Head greenkeeper Alexander MacDonald has reflected on the remarkable series of events that have unfolded at Golspie Golf Club in Scotland, which reopened this summer following a freak storm that caused serious damage to the course in December last year.
The 125-year old course on Scotland’s east coast was devastated when sea defences were breached and a deluge of seawater and debris covered on the course. The water reached as high as 12 ft in places, the seventh tee was submerged and a quarter of a million tons of boulders and rubble damaged the course.
The club was quick to act once they could survey the extent of the damage, and with the help of more than 100 volunteers both club members and people from surrounding golf clubs, and the loan of equipment from local firms, a clean up began and was complete in just four days.
With the help of seed producer Barenbrug and distributor Greentech, a full restoration was completed in time for the club to reopen in May.
One major hurdle was the fact insurers had advised Macdonald to entirely strip and re-grass the fairways, tees and greens, due to the contaminative effects of the seawater. This however would have left five greens with different characteristics to the others at the course. Macdonald, working with the Sports Turf Research Institute, decided the best approach would be to work with what they had.
“While nothing like the problem facing Alexander, salinity can often be an issue with links golf courses,” said Dr David Greenshields, research and development manager at Barenbrug. “So at Barenbrug as part of our continuing research and development programme we developed a special seed mix, Bar Trio, whose three slender creeping red fescues are specifically selected to offer superior germination and subsequent tolerance in saline conditions. This would help Alexander recover the five which had been flooded without the need for returfing. For those not affected by salt we suggested Bar Fescue, a 50/50 blend of chewings and slender creeping red fescue.
“We recommended he seed in March or April depending on the weather at a rate of 20kg per green. Then seed with Bar All Bent, a mixture of Barking and Hariot browntop bent in May/June at 3kg per green,” continues Greenshield. “We have been delighted with the way all the seed mixtures have performed at Golspie which combined with the great work Alexander and his team have done has made the course one to be proud of once again.”
“We got a great response from Trio with excellent germination in salty soil and we will continue to use it on our seaward greens,” said MacDonald. “The Bar All Bent has really taken hold. Bar Fescue has established well over the past few years and we have started to see some good recovery of this grass in the last few weeks. We have been encouraged by comments from members and visitors alike and will continue to improve this great old course.”
Alexander’s next plans for the Golspie course include revetting bunkers, and levelling and remodelling several tees.