Like any good talk show, the Turfgrass Talk Show at the Golf Industry Show Monday morning featured an energetic host — Thomas Nikolai, Ph.D., of Michigan State University — live music, and guests with compelling stories to share. In fact, as Nikolai stated in kicking off the event, the overarching theme would be, “You did what?”
The lineup of speakers, all of whom were from Europe, commenced with John Bambury, currently the golf course turf management professional at Ballybunion Golf Club in Kerry, Ireland. Back in 2011, though, Bambury was working for then-future U.S. President Donald Trump on the grow-in of Trump International Golf Links in Scotland. Bambury chronicled the project from its start in July 2011 (Trump wanted the course ready by the following July) until the course’s first golfer — Mr. Trump himself — took to the turf.
The grow-in was, at times, “two steps forward and 10 steps back,” according to Bambury, and involved tactics such as covering all fairways with plastic to combat the area’s chilly weather, which extended even into May 2012. The biggest challenge, however, wasn’t agronomic. “The media were ever-present,” Bambury says. “To have filmmakers hiding in bushes filming our staff — that was a strange experience.”
Next up was Gordon Irvine, MG, with an account of a “ghost” golf course unearthed and given a second life. Askernish Golf Club on the Isle of South Uist in Scotland was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1891 and was abandoned around 1920. The process to uncover the course took three years, and Gordon said observing and working with a course that had not been subject to modern-day equipment or other influences was particularly interesting.
“All of your courses, all of you came from this — from this humble beginning,” Irvine told the audience as he showed photos of the untouched, traditional links land before the revitalization, which happened largely thanks to the help of island residents who volunteered their time. The course reopened in 2008, but the property still maintains a shroud of mystery. “We still don’t know to this day whether we got the actual Askernish golf course,” Irvine says. But, he explained, in his view, the hallmark of a good golf course is that it has the ability to disappear back into nature.
The final speaker was David Bataller, superintendent at PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain, who had perhaps the morning’s most unusual tale. “I’m known fro try crazy things, and from 1,000 crazy things, you sometimes get a good one,” Bataller said. The topic at hand? Mixing hydrogen peroxide with water (at a rate of 2 or 3 percent) and applying it topically to greens to address hydrophobic conditions and soil root diseases. Bataller‘s presentation included videos in which the audience could see a core sample with significant black layer bubble up and transform into a slice of earth completely clear of the soil scourge. Bataller has been testing the practice in various temperatures and grasses over the past two and a half years, and said some aspects of the trialing itself have led to further astonishing discoveries. “Dollar spot actually loves hydrogen peroxide,” he joked.