Chris Haspell, course manager, Castle Stuart Golf Links
The recent Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart provided a great learning experience not just for our own staff but for green keepers from around the world.
To ensure the four-day European Tour event ran smoothly we assembled a 46-strong international field of volunteers. Our usual team of 14 was augmented by visiting ground staff from Australia, US, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and England, including five links course managers, as well as deputy head greenkeepers and apprentices.
With strong winds and rain affecting conditions, it was a tough challenge for the team. Gusts of 43mph on the opening day saw balls oscillating on the greens, leading the course team to avoid cutting, while other days cutting was necessary to maintain speeds on the putting surfaces.
It was a great learning experience for everyone and the team loved being involved in the tournament. Many did not have previous experience of such a large event and the organisation that goes with it, but the feedback I received was very positive. Hopefully they learned a few things they can take back to their own courses.
The visiting contingent included Australians Peter Fraser, from Hervey Bay Golf Club in Queensland, and Mick Pearce, from Northern Golf Club in Melbourne.
Mick, who has worked at two US Opens, Olympic Club in San Francisco in 2012 and Chambers Bay, Washington in 2015, said: “I wanted to come as this is a proper links style golf course. I thought Olympic Club was the pinnacle in organisation, but this was on a par or better. It was brilliant and an absolute pleasure working here. And I could never get sick of the views.”
Stefan Nilsson, who is on the board of the Scandinavian Turfgrass and Environment Research Foundation and course manager at Vallda Golf & Country Club near Gothenburg, was also part of the Scottish Open team.
He said: “It was interesting to see a tournament like this and how you handled such a large team of greenkeepers. I was also able to discuss maintenance using fescue grass and how to be as environmentally friendly as possible, which is the way to go.”
All in all, it was a tremendous tournament which tested us on a daily basis. But the team always rose to the challenge and the feedback we’ve received about the condition of the course was fantastic. The Highland weather also ensured all our visiting ground staff got the full links experience.