Thirteen years at the helm, Duntryleague Greenkeeper Grant Barrett is still loving his job. After yesterday hosting the Blue Mountains and Western Districts Greenkeepers Day, Grant was bubbling with enthusiasm when he spoke about his work and explained what goes into making Duntryleague the top class golf course that it is.
“It was really great to have my peers here yesterday, the feedback was terrific, you share ideas” … and there were some very experienced heads to share ideas with – Tom Parker (Head Curator of the SCG 1997-2017), ANZ Stadium Head Curator Graeme Logan, Martin Black from Castle Hill, Nathan Bradley from The Lakes. “Quite a few of the blokes hadn’t been to Duntryleague before – they were really impressed”.
Grant Barrett heads the Fairways Course Management team – a dedicated team of just 5 – who work 7 days a week, commencing at 6am. For Grant and his team, it is not a course maintenance mentality, it is about continually improving and striving to make Duntryleague magnificent. “We have a lot of volunteers too which is great, we usually have about 10 help out on a Thursday around the course, and the gardens, Ian Forrester did a lot, now Bron Ryan and a lot of other ladies help out, they do a great job with the gardens around the clubhouse. It helps us out a lot.”
Grant started his trade working at Newstead Bowling Club back in 1982. Stints at Blayney, Millthorpe and Pymble bowling clubs consolidated his skills. Grant moved back to Orange in 1997 and worked at Country Club Golf Course before winning the tender for Duntryleague in 2006.
“Our biggest challenge with this course is water”. The lack of rain over summer paired with very hot conditions was a tremendous challenge. “It was the hottest summer I can remember, consistently the days were into the 35 plus zone, pushing toward 40. We usually get storms which keeps us going, but we didn’t even really get them. Then for Apil – we didn’t get a drop of rain.”
Grant explained that despite the dry conditions, with good water management and the use of the new bore, everything was in good condition – great condition given the circumstances. “The objective is to be at the end of autumn with good grass coverage, you need good grass coverage for the whole of winter, we need to come out of winter with that same grass coverage”.
The new bore behind the 16th green has meant Duntryleague did not have to buy town water over this past summer. The year before the water bill was in excess of $20,000. The $15,000 to sink the new bore was money well spent. “We now have 3 bores which put out roughly 300,000 litres a day. Ideally we water the whole course every day in summer – but that would be 800,000 litres a day”.
Good water management is key to keeping costs down and the course in good condition. “We can water the tees and greens for 100,000L a day”. Keeping the greens and surrounds healthy is the priority and then with watching the weather closely, and rotating through watering other areas of the course, the harsh effects of the drought can be mitigated. “We have two separate sprinkler systems around the green, one for the green itself and another for the surrounds.” Infact, Duntryleague has over 900 sprinklers on course, all controlled electronically. “We can be out on course and need to test a sprinkler, we can pull out the app on our phone and target that sprinkler to come on”.
Another prong to the water management solution is the capacity to store water. Currently, Duntryleague has 2 main dams that can store approximately 35 ML of water (35 million litres) – at 800,000L a day that is 43 days worth. “There is also the dam on the 2nd. It can only store about 2ML, but we are looking at expanding that to 5 or 6 ML and capturing the run off from Woodward street – between Orange High and Greengate to feed into it. We can then pump that into the other dams.” Capturing runoff is already reaping benefits at Duntryleague. “The roof area of the club and the car park runoff all feeds into the dam on the 17th. It would be great to get that runoff from Woodward Street. We are working with council.”
When visitors come to Duntryleague, they generally marvel at the South African Couch fairways. “The great thing about the South African Couch is the way it mats up, it’s like a shag pile carpet.” explains Grant. “Most clubs will cut their fairways at 10-14mm, we cut them at 15-20mm. It gives that great cushioned feel. It’s really great to hit off.”
The South African Couch goes dormant over winter, beginning to shut down its food source from May, it shoots again in October once soil temperatures return to at least 17°c. When it is growing a divot can be repaired in 7-10 days. Grant explained that to fix your divots try to find the piece that came out, put it back in and give it a little tap. If the piece isn’t around, try to tap the edges of the divot in towards the centre a bit and sand it from there.
Quality greens are also something Duntryleague is renowned for. “We’d probably spend around 50% of our time on the greens” explained Grant. “We cut them every day, roll them 3x a week, give them a fortnightly feed, fungicide them monthly, insecticide them monthly, core them twice a year. We soil test them every 2nd year – double check pH, salinity.” The greens are Bentgrass with Santa Anna Couch surrounds. “The Santa Anna is great for chipping off. ” Bentgrass has very thin blades that grow densely. They can be very closely mown, resulting in a felt-like smoothness to the putting surface. Bentgrass likes a cool climate.
With great greens comes great responsibility. “Proper repairing of pitch marks is a big help to us.” If a whole chunk comes out, it is ok to put that back in, dirt side down and a little tap. To repair the mark Grant recommends moving the grass on the surrounds of the mark in towards the centre and giving it a little tap. “What we don’t like to see is a big circle of dirt, don’t just dig the pitch repairer in and lift up the dirt and tap that down. A pitch mark repaired like that will take at least 2 weeks to grow out. The smaller the amount of dirt you see on top the better.”
With fairways and greens under control, there’s also the trees and bunkers to care for. “We’re going to be doing some work on our bunkers over winter. Our bunker rake is all the one size prong, it doesn’t go very deep. People think there is not a lot of sand in them, there is plenty of sand, it is just compacted. We’re going to till them up over winter, get the sand going again”.
Trees and Duntryleague go hand in hand. Duntryleague has over 100 elm trees. “The elm beetle has been a big challenge, I was quite worried this time last year.” The elm beetle has caused a lot of problems throughout the whole region. “We began injecting the trees with a substance that means the elm beetle production cycle is effected. It is the larvae that do the damage”. The elm beetle makes the leaves drop prematurely and can kill the trees. “We’ll keep doing that every year. It is definitely better this year. The beetles are still around but the damage has not been as bad”.
This week is “Thank a Superintendent” week. The week is designed to drive awareness of the great contributions golf course Superintendents and their teams make to golf. To Grant and his team, Duntryleague wishes to extend a massive Thank You. You do a terrific job, the quality of our course continues to improve year after year. We are extremely lucky to have such a wonderful facility and such a dedicated and passionate team looking after it.