Preparing the Home of Golf for the 150th Open Championship

To commemorate The Open Championship returning to the Home of Golf for its 150th celebration, we sat down with Sandy Reid, the Director of Greenkeeping at the St Andrews Links Trust, to find out what it takes to prepare The Old Course for such a momentous event.

St Andrews 150

A Historic Anniversary
This will be the 30th time that The Open has been held at St Andrews on the historic links of The Old Course — but it will be the biggest celebration yet. “I go to The Open every year and I see how the level of infrastructure involved has grown,” said Reid. “And with this being the 150th this year, it’s going to get even bigger.”

Ready to take on this massive task is Reid’s team of experienced greenkeepers and a few Toro volunteer greenkeepers from Australia and New Zealand. All in all, the crew will top out at more than 50 members — who will be very much needed for the work ahead.

Getting to Work
To prepare the course for The Open, Reid and his team have a busy schedule slated. “As a greenskeeper, preparing for The Open is the highlight of your career,” stated Reid. “And we want to maintain things at a higher level.”

This past winter they rebuilt 76 bunkers, which is a huge undertaking considering the crew normally rebuilds 20 to 30 each year. As the growing season approaches, Reid says that they’ll work backward from the date of The Open to plan out the ideal fertilization, topdressing and moisture programs.

Ball speed is also top of mind, and a carefully planned mowing routine will be needed to ensure the green is not too fast. To achieve the required speeds and ensure the highest quality of cut, the greens will be cut using an electric Toro® Greensmaster® eTriFlex™ mower — which helps the greens crew accomplish the task with time to spare for a double cut, if needed.

St Andrews 150

To provide a little extra firmness for playing, Reid also plans on drying out the course a week or two before the tournament — weather permitting. Typically, The Old Course is maintained at a 20% soil moisture level for most of the growing season. To dry it out, the new target moisture will be set slightly below that. The trick, however, is to make sure the course isn’t dried out too soon — which could result in an inconsistent playing surface. With the Toro Lynx® GAC irrigation system – recently upgraded – Reid’s team have all the information they need to drive the soil moisture level to the point they want it to be.

St Andrews 150

Caring for a Heritage Course
Reid and his crew are always looking for new technologies or products that may help make greenkeeping more efficient with respect to the heritage of St Andrews. “People look to us as a leader,” said Reid. “We want to be considered an innovator of new ideas that make life as a greenkeeper easier.” From adopting high-tech monitoring systems to implementing environmentally sustainable practices, only the best goes into the care of the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world.

For more information about preparing for The Open Championship at St Andrews, visit this website.