As Darren Clarke steps out at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club to defend the Open Championship, he will be safe in the knowledge that the playing surfaces at the famous links course are in great condition, thanks to a space age piece of technology developed by the Sports Turf Research Institute known as The Trueness Meter™.
The revolutionary new technology, part of the wider STRI programme, was first trialled at St Andrews two years ago and now plays a pivotal role in ensuring all 18 greens are consistent and have optimal smoothness and trueness. Since its trial two years ago developers have refined the technology to make it more user friendly, more lightweight and ensure the data outputs are now even more accurate.
The STRI team, working as consultants for The R&A, has arrived at the course for the two week build up to the tournament to put the greens through strict testing. The daily results will assist Head Greenkeeper Paul Smith with his decision making and will ensure that the greens are presented in optimum condition. Testing will continue throughout the tournament with the team out on the course at as early as 4am in the morning and as late as 10pm at night to take readings which will help inform maintenance throughout the tournament.
Stuart Ormondroyd, Senior Agronomist at STRI, said: “In the eyes of the professional the ideal putting surface comprises of optimal speed, smoothness and trueness. Our team now has a very scientific set of tools to test the playing surfaces and the Trueness Meter™ allows The R&A and greenkeeping staff to analyse the greens throughout the event and refine operations to help them deliver 18 greens of the highest order.”
The trolley device works by being pushed across the surface at a pace that reflects the speed of the ball, starting at a 10ft putt. With the aid of electronics and a metal wheel that has the same footprint and down pressure of a golf ball, the Trueness Meter™ measures the amount of vertical displacement (smoothness) and lateral deviation (trueness) in terms of millimetres. The technological advancement is set to revolutionise tournament preparation as it allows greenkeepers to pick up minute textural differences in the turf, including the influence of Poa annua seedheads, the impact of maintenance treatments, wear and tear, pest and disease activity and pitch marks.
As well as helping to deliver perfect playing surfaces STRI was also consulted regarding the architectural transformation of key parts of the Royal Lytham course, which is set to provide new challenges for the 156 golfers who will set out in search of the famous claret jug. A new position for the seventh green complemented by a re-landscaped approach and walk off area is set to be the biggest talking point of the changes, which also include a new dune system on the second and sixteenth holes and the removal of Poplar trees around the perimeter of the course to give it a new look.
Stuart Ormondroyd added: “The most challenging part of the two year project has been working through two very cold winters, a cold spring and now very wet period, so getting the new dune systems bedded in and looking natural has taken a great deal of work. The result is a new look and feel to the course, while ensuring we have retained the natural landscape and in my opinion the dune systems look like they have always been there.”
Grant Moir, Director – Rules of The R&A, said: “STRI has played a very important role in the run up to the Championship, and the green testing that is now underway will greatly assist in ensuring that the greens are presented to the highest standards possible.”
STRI (previously Sports Turf Research Institute) www.stri.co.uk