Meet the golf course manager: Richard Jenkinson

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 26, 2018 07:33 Updated

The Golf House Club, Elie is one of Fife’s oldest and most picturesque links golf courses. Richard talks about how his team maintains it

The Golf House Club, Elie, which lies just 12 miles from the championship courses at St Andrews, is, as it looks forward to its 150th anniversary in 2025, one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. The game has been played across the historic Elie links since the 15th century and given the panoramic views and superb setting, it is little wonder the course has established itself as such a firm favourite for visitors over the years. Tucked away in the beautiful East Neuk of Fife, Sir Michael Bonallack, OBE, said of it: “If you love links golf, you will love Elie. Close cut running fairways with firm, fast, true greens. A memorable and enjoyable test for golfers of every ability.”

The man tasked with ensuring those 27 fairways are cut closely and the greens are firm and fast is the club’s course manager, Richard Jenkinson.

He offers tips on course maintenance including regarding overseeding.

“At present we have a mixture of grass species in our greens and approach swards, some undesirable for our links environment,” he said.

“I am looking to increase the fescue species within the sward composition, not a complete transition – just to increase the population so they are dominant over the undesirable for us at Elie. We used the Vredo Super Compact to carry out our overseeding last year, personally I feel this gives us the highest success rate with very little disruption to the surface. Once we have carried out the overseeding process, we roll these areas then apply a very light top-dressing to smooth out any imperfections that there may be. The intention is to carry out the process as frequently as our golf calendar and weather allow in the future.

“With regards to our aeration and top-dressing programme, we try to do as much as we can. At Elie we suffer from shallow rooting across most of our surfaces. I’m trying to promote little inputs of fertiliser and water to encourage the finer species but at the same time not to the detriment of health to the grass plant. I’m hopeful that by carrying out aeration as frequently as possible our rooting structure will get much better over time.

“In general we will give our greens and approaches a run with our Wiedenmann Terra Spike Gxi 8 a couple of times during the winter months with 10mm solid tines to a depth of around nine to 10 inches with no heave, our Toro ProCore fitted with 8mm solid tines follows directly behind to try and minimise any disruption there is and to fill in the 10mm holes at the surface. The green surface is then rolled, again to minimise any disruption. Throughout the main playing season both of these pieces of equipment are out regularly at least once a month. The Gxi 8 is fitted with 8mm solid tines throughout this period, as is the ProCore.

“We normally run the Gxi 8 at varied depths from four to seven inches to try to encourage more vigorous rooting through the growing season.

“Our top-dressing programme on greens is weekly using Hugh King washed dune sand with our mounted Dakota Turf Tender at a rate of 10 tonnes over 1.5 hectares; we also top-dress our approaches once a month – both processes are dependent on golf pressure and weather. Because we are going so frequently with top-dressing, I’m not overly concerned if we miss an application.

“Tees are aerated with our ProCore with 10mm solid tines as frequently as we can but mostly during the winter months. Top-dressing of the tees is also carried out during this period as it is very difficult to do so during the main play season.

“Fairways are aerated with the Gxi 8 with ¾ inch tines to a depth of around nine to 10 inches, our fairways are heavily populated with fescue with no nutrient application. They are sprayed once a year normally at the end of the playing season with soluble Fe, and liquid Mg and Mn. No top-dressing is applied to these surfaces at present.”

In terms of course machinery, the club recently purchased some John Deere 220 SL pedestrian mowers from Double A to add to a fleet that includes three 2500B greens / tees / approach mowers, now four 220 SLs, two Pro Gators, two 7500 fairway mowers, one 2500A tee / approach mower, one 8700 fairway mower, one 8800 Rotary rough deck, one TS Gator, one 5415 tractor and one TE Gator. Aside from John Deere the club has one Gambetti 900l demountable sprayer, one Wiedenmann Gxi 8, one Wiedenmann Super 500, one Wiedenmann Terra Rake, one SmithCo Roller, one Dakota Turf Tender 410, one Toro ProCore, one Graden, one Charterhouse Core Collector, one Ryan Turf Cutter, one Iseki TG 5470 tractor and one Kioti Nx 6010 tractor.

Perhaps the biggest project the club is currently working on is bunker renovation.

“At present we are in the process of revetting all of our bunkers around the course, this process will take around about three to four years,” he said.

“Here at Elie we have 88 bunkers, some with grass faces and some traditional links style revetted. Most of the grass-faced bunkers are contoured with some steep slopes, making it difficult to access them. The decision taken was to revet all bunkers and to make access to them easier by more sympathetic contouring. When rebuilding we have set a specific angle on the face of each bunker, greenside being built with a 35 degree angle and fairways at 40 degrees. To find the angle we have been using an angle finder tool cable tied to a rake shaft; works great as we can be very accurate to ensure uniformity. With 42 refurbished we still have more than half to complete over the next three winters. The benefits are there will be consistency throughout the course, they will last longer and give a far better aesthetic look to what we are trying to achieve.”

Finally, the club is also in the process of upgrading the irrigation system in three phases.

“The old system of some 30 years needed to be replaced so the decision was taken to upgrade it,” he explained.

“With old PVC pipe work in the ground it was a constant fire-fighting battle to keep the system up and running. We could only run two stations at a time with our old controller, meaning a very long watering window.

“This had a knock-on effect of having to prioritise which areas were a greater need for irrigation.

“Our greens’ pipe work and heads were updated five or six years ago so there was no requirement for them to be included in our upgrade. I decided to go with Toro irrigation components and the Lynx operation system as I feel that it best suits our need here at the Golf House Club, Elie.

“I believe that it will give us more consistency with water delivery where and when we need it. Having a system that I can rely on without concern gives me peace of mind and more opportunity to carry out the overseeding process with irrigation back up where I need it.

“Phase one consisted of:

  • New water tank, 300,000 litres
  • New pump set
  • Replacement of existing borehole pumps
  • Pipe work to connect with existing irrigation

“Phase two:

  • New main line around the course
  • New pipe work and irrigation heads to tees and approaches with new valve assemblies
  • Connect into existing greens’ pipe work with new valve box assemblies
  • Installation of 13th fairway and turf nursery pipe work and valve assemblies.

“It was important for the club to have the work undertaken with as little disruption as possible and at a time when that was possible. The club chose Ocmis for both phases of the installation process. Both phase one and two of the work carried out by Bill McIsaac and his team was of the highest standard, making life less stressful for me. Work on phase one commenced in November 2016 and was completed in January 2017. Phase two commenced at the end of August 2017 and was completed by the end of October 2017. There is the option of phase three which would involve pipe work to fairways and valve box assembly, should GHC decide to go down that route.”

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 26, 2018 07:33 Updated
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