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St. Andrews during Open Week: Off my bucket list


Patrick Andrews

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“EVERYTHING HAS LED TO THIS”  is printed in bold letters on the signs strategically placed around the grounds of St. Andrews Old Course to welcome the start of The 150th Open. For years, I have been wanting to visit St. Andrews and even put it on my bucket list after learning more about the course’s history in Dr. Danneberger’s class back at Ohio State. This week, I had the incredible opportunity to check it off my list.

I visited St. Andrews with Jon Kiger of TurfNet on Monday and Tuesday of the practice rounds. When walking into the venue, I was taken aback by the size of the grandstands that enclose the tees and greens of holes 1 and 18. As I kept walking down the course, the stands faded from view as the undulations in the fairways became more intense and severe. I soon learned just how severe the fairways were while watching Tiger Woods tee off on hole 16. The firmness of the fairway allowed his tee shot to roll much farther than its original carry.

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The grandstand at 18 green is taller than the R&A building at left.

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The fairway undulations aren't apparent from a distance. Also evident is the lack of rain.

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Tiger (in black with white hat) walking from 16 tee.

During my two day excursion at St. Andrews, Jon introduced me to Gordon Mckie, course manager of the Old Course, and Sandy Reid, Director of Greenkeeping for St. Andrews Links. Both spent much more time with me than expected. I had a fascinating conversation with Gordon about the importance of conservation on the golf course. I was impressed to learn that St. Andrews has been using greener alternatives for managing the course over the past few years, including using electric triplexes when mowing greens. Six electric triplexes are sent out to cut the Old Course greens, whereas before they needed to send out twelve Toro Flex walking units to do the same job.

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So who gets to meet and spend time with Sandy Reid (Director of Greenkeeping for the entire St. Andrews Links, left) and Gordon Mckie, course manager of the Old Course, during Open Week?

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Gordon sat down with me and explained his interpretation of moisture meter readings and how they influence daily course management decisions.

I am a firm believer that greener alternatives should be implemented on all courses, and it is important to note that even the oldest golf course in the world is making strides to keep up with current practices. 

With little to no rain during the past few weeks, daily activities are dictated by the morning readings from the moisture meter, Clegg meter and Stimpmeter. Gordon ensures the health of the course by using these practices. If a green was firm and clipping yields were low, they might only perform a single cut on the green. But if the green was slower than desired and had a larger clipping yield, a second cut would be performed. Every hole is different and the greenskeepers managed each hole differently based off of those measurements. 

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The fleet of Toro Greensmaster e-TriFlex 3370s.

At only 22 years old I was able to cross St. Andrews of my bucket list. Now I have added a new goal to play St. Andrews someday to get the full experience.

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