Talking Turf - Tournament preparations at West Essex Golf Club

James Kimmingsin Golf

After hosting the Senior PGA Professional Championship, we sat with Head Greenkeeper Paul Kimber to discuss preparations and challenges.

When a tournament comes around, do you manage the course differently in preparation?

As seen with most competitions, the arduous work is in the two or three weeks leading up to it. I try to always have it near 'tournament ready' so that we are only ever a week or so away from it being complete. Prepping the course is easy to be honest; I liken it to cooking a roast dinner… the skill is in the timing and getting everything to come together at the same time. This includes getting the timing right on fertiliser and PGR applications for greens, tees, approaches and fairways - ensuring that you do not get excess growth through the week of the tournament. The significant difference in maintenance is during the week of the competition itself, as all other work is put on hold. We will cut and roll greens every day, as well as tees, approaches and fairways, together with a full bunker rake. All irrigation, except for the tees, is switched off and we allow the greens to dry out in order to add speed and firmness.

Were there any developments to the course in advance of the tournament? Bunker projects for example?

We constructed two new bunkers on our 18th, which we timed to be open just as the competition started. This was not specifically for the PGA (as we would have done them anyway) and the only difference was in how quickly they were opened for play.

Do you think there is added pressure on you to deliver when a big tournament comes to the course? Is this a motivation?

Yes, there is always extra pressure, but I think most of that is self-inflicted stress. There is always huge motivation and it always seems like you are never going to get it all done - so it is very satisfying when it all comes together. However, as I said, I try to keep it 'tournament ready' all season as nothing annoys members more than seeing loads of work being carried out on the lead up to a competition.

Did you employ more staff for the run up or during the tournament? If not, how did your team cope with added demand?

We just do it all ourselves. Unfortunately, we were a man down due to someone leaving, so it left us a little pushed, but we still managed to set the course as it should be. If ever we are running out of time, we just prioritise key areas and relegate any 'unessential' work until after the competition.

Had you done any other preparations before the tournament kicked off i.e. top dressing and verticutting?

In the three weeks prior, the greens were double verticut then Vertidrained to 11". We then aerated with solids on the Toro ProCore to a depth of 4" and applied 40 tonnes of sand. Finally, we applied a light granular. Two weeks before, I sprayed wetting agent and feed and then a week before I put a PGR down with some N and Fe - this stopped any excessive growth and ensured they did not slow down during play.

Is a tournament part of the job and therefore does not change your approach?

In my view, the course should be to an equivalent standard all year because it is members, visitors and societies who are our bread and butter, which means we have to look after them equally as well. Competitions give you a focus and are a little different to normal, although starting at 4am can be a bit brutal.

What was the feedback for the projects you undertook?

Incredibly positive. The PGA were very complimentary, as were the professionals, which is very satisfying and makes the whole thing worthwhile and enjoyable.

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