Royal Sydney gets air

In late 2017, Royal Sydney Golf Club completed the construction of a unique trial golf green as it gets prepared to undergo a major course redevelopment in the coming years. The purposely-specified profile has been designed and constructed to evaluate two bentgrass varieties across two different rootzone profiles, but it is what’s beneath the surface that makes this green unlike any other in the country.

In what is a first for Australia, the Royal Sydney trial green has incorporated SubAir Systems’ (USA) technology of surface and sub-surface aeration and moisture management. The green represents the fully integrated SubAir Systems installation to comprise a permanently installed, bellow-ground blower and vacuum pump and computer unit for a golf green in Australia.

The trial green had its origins not long after Royal Sydney Golf Club announced in August 2016 that it had appointed leading international golf course architect Gil Hanse to oversee changes to the course. Hanse has been charged with revitalising both the Championship course and the nine-hole Centenary course in what will be one of the most significant overhauls the club has ever witnessed in its long and proud history.

As with any impending redevelopment comes the opportunity to examine new methods of construction, new turf varieties, new profile materials and new management practices, all with the distinct goal of providing the best possible surfaces for the members. With this at the forefront of his mind, then Royal Sydney course superintendent Steve Marsden initiated the design and construction concept of a trial golf green, with the plan to evaluate and then implement the most successful combination of grass, soil and technology across the club’s two golf courses.

“The Championship Course putting greens have performed very well, however, we wanted to be able to provide firmer putting surfaces and improve moisture retention,” says Marsden, who left the club in late January 2018 to return to his native New Zealand. “Pure Distinction and an A1/A4 blend were the two bentgrass cultivars that we selected to trial.”

For this ground-breaking project, Royal Sydney appointed Melbourne-based consulting agronomist John Neylan to document the physical and performance specifications of the rootzone sands and the green’s profile following an exhaustive investigation and evaluation process of potential sand types.

“The club has invested considerable research, time and money into this project to maximise the knowledge and performance outcome,” says Marsden. “The original intention was to construct this trial green with a University of California profile because of the natural sand throughout the course. However, wanting to utilise SubAir Systems technology with its perforated, internal pipework required sourcing, testing and installation of a clean gravel over the entire sub-base and an envelope around all internal pipework.”

Golf Shapes (NSW) was appointed to construct the trial green, manage the production and quality control processes as well as to procure the associated internal (perforated) and external pipework and fittings required for the installation of the SubAir Systems unit. The club imported the SubAir Systems main pump and blower unit direct from the US manufacturer, with Royal Sydney’s Turf Care team installing the internal and external drainage pipework and external irrigation pipes, fittings and sprinklers.

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