IT’S “Thank a Greenkeeper Day” and an opportunity to hail the fine work carried by golf course management professionals.
The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), in conjunction with other global greenkeeper and course superintendent groups, is encouraging golf lovers to recognise those who help keep our courses enjoyable and sustainable.
At Royal Dornoch, members, and many thousands of visitors annually, appreciate the world-class quality of our two golf courses.
To mark “Thank a Greenkeeper Day,” we carried out a question-and-answer session with our long-time Course Manager Eoin Riddell, who heads-up the dedicated team responsible for presenting The Championship Course and the Struie Course.
Q: How many staff are in your greenkeeping team at Royal Dornoch?
EOIN: We are a 20-strong unit.
Q: How long have you been in post?
EOIN: I’ve been here for 36 years now, 17 of them in the role as Course Manager.
Q: What are the key differences between maintenance demands on the two courses?
EOIN: The man-hours and products required to ensure The Championship Course is in the condition everyone expects of a world-class golf course means it has enjoyed a higher priority than the Struie Course. That’s really down to the amount of play The Championship Course gets during the season. But we are seeing the Struie Course growing in popularity and as footfall continues to spiral it may require equal attention in the years ahead.
Q: Do you feel added pressure in caring for historic links rated among the finest in world golf?
EOIN: Not really. I feel I have been in post for a while now and I know what the expectations are at a club like Royal Dornoch. I also have what I regard as one of the best greenkeeping teams to be found anywhere. The standard of work they produce day-in, day-out helps take any pressure off my shoulders.
Q: What was the feedback from competitors in the Senior Amateur Championships double header this summer?
EOIN: The feedback from the players was great for both courses. It was particularly encouraging to hear the positive comments about the Struie Course as it always tends to play second fiddle to The Championship Course. I have always felt that’s a bit unfair as it is a great golf course in its own right.
Q: What condition has The Championship Course been in during 2022?
EOIN: I feel both our courses have been presented in good condition, coping well with the volume of play we get here. But in any walk of life there is always room for improvement and I will never be 100% happy. That’s just my nature, I suppose.
Q: What is your biggest bugbear as a greenkeeper?
EOIN: Definitely pitch marks!
Q: Do you have a strategy for protecting the wonderful natural environment on the historic links?
EOIN: We are GEO (golf environment organisation) certified and work to improve all environmental areas. We work closely with the RSPB and Nature Scotland – and other governing bodies – to enhance wildlife habitats and reduce our water usage wherever possible. We even have staff members trained as beekeepers. We are moving over from traditional diesel and petrol mowers to electric options on both courses.
Q: Do you have a winter maintenance programme lined-up with 2023 in mind?
EOIN: The demand to play here at Royal Dornoch will be as strong as ever next year so we have a full winter programme mapped out for both courses. The main project will be reshaping and realigning the top part of the 8th fairway on The Championship and constructing five new tees. The plans were drawn up by our architect Tom Mackenzie but had to go on hold because of the pandemic. Like the successful remodelling of the 7th, the work will all be done in-house by our own greenkeeping team and it gets under way in late October. We are always looking to see if there is scope to improve any areas of our courses. We are determined not to let standards slip.