Keeping it Natural at Mach Dunes

Spring is here! Well…it’s here a bit. It has been typical April…

Oh, wait a minute, I wrote that last month, didn’t I!  It`s true, though – despite last week’s fine weather (April 21-25) there has been precious little new growth so far. Course definition and recovery from what little winter damage the course endured have been in short supply, but at least we’ve been able to rely on the decent coverage of grass that emerged from the dark months to provide golfers with some firm and relatively true surfaces to play on. Hopefully this will give us a good base to start improving on as the season progresses.


Our Kintyre Team Challenge competition in conjunction with Dunaverty Golf Club turned out to be a great success, with both courses providing decent playing conditions considering the early date in the golfing calendar. We are very hopeful that this competition can be played on an annual basis and that it will become a firm favourite as we develop it further.Speaking of tournaments, we have our Monthly Member Medal on 31st May, and our major tournament of the year – The Campbeltown Open on 27th June – is fast-approaching!  Enquire at the golf shop for more information on both of these tournaments – we’d love to see you there!


The week after the Kintyre Team Challenge we took delivery of some new machinery, and we now have a powerful Kubota tractor and 3 of the very latest Toro Flex 21 handmowers at our disposal. It will be obvious to regular visitors to Machrihanish Dunes that I am a big fan of handmowing greens whenever possible. Although it is more labour-intensive, there is no doubt that handmowing will provide a better ball roll and superior presentation. We are very grateful to have been given what I consider the best mowers on the market to help us make the very most of our long morning walks! The surfaces at Machrihanish Dunes are not as undulating as they once were, but greens like 2 and 14 still provide a big challenge for even a professional grade conventional mower. The distance between the front and back roller is critical when mowing over severe contours at cutting heights as low as 4mm. The Flex 21s are cleverly designed with two forward rollers directly in front of and behind the cutting cylinder on a unit which articulates separately from the main rear roller, meaning there is far less discrepancy in the height of cut through hollows or over high spots than there would be if the mower had a fixed frame with only two rollers. Not only does this have a positive impact on the consistency of speed over the surface of the entire green, but it will also result in less stress for plants which may previously have been unable to survive the regular scalping they received from mowers. We already mow the greens down to the lowest height we think we can get away with without compromising the health of the plant, so it stands to reason that anything we can do to minimise inconsistencies in this height will help us immeasurably.

mowersOur powerful new tractor and three of the best mowers in the business.

Delegates from Scottish Natural Heritage visited us for their West Coast conference during the week of 21st-25th April, and much mention was made during the week of the environmental credentials of Machrihanish Dunes. As I am sure you are aware, the course was the first 18-hole links to be developed on the West Coast of Scotland for 100 years and the entire site is protected as a site of special scientific interest. While this restriction does to a certain extent govern what we can and cannot apply to outfield areas, it is not as prohibitive as some people might expect. This is mainly due to the fact that links courses actually provide their best playing characteristics when they are maintained in harmony with the land that they are laid out over. The grasses that make up our fairways require little or no fertiliser or water input to provide optimum golfing conditions, and even the greens and tees are at their best when they are left relatively dry and hungry. While the farming community seeks optimum yield and productivity from their grassland in order to maximise their income, the greenkeeping community actively seeks the exact opposite. While high yield will give us the opportunity to present green, attractively striped surfaces, it would also inevitably lead to rising costs, aggravated outbreaks of turf disease and, worst of all, slow greens and soft tees and fairways. Although the management team at Machrihanish Dunes is rightly lauded for its conscientious approach to maintaining the integrity of the site and the diversity of the species that we inherited from the previous custodians, it actually suits our greenkeeping purpose to maintain the links in this responsible manner. As long as we continue to carefully consider the short and long term impact of our every move and maintain the good working relationship that we have with our environmental partners at SNH, there is no reason why the environmental impact of running a golf course over the site should not be a positive one for all concerned – including those of you who enjoy playing on it!orchid1

In recognition of the positive work that has been done at Machrihanish Dunes since its inception to maintain the integrity of the site and its indigenous flora and fauna, the course received the honour of becoming the first to be awarded accreditation by the Golf Environment Organisation in 2012, and we were recently delighted to learn that we have been considered worthy of re-accreditation following a further application in 2014. Although it is obviously our commitment to ensuring our surroundings are not compromised by our actions that is considered worthy of accreditation, the true satisfaction comes from knowing that we are leaving behind the most minimal negative footprint we possibly can on the land. Every time we see the fabulous display of orchids sprouting in the rough or a wheatear nesting in one of the boxes we made to ensure their continued habitation of the site, we will be able to appreciate the contribution that we have made to preserving their continued existence. It won’t be long now before the rough is full of these orchids once again!orchid2_square
We hope you enjoy your golf during the next month!

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper