One of Scotland’s leading sports turf experts has described how golf courses across the country have been left devastated by months of catastrophic weather.
Duncan Forbes of Stewartsturf, who grow specialist greens turf for some of Scotland’s leading golf clubs, says unprecedented levels of rainfall have caused flooding, closures and long-term problems for many clubs.
Corporate and business bookings have been slashed, subscriptions are down and clubhouse takings have been reduced as playing days have been lost.
“With climate change in mind we have been working towards selecting grasses that will better withstand the wetter, cooler summers that Scotland has witnessed,” Duncan says. “On our turf farm in East Lothian, we had 20 % of our annual rainfall in one day alone and on many golf courses the situation has been even worse.”
In addition to the flooding, the damp conditions have also caused a rise in fungal infections. Fertiliser costs, which have risen 300% in the last year, have been increased still further because the heavy rainfall is washing newly applied fertiliser out of the soil.
Duncan’s comments have been backed up by some of the top green keepers in Scotland. Darrin Easingwood, head green keeper at Archerfield Golf Club in East Lothian says, “We had 10 inches of rain in August alone. Because the course is built on sand it usually drains quickly but this year I’ve seen water lying on parts of the course where it has never lain before.”
Graeme Dunnett, course manager at Reay Golf Club near Thurso says, “One of our main drainage routes became choked because of the build-up of silt and we had to close two fairways for two weeks.”
At Musselburgh Golf Club, head green keeper Tom Shepherd has described conditions as ‘horrendous’. “We have had to go out early in the morning to sweep water off the greens and we have even cut temporary holes to aid drainage. The combination of wet and mild conditions have meant that grass cutting costs have soared because of the increase in diesel costs.
Conditions are no brighter at Alloa Golf Club where head greenkeeper, Duncan Peddie says golfers can be very unwilling to keep off saturated courses. “Trying to get the message across to golfers is very hard. The ones who don’t listen can make life very difficult.”