An Irish links course has seen its greens greatly improved, thanks to the course superintendent’s steadfast belief in the benefits of using Barenbrug fescues.
Martin Lipsett says Arklow Golf Links in County Wicklow has changed dramatically in the past five years. “Due to the downturn, joining and playing fees dropped, which changed how the course was used on a day-to-day basis and led to the volume of traffic rising dramatically from 2008,” he recalls. “Footfall increased to between 35,000 to 40,000 rounds per year and we had golfers playing right through the winter, often in very adverse conditions.”
With the greens struggling to cope with the traffic, Martin was convinced a fescue species exchange programme was the answer. “We couldn’t risk keep having peaks and troughs in playing surface performance,” he continues. “I knew we needed grass that would perform 12 months of the year – not just in summer. The biggest criticism we had from players was the slow pace of the greens, so I wanted to improve their all-year-round putting performance. To do this, I needed to address the trueness and smoothness issues, as this would give the consistency and pace members wanted. I knew that incorporating a finer grass composition into the greens would achieve this.”
In 2010 Martin turned to Barenbrug’s area manager for Ireland, Neil Pettican, and the grass seed breeder’s Irish distributor, Spray Chem, and a five-year overseeding programme using BAR Fescue was prescribed. But Martin had a battle on his hands convincing others at the club that the time and money invested would pay off.
“We hadn’t been overseeding at all, so I really had to push to do this and get the budget for it. But it was painful to begin with! An irrigation problem a couple of summers ago turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the summer drought stress gave the fescue time to establish, killing off some of the broad-leafed grasses and annual meadowgrass. We’ve been overseeding in late August/early September, then again in March, and have been getting consistently good strikes.”
Martin’s persistence has paid off though as the course – having benefited from wider improvements, too – is now being hailed as one of the greatest turnarounds in Irish golf. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m so proud I stuck to my guns. Our greens can now withstand 70 to 80 rounds of golf a day during the winter months and we are reaping the rewards. I’m grateful to Neil and Spray Chem for their support. I’m particularly pleased the Irish Links Initiative has chosen to hold its spring seminar here – I’m really looking forward to showing off the increased composition of the new fescue grasses in the greens during a course walk.”
Barenbrug’s Neil Pettican concludes: “Martin is to be congratulated for his dogged determination to implement this species exchange programme. Getting fescues into a golf green isn’t a quick fix, and club management and committees can get nervous of whether the time and money is worth it. But Arklow is a fantastic example of what can be achieved and it is deserving of all the high praise it’s receiving as a result.”
Arklow Golf Links www.arklowgolflinks.com