Edinburgh, Scot-land: The 2014 Ryder Cup began on Friday morning but the countdown to the tournament between the United States and Europe started a decade ago for this year’s host, Gleneagles Hotel.
Gleneagles, in Perthshire, was awarded the event in 2001 and every year since 2004 the five-star resort has made major investments to structurally improve its hotel and spa facilities and update its PGA Centenary Course, where the Ryder Cup is being played.
“It’s been a major project and long process,” said Steve Chappell, Head Greenkeeper of Gleneagles’ Centenary Course, on the extensive renovation to get the course ready for the Ryder Cup.
Chappell, who took up his post at Gleneagles in October of 2011, says significant changes have been made to several of the Centenary Course holes in preparation for the tournament.
For example, hole 12 was shortened from a par-five to a 445-yard par-four and hole 14 was extended from a par-three into a drivable 320-yard par-four.
Additionally, Gleneagles consulted with Jack Nicklaus on how to modernise the course. “Technology has come a long way since the PGA Centenary Course opened in 1993 with distance and ball fly, so Nicklaus really wanted to make the golf course more of a modern-day challenge,” said Chappell.
Following Nicklaus’ recommendations, Gleneagles completely rebuilt hole 18, installed a large lake alongside hole nine, rebuilt all of the bunkers, and re-contoured the green on hole six.
The Nicklaus-inspired renovation took place in 2011, and involved shifting about 50,000 tons of earth, and upgrading the course’s irrigation system with Toro DT Series sprinklers.
With most of the major construction concluded, Chappell’s recent focus has been on getting the course ready for tournament play. “This year’s focus has been about turf conditioning and creating a consistent playing surface,” said Chappell.
To ensure the fairways are firm and dry, Chappell and his team have applied more than 10,000 tons of sand to the fairways. This will give the course a 50-millimetre sand profile on top of what is already there.
In order to handle the extra turf maintenance required before and during the Ryder Cup, Chappell has expanded his current crew of 20 greenkeepers on the Centenary Course to a team of around 70-90 people. This includes greenkeepers from Gleneagles’ two other courses, and about 40-50 volunteer greenkeepers from courses all over the world.
With Gleneagles recently extending their partnership with Toro as the exclusive provider of turf maintenance equipment, Chappell has found that his fleet of Toro equipment provides the precision, quality of cut and consistency required to meet the demands of the world’s best golfers playing in the tournament.
To create top playing conditions, Chappell and his team are using Toro’s Greensmaster Flex 21s for the greens, Greensmaster 1600s for the tees, Reelmaster 5410s for the fairways and Reelmaster 3100s for the intermediates and surrounds.
They also rely on a fleet of Workman MDX and HDX utility vehicles, ProPass topdressers, and ProCore 648 and 1298 aerators.
“We run a fleet of Toro equipment here at Gleneagles across the resort and three golf properties,” said Chappell. “Their quality is fantastic, both in the machines themselves and the quality of cut they deliver. Toro machines always perform at the level we expect, and we couldn’t speak more highly of the support we get from Lely UK. Toro consistently delivers what we require.”
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