Tournament ready

Simon Olver, course manager at Ganton, on preparing for tournament golf and what goes into hosting international championships

In 2023, Ganton has the honour of hosting The R&A Boys’ and Girls’ Amateur Championships alongside Fulford. With that in mind, it’s a great time to look ahead to the course being at its absolute best, despite the wind and rain currently hitting the shed roof.

Tournament weeks are when we’ll see the course at its peak – the hours of hard work in the months and, at times, years leading up to these championships will pay off as we cut the centre stripe on the 18th green, rake the bunkers for the final time and play gets underway.

To present the golf course at this level, greenkeeping practises are increased, ramping up as we get closer to the first shots being hit. Planning begins as early as is feasible for the biggest events, with the intensity of our work changing 10-12 weeks out.

Throughout the build-up, we assess and highlight areas which need greater attention or preventative action to survive the stressful period ahead. We’ll be working hard on the turf, but at all times understanding we must minimise any potential plant stress as we get closer to the tournament and begin to cut lower, roll more and hit the course a little harder than normal.
This work is supported by The R&A’s agronomy team, which is a fantastic resource to have year-round as a longstanding tournament venue.

While we have an ongoing relationship with the agronomy team, we’ll also work with the tournament director from The R&A over a period of up to a year before a championship. They’ll visit regularly to discuss everything from green speeds and fairway lines to rough height, tee box locations and pin positions as well as where temporary structures, scoreboards and signage will go. They’re then on-site a week ahead of the tournament and we’ll work together daily to set the course up to their needs, all in-line with the long-term plan put in place between the golf club and The R&A.

Fine turf preparation moves into the final stage around a fortnight out. We have many techniques unique to this time in our calendar – from working at night to ensure we can control green speed with the following morning’s cut to communicating all the time with the team to ensure they remain motivated and physically and mentally healthy during this short period of intense work.

In a healthy, unstressed position for both the team and turf, the final days are when the work all comes together.

From here, if our long-term preparation has been good, the golf course will be at its very best when the first tee shot is hit.

After a tournament, it’s essential to assess the work carried out, take notes on what’s gone well and what can be improved, and work holistically to get the course back to its best combination of playing conditions and long-term health for our members and guests.

Overall, golf course presentation is about balance. We can create tournament conditions for highlights in the calendar, but we must ensure we work within our means agronomically, financially and from a staffing perspective throughout the year.

Ultimately, a long-term outlook ensures year-round health and gives you the opportunity to make short-term marginal gains for your most important tournaments.