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.

Woodland Management made easier for Wildernesse GC

Woodland Management made easier for Wildernesse GC: A CM220TMP woodchipper from GreenMech has transformed the woodland management programme for Wildernesse Golf Club.

The heavily tree-lined woodland/parkland course in Sevenoaks, Kent, requires year-round thinning, pruning and felling. The new 9” machine has significantly improved the productivity for Course Manager Mark Todd and his team.

Woodland Management made easier for Wildernesse GC

Woodland Management made easier for Wildernesse GC

With classified ancient woodland, Chance Wood, at the very heart of the course, the scale of the task at hand led Mark to look for an upgrade to their existing machinery at the end of 2019. “I spoke with our local dealer Burden Bros who suggested we upgrade from a 6” to a 9” machine and demonstrated the GreenMech CM220TMP. You could see straight away how it was going to be so much more effective at dealing with the large quantities of material we have to process.”

The course woodland predominantly consists of beech, birch and oak, however it’s the holly in the understory of the canopy that causes a real issue. “Some areas are smothered in it and the awkwardly shaped branches used to be really difficult to get into our old chipper unless you spent time snedding all the branches off. The CM220TMP’s large hopper means we can take down holly trees up to 20-foot-tall and get them straight into the chipper – reducing handling and stopping backlogs. Thinning this out improves not only the aesthetic and playability qualities, it also allows extra air and light to get down to the playing surfaces.”

“Being tractor mounted means we can take the chipper wherever it is needed, with the chip we produce dispersed in the woodland, used in some of the decorative beds or given to the members for use in their gardens. One of the really great things is GreenMech’s round disc blade chipping technology. Not only does it process more efficiently but when they blunt you simply turn them to the next sharp edge which means that, compared to traditional straight blades, you get three times the life out of each set.”

Mark was also thankful for having the chipper at their disposal during the recent storms, where the course experienced strong winds and fallen trees. “The chipper disposed of these without a problem” Mark explains. “While it comes into its own over the winter months, we have projects to work on throughout the year and with the CM220TMP, these have now become much easier.”

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Memories Are Made Of This

Memories Are Made Of This: Scott MacCallum returns to a place where he has spent quite a bit of time and created many wonderful memories, as he talks with Angus McLeod at The Belfry.

There are some places with which you just have a connection. Somewhere which see memories reignited or future memories created.

Memories Are Made Of This

The Belfry is one such place for me. I visited for the first time in 1985 when my younger brother and I drove down from Scotland to watch the final two days of the Ryder Cup. It was the furthest I’d ever driven and remarkably at that time you could just pay at the gate for the Ryder Cup.

On the Sunday afternoon we shouted some words of encouragement to Sam Torrance as he played the 10th, three down to Andy North. We were the only ones lining that particular fairway and I reckon Sam heard. He did look over, somewhat disconsolately it must be said.

Anyhow we know what happened after that and we were positioned alongside the 18th fairway when Sam clinched the Cup for the first time in a huge number of years, raising his arms in that pillar box red sweater.

I suppose my brother and I could claim some credit for that pep talk and turning Sam’s fortunes around, but we have let Tony Jacklin take most of the plaudits for the win.

Since then I have won a Pro-Am over the Brabazon, winning a lovely print of the 10th hole; I won a raffle for a fourball which ended up costing a small fortune as we stayed for two nights and racked up quite a bill.

I also chatted with Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher while we stood alone on the 18th fairway, watching Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie narrowly lose their Saturday afternoon fourball to John Cook and Chip Beck during the ’93 Ryder Cup. It was a nice memory for me, not so much for Bernard.

It is a place with so many recollections for me, for sure.

So, it was great to visit once again and catch up with Director of Golf Courses and Estates, Angus McLeod. The chat was videoed and we had the privilege of sitting in the Ryder Cup room, overlooking the iconic golf course to conduct it.

Memories Are Made Of This

Angus has been at The Belfry for seven years and while he still pinches himself that he is in charge of such a world renowned venue, he is also extremely comfortable in his surroundings.

So much so that he and his team tackled a re-design of that very 10th hole, the one where Sam received those words of wisdom from two young Scottish lads.

It is probably the most famous short par-4 in world golf but Angus believed that, by undoing an amendment that had been made earlier and returning it to something more closely resembling its original guise, an improvement could be made.

“When you look at YouTube videos of the original 10th it had three bunkers on a plateau on the right side of the green. That changed with one massive bunker which went right up the bank. In all honesty it didn’t look very good and it was a nightmare to maintain. So, we took the bold step of taking it back to the three bunkers again. We wanted to reinvent it,” explained Angus.

The hole came to the golfing world’s attention when Seve famously drove the green – there is a plaque on the tee to commemorate the feat – and Angus didn’t want to stop big hitting visitors from attempting to emulate the late lamented Spaniard by reducing the size of the green.

“We wanted to encourage golfers to have a go, so we wanted to keep the width the same and put in the three bunkers towards the edge of the green,” explained Angus, of work which was done entirely in-house.

“Dave Thomas one of the original architects is sadly no longer with us, while the other, Peter Alliss, is now retired from course design otherwise we would have involved them,” said Angus, who met the world famous commentator at a recent awards’ ceremony in Portugal and had a long chat with him about The Belfry.

Memories Are Made Of This

“It is something we do following consultations with our bosses and we always have the architects’ original intent very much in mind. It was something we did for playability reasons and I’d like to think that we have helped the course.”

They have also worked on the 11th, adding in three new bunkers and realigning the green.

In truth, has been quite a bit of work done on the course since that Ryder Cup back in 1985. Then the notably holes were the 9th, 10th and 18th, each with water adding to the jeopardy. Those holes are still superb but they have been joined by many more outstanding holes.

“There is no weak hole on the course. My favourite is the par-5 3rd with the lake on the left hand side. The green used to be tucked up on the right and it was a fairly benign hole but now there is a real risk and reward and it makes us such a great matchplay venue.”

As a place which many people aspire to play and perhaps only have the opportunity to visit once the onus on the greenkeeping team to ensure championship conditions every day is very much at the forefront of minds.

Essential work still needs to be carried out to achieve standards but that explanation won’t wash if it is being carried out on a visitor or corporate guest’s one and only visit.

“It is very tough to achieve. I have a fantastic team and standards and expectations are high so we try to produce a golf course to tournament condition every day – not easy to do.”

So how is it done?

“We’re like Ninja greenkeepers,” laughed Angus, whose role is very much now strategic but who always makes sure he divots the tees each morning.

“It allows me to see the golf course but my friends say that I’m the most highly qualified divitor in the history of greenkeeping,” said Angus.

“We try to do everything sympathetically, whether it be renovation work or aerification because we know we are a 365 venue. We try never to close the courses. We are lucky that we have 60 greens on site which are all pure sand and are very free draining.

“The level of intense aerification has reduced over the years. We still punch holes but it is very much with a small tine and we roll straight away afterwards. Also we aren’t too wet – 600mil average – as most rain comes from the west and it usually dissipates by the time it gets to us.”

A man of Inverness, Angus moved south from his local club to Wales and Newport Golf Club before entering the world of Resort Golf when he took over at Belton Woods, in Lincolnshire.

“I set goals for myself over the years and that is something I do with the team here. There are so many parts of our industry that you can diversify – turf management, workshop, irrigation etc. You can find a niche and there is a defined career path.”

Memories Are Made Of This

“I tell the boys that there are opportunities out there for them but that they will have to get out of their comfort zones.

Angus is a prime example of somehow who practices what he preaches. He pushed himself to go to college when he felt he needed qualifications to make the next step on the ladder.

“I went to Pencoed College, in South Wales and did a two year management course. This was a mandatory requirement for this job. It was tough as I was still running a golf club and as you get older it’s tougher to retain information.

“I had a really good job at a really good club and could have retired there but I needed another challenge and it opened the door to moving into working at big resorts.” And it has paid off. A couple of days before our interview Angus and colleagues from The Belfry had been in St Andrews where they picked up the top award at what are the equivalent of the Oscars – the 59 Club.

“We were judged on all aspects of the Resort with 60% of the overall rankings down to the golf course and it’s marked on a mystery shopper basis. “We won a Golf Flag for the PGA National and the Brabazon courses for venues over £75 and then picked up the Ultimate Venue Award at the end of the night which was fantastic.”

It looks like The Belfry is continuing its reputation for creating wonderful memories!

Made for Golf and Groundsmen

Made for Golf and Groundsmen: From the tee to the green, from natural to synthetic sports pitches, as a greenkeeper or groundsman your primary aim will be perfection. Achieving this and maintaining your course and grounds to the highest possible standards requires specialist equipment you can trust. Machinery that gets the job done in the minimum time, is durable and affordable and above all, designed to specifically meet your needs. GKB Machines have been making a name for themselves with high praises from greenkeepers and groundsmen around the UK.

Seeding and surface aerating in one pass

Take the GKB Combiseeder for example. It offers a fast, efficient way of seeding and surface aerating with virtually no surface disturbance. Creating over 1500 holes per m² it provides accurate seed application at various rates to suit different seed mixes, with drag brushes to incorporate seed and topdressing. The Combiseeder can be used for overseeding and initial seeding and offers a fast and efficient way of seeding and surface aerating, with virtually no surface disturbance. There’s a large seed hopper with agitator brush and you get accurate seed distribution from all seed mixes. There are models from 1.2m to 2.1m and there are options of a multi spike cast ring roller or Cambridge roll cast ring roller.

Made for Golf and Groundsmen

Improve and maintain drainage with the GKB Sandfiller

Every professional knows scarifying and sand filling are the perfect combination to improve and maintain drainage on the course. The problem is, it can be a time-consuming task requiring dedicated equipment for each process. GKB have come up with the ideal solution, saving you time and expense and leaving you free to get on with other jobs.
GKB Sandfiller combines in one operation scarifying, removal and sand filling. Which means the operation can be carried out by one person, saving on time and cost. The principle of the Sandfiller is based on the much praised GKB Combinator. The slitting rotor utilises carbide scarifying blades that create wind in order to lift the removed material. The blades remove thatch to a depth of 4cm and the debris is immediately distributed to a sideways tipping container. Dried sand is instantly applied from the hopper to the trench the moment the scarifying is complete. The result is the area is once again available for use immediately.

Top dresser that’s always in fashion

When it comes to top dressing there’s a GKB machine that is just the job. The GKB SP100 has been developed on the back of the success of GKB’s trailed versions and to meet your needs with straightforward mounting onto turf trucks using a simple bolt-on system. Stand legs allow the SP100 to be quickly set up or removed. With its 1m3 hopper capacity the machine suits a variety of purposes, evenly distributing materials, such as sand and mulch with variable spread widths and depths. It’s easily fitted with electro-hydraulic controls and runs directly off the hydraulics of the chosen turf truck. Furthermore, the Sandspreader is available in four different designs which range from 1m3 to 4m3. While the SP100 is suitable for assembling on a turf truck: the ProGator, Truckster or Workman for example, other designs are provided with four pivoting balloon tires, for the perfect distribution of the weight on your golf course.

If you would like to know more about how GKB Machines can help improve and maintain your course or sports pitches a have a chat with Tom Shinkins on 07495 883617 or visit

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Football’s “Made in England” Pitches

Football’s “Made in England” Pitches: Sunday’s World Football Cup Final, the first-ever to be staged on a revolutionary hi-tech playing surface, is set to deliver a multi-million pound boost to SIS Pitches, the English firm behind the groundbreaking technology.

Cumbria-based SIS Pitches installed its hybrid surfaces using patented fibre injection technology with undersoil aeration system in six of the 12 tournament venues, including Moscow’s 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium, which will host Sunday’s decider between France and Croatia.

Football’s “Made in England” Pitches

Luzhniki’s pitch uses SISGrass, – 95% natural grass reinforced with 5% synthetic fibres – and SISAir, a unique aeration system capable of removing a deluge of rain from the surface in just five seconds, whilst optimising root moisture via a network of undersoil pipes.

George Mullan, CEO of SIS Pitches, said: “With around one billion people expected to watch the final, there’s clearly pressure to get the pitch in top condition, despite it being used for over 60 hours – the equivalent of a full Premier League season – in the past five weeks. That would have been impossible on a traditional all-grass pitch.

“Everyone has been raving about the quality of football at this tournament and our pitches have certainly given Modric, Lukaku, Mbappe and Kane a brilliant platform to perform on. The feedback we’ve had from everyone involved has been hugely positive. It’s the first worldwide showcase for these technologies to be combined at a World Football Cup final and it’s performed perfectly.”

The six World Football Cup stadia using SISGrass are Luzhniki, Spartak, Samara, Kaliningrad, Saransk and Rostov.

Football’s “Made in England” Pitches

Having installed over 80 hybrid surfaces worldwide, including English Premier League sides Chelsea, Newcastle United, Fulham and Bournemouth, as well as Scottish champions Celtic and the English FA’s St George’s Park complex, with Barcelona to follow, SIS Pitches predicts annual revenues will grow from £55m to £65m in 2019.

Mullan said: “We’re seeing huge interest from professional sports teams in the US and Japan, as well as the enormous American university sector and we’re installing eight SISGrass pitches in France this summer alone.”

Founded in 2001, SIS Pitches employs over 340 staff worldwide, with manufacturing headquarters in Maryport, Cumbria.

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World Cup Turf Made In Britain

World Cup Turf Made In Britain: This summer’s World Cup final will be on plastic grass for the first time in history – and England are guaranteed to play a part. It’s all because the surface at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where the match is to be staged on July 15, is one of six venues in Russia using a “hybrid” pitch made up of real and synthetic grass made by a British firm.

The new surfaces were developed in CumbriaThis summer’s World Cup final will be on plastic grass for the first time in history – and England are guaranteed to play a part. It’s all because the surface at the Luzhniki and installed at the national team’s training centre St George’s Park in 2015, giving Gareth Southgate’s men plenty of practice on the turf.

World Cup Turf Made In Britain

If England finish top of their group in the first round, they will have to play two knock‐ out stage matches on hybrid pitches in order to reach the final.

Their final group stage match will also be played on one of the new pitches.

George Mullan, chief executive of developers SIS Pitches, said: “Having trained on it, it is going to help the England squad.”

The synthetic surface was developed by SIS Pitches at its headquarters in Maryport, Cumbria.

Mr Mullan added: “It’s the first time a World Cup final has been played on anything but all‐natural grass and we’re honoured to have been chosen to install it.

“We have come so far to get this system to the pinnacle of world sport.

“The quality of SIS grass will ensure the pitches are resilient in all conditions. It’s much more durable and stable than the pitches of the old days.

“I’m sure the 2018 World Cup final is one we will all remember.”

The pitches consist of 95 per cent natural turf reinforced with synthetic fibres which are stitched into the ground to a depth of seven inches using a laser‐guided system.

It took just seven days to instal the Luzhniki Stadium surface with “injection roller” machines worth £500,000.

A special air system has also been installed which can remove excess water from the playing surface in just three seconds via underpitch pipes that can blow hot or cold air depending on the climate.

The synthetic grass was made in Dundee, Scotland, at a factory before being shipped to Russia.

Former FA head groundsman Alan Ferguson will be in charge of maintaining the £1million Luzhniki Stadium pitch during the tournament.

Ipswich‐based Mr Ferguson will be in charge of a six‐strong ground staff team including two other Britons and three Russians.

Mr Ferguson was formerly in charge of the Wembley Stadium pitch and the turf at St George’s Park, where the England team are training ahead of the World Cup.

The Luzhniki Stadium will host the opening ceremony and the opening game, along with a semi‐final match and the World Cup final.

The hybrid surfaces have also been installed at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, the Kaliningrad Stadium, the Rostov Arena and the Cosmos Arena in Samara.

In the group stages alone, 30 of the 32 countries taking part in the tournament will play on the revolutionary pitches.

There are 12 venues in all spread across Russia.

The same hybrid pitch has already been installed by Championship side Derby County, as well as at training grounds at top clubs including Fulham and Chelsea. The 2018 World Cup begins on June 14.

England, captained by Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane, begin their quest for glory in Group G alongside Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.

England have been training at St George’s Park this week ahead of their final warm‐up games as the countdown to the tournament continues.

The Three Lions face Nigeria at Wembley on Saturday and Costa Rica at Elland Road in Leeds on Thursday before heading to their base in Russia on June 12.

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