Royal St George’s is one of the world’s great links courses, the ultimate in natural testing conditions and regarded by many as the toughest of all Open venues.
The superb condition of this challenging course is the result of the hard work and skill of the greenkeeping and other support staff, who are out at the crack of dawn every day to cut the fairways and greens, position the holes and rake the bunkers.
For The Open, Royal St George’s full-time team of 12 greenkeepers – led by course manager Graham Royden and his assistant Paul Larsen – were supported by another 10 greenkeepers from other golf courses to cope with the hand and fairway mowing, using the extra machines supplied by John Deere and its Kent based dealership Godfreys (Sevenoaks) Ltd.
The greenkeeping staff always aim to keep the course in excellent condition all year round, but last week they went the extra mile to ensure Royal St George’s delivered the quality of playing surface expected for golf’s oldest major tournament. The praise that they received from all quarters confirms that in this they were remarkably successful
John Deere and Godfreys are the preferred suppliers of the golf course maintenance equipment used by the greenkeeping team, and provide them with extra support both during the event build-up and the tournament itself. The John Deere machinery fleet includes six 8500 and 7500E hybrid fairway mowers, and six 180C walk-behind greens & tees mowers. All the greenkeepers and John Deere support staff camped out on site, to be available whenever needed throughout the practice rounds and the tournament itself.
The world’s best golfers rightly take centre stage, but behind the scenes at The Open the greenkeeping team works tirelessly to prepare the golf course for its global audience.
The preparation started in earnest eight months ago, and the greens staff at Royal St George’s have had to cope with particularly harsh winter and dry spring conditions during the long build-up to the event.
“As at each and every Open Championship, the objective is to present a fair, consistent and challenging test of golf in a classic links setting,” 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) has worked closely with the greenkeeping team at Royal St George’s to ensure the course is at its very best and delivers the true, firm and running conditions that are characteristic of The Open.”
The R&A retains an STRI agronomist, Alistair Beggs, for on-going support on all its Open courses. It was his advice that prompted the use of John Deere’s lightweight 8500 Precision Cut fairway mowers over the last three years, to facilitate lower cutting.
More recently the course also moved to hand cutting the greens for ultimate accuracy and presentation quality. The 180C walk-behinds mean the greenkeepers are really in touch with the surface, and according to Royal St George’s club secretary Christopher Gabbey, the greens have never looked and played better.
“Our stated aim is always to keep the course in championship order,” said Christopher Gabbey. “I think we can honestly say that since the last Open here in 2003 we’ve managed to raise the standard of the course yet higher, and our John Deere equipment has been an integral part of this.”
Royal St George’s www.royalstgeorges.com
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