Belgian FEGGA-student in Sweden

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FEGGA Scholarship Programme
In the past 10 years I’ve had the privilege to gain experience in several positions in turfgrass management. From greenkeeper to head greenkeeper and field manager. So why start “studying” again?
For starters I’ve never stopped studying in the first place. I’ve followed several online and offline courses, took part in seminars and meetings and read many books. Of course that was all in my spare time. Here in Sweden we’re talking about working and learning every day from one of the top guys in our profession and that’s an important difference. Being part of top team on a daily basis on a high end course provides a ton of information and experience. This way I can improve my greenkeeping skills while also gaining insight on how the courses are run. The focus of the program is on course management and they are completely open about the things they do here. On top of all this, there are seminars and excursions to complete the package.

Meet the team
The top guy I was speaking about is Bevan Tattersall from England. He worked his way up at The Belfry to course manager and was there during the Ryder Cups of 1993 (as greenkeeper) and 2002 (golf course manager). When I think of all the big names that fought their battles on “his” greens (Ballesteros, Faldo, Woods,…), it’s hard to realise this man wants to teach us everything about greenkeeping he knows. In 2005 Bevan moved with his family to Sweden to become course manager at Barsebäck Golf & Country Club (Solheim Cup 2003), which was in the running for the Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for him the Ryder Cup didn’t come to Sweden, but he’s still got over 40 professional tournaments in total on his record. Finally, in 2018 the new owners of Kristianstads Golfklubb convinced him to move to the other side of Sweden and that’s where we are today.
The team Bevan has assembled consists of 2 young head greenkeepers: his eldest son Ben(jamin) on the West Course and Niklas Johansson on the East Course. There are 7 full time greenkeepers in total that work during the entire year. Because the courses in Sweden close during winter there’s a lot less work to be done. The full time greenkeepers work less hours during winter and more in the growing season. To get all that work done once the grass starts growing, the team expands with another 10 to 15 seasonal greenkeepers in spring. No luxury if they want to fulfil the high expectations of the club…

Kristianstads Golfklubb
The club consists of two golf courses: the East Course is the championship course and was ranked 3rd by Golf Digest in 2020 out of over 480 Swedish golf courses. The golf club was founded in 1924 but moved in 1938 to it’s current location in Åhus, a coastal village 20 km south of Kristianstad. The last renovation was finished in 2016 and was carried out with the help of the architects Pierre Fulke (Ryder Cup 2002) and other former professional golfer Adam Mednickson.
The same duo signed for the renovation that’s currently in progress on the West Course. The first holes of this course were originally added to the golf club in 1980. It is seen as more accessible and suitable for all levels of play. The renewed course will open again on July 1st and it’s expected this will be a top-20 course in Sweden as well. For us, the FEGGA-students, it’s very interesting to participate in the final parts of construction and to finish the the grow-in. Given the high expectations we will be putting a lot of work into this in the coming time.

“You haven’t seen any snow mould until you get to Sweden.” – Bevan Tattersall
Beginning of March, about a month before our arrival, heavy snowfall came over Åhus. This triggered a large attack of snow mould, especially on the greens of the East Course. Chemical control is very limited in Sweden and is sparsely used. In this case it was necessary on the old greens, that mainly consist of Poa annua, to not lose them completely. Our first weeks on the course revolved around the recovery of the greens. Mechanical treatments included overseeding Agrostis stolonifera with a spikerseeder and light applications of sand. After this the damaged spots got spiked and overseeded manually as well. Seaweed and other biostimulants are used to speed up recovery some more. All we need now is some higher temperature but up here that’s easier said than done.

Quality first
Apart from some exceptions, we’ve barely reached 5° in our first few weeks. We’ve had frost almost every morning since our arrival. Not what you want when you need a speedy recovery of the greens. The greenkeepers are only allowed on the course when all frost is gone. And if the greenkeepers have to wait to get started, the time the course opens changes as well. This is decided by the course manager, who has a direct line with the reception desk. If a golfer booked a tee time at 8:00 and the course opens at 8:30 due to frost, the 8:00 tee time is cancelled. This way they try to keep the pressure off of the greenkeepers and make sure quality comes before quantity… and greenfees.
The past few days it’s getting warmer and the expectations are that the grass growth will increase soon. We are looking forward to get the course in the coming month to it’s top level. We’ve also got some interesting seminars on course construction and fertilisers coming up. This has been a long introduction already so I’ll wrap it up for now. Only thing left for me is to send you warm greetings from a cold country and hej så länge!

Michel Van Uffelen was head greenkeeper at Golfclub Beveren and Koksijde Golf in Belgium. In the past four years he was responsible for the pitch of the Belgian national stadium and several professional football clubs. Since April he works and studies in Sweden through the FEGGA scholarship programme.

Photos:
Cutting and moving turf during West Course renovation.
Frost almost every morning in April.
Bunkers are raked manually each day. Often the first job in the morning during frost delays.
Instructions on how to instal new sprinklers during West Course renovation.

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