ALL three 18th hole greens at Gleneagles will be used, two of them as part of the practice facilities, when the Perthshire resort hosts the 2014 Ryder Cup.
New drainage systems are to be installed on the 18th greens of both the King’s and Queen’s Courses to bring them up to scratch for the biennial joust.
The Gleneagles owners have invested heavily over the past few years in making improvements to the PGA Centenary Course, which is staging the three-day match. But the popularity of the resort’s two more established courses remains just as important to their overall business, and work is now being carried out on them ahead of the Ryder Cup.
“In spite of the Ryder Cup coming here, the most heavily played course here is still the King’s Course,” Bernard Murphy, the Gleneagles general manager, told The Scotsman. “It is in our commercial interests to make sure that and the Queen’s Course are presented very well indeed.
“They are all important to us. The past three summers have almost been biblically wet, so the Queen’s is shut at the moment for drainage work.”
It had already been known that the first tee on the King’s Course was going to be utilised as the practice range for the Ryder Cup. And, given their close proximity, it also makes sense that the 18th green on it and the one on the Queen’s Course have also been included in the practice facilities masterplan.
“One of the greens will be for putting and the other for chipping,” revealed Scott Fenwick, the golf courses and estates manager at Gleneagles. “We’ve got to make sure they are reacting similar to the ones on the PGA Centenary Course, so part of the work on King’s and Queen’s this winter is drainage and the two 18th greens are getting full drainage systems put into them. There will be no sub-air [the expensive system that has been installed in every green on the Ryder Cup course], but the grass types are similar and it will be a case of getting them firmed up.”
The PGA Centenary Course greens have firmed up nicely thanks to the sub-air system, and both Murphy and Fenwick were delighted with how players found them during the Johnnie Walker Championship in August. “The feedback we’ve had since putting the sub-air system into the greens has shown that it has done what we were hoping it would,” admitted Murphy.
Fenwick added: “Everything is moving in the right direction with the PGA Centenary Course. The work we did on the bunkers last year, when we put new lining into them, has worked well. We had 50mm of rain in a week recently, but there was not a single issue with any of the bunkers on the course.
“That’s another box ticked, but we are constantly doing things that can help eliminate any possible problems. For instance, we have 60,000 linear metres of sand split drainage going in on the fairways to help improve the drainage.
“We’ve also got one or two tweaks here and there. We’ve got a couple of bunkers to take out on the 13th and a couple of slight alterations to grassy areas, one at the back of the first and two at the back of the 14th.
“The European Tour are also quite keen for us to put in an intermediate tee at the ninth. We took a tee there back 70 yards, but, if the wind blows, it can be quite tough from there. They’d like to have the option of it going from an easy par-5 to a tough par-5.”