A glimpse of the mowing brigade

The world’s best golfers take centre stage at The Open Championship, but behind the scenes there is a team of people working tirelessly to prepare the golf course.  Graham Royden, Course Manager at Royal St George’s, and his staff always keep the course in excellent condition, but for the next few days they will be going the extra mile to ensure the course delivers the quality of playing surface expected for golf’s oldest Major.

“As at each and every Open Championship, the objective is to present a fair, consistent and challenging test of golf in a classic links settings” said Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director of Golf Course Management.  “As the official agronomists to The R&A Championship Committee, the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) is working closely with the greenkeeping team at Royal St George’s to ensure the course is at its very best and is delivering the true, firm and running conditions that are characteristic of The Open.” 

The earliest rising spectators may catch a glimpse of the mowing brigade that will be out at daybreak each morning, and they may also see a more unusual sight which reflects the complex and methodical process behind the refinement of the playing surfaces.

“Using specialist measurement tools, STRI has been working closely with the Rules and Championships Departments of The R&A, as well as with Royal St George’s Golf Club, to determine ideal target ranges for the surface qualities of the course’s putting greens” said STRI’s Championship Agronomist, Alistair Beggs. 

STRI gather daily numerical data to analyse how the putting surfaces are performing.  With this information, it is possible to micro-manage the greens, making tiny adjustments in cutting height and rolling, as and where needed, to guarantee the desired degree of consistency across the links.

“The tools make a contribution towards a better understanding of the effect of our management on the quality of the putting surfaces. For The Open, course preparation is all about delivering and maintaining optimum levels of firmness, speed, smoothness (vertical displacement) and trueness (lateral deviation) throughout the Championship.  Our objective is to ensure that all 18 greens, as well as the practice green, offer a consistent and uniform response to a golf ball in play.  In this respect, we are working to ensure that the skills of the players are rewarded, and that the condition of the course is testing enough to allow a worthy champion to emerge.”

“The greens are probably the best links greens I’ve seen for a very long time.  I thought they putted really well.  The ball rolled beautifully …”

 - Charl Schwartzel, current Masters Champion, after Tuesday’s practice round at Royal St George’s, 12 July 2011.

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