Hi! Noon in Australia
I’ve been in my current position since 2010, completed my Foundation Degree and after four years at Lancaster I decided to speak to the Course Manager Warren Bevan about gaining further experience working abroad.
He recommended going to Australia for the summer, to learn about warm season grasses, somewhat different conditions to those we frequently experience in the North West of England!
So, I visited the AGCSA (Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association) website and discovered you could put a job request up on their website, which I did. I then received an email from the Course Manager at New South Wales GC, Gary Dempsey, who said he would be interested in employing me over the summer, and having looked at the spectacular golf course online I knew I couldn’t turn the opportunity down.
Having completed all the necessary paperwork, my visa was granted. I booked my flight and arrived in Sydney at the end of September 2014 - ready to start work a couple of days later.
New South Wales GC is a links style course in La Perouse, south Sydney, that dates back to the early 1920s and was designed by Alistair McKenzie. The course is host to one of the most iconic holes in the world, the par three 6th.
The greens are purely creeping bent, thanks to their reconstruction in 2010, when all the greens were newly seeded except the 5th and 6th which were turfed due to their close proximity to the sea.
The tees, fairways and rough are largely couch grass with a percentage of Kikuyu in the rough. However, sometimes the couch grass does encroach into the collars and towards the greens, so it is occasionally dabbed with a product called Tupersan WP that contains the active ingredient Siduron, to prevent it from growing into the greens.
The maintenance facilities at New South Wales are very different to those at Lancaster, mainly due to the fact it boasts purpose built facilities that are only a few years old. It has a covered spray area as well as a large chemical store and fertiliser store, four covered bays for materials such as sand and topdressing and a roofed fuelling station. They also have a full vehicle lift inside the sheds to make things more manageable for the mechanics.
They have a vast amount of machinery, including 14 Toro 1000 hand mowers, eight for the greens, two for the collars and four for the tees. They also have four Toro 5510’s, two ProCores, two rough mowers, eight Toro Workman machines and five tractors amongst other various pieces of kit. This is a lot of equipment but they do have a greenkeeping team of 21 including two mechanics.
The greens are cut at 3mm, with the collars cut at 7mm and the surrounds and fairways both cut at 8mm.
Despite the differences in climate and grass composition to Lancaster, there are many similarities, particularly regarding the daily maintenance tasks and high expectations from visitors and members.
It’s proved a very interesting place to work as it’s provided plenty of different challenges and allowed me to see so many new techniques and methods. The most notable so far was the burning off the bushland areas on the course that had been finished this year. The areas burnt on the course this year were the left hand side of the 14th and 15th holes, as well as both sides of the 16th hole and the par three 17th hole.
Another part of the annual maintenance programme I have been involved in is the scarifying of fairways, tees and surrounds, which were completed within a few weeks of my arrival. Having done this before I knew what to expect, or at least I thought I did. The amount of litter that was pulled out of the fairways was staggering.
I’ve learned about the management of warm season grasses and the management of cool season grasses in such a different environment, along with the problems they are susceptible to. With the golf course being directly on the coastline it has been interesting to see what challenges this provides. Due to the high winds and dry weather, the bunkers had to be hand watered on several occasions to prevent the sand from being blown around and to help the bunkers remain playable.
Another issue caused by being on the coast is the salt from the sea water being sprayed onto the 5th and 6th greens. High levels of soluble salts in the turf rootzone can be detrimental to most turf grasses. High levels of salt can reduce water uptake due to osmotic stress, reduce nutrient uptake, and the sodium and chlorine can cause reduced growth by interfering with photosynthesis. To combat this, the areas that are affected are hand watered on a regular basis alongside the current irrigation programme.
The attention to detail is incredible and you can see this in all areas of the course. Spray hawks were created by the club mechanic to allow for a much more accurate spray application on the greens using Agrotop Spray max ADF dual nozzle. Another nice touch was the fact that all clippings taken from tees, greens and surrounds are removed entirely from the course.
Before arriving in Australia one of my main concerns was finding somewhere that I would be happy to live for six months. So, before I arrived, I searched the internet for the best options for location and accommodation. After this, I discovered a room for rent in a house in Botany with a Scottish couple. It’s perfect. Only a short cycle in to work, well situated for access to the city and local beaches, and even a pool on site!
After spending just a couple of weeks in Botany I knew that this place was absolutely fantastic and that it was where I would want to spend the rest of my time in New South Wales.
My time in Australia has so far been very enjoyable and the memories and experiences I have gained will stick with me forever. I would like to thank Gary Dempsey, Warren Bevan and everyone who helped me with this amazing opportunity, I can only hope the next few months continue to interest and teach me as much as the previous months have. To anyone who is thinking about working in Australia, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.