Scotsman Allan Salmond has spent the majority of his career working in The Netherlands, having qualified at Elmwood College in his home country. In this article, he explains his working practices and how strict legislation affects what he is able to achieve
The Noord-Nederlandse Golf & Country Club (North Dutch Golf & Country Club) is situated in the town of Glimmen, a few miles south of the city of Groningen. The club was founded in 1950 and was the first to be established in Holland after the Second World War.
In the early days, the members played in a field next to Eelde Airport but, by 1952, had purchased forty-two hectares of land on a neighbouring country estate to build a nine-hole course, which was designed by Sir Guy Campbell. The course opened in 1954 and included an 1816 country house which was converted into a clubhouse. The parkland setting, on the banks of the River Drenthe Aa, abounded in mature trees and established rhododendrons, a feature of the course to this day.
In 1987, an additional thirteen hectares of land was purchased and the course was extended to eighteen holes under the guidance of Frank Pennink. By 1998, a further three plus hectares had been acquired and Donald Steel was brought in to upgrade the whole course. The club remains immensely proud that, even after several extensions, it still complies with the country's Nature Conservation Act 1928.
Raised in Scotland, the club's Head Greenkeeper is Allan Salmond. "When I left school, I wasn't too sure what I was going to do, but heard through a greenkeeping friend that Elmwood College in Cupar were starting full-time courses in greenkeeping," he explains. "It was here that I completed my NC Greenkeeping and HNC Greenkeeping."
"Prior to coming to Noord-Nederlandse in 2007, I had worked at Golf Club Almeerderhout in Almere, a few miles east of Amsterdam, for seven years."
The now sixty hectares of land is made up of thirty-five hectares of woodland, with the remainder accommodating the 6,700 yard par 72 golf course. Allan has a team of six greenkeepers to assist him.
"All jobs are able to be carried out by everyone which gives us strength in depth. Presentation ranks high, although it comes at a cost."
"One of the team maintains all the machinery as well as undertaking greenkeeping tasks. The majority of servicing is kept in-house, but any major repairs are outsourced. In addition," continues Allan, "we have an agronomist, a woodland advisor and a contractor who assists with the renovation projects."
"I am responsible for my budgets, but the final approval has to be agreed with the greens chairman."
Allan goes on to explain that the soil is a rich, very fine sand in the top 30cm and that all greens are built to USGA specification, whilst all old tees are a gravel carpet design. However, new tee builds have been sand based. Irrigation is available on all greens, tees and approaches and there is drainage on every hole.
Greens are cut at 4mm throughout the summer using Toro Greensmaster 3400s, but is reduced to 3.5mm for competitions. Cutting takes place six times a week and the greens are rolled three times a week. The height is raised to 5mm in the winter. The greens are overseeded with fescue in the spring and autumn and bent in the summer.
Aeration and spiking is carried out on the greens in alternate weeks, with deep, solid tine aeration (18mm) undertaken in October. In addition, they are subjected to 'drill 'n' fill' on an annual basis with 60 tonnes of sand incorporated.
Tees and approaches are kept at 10mm all year round and are currently mown with Toro Greensmaster 3250s, although these machines are due for an upgrade.
Fairways are mown at 12mm, three times a week during the summer, using Toro Groundsmaster 5410s. The height is increased to 16mm in the winter, mowing twice a week. They are slit monthly and solid tined in November.
Topdressing of the greens is carried out every other week, receiving around 200-250 tonnes during the course of the year.
Tees are topdressed twice a week with an 80/20 mix. Fairways are topdressed three times a year, applying 250 tonnes per time.
"Due to Dutch legislation, spraying is very limited so, once a year only, the fairways are sprayed for broad-leaved weeds," Allan explains. "We use Pistol from Bayer. We don't spray on hard surfaces and remove all weeds by hand. We suffer occasional outbreaks of dollar spot and fusarium, for which we use Bayer's Interface."
"Chafer grubs, leatherjackets and the damage crows make has been our biggest battle. We have tried nematodes and Merit Turf, and even had hunters out shooting the crows, but now we say what happens, happens - it's nature!"
"For the last seven years, we have had a tee and bunker renovation plan which has now been completed. All bunkers have been upgraded and there are now no lying water issues. For the last three years, we have been working on our woodland plan to produce four separate areas; historic park, normal parkland, natural woodland and wildflower/grass/water areas."
"Drainage projects have also been undertaken in the past four years, with some new projects completed, but also finding all old drainage and cleaning, mapping and repairing as required. The irrigation system has been totally upgraded too."
"The practise area was completed two years ago and the updating of the clubhouse surrounds was finished last winter. Most of the projects are carried out in-house, but we have a great digger driver called Rico who comes in for two or three months of the year and does all the shaping work. For any big tree removal work we also hire an expert contractor."
"We are now seeing budgets reduced in larger renovation projects, but are still able to do the most important ones."
"Following a big storm in October last year, which resulted in the loss of 130 trees, we had to reduce our winter work plan slightly as we were involved with the clean-up, but we aim to do work on tees and bunkers from the end of September so that the turf has time to settle in over the winter months."
Allan confirms that they have had to work hard to keep up with the ever changing legislation in Holland regarding Health & Safety, Risk Assessments, AED (Automated External Defibrillators) and First Aid. "All staff are trained in AED, and we have two first aiders, with procedures in place for fire, emergencies etc. These roles are usually volunteers who are specialists in their fields of work, i.e. Health & Safety, so they do an invaluable job in helping produce all relevant documentation."
The local flora and fauna is very important to the club who work, together with their advisor, with all the local and national environmental bodies. "Every year, we make an inventory of all flora and fauna on the course," says Allan. "We have areas specifically for wildflowers and grasslands.
The last count identified over 190 different species. The conservation and reintegration of indigenous species of trees and plants is ongoing with our new club policy for the woodlands."
"We have plenty of bird boxes around the course and there is also a national bird watching day that we participate in. Owls, buzzards, woodpeckers, swans, red squirrels, stoats, deer and badgers may be seen in the neighbourhood and beavers were released into the wild last year. Our machinery shed is an old farmer's house/barn which, every year, is taken over by nesting swallows. At least, it seems that way!"
"We take two lots of soil samples twice a year; one for ourselves and the other for our fertiliser company. We identify three greens and then take three samples at different depths; the first sample from the top 10mm, the second from 10-20mm and the third from 20-30mm. These are then sent to the ISTRC (International Sports Turf Research Center) in Kansas for a thorough analysis of our progress."
"The Dutch greenkeepers are improving and the level of professionalism is far higher than, say, ten or fifteen years ago, although education and lack of information at school/college level could still improve as there is a shortage of youngsters coming into the industry," outlines Allan.
"Whilst there is an inevitable feeling of being undervalued, that has always been an issue but, well, what can you say? We do the job for a reason and that is, hopefully, for the love of the game and to see the courses we work on improve and play at a consistent level throughout the year. We work with nature so, yes, there are times when people comment on the course's condition, but a good explanation will hopefully help educate the members."
With Noord-Nederlandse having approximately 900 playing members, how does Allan communicate with them about his work schedule? "Through the club magazine, website and constant communication on the course. I am very approachable on the course and talk frequently to members around the clubhouse."
In 2010, Allan won the Head Greenkeeper of the Year Award for the Netherlands, so he is certainly doing something right.
Wat zit er in de schuur?
Toro Greensmaster 3400 x 2
Toro Greensmaster 3250 x 2 - these are to be updated to 3400s by the end of 2014
Toro Reelmaster 5410 x 2
Toro Groundsmaster 4000 rough mower
Toro Workman HDX c/w with Tycrop mounted topdresser
Toro Workman HDX c/w Hardi 800ltr sprayer
Tractors x 3 - 40, 60 and 90hp
Redexim Charterhouse Verti-Drain 7612
Redexim Charterhouse Vert-Drain 7117 Mustang
Tycrop 400 fairway dresser
Imants root pruner
Sisis MultiSlit aerator
Various other machines including verti-cutting units and a Trilo for use on fairways.
Alan comments; "The spinner dresser has given us the opportunity to get sand on quickly and regularly and has helped improve our playing surfaces 100%. The playability is not disturbed too much either, so the players don't mind."
"Most machines are bought outright, but some things, i.e. fairway dresser, woodchipper, tractors are bought nearly new. We buy from both dealers and direct."
"All of our mowing machines are from Toro but, for everything else, we look around."
"We hire a shovel when dressing fairways, which is much quicker for loading, and a seven tonne digger with operator for renovations. Our wash area is compliant, although we would like to upgrade in the future to a unit that recycles the water. We are considering a Waste2Water system."
"My wish list is long, but the most important things are:
A dedicated roller - Truturf or Toro 1240
Toro ProCore aerator - less machines on and around the greens
A dedicted sprayer - we spray greens and tees weekly, plus fairways monthly."