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Combatting climate change with sustainable golf course management at Pollok GC

Stuart Tait visited Andy McIntee at Pollok Golf Club to discuss how proactive seeding with UK-bred bentgrasses helped him achieve a more sustainable golf course.

Combatting climate change with sustainable golf course management at Pollok GC Course manager Andy recognises a need for sustainable golf course management and acknowledges golf’s role in addressing climate change.

Getting into greenkeeping

Andy began his greenkeeping apprenticeship in 1996 at Irvine Bogside and worked for South Ayrshire Council at its 54-hole complex in Troon before joining Royal Troon Golf Club in 1999.

“I continued my studies here to complete my level 3 in sports turf management. During my time at Royal Troon, I worked on two Open Championships, a Senior Open Championship, a mid-Amateur Championship and two Amateur Championship,” Andy explains.

As an R&A scholar, Andy volunteered at three additional Open Championship venues. After completing the Future Turf Manager Initiative (FTMI), he moved into his first management role in 2018 as head greenkeeper at Castletown Links on the Isle of Man. In May 2020, he became course manager at Pollok GC.

Tackling climate change with sustainable golf course management

Talking to Stuart, Andy explained why they overseed at Pollok: “I overseed to promote finer grasses in the greens and to give us more consistent and truer surfaces. The loss of fungicides means the most effective way to alleviate disease pressure and outcompete Poa annua is to overseed with more manageable grass species. My background is in Links golf, so keeping chemical and fertiliser inputs lower and encouraging better species suits my management style.

“Climate change also plays a part, with potentially less intervention for pests and diseases, less sand to use and less water available. Overseeding now will stand us in a better position for the future to have more sustainable UK-bred bentgrasses.” Andy reveals.

“Pollok is a forward-thinking club on track to be more sustainable and working towards the R&A 2030 to mitigate the impact of climate change, resource constraints and regulation on golf course condition and playability.”

Overseeding in spring and autumn

Discussing his process, Andy revealed that he prefers to overseed golf greens in spring and autumn. He highlighted the benefits of overseeding in spring and overseeding in autumn.

“This is because I feel we get a better germination rate due to a higher mowing height, less frequency of mowing with more rolling in the regime, and less foot traffic from golfers. All this combined, I feel aids the establishment of bentgrass seed.”

Andy carries out spot seeding in the summer when the weather allows: “The club has recently invested in upgrading our irrigation system, so this will help me control moisture levels in the summer months, and ultimately, we may overseed in summer too with water now readily available.”

Outcompeting Poa annua with a sustainable golf course management strategy   

Speaking to Stuart, Andy revealed there wasn’t a consistent overseeding programme before he started at Pollok. “We have decided to increase overseeding due to the loss of pesticides and fungicides, which will assist us in outcompeting Poa annua in a more sustainable manner.”

Andy will continue with this strategy and increase the amount of bentgrass on the greens yearly, which will help him create a more sustainable golf course in the long term.

Preferred application method

Speaking of techniques, Andy discussed his preferred golf course overseeding methods with Stuart. “We use our dyna-seeders on the greens triplex. We feel this is the most direct way to get bentgrass seed into the greens here at Pollok. These have little impact on the surfaces, and we can get around the course quickly.

“I sometimes use a handheld tool to create a seedbed on worn areas and use a plastic bottle with holes in the top to get seed into the holes. Greenkeepers are very innovative!”

Having used Vredo disc-seeder in his past roles, Andy advised that it is a great device to get seed-to-soil contact.

Overseeding UK-bred bentgrass seed in a sustainable manner

When asked which seed he prefers for overseeding greens, Andy said his go-to blend is AberMajesty browntop bentgrass seed.

“We use AberMajesty browntop bentgrass from Germinal. I have done the research and spoken to the reps at Germinal, and we feel this is the best blend for our site here in Glasgow. The fact they are UK-bred bentgrasses means we know they will work in this climate, even at a wetter site in some months.”

Andy explained why AberMajesty has been their go-to grass seed mixture for golf greens: “We have always had good germination rates in the three seasons we have used AberMajesty. The mixture has helped us increase sward density on the greens, and this has given us a great platform to refine the surfaces with certain maintenance practices.

“The golf course is busier than ever, but the bentgrass continues to compete so well with the Poa, and the surfaces continue to improve. Overseeding has become so important for us to manage our greens surfaces in a sustainable manner.”

Please contact our experts for advice on sustainable golf course management.