Beefing up the greens ahead of two international events


GOLF:Consistency in course presentation is the priority for greenkeeping staff at Killeen Castle, writes MARK COLLINS

A typical day? In greenkeeping, there is really no such thing. However, it is important to have some structures in place and, here at Killleen Castle, where there is a team of 13 working on the course and the machinery and irrigation system, our day will always tee-off, so to speak, at the Dave Pelz Academy before moving on to the course itself.

At this time of the year, our day starts at 6am when the machinery moves into the Academy. There, we work on the greens, the bunkers and the chipping and putting green. From there, we move out to the course, starting at the first hole and working our way to the 18th and always ensuring there is the same quality and consistency from the first hole to the last.

Working in front of the golf, we seek to ensure all the grass cutting – on tees, fairways, approaches – has the same consistency for every player.

As far as the speed of greens is concerned, we try to have them running at 10 on the stimpmetre. At the moment, though, we have put down some granular fertiliser to try to grow them a bit more. With two tournaments coming up, the Ladies Irish Open and the Solheim Cup, we have to beef them up so they will be able to take two international tournaments seven weeks apart.

No matter whether it is for a Ladies Irish Open, a Solheim Cup, a captain’s day or visiting guests, our priority is always the same: to ensure the course is presented as well as it can be, and that consistency is something every member of our greenkeeping team strives to achieve day in and day out. Sure, we’d double-cut greens and go the extra mile for a captain’s prize or the Ladies Irish Open, but the priority at Killeen Castle is consistency.

Thirteen of us start work at 6am and it involves things like cutting the greens, changing the holes, raking the bunkers, changing the ball washers . . . a long list to be ticked off. The way we operate is that we try to train everybody to do everyone’s job, apart from the mechanic and the irrigation which would be very specific. But even those two guys can do all the tasks.

James Daly looks after the irrigation. At this time of the year, we could be putting out 800,000 litres of water a day during a dry spell. There’s 1,300 sprinkler heads on the golf course that are fully automated – we use the Toro system – and it takes a lot of attention. You have got to make sure the water is where you want it and to make sure that each sprinkler is working correctly. He is constantly checking and running programs.

Brian Mooney is over the mechanics. We have nearly €1 million worth of machinery – John Deere, who are also one of the main sponsors for the Solheim Cup – and it requires constant care and attention, particularly on the greens units and the fairways units.

We probably grind our greens units most weeks: the cylinders that rotate to cut the grass work like a scissors, they run on the bottom blade, so at least once a week they’d be stripped down and resharpened to guarantee the best cut all the time.

With the fairway units, we’d do the cylinder mowers on a monthly basis but, then, you’d always have set-up, greasing, service, repairs, etc, so Brian is pretty much full time in the workshop.

It’s a real team effort among those working on the course. We have 11 full-time – myself, my assistant Robert Kane and David Daly, Brian Mooney, James Daly, Francis Clynch, who is responsible for landscaping on the course and the estate, Paul Weldon, Robert Everett, Tony Farnan, Karl O’Reilly, Jonathan Duggan and Niall Shanahan – and we also have two students from ITB in Blanchardstown, Ciarán Heggarty and James McDermott. And Eddie Connaughton has been the on-site agronomist from day one.

Mark Collins is the Course Superintendent at Killeen Castle Golf Club in Co Meath which plays host to the Irish Ladies Open from August 5th-7th and to the Solheim Cup from September 23rd-25th.