Only a handful of top golf courses can boast a lighthouse at the end of their road. Fewer still have pods of dolphins swimming regularly on a rising tide, literally, minutes away.
The award-winning Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Links, on the Black Isle, near Inverness, is steeped in both history and nature. Unsurprisingly, its golfing pedigree is also on point; a Championship links course, it is the 15th oldest recorded club (1793) and was redesigned by the legendary James Braid in 1932.
Head Greenkeeper, George Paterson, knows a thing or two about links golf. His greenkeeping journey includes spells at The County Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, Scotscraigs Golf Club and Moray Golf Club.
In September, George said goodbye to his 20-year-old Wiedenmann Terra XP6 deep aerator, trading it in for a new GXi8 HD. The deal was struck with John Morton, Regional Sales Manager at Wiedenmann UK’s Scottish dealer, Fairways GM, who sold him a Wiedenmann SL6 Terra Spike six years previously.
“This investment is about productivity,” said George, “We’ve chosen the best tools that let us mix and match our approach to aeration. Speed is now more important than depth because of the shingly nature of our soils.
“Compared to the XP6, the GXi 8 is much quicker. Being 20 cm wider is helpful, but ultimately our focus is to cover large areas very neatly in a shorter amount of time. With a narrower, slower machine, intentions were always to get around as many fairways when we could, but for lots of reasons we’d get diverted or miss the window. We’ll be far more efficient and get aeration done. This fits our John Deere 4610 perfectly, just skirts outside the tractor wheels and leaves very little disruption, even with a fair amount of heave.
“The SL6 is on our John Deere 2720 compact tractor and does a great job on hard-to-reach tees and greens. Mid-October we cone tined greens prior to overseeding and top dressing, so it’s still very much in our plans. The GXi 8 will take over some of its work though, it can do places where access isn’t an issue.
“We purchased multi-tine heads, nail tines and solid tines for the GXi8 to bring variety. The cluster heads (multi tine holders) were the first thing we used. Our greens were still reasonably firm, so didn’t want too much disturbance, but we gave them a quick treatment to help any heavy or freak showers to drain quickly from the surface. We inserted four 5 mm nail tines (5 mm/135 mm) to each multi tine head, set to 50 mm spacings, to a depth of about 100 mm on two rows of the machine.
“It’s not quite the same as deep aeration, but a very useful exercise. It just gives the tops of the greens a bit of air. Annually, we’ll do that twice across the summer. The greens have now also been solid tined with 12 mm tines to a depth of 180 mm with 4% heave.
“For the fairways, we’ll take a bigger solid tine, so 20 mm, but work will be much faster than before. We need to be mindful of play. Even in winter our course remains very busy, visitor traffic tails off a little, but we stay open when weather affects other courses nearby, so we don’t see a big drop in numbers.”
George is assisted by a team of three qualified greenkeepers and a new apprentice.
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