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5 Minutes With... Wes Saunders (CSTM)

Thursday 12, Nov 2020

The Australian Sports Turf Managers Association has created a segment to help the turf industry stay connected.  With many events postponed due to current challenges, the opportunity to meet new and catch up with familiar friends and peers across the turf industry is limited, so we’re keeping connected and to ensure that turf managers can get to know members from other areas of the industry, other States and other countries, to help promote the professionals and the hard work put into the industry.


Today we spend 5 minutes with... Wes Saunders (CSTM), Course Manager at Dunblane New Golf Club in Stirling, Scotland. 

Provide a quick overview of your facility (staff, turf varieties managed, current role and length of time at your club/facility.

Dunblane New Golf Club is a members club in Stirling central Scotland and become ‘new’ because until 1922 golf was played on a small nine-hole course adjoining the River Allan on the other side of town before moving to its current location in 1923 and increasing to 18 holes.

I am the Course Manager and have been for 5 years now, I manage a team of 7 including myself, we mange Poa/Bent grass greens, tees and fairways are a mix of bent, poa rye and fescue.


2020 has been one out of the box especially in light of the global pandemic – how have your operations had to change and adapt from past years and what has been the most challenging aspect for your as a superintendent/sports turf manager?

Scotland went into lockdown at the end of March, a week later I was reduced to two staff members, myself, and my deputy.  The rest of the staff were furlough for seven weeks, after which time Scotland slowly began to reopen.  During this period, we were only allowed to do “essential maintenance” to the course this basically meant you could only do work that kept the course ticking over.  When everyone was able to return to work, we could then operate as normal.

During the lockdown we made the decision to move the August greens renovations to the week prior to the course reopening, so when golf final got going again, we would not disrupt golf in anyway.

The budget was cut by about 15% which covered all aspects of the budget from fertiliser to machinery repairs, at the time this was deemed to be acceptable, but no one was prepared for what was to come.

When the course did reopen at the end of May members were only allowed to play in two balls or a household with tee times 7 minutes apart starting at 7am with tee times running until 8pm.  In summer it does not get dark in central Scotland till 10:30-11pm.  All cups had ball lifters placed in them, bunker rakes removed with a one club length preferred lie put in place, ball washers, bins and seats removed or covered up.  Competition golf began a month later in 3 balls with strict social distancing guidelines in place.  In the 5 months from the end of May to the end of September to course had over 30,00 rounds played double that of the previous year and attracted 100 new members.

The biggest challenge now is not all the extra hygiene measures that are in place, it’s trying to manage playing surface going into winter that have had a highly reduced maintenance and fertility programs and the continuous high volume of golf.


Best piece of advice you have received about the turf management profession and who gave it to you?

I have been blessed to work around the world under some fantastic turf managers who have all offered some sort of advice.  The one that has stuck in my mind and has been said on several occasions is, “you can’t control mother nature” accept it, deal with it and move on.


Talk about a recent or current project you have undertaken at your facility and what it means for the club.

We are running a trial on 3 tees, using the Koro Topmaker.  The idea is to level the tees, remove any excess thatch just prior to the end of the growing season, aerate, add soil amendments and seed.  As we do not have irrigation on our tees, we will be solely relying on rainwater for establishment.  We aim to be able to have the tees playable in 8 weeks


Tell us one thing about yourself that your fellow turf practitioners might now know about you (eg: hobbies/achievements in sport etc).

In my mid-teens I played soccer for ‘The stars and stripes’ (America) in a tournament and if my memory serves me correct, we never won a game, however I did score a goal.


What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

You only get out what you put in.

Work hard, listen and DON’T be afraid to ask for help.


What do you like doing in your spare time?

Spending time with the family, travelling (it’s a bonus living in Scotland as Europe is only a stone’s throw away) and of course playing golf.


Thanks so much for taking the time with us Wes!