedom500 series, E-Power can drive the smallest tool or the biggest lawnmower including Mountfield’s first ever battery-powered garden tractor range.

“Our new battery is a real game changer,” says Gary Tully, sales and marketing director of STIGA UK. “For the first time there is a battery powered lawnmower suited to small gardens with pocket handkerchief sizes lawns and significantly areas of grass in country houses. This is a first for British gardeners.”

Mountfield is owned by STIGA UK Limited and the lawnmowers and hand-held gardening tools being launched this year are all produced at the company’s Italian plant.

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It’s always been MM seed!

It’s always been MM seed!: Stuart Antell has been a long-term fan of Limagrain’s MM range of grass seed, using it throughout his whole career. There was no exception after he was appointed the Head Groundsman at his beloved Yeovil Town FC.

Prior to accepting the position in January this year, Stuart was enjoying a warmer climate in sunny La Manga, Spain. As much as he and his girlfriend had become accustomed to sun, sand and sangria, there were only two jobs that would tempt him back to the UK.

It’s always been MM seed!

It’s always been MM seed!

“It was lovely out in Spain and I enjoyed maintaining football pitches and cricket squares in the sun,” said Stuart. “However, when we first moved out there, I said to my girlfriend that there would only be two possibilities of us returning home – if I was ever offered a job at Lord’s – the home of cricket, or at Yeovil Town FC – the team I have supported my whole life.

“I couldn’t believe it when the Deputy Head Groundsman position at Lord’s and the Head Groundsman position at Yeovil both came up at the same time!”

Stuart admits that the opportunity to join his boyhood team was just too good to turn down. He started in January this year and after finding his feet, he was keen to make his mark.

When it came to the grass seed, he was keen to bring in a brand he was familiar with.

“The club was previously using another brand, but I’ve always used Limagrain’s MM seed because it has always worked for me,” he said. “The main reason I chose MM seed was because I conducted a seed trial back when I was an Assistant Groundsman at Bath Cricket Club.

“I carried out a test plot with three seed mixtures from three leading breeders. MM seed proved to be the best and was also the most cost effective.”

Following the trial, Stuart continued to use Limagrain’s MM seed in his next position at Hampshire County Cricket Club and even relied on it out in La Manga.

It’s always been MM seed!

It’s always been MM seed!

At Yeovil Town FC, Stuart chooses to use Limagrain’s MM60, which is the UK’s leading winter sports renovation mixture and can be attributed with playing a key role in many of the finest sporting venues you see today. The 100% Ryegrass formula, which is perfect for divot repair, is renowned for its extremely fast germination and its high wear tolerance. It produces fantastic aesthetic qualities, and its high disease resistance provides ultimate protection.

MM60 is also treated with HEADSTART® GOLD, which is a further development of the well-recognised Headstart treatment and has been developed using the latest scientific findings and field experience. It is a natural revolutionary grass seed treatment that ensures rapid germination.

“We did a mini renovation at the end of July and we overseeded with 11 bags of MM60,” said Stuart. “Not only do I use it for renovations, but it is a product I’ll use frequently throughout the season. After every game I’ll go over the pitch looking for any holes that have been kicked out – I’ll then apply a bit of seed to those areas just to keep on top of it. Even before a game I like to put some seed down in the goal mouth areas, which the keepers will then tread in and then after the game I’ll apply a light top dressing.

“I just cannot fault the seed at all,” continued Stuart. “It’s resilient, cost-effective and offers the best germination I’ve ever seen in a seed.”

Not only does Stuart tend to Yeovil Town FC’s stadium and training ground but, somehow, he also finds time to be the local pitch advisor for the Dorset Cricket Board.

“Through this position I carry out a handful of cricket renovations a year and I always use Limagrain’s MM50 which is perfect for cricket,” he said. “As a board we always recommend MM50 to all of the local cricket clubs.

“I have full confidence in Limagrain which is why I’ve used the MM brand throughout my career. I also like the fact that they are always looking to improve the mixtures by adding different cultivars.

“The customer service from Sam Horner (Limagrain Amenity Seed Sales Specialist) is great and he is always available if I need any advice. Everything just works – it’s the whole package.”

For further information, please contact Limagrain UK on 01472 371471 or visit the company’s website www.lgseeds.co.uk/amenity – you can also follow the company on Twitter: @MM_Seed

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New mower makes its mark

New mower makes its mark: John Deere’s south-west England turf dealership Masons Kings sold the first 2750E hybrid electric triplex mower in the area to The Point at Polzeath resort in north Cornwall, with the golf course’s head greenkeeper Tom Collings calling it “… just the mower I wanted”.

The 18 hole golf course sits just above the Camel Estuary with stunning views out over Hayle Bay and Pentire Point, and was England Golf’s GolfMark ‘Club of the Year’ winner in 2017. The club was bought out of liquidation in 2012 by husband and wife team Jeremy Davies and his wife Eva, who have since made a significant investment in every aspect of the business.

New mower makes its mark

New mower makes its mark

This has included the course maintenance equipment fleet, to get the course back into better shape and improve standards across the board. As a result, the greens are now considered to be among the best in the county and the presentation of the course is first class. Most holes have seen significant changes, with improvements to the fairway definition, bunkers, tees and greens, and a new 160-yard par 3 7th hole being developed.

The club has steadily replaced its previous, ageing machinery fleet over the last five years and invested in new John Deere machines from the Masons Kings outlet at St Columb. In addition to the 2750E, a new pedestrian Aercore 800 aerator was delivered to the club following an end of year demonstration, “…just in time for Christmas!” says dealer sales consultant David Barnes.

Summer 2020 also saw the arrival of a 7700A PrecisionCut fairway mower, following two 220SL walk-behind greens mowers in 2019 and a 9009A TerrainCut rotary rough mower, 4066R compact tractor, ProGator utility vehicle and 8800A TerrainCut mower spread over the previous three years.

“We are continuously investing in John Deere’s latest golf equipment and precision technology as we aim to be the leading supplier of machinery and product support for golf courses across the south-west of England,” adds David Barnes.  “The Point at Polzeath was the first club in our area to buy the new 2750E, and we are confident it will do a great job across the course for Tom and his team.”

Tom Collings came to The Point from nearby Trevose in 2009 and has seen the change of ownership breathe new life into what at that time had been a   struggling business. “The owners believe if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards, so they’ve continued investing as far as possible, even during the pandemic,” he says.

“We bought the 8800A outright back in 2016 as part of the initial machinery investment, but since then we’ve taken all the mowing equipment on a five-year finance lease arrangement with John Deere Financial. We’ve continued to buy the tractors, utility vehicles and hand mowers, as these tend to last a lot longer if you look after them well, although it always depends on the owners’ preference each time.

“I also have a good relationship with David Barnes and parts manager Rob Blundell at Masons Kings,” adds Tom. “They have always been very helpful and accommodating, even before we started buying more John Deere equipment, and have helped me out many times by supplying parts for our older kit, for example – so in a way it’s been our turn to repay the favour with these latest purchases.

“I first saw the 2750E on social media after it was launched at BTME, and then John Deere invited me to visit Wentworth. Territory manager Nick Ashman talked about the changes the company had made to the mower and the benefits it could offer, so I was keen to have a look at it working on our course.

“Masons Kings arranged a demonstration here and after cutting the first green I was completely sold, I just found it a totally different experience to any previous mower. Given how it handled and coped so easily with the conditions around the course, the decision to buy one was a no-brainer – it was just the mower I wanted.”

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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.

It’s elementary with the Dennis PRO 34R

It’s elementary with the Dennis PRO 34R: Head groundsman Garry Watson and his deputy John Holmes have praised the Dennis PRO 34R rotary mower for keeping several grass areas in fantastic condition at the King Edward’s School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Founded in 1552, King Edward’s School is one of the most successful boys’ schools in this country. For nearly 400 years the school stood in New Street at the heart of the city. In 1936 the school moved to its present 50-acre site in Edgbaston, shared with King Edward VI High School for Girls, which provides extensive space and facilities matched by few day schools in the country.

It’s elementary with the Dennis PRO 34R

It’s elementary with the Dennis PRO 34R

The school’s academic performance places it amongst the very best in the country and King Edward’s has a long list of notable alumni including two Nobel Prize-winners, JRR Tolkien, Edward Burne-Jones, Lord Willetts and Lee Child.

The grounds department is overseen by Garry, who has been working at the school for an incredible 35 years. Alongside his trusty deputy John Holmes, the duo recently began searching for a new rotary mower.

“We were previously using 20-inch mowers and we wanted something bigger so we could cut more regularly and more quickly,” said Garry. “We also wanted an alternative to that of putting tractors or triple mowers on the pitches – something that would keep the weight off the pitch.”

The case was solved as soon as they saw the Dennis PRO 34R in action: “As soon as we had the demonstration, John said this is it – this is the machine we need to have. Yes, there are other rotary mowers on the market, but we made a decision there and then based on how good it was.”

The Dennis PRO 34R is a 34” (860mm) rotary mower which has been designed to help groundsmen achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance and desired playing surface. It is ideal for sports pitches and lawns producing the enviable ‘Dennis Stripes’ while a powerful vacuum flow collects debris quickly and efficiently.

The angle of the cutting deck and twin blades can be easily adjusted using a single ‘click adjuster’ ensuring the mower is suitable for changing conditions and meeting groundsmen’s requirements.

“The PRO 34R offers a fantastic cut,” continued Garry. “It is predominately used on the rugby pitches for presentation and to also clean-up after matches.

“After about a week of having the PRO 34R, we made the decision to purchase another one – it was that good. It is absolutely fantastic for sports pitches, but we also have a large number of big lawns – which must be kept in good condition. Therefore, the second PRO 34R is all about presentation on these lawns. We use it for cutting and striping.”

Garry also said that the decision to purchase the PRO 34R was based on his experience of using Dennis in the past.

“We’ve had Dennis before, and I’ve never had any issues, so I tend to stick with what I know works. Plus, the service is all part of the overall package with Dennis.

“I like to deal with personalities and Jason Briggs from Dennis and SISIS is fantastic. I know what I like – and Dennis Mowers have never let me down.”

For further information or a no obligation demonstration, please contact Dennis 01332 824 777 or visit www.dennisuk.com

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It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed: Stronger germination and faster establishment are key.

DLF Seed’s ProNitro Coating Technology has been helping greenkeepers and groundsmen achieve stronger germination, faster establishment and lower input costs.

It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed

Four years on from its launch, the next generation of ProNitro is now available, featuring DLF’s new Hydroactive Water Management Technology. ProNitro’s targeted combination of controlled release nitrogen and sustainable water distribution optimises the delivery of essential nutrients and moisture to the developing seedling.

With sustainability an everincreasing priority for turf managers around the world, the ProNitro coating ensures available water is used more efficiently.

“The new ProNitro formulation has been conceived and developed as a direct action for input optimization on grasses, improving water distribution in the field. Making the best of every drop of water gives both the grass seed and the fertiliser the optimum conditions for establishment, strong root development and healthy, vigorous
growth,” explained Giovanny Lopez, Lead Seed Coat Technologist for DLF.

In trials, the coated seed contributed to a 34% increase in establishing plants and a 30% improvement in root growth. In addition, the targeted nitrogen application system reduces the leaching of unutilised fertiliser into the environment by more than 50% when compared to traditional chemical applications.

ProNitro combines sources of both fast-acting and slow release nitrogen with water management technology, encapsulated in a smooth outer coating for improved seed flow and accurate delivery. This ensures the new seed receives the full benefit of the available water and nutrition, encouraging the roots and shoots to grow rapidly – particularly important when overseeding into a competitive sward.

It is suitable for use on all types of playing surfaces and is available on a selection of popular mixtures from across the Johnsons Sports Seed range. On golf greens and football pitches, even those with low-fertility, sandy soils, ProNitro provides faster establishment, bringing surfaces back into play quicker. The improved uniformity and sward density also make it ideal for turf producers by reducing the invasion of Poa annua and broad-leaved weeds. Replacing the need for seedbed fertiliser, ProNitro saves both time and money.