8 Aug 2018



Our Head Greenkeeper Kevin McGrath and his staff have expert, local knowledge of our course, soil, climate and agronomy.  To supplement their expertise and inform their decisions, the Council and Kevin agreed in 2015 to employ the services of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

STRI are a global consultancy specialist in the development of elite standard sports surfaces.  We pay approximately £1600 plus VAT annually and for this they undertake an annual visit, take soil samples and they provide a report; this year’s report is attached.  This report takes a snapshot of the course stating the current condition and recommends courses of action in the form of key points and actions.

In particular, a concise set of measurements is taken to assess the performance and quality of greens on the golf course.  These measurements include speed, firmness, smoothness, trueness, moisture content, organic matter and soil analysis.

The Council tasks the Greens sub-committee (led by Brian Inch) with objectively looking at the STRI report and, combined with the knowledge and expertise of the Greenkeeping staff, to identify priorities and workplans.  For example, this year’s and 2019’s maintenance plans (winter and ongoing) will be based on the recommendations within the attached report.

STRI Report Key Area for Concern

A recurring theme in each year’s report to date is the high concentration of organic matter in our greens.

Organic matter is more commonly known as “thatch”; a layer of dead and living shoots, grass stems and roots that accumulates just below the putting surface. Organic matter is one of the biggest issues influencing the health and playability of greens. A small amount is necessary to receive incoming golf shots and tolerate golfer foot traffic and routine maintenance procedures. High organic matter content however will increase the likelihood of soft playing conditions, inconsistent green speed and a lack of smoothness.  It can also lead to disease and stress.

The graphs in the report titled “Organic matter 0-20mm and 20-40mm” show that the level is well above the target range of between 4 and 6%.

Recommended Actions

To reduce the organic matter, the STRI report suggests the following actions:

–          Carry out hollow coring ideally combined with Graden sand injection to remove the amount of organic matter in the profile.

–           Apply a minimum of 150 tonnes of sand top-dressing per annum to dilute the accumulation of organic matter at the top of the profile.

How Do We Achieve This?

Earlier this year, the club invested in a top-dresser to distribute sand onto the greens.  So far only 35 tonnes has been applied.  (115t remaining)

Step 1 – Now (Every Monday weather permitting, as it’s considered a non-competition day).  Apply another 20t before the end of the season, at a rate of 5t a time (this will need to be watered into the surface).  (95t remaining)

Step 2 – September.  During the course maintenance fortnight (Monday 10 to Friday 21 September) double-depth scarify all greens and apply 30t of topdressing. (65t remaining)

Step 3 – October.  Core all greens as early as possible in October and apply another 30t. (finishing 35t short of recommended target)


Step 4 – Distribute 5t regularly throughout the season aiming for 20 applications (total 100t)

Step 5 – 19 – 26 August 2019 Course Maintenance.  Graden all greens (as in 2015) and core at the same time to add approx. 60t (more than 150t)

Members should be aware that this is not a ‘one-hit-wonder’.  Such work may continue for a number of years as the greenstaff battle to get the organic matter levels down to manageable levels.

Impact on the Club

There is clearly a financial impact:

150 tonnes of sand costs approx. £7000

We will need to source specialist machinery to conduct some of the tasks required.  This will be through contacts, loaned or in the worst case hired as required.

There will be an impact of play as the greens staff will require more regular access to the greens.

The condition of greens themselves may also be affected in the short term.


At present, our greens appear to be running true and relatively smoothly and we have received many positive comments on their condition.  However, on closer inspection, the surfaces are worsening and certain greens are starting to show signs of deterioration due to the high organic matter content.  We have Kevin’s local knowledge and expertise and the STRI’s scientific evidence to back this up.

It is therefore vital for the future condition of the greens that this work takes place. The plan may sound dramatic and slightly disruptive but it is essential.  The aim will be to cause as little inconvenience as possible and consideration will always be given to competitions and the work will be carried out at “quieter” times.   However, we are appealing for your patience and forbearance while this important work is undertaken.

As I am being constantly reminded, “a golf course lives or dies by its greens”.  This vital work will ensure that we will have healthy putting surfaces and consistently true, firm greens for us, and future golfers, to enjoy.

Thank you for reading and digesting this note, and pursuing the report.  The Club Manager, Green Convenor and I believe it is important that you are kept abreast of what is going on and why.  Furthermore, we are all available to answer any further queries.


Colin McGregor

Club Captain