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Q. Why is it that when the greens start to grow, for a time, they become very uneven and bumpy?

A. This is because there are more than one species of grass within them, different species grow at different rates. Some start growing at slightly lower temperatures than others. Some species have deeper roots, so they are in soil that has not warmed yet and therefore do not start to grow until warmth gets down to that depth.

Q. Is it possible to lower the height of cut on the greens to increase the speed?

Yes, it is. However it does not last very long, too much leaf is removed and the plant can no longer produce enough food to live. Mowing at a height of 3 mm for any length of time (even just a few days rather than weeks) creates excessive stress and the grass dies. Thus the age old term the quick and the dead. The recognised way to increase green speed is to increase the height of cut to encourage the finer species of grasses and to regularly roll the greens.

Q. How often are the greens cut and at what height?

A. In the main growing season from mid May until the end of September they are cut every day unless weather conditions dictate otherwise. For the rest of the year just when necessary. In summertime the height of cut will go down to 4 millimetres rising to 6 millimetres during the winter.

Q. How often are the holes changed?

A. The holes are changed at least 3 times a week, more often if there is a competition.

Q. Who decides the pin position on the green?

A. The Course Manager or Deputy will choose the positions for competitions, for everyday play a qualified greenkeeper will choose.


Q. Who decides where the tee markers are positioned?

A. As with the holes the Course Manager or Deputy will choose the positions for competitions, for everyday play a qualified greenkeeper will choose.



Q. What height is the semi-rough and rough cut?

A. The semi is cut at 2”(50mm) with a 12ft band around each fairway if possible, the rough is cut at 4”(100mm) this is only done in certain areas around the course.



Q. Why do you top dress, how often, and what does it consist of?

A. Top dressing is a way of smoothing the surface, this helps to make the greens true. Over a period of time it helps improve the quality of the topsoil. We aim to topdress the greens 12 times per year. There are many types of top dressing and different ones will suit different courses depending on their construction. The top dressing used here consists of 80% dune sand and 20% local topsoil.

Q. How long does it take?

A. It takes one man about 3 hours to topdress the Championship greens with another following, brushing the dressing in to the surface.

Q. Will the weather conditions make a difference?

The best weather is dry and windy as this helps when brushing it into the surface, it can be done when wet but it can make the topdressing stick to the machines and it will take longer to do.

Q. Will the golfers notice it has been done?

A. Hopefully not! We only put on light dressings and after brushing and cutting the greens afterwards you would hardly know they had been done.

Q. Why is it some times the greens are topdressed after spiking and not other times?

A. This depends on what type of spiking was carried out. If it is hollow tining, where a core of soil is removed then it is good practice to work some dressing down into the holes. When using solid tines however, the soil around the hole is displaced and has to be allowed to settle back. If the hole were to be filled this would not happen and the ground would remain compacted.



Q. How often do you spike the greens and why is it necessary?

A. More often than you might think as some types of spiking will be virtually invisible after the greens have been cut. The aeration that produces the most disruption is the Vertidrain. This makes 300mm deep holes as well as lifting the whole surface shattering the soil underneath. The greens are usually done in February, and tees and fairways throughout the winter. Timing is critical,as the soil has to be firm but not too hard. The process where the holes remain open the most is hollow tining where a core of soil is removed. This allows an exchange of soil and to remove thatch. And the reason for doing all this? The roots of the grass live in the spaces between the soil particles. Your feet plus maintenance equipment compacts these spaces together not only stopping healthy growth of the grass but also reducing the drainage.

We also use a machine called a hydroject. We use this to inject water into the soil profile this breaks the surface compaction and helps water penetrate deeper.


Q.Why is it that the course is closed in frosty conditions?

A. Playing on a frosty surface can potentially damage the grasses. As the frost starts to thaw from the top the underneath remains frozen. Feet walking over the surface under these conditions will cause the roots to be sheared off causing severe damage. What also has to be remembered is the fact that not all of the course will thaw out at the same rate. Shaded places will take a lot longer so if for instance the 18th green has thawed out the 17th green may not. We are lucky to have two courses, so the Struie is made available even in winter when the Championship Course is closed to ensure that golf can still be played at Royal Dornoch.



Q. What is Fusarium?

A. Fusarium patch is a disease which is becoming very widespread on sports turf particularly during the winter months. Its symptoms can be seen on fine turf areas, such as bowling and golf greens. The disease appears as small orange/brown colour circular dead patches/spots. The disease is always present in the soil and will attack the sward overnight if the conditions are right. Its spores are spread by wind, water and traffic. Whilst the grass is in its dormant state the only control is to remove the dew and spray with a contact fungicide.

Q. Why do we see the crows pecking areas on the courses?

A. They are looking for the eggs/grubs of the Crane fly (Daddy Longlegs). It is not only damage caused by the crows pecking, the grubs will feed on the roots of the grass and this would only be noticed come the spring when the grass struggles to grow, and brown patches appear. So the best thing to do is when the birds start to peck areas, spray with a insecticide.



Q. How much maintenance does the course machinery require?

A. The answer is, a lot. Modern greenkeeping machinery has become very sophisticated with on board computers and monitoring systems thus routine servicing continues throughout the season.

During the winter each machine has to undergo a complete overhaul. All machinery is stripped to their component parts and checked for wear and tear. Cutting edges are reground accurately, parts are painted and worn items replaced. All fluids are checked and the machine is then reassembled. Of course, all this requires to be written up in a machinery logbook. The winter overhaul alone can take Willie, our mechanic, 3 to 4 months.

All this work has to be fitted in with the day to day breakdowns, from a simple puncture repair to larger jobs such as replacing a head gasket or clutch.



Q. What do you do in frost and snow?

A. A lot more than many people think, we spend a lot of time mixing our own topdressing, as well as painting all the course furniture. We also have a whin/gorse management plan that needs to be implemented. Having purchased our own JCB two years ago we are also able to do all construction work ourselves at a time convenient to us and cheaper than a contractor!



Q. How often do you revett bunkers? 

A. Greenside bunkers are revetted on average every 3 years due to the amount of play. Fairway bunkers are every 5-6 years.

Q. Where does our sand come from?

A. Fortunately, we have our own supply of sand which is taken from a dune at the far end of the Championship course.



Q. How often do you water the course?

A. The system is used quite often on tees and walkways (2-3 times a week) with fairways spot treated about once a month, greens are only done when needed and then only small amounts (1-2mm) at night, the high spots on greens that are prone to drying out are done more often. On a links course water is used to keep the turf alive not to make it grow!



Q. Where do we get our turf?

A. All the turf we use is from our own home grown turf nursery that is situated to the left side of the 15th hole on the Struie course.



Q. How many Green Staff work on the courses?

A. To cover both courses there are 12 full time and 3 extra taken on for the summer, the full time staff deal with all the greenkeeping duties with the summer workers raking bunkers, divoting and flymowing

Q. How much land do the greenstaff look after apart from the two courses?

A. In addition to the 2 courses at Royal Dornoch which cover an area of 370 acres we are responsible for 3 academy holes, 2 practice areas, 3 practice greens, grass runway, turf nursery, farmland and rough grazing areas this all adds up to approx 700 acres. More than you thought?