Before Adam Scott's finish to forget, before Ernie Els' good play and even better fortune and before the 2012 Open Championship came to its memorable conclusion, the golf course management team assembled at Royal Lytham and St. Annes had already done a star turn of their own in preparing the venable course for Sunday's final round.
And as he's been throughout this entire week, GCM's own insider at the Open Championship, Warren Bevan, was on hand to report on it all. If you've followed his blog posts all week, you know that Bevan is a five-year GCSAA member who in the course manager at Lancaster GC, just north of Royal Lytham, and he's been our eyes and ears on the ground as championship week played out. We can't thank Warren enough for taking the time to help us out and provide these posts all week — they've been informative, well-written and have given the Yanks among us a rare inside look at golf course management on the other side of the pond. Cheers, Warren!
So, without further ado, Warren's final post from the 2012 Open Championship:
The Open Championship yet again delivered drama right down to the final hole. Four back-to-back bogeys denied Adam Scott his first major, meaning Ernie Ells lifted the Claret Jug for a second time. I was fortunate to be allocated Ernie’s match at St Andrews in 2000, where I walked the Old Lady raking the footprints in the bunkers after a player visited one of the many bunkers as part of the BIGGA support team. In 2002 we were around the 18th at Muirfield for Ernie’s first Open win.
Since my last blog (Friday) the weather kept to the script and produced two glorious days on the links. Saturday morning as I walked from my temporary home for the week to the sheds, I looked up to a sky of stars not black heavy clouds. Driving out to cut approaches, we were greeted with a beautiful sight — mist settled between the humps and mounding, and silhouettes of greenkeepers on the horizon in the first rays of sunlight. The morning went well, and with the cut the night before, the first tee time was two hours later than the previous days. This allowed us plenty of time to carry out all the morning duties. The dew on the turf meant a few more clippings fell from units and off wheels, so extra staff switched off to clean debris from fairways & surrounds. Saturday afternoon, I was kindly invited to join fellow greenkeepers in hospitality and enjoyed a beautiful dinner in very pleasant surroundings.
Once again, we cut the entire course Saturday night — fairways, semi-rough, rough and green surrounds. The team of greenkeepers on greens went out and put a single cut in and the STRI continued their trials. The target speed was now being maintained.
Finally, Sunday morning … the last time this week my alarm will go off at 3:20 a.m. The crew mustered in the greens sheds one last time, and after a final brief, we set off in all directions onto the links one final time. The cutting went to plan, and the BIGGA support team raked bunkers. The weather report was for the wind to pick up throughout the afternoon, which concerned the R&A — if the wind was too brisk, could a ball be moved on the exposed greens? I watched with intrigue as the STRI simulated different strength’s of wind and measured at what speed the ball would roll. With this data it could be decided if a roll was also needed on the greens. With them drying out as well, a cut was all they needed to maintain the consistent speeds all ready reached.
Once the cutting was completed, we went out to tidy public walkways that were becoming littered with long grass stalks from the rough, which were being dragged onto the fairway crossing points by the thousands of spectators on the course. Then it was breakfast time.
Over the weekend, we were out pumping water from bunkers on 16 and 17. This area of the course is very low-lying and very close to the water table. With the excessive rain these past eight weeks, the table is where it reaches in winter. The greenstaff I was working with told me how disappointed they were in the bad weather and how the high water table was washing away there hard work.
Royal Lytham and St. Annes was founded in 1886, with the course constructed in 1897. The club’s first professional, George Lowe, created the layout. Harry Colt made changes in 1919. Colt moved tees and greens but also added many more bunkers. The two lads I worked with filled me in on the bunker work over the last two years.
A bunker-by-bunker review took place, checking the depth and angle of the sand to ensure playability for the championship. The angle of the greenside bunkers was set at 65-70 degrees; fairway bunkers are set to an angle of 15-25 degrees. They aimed to maintain the angle of sand at approximately 15-25 degrees. When the wind blows on the links, the sand can dry out and be blown to one side of a bunker and drift up a face. One job they hated was shovelling it all back. I suppose the one blessing of this week’s rain was it kept the sand in place. The sand was sourced locally from the beach in St Anne’s, then screened on site to remove shells and other impediments. The requirement was to maintain relatively firm bunkers, especially near the surface.
All 205 bunkers were re-faced during the last two winters, with the last 75 bunkers completed before Christmas. The challenge then was to ensure the turfing around the bunker perimeter knitted in and didn’t dry out. The staff here is very good when it comes to re-vetting a bunker and can complete a small one in a day using approximately 100 strips of fibourous sod, 8-by-30 inches long and about 2 inches thick. As these type of bunkers wear, the face needs rebuilding on a frequent basis, so a new design is being trialled and this will keep costs down. Some out-of-play bunkers are having the sod walls replaced with a more natural wild look, like ones on the 16th hole. New bunkers around the sixth and eighth greens are very deep, almost 7 to 8 feet high, and a bit of nerve is needed when mowing around them. BIGGA put together a support team this week to rake bunkers each morning and also rake for each match on the cfhampionship. Friday evening a team also went out and trimmed the edges on all 205 bunkers to keep a tidy sharp edge for the weekend.
I’m now home and ready for bed, and a full week back at Lancaster Golf Club. My staff have done a great job preparing our course for the club championship, which was won by a rising junior star Toby Roberts shooting 65-70 to win by a clear margin. My thanks also go to Carl Hamlett, my deputy, for his continued support and hard work.
I hope these blogs have been useful and informative. I’ve never done this before and what started as a few tweets resulted in a job as a part-time journalism. I’ve made many new friends this week, at the course and online. I certainly hope to meet some of you one day.
Finally, thank you to Royal Lytham head greenkeeper Paul Smith and his staff for letting us become one of their team this week, and for their hard work in producing a course in fantastic condition. The plaudits from players and officials are well deserved.