Those of you who know me well are aware of how active I am on social media. I am not one of those people who take it all seriously and consider it a part of my career or a way of networking myself into a better position (after all, what better position in life could I possibly wish to attain!). I do however like to trawl through endless banter on Facebook and share photos on Instagram. Amongst my countless photos of the great Scottish countryside and mountain biking at ludicrous speeds, there are a few Machrihanish Dunes gems in there. All the photographs have been taken with my phone, so the quality is therefore questionable, but my images have always been about capturing the moment rather than showing how technically clever I am.
When I sat down to plan this update for you, I figured that an annual review based around some attractive pictures might make for a welcome relief after the barrage of science that I subjected you to last month. It is also an upbeat way to round off what has been an extremely successful year for the greenkeeping team.
Hand mowing greens is my favourite job at any time of the year – especially so in the winter when it becomes a weekly treat. The top end is my favourite loop, mainly because I get to enjoy this high vista that falls to the sea from the 18th green. I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have asked me “What time of year do you stop cutting greens?”. The answer is never, because the air temperature stays high enough in the tropical southwest to ensure that the grass is always growing, which gives us the opportunity to get out there and keep a good surface on them all year round.
The whole course took a battering from relentless wind and rain during the last three months of 2015. However, by the beginning of February, we were already starting to see light at the end of the relentlessly dark and gloomy tunnel. The second image shows how healthy the greens were going into this season – giving us the opportunity to work them hard during the dry weeks that were just around the corner.
The new 10th tee: I have always enjoyed playing from high tees, so when the opportunity arose to build one at Mach Dunes on a site that showed off this incredible view across the entire course, I just couldn’t resist. I think it worked out pretty well, as did this “heavily filtered” panorama!
Not all of my Machrihanish Dunes photos feature “chocolate box” images of the golf course itself. It would be more accurate to say that they encapsulate my experience at work. Sometimes they also reflect my overactive imagination. This cloud formation I spotted over Tangy wind farm on a cold April morning is a prime example. To me, it looked like an angry dog barking at a submissive turtle, but I’ll admit that not everyone could see it!
The media was full of stories promising us the “best summer in 100 years,” and on days like this one, it did seem like we might indeed be in line for something a bit special. In truth, though, much as we like to complain about the weather on the West coast of Scotland, it is fabulous during May and June most years. Hand-watering the greens at Machrihanish Dunes after my tea on a spring evening as good as this one, doesn’t feel like work at all!
I was obviously getting artistic here to cover over the undeniable fact that this was yet another picture of the same view from the 18th green. This was taken on the Sunday of the Campbeltown Open, just before the weather finally broke and normal (i.e. unsettled) service was resumed just in time for the kids to finish school before their summer holidays! I was pleased with the way we managed the course in the run-up to this tournament – the greens were very firm and putted well without ever getting silly and without us having to negatively impact their long-term health. Despite the relatively poor turnout, the competition was fiercely contested, with Oliver Armour eventually getting the better of Davey Lamont in a play-off.
The links at Machrihanish Dunes have always been associated with nature. The strict regime that we follow to remain in-sync with the terms of our management agreement with Scottish Natural Heritage ensures that we are rewarded with a colourful display of wild flowers every summer. While I appreciate all the different species that make up the overall palette, it is easy to become distracted by the sheer beauty of the orchids for which we have become particularly famed and the moths that have formed a symbiotic relationship with them. Getting four Burnett moths to pose on one Early Marsh-Orchid was too good of a photo opportunity to miss!
This image barely squeezes into August, as I posted it on the 29th. It is admittedly less scenic than a lot of my posts, but there is something clinically balanced about it. We chose to think a long way outside the box when we planned our aeration and over-seeding program, and this was the result – a grid pattern of thousands of holes filled to the brim with good quality rootzone material and the best fescue seed.
We had a deadline imposed upon us to get the greens back to a decent playing standard by the Shepherd’s Cross on the 18th, and this image proves that we not only managed to do that, but that we had germinated a huge percentage of the seed we had planted just 3 weeks before. That is Craig Barr on the greens mower, finishing his early shift and no doubt looking forward to a man-sized breakfast!
I’m always on the lookout for a bit of humour, and plenty of people got a chuckle out of this when I posted it. I wondered whether this buzzard had feasted on so many rabbit carcasses that he had got too heavy for the reinforced concrete post he’d chosen to perch on. He doesn’t seem too fazed by its dilapidated condition though! It is always a joy to observe the varied wildlife as we go about our work, and birds of prey are always a special treat. Of course, there are many buzzards, but we have also seen hen harriers, sparrow hawks, owls, kestrels and a brutal peregrine – which I would certainly not like to get on the wrong side of!
Scotland’s weather in November is extremely volatile, and that means there is always potential for a good rainbow. The closer you are to the sea, the more chance you have of seeing one in its entirety – and I have taken many good rainbow/golf course images in the past. Despite the slightly wonky panorama discrepancies that spoil this composition, this full double rainbow is probably the best of them all!
It is supposed to be the depths of winter, and yet there was so much grass on the fairways that we had to go and cut them. Chris Grogan was unaware that he was taking centre stage in this image – I was hiding somewhere I shouldn’t have been to get the height I needed to make it work. Getting up this high shows just how massive the picturesque site that we work on really is, and how little ground has actually been disturbed in order to route a good golf course over it. Some of these contours would be impossible to replicate with a bulldozer.
So there you have it. In amongst all the emojis, hashtags, likes and comments – here is a whole year of work and laughter at Machrihanish Dunes broken down into twelve pictures that I hope give you an insight into what we do and how much we enjoy doing it. I hope we can continue to improve the course for your enjoyment in the year to come. I look forward to randomly coming across many more opportunities to post photos like these for your amusement. I would like to thank you for your enthusiasm and your gracious and generous comments about the condition of the golf course, and on behalf of all the members of the greenkeeping staff at Machrihanish Dunes, I wish you the very best for 2017.
Enjoy your golf over the festive period!
If you are on Instagram and want to see more of these (along with many, many pictures of bikes and hills!), then feel free to follow me. I am easy to find. Please be aware though that my comments are strictly my own and my views on certain subjects are not necessarily shared by the owners or management of Machrihanish Dunes.