Founded in 1895 and listed as one of the top twenty courses to play in Wales, Cardigan Golf Club has seen considerable improvements in recent years. Projects continue under the watchful eye of Course Manager and Head Greenkeeper Stuart Lee Adams and he met with Kerry Haywood to tell us more.
After several transformations over the last 125 years, the upland links course now features 18 holes measuring 6,455 yards off the back white tees, a chipping and putting green plus a 6-bay undercover driving range in the process of completion. The soil profile is predominantly a well-draining sandy loam texture with good structure, although thin in places on top of bedrock.
Stuart commented: "As a place of natural beauty, with every hole featuring a view of the sea, the course is located three miles outside of Cardigan town on the cliffs of the Afon Teifi estuary. This means we are a very exposed site and tend to suffer from summer burn offs. Three days of warm dry air blown from the Irish sea sees the course yellow (with the exception of irrigated areas of play)."
"I deal with this through a species exchange to fescue, through a good overseeding plan and low feeding/watering regimes, plus a good wetting agent programme. In addition, a strong winter nutrition plan with plenty of aeration hardens the fescue to go into dormancy, until the rains return the colour and growth."
"We regularly undertake thatch level samples and measure P and K inputs. We also take photo profiles annually in order to spot any visual changes from last year. I am also a big advocate for greenkeeper's original scenes; look, smell and touch. As we are all dealing more and more with extreme weather, thinking on your feet and altering plans is now more essential than ever! My ethos is to have a Plan A, but do not be frightened to alter it - even last minute and this is passed on to my trusted team."
Stuart Adams during the Singapore Open 2020
They comprise: Deputy Head Jac Emanuel (24) - Level 3 qualified; Assistants Craig Thompson (56) - over eight years' service, Paul Legg (34) - just under two years' service, Henry Malloy (29) - four years service and Max Lodder Rhodda (18), plus Casey Walters (29) who helps with weekend work.
"I would ideally like all staff to be capable of doing all jobs, but reality is for a team to function and work to their individual strengths. My favourite quote is that 'Goalkeepers rarely score goals'. We are very flexible with all the team and have just taken on a part time 18-year-old, who will hopefully look toward greenkeeping in mind for a future career."
"We also have a few outside sources for information and advice and a special mention must go to Peter Lacy of Aquatrols Ltd," Stuart continued. "He's a good guy to pass ideas with and always on hand for advice. I also have a great working relationship with Ray Hunt at Agrovista Amenity and Zak Thackary of Tour Best Europe Ltd - both of these reps are always on hand and I hold them in high esteem. We also have a local irrigation technician contracted in (if and when needed) - Paul Williams (Pumpaul Ltd) and a local mechanic who we use occasionally - Andrew Repton (T.C.R Mechnical). We utilise Andrew for any major repair work, however, all general servicing and maintenance of equipment is carried out by myself and Jac."
Left: Deputy Head, Jac Emanuel Right: Assistant Craig Thompson
Left: Assistant Paul Legg Middle: Assistant Henry Malloy Right: Assistant Max Lodder Rodda
"We recently purchased a new Toro 3250D greensmower and Tru Turf roller which have had a big impact, but not all major improvements have to be at big cost. The Charterhouse Speedbrush has seen real improvements for the fine fescue areas and the addition of the Massey Ferguson backhoe has now allowed us to construct in-house for winter projects. We also purchased a moisture meter and the ability to hone in on low levels of moisture has been a huge benefit for both the quality of fine turf and the reduction of water resources."
"For the past two years, we have also been fortunate to hire in the Air2G2 from Ashburnham Golf Club and we are very thankful. We strive to put as little weight as possible over the greens and this has made a huge difference to all surfaces."
Stuart has been at the club for just over four years and feels it has taken that time to install solid basic greenkeeping methods onto the course. "I was keen to get the basics right first. Only now do I feel we are really honing in on presentation and finesse. I run a very lean programme and have decreased Nitrogen inputs on greens to 45kg in the last few years (this includes hidden nitrogen after wading through data sheets after data sheets). We also run very lean with water moisture levels at 6-9% and we have been fungicide free since I started in October 2017."
"Our maintenance regimes are as follows: Greens are cut at 4-6mm when growth demands (from daily in summer to once a week in winter) with liquid feeds on a little and often approach. In summer, we apply seaweed, Attain and Qualibra wetter with Premium N and a low annual application of Nitrogen inputs (including hidden) 45kg/per annum."
Signature hole 16th. Par 3 infinity undulating green
"During winter, we apply Ferrosol, Premium K, Bullet turf hardener and phosphites with dispatch and adjust the mounts to suit the conditions. We have low water inputs between 6 and 9% on moisture meter and run with 8mm tines monthly throughout late autumn/winter and early spring. With thatch running at only 3%, we tend to only scarify in order to clean out winter growth, but brush and groom regularly. No intention of hollow coring with low thatch levels. In early spring and autumn, we overseed with various fescue cultivars with the Vredo. We predominantly use Aquatrols products, with the additional support and various products from Agrovista Amenity and Tour Best, although I'm very willing to trial products in search for perfection."
"Tees are cut at 10-12 mm when growth demands, which ranges from once or twice a week to once per month. We apply granular slow-release feeds from the Polyon range (max 60kg per annum) plus a lawn sand in December for winter strength, moss, worm control and colour. Fairways are cut at 16-18mm once a week throughout summer, then if and when during winter."
Stuart continued: "With regard to pests and disease on the course, my mantra has always been exactly what I was taught when I gained my HNC/HND qualifications; cultural, biological and then chemical as a last resort, which has gained fantastic results for disease suppression."
"I have often joked that it took twenty years to gain good experience with spraying and the next twenty years learning not to spray."
"Weed control is undertaken in spring with good growth and greens are predominantly hand weeded. We spray both Holster and Prem N, but found this weakened the Yorkshire Fog and Pearlwort - which was historically a problem within the sward."
"Leatherjackets have become a real hardened annual issue and we are currently trialling Asylaprin on greens. Last year, a few fairways got real hammered by crow pecks, but we simply overseeded and topdressed and they are back stronger than ever. We are trying to strengthen the sward for resistance and bounce back through strong aeration and nutritional programmes (including a potassium programme during winter to increase root mass)."
Stuart's experience and knowledge stems right back to when he was thirteen years of age, when he used to rake bunkers at weekends at his local course; Bells Golf Club in the Forest of Dean. He would later go on to become the head greenkeeper at twenty-two years old. Following a relocation to West Wales, Stuart worked through the ranks as assistant at Tenby Golf Club, Greenkeeper at Trefloyne Manor Golf Club and Deputy Head at Haverfordwest Golf Club, before accepting his current position.
"There are two people who have inspired my greenkeeping journey; Chris Jenkins, Head Greenkeeper of Tenby Golf Club - for his depth of knowledge and passion for the trade. He was a great boss and mentor, but he sadly passed away in 2014. Also, Greenkeeper Ian Duff at Trefloyne Golf Club for his unbelievable work ethic and high standards. I still have the fond memories of working with them both. Yet, my biggest inspiration are the nine other guys that I was fortunate to be grouped with in the Bernhards delegation trip to America. Very close friends and my first port of call in a storm."
"The last couple of years has shown that it is these times we are thankful for industry friends and the support of our clubs. I cannot praise the Cardigan highly enough for their handling of the Covid-19 situation. We worked throughout lockdowns, following simple guidelines and were fortunate to avoid some real horror stories that I have read about. The clubhouse closed and staff were furloughed, but location played in our favour as the chain went across the entrance. As soon as restrictions were lifted, the club put strict contingencies in place and everyone was able to play safely and responsibility."
"With all the legislation and restrictions in the world, personal responsibility has been a major key to getting us through these odd times. I must pay homage to my team, as they have always gone above and beyond in all aspects throughout the pandemic. What feels safe for one member of the team, does not necessarily mean another feels safe. Good communication and flexibility allowed us to manoeuvre around this worldwide issue safely."
"It is so nice to be out the other side and we have many projects we are currently working on, including: year four of revetting all thirty-three bunkers, levelling uneven tees, installing drainage (year two of five-year plan), gorse regeneration, which is an annual ongoing project, irrigation installation and practice bunker to the chipping green, path improvements by installing rubber mats to save washouts, plus the narrowing of fairways and cut and collection of heavy rough."
"We communicate all our ongoing and future projects within a quarterly newsletter run by our lady secretary with a greenkeeper Facebook page in conjunction with club social media (Facebook/Twitter and Instagram). However, on the whole, I promote an open-door policy... anyone wishing to understand why we are doing any operation is welcome to visit our compound. Again, a favourite quote "If I can't explain why I am doing an operation, I probably shouldn't be doing it."
Stuart concludes: "Pre-covid, I would say the state of our industry was very different than today. The health benefits that outdoor exercise offers, along with the restrictions on other outdoor sports, has brought on significantly increased membership numbers and green fees - in some cases, this has financially saved clubs and jobs. One thing that will always be great within the industry is the real family feel and the willingness to help people along the way. Long may it continue."
"Having said that, I deeply feel we've lost some real talented greenkeepers in the last decade as clubs/courses became mismanaged. A lack of understanding of the depth of knowledge and skill set expected for such a poor rewarded career, along with the lack of opportunities to progress, has seen many experienced team members leave for new career avenues."
"With less qualified and experienced greenkeepers in the industry, hopefully the perfect storm has passed and the ones that survived and stayed can really flourish for a new generation to gain the experience from."
"I have regularly attended BTME, various seminars and course walks over the years to further my own CPD. I will continue to encourage my team and committee to do so. Unfortunately, with BTME moving to March this year, it clashed with club priorities and fixtures, so this may not be an option moving forward if it opts to stay at this time of year. I was fortunate to be involved with the Bernhards delegation to San Antonio GIS America in 2018, with some real special greenkeepers that changed my outlook on greenkeeping forever."
"If you want to progress, go out and find a way! It won't always present itself to you, but there will be a way! Thank you #still10 and #FTMI16 for that great advice as I continue my greenkeeping career."