With the Senior Open Championship set to be held at Royal Porthcawl in a few weeks, the club has been leaving no stone unturned in its attempts to present the best possible conditions.
And that includes the sand it uses to topdress its greens. Dwindling local supplies of suitable sand have led Porthcawl to Ayrshire-based firm Hugh King & Co, which sent the sand 441 miles to the Welsh course.
Hugh King’s washed dune sand is the closest alternative to the sand previously used by the 123-year-old club, according to course manager Ian Kinley. “Like many links golf courses, our indigenous sand supply has been exhausted,” he explained. “We set out to replicate it as closely as possible and the closest replacement we could find, is Hugh King’s washed dune sand which is essentially what we were using before.”
At Porthcawl, following a thorough search and a testing phase involving four other alternative sands, a change in tactics provided Kinley with the opportunity to look further afield. “Having spent a number of years in Scotland , I was well aware of the Hugh King product but because of the logistics and expense of haulage these days, we dismissed it as being a viable option,” he explained. “At that time, we topdressed greens and aprons as one entity. Now we topdress greens separately which means we use less volume and can choose a different sand.”
In total, 300 tonnes of sand is applied to Royal Porthcawl’s greens annually. “We do so much topdressing that we wanted a product we could apply and people would barely tell we had done it. If you use a bright white sand, it stands out like a sore thumb,” said Kinley.
King supplies sands to over 100 golf courses, but Porthcawl is the furthest afield. However, as Graeme King, managing director of the family run firm pointed out, the company doesn’t see distance as a barrier. “Although this is the furthest we have transported our sand, for us delivering to Wales is not an issue,” he said. “The important thing is one of the country’s most respected golf clubs is able to continue with a structured maintenance programme that has created some of the best links course conditions you’ll see anywhere. It is just great to be a part of that process.”