Preparation for the Amateur Championship began many weeks in advance of tournament week for Portmarnock Golf Club’s greenkeepers. I was fortunate enough to join the team a little over two weeks before the first practice rounds were starting, and we’ve been putting in some hard work.
Gary Johnstone, Portmarnock GC’s Links Manager, has been putting in countless hours for months to get the course to peak condition. Gary is one of the hardest working managers I’ve met. There are not many golf course superintendents with the work ethic to spray greens and rake bunkers simultaneously like Gary does. Bravo Mr. Johnstone!
Our team of greenkeepers have been very focused on all the small detail work to look as best as possible for TV. Pulling weeds, edging, and more attention to detail jobs conceive the work superintendents have a hard time finding the desire to do, but these things create the difference between good... and great! I joined a few of the guys in cutting and laying some sod around our new driving range facility, so that it would look spiffy before the amateur players arrived.
For most of the tournaments I’ve volunteered for in the states, superintendents prepare by applying growth regulators and fertilizers, dropping height of cuts, and whatnot. However, here at Portmarnock GC, we can’t really increase our green speeds too much. This is due to the course design, location, and weather. With Ireland’s intense wind, we must be careful with our green speeds, because sometimes a putt into the wind can drop a whole 3 feet in speed! The same goes for putting with the wind at your back, an increase of around 3 feet.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, based in St. Andrews, Scotland, is the ruling authority for The Amateur Championship (like our PGA and USGA). Members of their ruling, championship, and other committees have been monitoring the conditions of Portmarnock GC for months prior to the tournament to ensure perfect conditions.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Allister Beggs and Richard Windows from the R&A. These two gentlemen were on the course taking greens data with a stimpmeter, POGO tool, and a klegg hammer. In the photo below, Beggs (left), and Windows (right), had to use those plastic coverings as an anti-wind tunnel when taking stimp measurements so that our crazy wind speeds wouldn’t taint the results.
Despite the 4:30-5:00 AM start times, I’m looking forward to this upcoming week of great golf and networking. Even though we’re up before the rooster’s crow, we’re alright. We’ve got enough coffee on standby to give the whole crew a heart attack. Stay tuned to read more about the tournament next week!