Right at Home

Three Australian Assistant Superintendents got the opportunity of a lifetime to further their Sports Turf Management educaiton after being chosen to be part of Toro Australia’s inaugural Assistant Superintendent St Andrews Internship.

 

The Home of Golf, St Andrews, is a mecca for any greenkeeper or course superintendent and for three Australian assistant superintendents they fulfilled a career-long dream recently of getting the opportunity to stroll the most hallowed turf in the game.

In July, Stuart Campbell (Maroochy River Golf Club, Qld), David Hurst (Cromer Golf Club, NSW) and Liam Scott (Keysborough Golf Club, Vic) journeyed to Scotland after being selected as participants in AGCSA Platinum Partner Toro’s inaugural Assistant Superintendent St Andrews Internship.

The trio travelled to St Andrews Links at the start of July and had the opportunity of a life time to work at both the Junior and Senior Open. They also took in The Open Championship held at Carnoustie Golf Links, got a chance to shadow the course managers and spent time with the learning and development officer.

They were part of the grounds crew for the Junior Open which was held on the Harry S. Colt-designed Eden Course, one of seven courses maintained by St Andrews Links.

The Junior Open is aimed at junior players (ages 16 and under) and held over 54 holes. In the week leading up to the 2018 event, the course was the driest it had been in many years due to above average summer temperatures.

This led to reduced cutting regimes and allowed the crew to focus on the finer details of course presentation.

The Senior British Open was held on the Old Course for the first time in the championship’s history.  

“Our time on the Old Course was spent during the preparation for the lead up to the tournament,” says Campbell. “Tasks included hand-mowing greens, changing holes for the practice rounds, levelling bunkers and some last-minute touch-ups.

The Old Course is always in a condition that is so close to perfect that it only takes the smallest of tweaks to have it prepared for any major championship.”

 

The trio got to experience tournament preparations as well as gain an insight into the unique management practices employed to prepare some of the game’s most hallowed turf

The rest of the interns’ time was spread out over the other courses that make up the Links which include;
•    The New Course (the second course built at the Home of Golf, designed by Old Tom Morris in 1895);
•    The Jubilee Course (the Links’ third championship course, opened in 1897);
•    The Strathtyrum Course (opened in 1993);
•    The Castle Course (opened in 2008, the newest addition to the Links stable); and
•    The Balgove Course (nine-hole course opened in 1987).

All three assistants agree that working at St Andrews was amazing. The courses are well staffed with personnel being able to give certain tasks their undivided attention.

“The tournament organisation there is fantastic,” says Hurst. “The pre-planning that goes into major events is meticulous, covering all jobs and tasks for the day’s play. Changing weather conditions were the only reason for changes to the daily work schedule. Both tournaments ran very smoothly and there was only one disruption due to a fog delay.”

 

“It’s ‘The Home of Golf’ and you can feel that while you are there.

The Old Course is so unique and has a history like no other.

You know that you are in a very special place when you walk the fairways.”

– Dave Hurst, Cromer GC

All three consider themselves lucky to have been working with great crew members and in sheds filled with the very latest Toro equipment.   Many friendships and professional relationships have been formed, not only with the other interns but also with some of the St Andrews and seasonal staff. As Scott puts it, “I loved every moment of my trip – good bunch of blokes at all courses.”

Something that caught the assistant superintendents’ attention immediately upon arrival is that the St Andrews courses are kept very natural looking and dry. Campbell admitted that when they first arrived at St Andrews, initial thoughts were to “put some water on the place” as it was so dry. However, as time went by they really developed an appreciation for the dry look and the surface it actually produced. 

“This is not something that we can replicate in Australia as climate conditions here would mean we would have dead turf and cracks in the fairways,” Campbell says. “But I think we sometimes tend to overthink things and have higher inputs into growing grass compared to Scotland. A lot can be said for the KISS method (keep it simple stupid) and this is something that I am trying to think more about now when problem-solving at work.”

The difference in climate and growing conditions was also one the biggest things Hurst and Scott took away from their time at St Andrews Links. “I really enjoyed seeing how far they are willing to push the turf in regards to moisture percentages,” says Hurst. 

 

From left David Hurst, Stuart Campbell and Liam Scott on the famed Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews. The trio spent time at the Home of Golf working the Junior and Senior Opens as part of Toro’s inaugural Assistant Superintendent St Andrews Internship

Adds Scott: “The climate and conditions of Scotland make turf management different from what we have in Australia. There is (normally) little heat and disease pressure and stress with the purity of the turf playing surfaces. The links theory of basically cutting and maintaining whatever grows on the site definitely comes into play at St Andrews.”

The highlight of the trip for all three assistants was, not surprisingly being able to actually work at St Andrews. As Hurst comments: “It’s ‘The Home of Golf’ and you can feel that while you are there.

The Old Course is so unique and has a history like no other. You know that you are in a very special place when you walk the fairways.”

Scott agrees and says that getting to see and work on the most famous golf property in the world, and seeing, feeling, learning and understanding the history of golf was nothing short of amazing.

All three assistants expressed their gratitude to Toro Australia and St Andrews Links for making the internship possible, with special mention to all St Andrews staff headed by the soon-to-retire Gordon Moir, whose organisation, advice and acceptance was invaluable.

“To be actively involved in the Senior and Junior Opens was nothing short of sensational and gave great insight into the expectations and challenges which we will all face in our jobs in the future,” says Campbell.

“I can't thank Toro enough,” adds Hurst. “This experience has given me a passion to take back to my club to become a great team leader and above all future superintendent.”

And the final word from Scott? “I’d definitely recommend to all assistants to put an application in for the next trip!

It goes to show that hard work and dedication pays off and can take you to great places.”

 

In addition to working the Junior and Senior events, the Australian trio also visited Carnoustie which hosted The Open Championship