Golf Course Architecture - Issue 66, October 2021

FEATURE 48 SAND CR I S I S Written by Adam Lawrence O ld Tom Morris, basically the founder of the greenkeeping profession, put it best. “Maur saind, Honeyman, maur saind”, he famously told his loyal assistant, as they strove to improve the conditions on the St Andrews links. Tom and David Honeyman basically invented the idea of topdressing the playing surfaces with sand to improve their smoothness. Golf was born of sand. Sand underpins all the classic links, and a remarkably high percentage of the courses rated as the world’s best. Of Golf magazine’s most recent list of the top ten courses on the planet, only two, Oakmont and Augusta National, are not built on sandy soil. Sand remains central to the continued existence of golf. When courses are constructed or reconstructed, sand is used to build the putting greens, and sometimes the tees. When soils are heavy and drainage is poor, a popular, though expensive, response is to cap the playing surfaces with imported sand before seeding. Greenkeepers, following on from Old Tom, continue to topdress courses with sand to improve the smoothness of the turf. And, of course, sand bunkers exist on the overwhelming majority of courses, whether or not the sites on which they sit are sandy. So sand is necessary for virtually every course, every year. But the fact is that sand usage across the world (overall, not just in golf) is way exceeding output, and this seems unlikely to change in the near future. Dr Louise Gallagher, formerly of the Global Sand Observatory Institute, and the lead author of a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on sand and sustainability, told GCA : “Sand is the second most consumed resource in the world, after only water. Fifty billion tonnes of sand and gravel are consumed on an annual basis. We have no idea of where that comes from, or where it is produced. Country-by- country basis information is available but it isn’t uniform. Knowing where sand is, is one thing, but knowing what sort of sand and for what it is used is much harder, as is knowing how much we can take and use safely.” “River sand is what people love to work with, because it’s already sorted and is highly desirable,” Dr Gallagher continues. “It is becoming more scarce in certain parts of the world. We have No Maur Saind, Honeyman Sand is crucial to golf, but, across the world, supplies are coming under pressure. Golf is only a tiny player in this crisis, but the effects are potentially catastrophic. Adam Lawrence looks at how the game should respond