Drainage at Loch Lomond

Added on September 17th, 2011 by
Posted in Greenkeeping, New courses reviewed

Donald Steel, a member of FineGolf’s  Advisory Panel  and Britain’s most prolific living golf architect and respected golf author, in his role as Chairman of the ‘Greenkeepers Training Committee’ recently observed in Greenkeeper International magazine that “over the years the condition of courses will be good if the non-stop battle against thatch and compaction can be won.”

donald steel, golf architect, golf author

Donald Steel at West Sussex

He feels “They (ie thatch and compaction) represent the common enemy whatever the soil, the grass or climate. This makes regular aeration the exercise most believe to be the common denominator in terms of universal policy.”

These are clear, strong, visionary words, often repeated by the followers of Jim Arthur, the world’s greatest ever golf agronomist and one of the founding influences in the creation of FineGolf.

It is interesting that David Cole, Loch Lomond’s Course Superintendent, an amiable, brilliant greenkeeper, lists as his three agronomic priorities – “Drainage, Drainage and Drainage”. This is not perhaps surprising as the UK’s “Augusta” (in its exclusivity and that it is only open from April to October) endures a very high rainfall that dominates all that his team does.

Loch Lomond golf club, scottish open golf championship, david cole, finest courses

8th green and clubhouse

I was privileged to be invited by David to inspect their work and play the course with him, on our way up to the Highlands this August.

To highlight the scale of the job they had building the course in this location, it’s remarkable that while digging out the boggy ground, one enormous dozer slid so deeply into the terrain that they decided to leave it there and it is still buried under the thirteenth hole to this day.

Loch Lomond Golf Club, golf drainage, top parkland courses

The ladies locker room

The club, now owned by its 500 odd ‘International’ members, is lucky to have initially had the billionaire Lyle Anderson as its visonary founder and the beautiful mansion of the Colquhoun family as its clubhouse, containing a baronial, fine dining-room and a full collection of wonderful ancestral family portraits. Both ladies’ and gentlemen’s locker rooms are something to behold and enjoy. It is not open to the public but having hosted The  Scottish Open for ten years on television, the club possesses nevertheless a public face.

Loch Lomond golf club, 5th hole

The short 5th

The course, designed by the American Pro Tom Weiskopf, is of an ‘International’ type and for a parkland course, the holes each have a different and mostly interesting and strategically challenging character.

The greens were originally seeded with an American ‘creeping bent’ grass with its requirement for high maintenance and inputs of fertiliser but soon the Poa annua (Annual meadow grass) invaded.

Less than ten years later, in 2000, the greens were re-built to a USGA spec and turfed again with non-indigenous creeping bent. (This is not something a normal club can afford, and only clubs as wealthy as Queenwood and Wentworth can re-turf all its greens in this manner, as they both did recently).

Loch Lomond golf club, 18th hole,

The 18th

Again, stopping the Poa annua from invading proved problematic so a decision was taken in 2005 to let the poa invade and transition into a fine dwarf variety, while indigenous browntop bent grass, which requires less fertiliser and pesticides, was over-seeded. Five years of over-seeding with this browntop has achieved about 50/50 bent/poa and the greens run well.

The poor growing climate at Loch Lomond of wet, damp, shady, humid conditions favours Poa annua and the greens are very receptive to golf balls with divots being made. This in combination with the ‘through the air’ design to most of its green approaches, Loch Lomond gives high quality target-style golf.

David Cole adds: ”The overall goal is to achieve firm and fast conditions when the weather is favourable and by an installation of intensive drainage network combined with careful organic matter (thatch) management this can now be achieved within 48 hour window vs. a long period of conducive weather”.

reviewed byLorne Smith  2011


Reader Comments

On October 1st, 2011 milroy coates said:

Interesting piece on Loch Lomond GC.
Now the Scottish Open has departed to pastures new it appears only the members and their guests will ever have a chance to visit the clubhouse let alone play the course. It is more or less a club that does not exist to 99.99% of the golfing world.
Even that other well known ultra exclusive club at Augusta National hosts a US PGA tournament once a year avidly watched by many millions on TV.
What a pity then that Loch Lomond remains such a ‘Hidden Gem’. I wonder how long this will last in these austere times.

On November 24th, 2011 David White said:

Loch Lomond may well be a ‘hidden gem’, yet my abiding memory of the one and only time I visited [and I didn’t get to play] was of being eaten alive by several million voracious midges. That’s one secret the locals don’t care to publicise, or indeed acknowledge.

Dear David, Thanks for your comment but I must add that when I played it in August there was not one midge to be seen. Perhaps David Cole had been around with his midge puffer! yours Lorne

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