Billy McLachlan, course manager at Royal Troon Golf Club, and his 15-strong greenkeeping team will see the culmination of two years’ preparatory work on the course and greens this July, when the Ayrshire club hosts the 145th Open Championship – the eighth time the event has come to the Firth of Clyde. The work has included specification changes to all the Old Course greens.
“We’ve adjusted the top dressing programme to firm them up as much as we can,” explains Billy McLachlan, who has been at Royal Troon for 35 years, the past 22 as course manager. His brother John doubles as co-deputy course manager and mechanic, working alongside co-deputy Gary Ross.
Continuing its close relationship with John Deere and dealer Nairn Brown at Busby, Glasgow, the club has bought five new 220SL walk-behind greens mowers and a new 2653B ride-on triplex cylinder mower as the latest additions to its fleet of course maintenance equipment. The 220SL walk-behinds replaced a similar number of older 220C models, while the 2653B complements a 12-year old model that is still going strong. Royal Troon also runs John Deere compact tractors.
“We’ve been using the 220 walk-behinds for the past 12 years, going back to the B Series models, and the latest SLs are part of our rolling machinery replacement policy,” says Billy McLachlan. “The staff think they are the best walk-behind, as does my brother John, who does all the setting up on the mowers.
“The 220SL’s 22 inch width suits us, even on the smaller 9th and 8th greens,” (the famous Postage Stamp, the shortest hole in championship golf, with no safe way to play it; don’t hit the green and the ball is in trouble!) “They will be used to cut all the greens before and during the Championship.
“The height of cut adjustment is quick and precise, and we’ve reduced the height of cut from 3.5 to 3.4mm; even that small amount makes a difference and enables us to treat the greens according to the conditions. In the past we have reduced cutting frequency and increased rolling; it all depends on what the weather sends.”
The new 2653B represents the third generation of this popular ride-on cylinder mower used at Royal Troon. “They have improved the quality and stand on the surrounds,” says Billy McLachlan. “Our John Deere 8000E five-gang hybrid electric machines normally cut the surrounds and for the Open we are going to try and cut the fairways with them as well.
“We’ve introduced a policy of cutting the ‘outer surrounds’ to the same height, which will be done with the 2653Bs, as they give a good finish and can handle the slopes. They will also be used on the practice tees and on the Portland and par three courses. Having two of these mowers also gives us a back-up; I always like to have a back-up.
“We have stayed with John Deere as if the staff like a machine, then that’s what we have. But it is not just the product, it is the whole package, which includes the extremely efficient support that Nairn Brown and sales manager Graham Stewart, and John Deere, provide.”
Supplying Billy McLachlan and his greens staff with the machines to present Royal Troon’s 6591m (7208 yards), par 71 Old Course at its best for the Open and maintain it for the duration of the Championship is not Nairn Brown and John Deere’s only association with the event. They will also be providing additional tournament support in the form of Gator utility vehicles and additional 8000E hybrid electric ride-on mowers.
“We’ll have six 8000Es for the fairways and surrounds, with the intention that they will all be cutting to the same height,” says Billy McLachlan. “The only problem will be how we physically set out to do it!”
Following the recent decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU, FEGGA does not feel that this decision will impact on the Federation. FEGGA is made up of 24 National Greenkeeper Associations, and not all of these are full members of the EU, so this is not an unusual situation for our organisation and its ongoing work. Norway and Switzerland are not full members of the EU, and they fully engage in the work of FEGGA. In particular Norway have engaged strongly in Education, using the Pan European Standards that have been created to their own benefit, and their government recognising these as professional industry standards, that have major benefits to their golf industry.
FEGGA works with the EU through various channels, and has been able to grow education through these channels, with many Countries benefiting from this work. This work will continue, and through this work it’s the profession that gains, and not just individual Countries.
FEGGA also works with many of the leading European companies that are playing a major role in serving our industry, and benefiting golf as a whole. They should not be forgotten in the impact it might have on them, and we as an organisation are committed to work with them as they work through this period.
From a UK perspective, BIGGA are a very prominent member of FEGGA, and FEGGA very much supports their comments regarding the upcoming period of uncertainty with the economy, and also the commitment they have made to their own members, and also the golf industry as a whole.
FEGGA is Dedicated to Communicate and Share Environmentally Sustainable Ideals and Skills for Quality Golf Course Management
Dean Cleaver, Executive Officer, FEGGA www.fegga.org
British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association reacts to UK’s European Union referendum decision
In the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association has reaffirmed its pledge to support its almost 6,000 members.
IGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “The UK golf industry is still in a delicate position on the back of the last economic downturn. Following the result of the referendum, we are set to enter another uncertain period for the economy. The decision to leave the EU will have an impact on people’s pockets and within the golf industry this can manifest itself in a reduction in greenkeeping budgets. We will redouble our efforts to ensure we support our members throughout this period and work closely with the rest of the golf industry to keep the sport as buoyant as possible
Dustin Johnson won the 116th US Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club on greens prepared with specially adapted Jacobsen PGM 22 walking mowers. In a controversial final round he held off the challenge of Shane Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy to win by three strokes with a total score of 276. This latest US Open was a record 9th time that Oakmont had staged the event and much has been said about the famed course over the years and its unrivalled reputation as being tournament ready every day of the year.
John Zimmers, the Superintendent of Oakmont Country Club said, “When you say things like tournament ready or championship ready, these are the expectations of Oakmont Country Club and what we strive to provide for our members every day. Part of the history, the culture here at Oakmont has always been about firm and fast greens. Our greens are a very unique poa annua grass that we found are best maintained with a Jacobsen PGM 22 fitted with a 19” reel on a 22” roller. I’ve been using them since I first arrived here in 1999. “I’ve been doing this for years now and we’ve tried other mowers, other technology and we always come back to this mower. It cuts better, you get a better green speed, better quality-of-cut, better performance, better turf health and it’s just undoubtedly, hands down the best mowers for Oakmont’s greens.”
David Delsandro, Director of U.S. Open Operations and Projects added, “Of course, the high level of expectations at Oakmont brings a certain level of stress, but we embrace that pressure and although we really don’t maintain the course that differently for the U.S. Open, we focus on what we normally do and let our body of work show for itself. “The new Jacobsen HR700 rotary enables us to meet the USGA specifications for rough mowing and we can mow at a 5-inch height-of-cut and as a result, get a more uniform, denser stand of rough.”
Lee Trevino once said that there’s only one course in the country where you could step out right now – right now – and play the U.S. Open, and that’s Oakmont.
What the team at Oakmont ‘normally’ does is nothing short of incredible – consistently providing green speeds over 13 and 14 feet – in addition to maintaining 210 bunkers and keeping 300 acres looking picture-perfect every day. Even the famed church pews get special attention to ensure they look good year round as it’s not unusual to have visitors in the dead of winter wanting to see them. “Ultimately, it goes back to what course designer Henry Fownes’ originally wanted: a very brutal test of golf, but fair,” said Zimmers. “And I think that’s really how you describe the U.S. Open, you want the players to grind and the best player will get the trophy.” “We recently renewed our fleet of greens mowers and local Jacobsen dealer, Krigger & Co, came in and replicated the identical setup of our mowers, which have been dialled in so precisely for our needs,” Delsandro added.
For Zimmers, one of the most rewarding things about working at Oakmont is seeing his team come together and realize how much they have accomplished. “Right now, we have a very special group of young men who are starting to see in these last few weeks the results of all their hard work and dedication. They can look back and appreciate what they did on those cold March mornings. And, best of all, it will be very rewarding for me to see where these young men will be in a few years and how successful they will undoubtedly be.”
Erich Steiner (pictured) shares his thoughts on Sustainability….
The concept of sustainability exists from the early days of human life on earth. It has been about survival. Looking back only as far as the 18th century Carl von Carlowitz, a german thinker, already formerly addressed the idea of sustainable forestry asking how we can combine economic interests with environmental needs without radically changing our way of life. This is the foundation of the idea, finding a balance between economic benefit and managing the impact on nature (and society). The inherent idea is timeless, yet we have only really started to talk about sustainability as a formal concept in recent decades.
In 1983 the UN formed the World Commission on Environment and Development with three objectives in mind: to re-examine the critical environment and development issues and formulate realistic proposals for dealing with them; to propose new forms of international co-operation on these issues that will influence policies and events in the direction of needed changes; and to raise the levels of understanding and commitment to action of individuals, voluntary organizations, businesses, institutes and governments. The results of this commission were published in 1987 as Our Common Future, 4 years of international research on “sustainable development”. Then in 1992 the Rio Earth Summit took these issues to the international stage where 179 countries agreed to work toward creating a “global sustainable development” with a fair balance between economic efficiency, social responsibility and a careful use of resources.
Since these early steps only a couple of decades ago there have been sustainability definitions and eco-labels created in almost every domain of life, including golf, to encourage the industry to “go green”, essentially to think of the social and environmental consequences as well, and not just focus on making more money. The R&A has defined sustainable golf as “Optimising the playing quality of the golf course in harmony with the conservation of its natural environment under economically sound and socially responsible management”. FEGGA has also produced an Environmental Policy Document back in 2000, encouraging the implementation of an environmental programme to bring the greenkeeping profession in line with sustainable practices.
A lot of research, writing and nice words, but the question is: where are we on this path toward a sustainable development some 24 years after the Rio Earth Summit? Are we bored with talking about sustainability? Some say it’s a worn out word. Was it just a passing trend? Has our constant talking replaced the acting and do we even remember our objectives and what are we doing to reach them? We might believe that we are already living in a world of sustainability with organic food shops on every corner and constant talk of green energy and Fairtrade bananas. Yet the truth is something else. The industrialized countries have just begun to make a dent in the total market but there is a long road ahead. GEO is working to help the golf industry becoming more sustainable. Is it working and to what extent?
Decision-making remains difficult with this every present conflict between our heavily dominant economic objectives and the importance of ecological integrity and social responsibility. Within the greenkeeping profession we talk of more environmentally friendly pesticide products and energy efficient machinery, yet climate change continues to rise, habitats are disappearing rapidly and fresh water reserves are more and more threatened. It is not only our increasing population that weighs heavily on this planet but also our economic-based decisions. Even in ecologically minded Germany, more than 1/3 of all native fauna and flora is under threat of extinction and 20% of all bee-hives did not survive last winter in Switzerland. And the world share of wealth if still incredibly unbalanced. We see this every day with the massive numbers of immigration requests trying desperately to find a better life in the western world. We would like to live in harmony with nature and be socially responsible yet the task is daunting. We talk the talk, but do we walk the walk? Where do we start? How sustainable can we be as individuals in a world of massive international conglomerates who make short-term profit their number one objective?
It seems insurmountable yet I believe that each individual can make smart sustainable decisions and when individuals get together, as we are as European greenkeepers, we can make a difference and even help to lead by example for the rest of the golf industry. Corporate sustainability is living together as said by Carl von Carlowitz back in 1713. As golf returns to the Olympics and the world stage this year, let’s stand up and get taken seriously. Let’s start a collective initiative for a collective impact. Let’s help bring a sustainable revolution to golf today, for a better game tomorrow..
Steiner & Partner Landschaftsarchitektur GmbH
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Erich Steiner MSc Landscape Architect FH BSLA, Managing Director