Penn State Students Learn About Turf Management in the United Kingdom

May 27, 2014 in 4-year, Articles

By Dr. Pete Landschoot 

Last week, seven Penn State students participated in a new course designed to provide experience in how turfgrasses are managed in the United Kingdom.  The course involved weekly lectures during the 2014 spring semester on the history, design, and management of golf courses and athletic fields in England and Scotland.  It culminated in an 8-day trip to the United Kingdom to visit several high profile turf venues.

Upon arrival, Penn State faculty (Kaminski, Landschoot, McNitt, and Petrunak) and students drove to the Manchester United training facility to visit their massive complex and learn about renovation and upkeep of the perennial ryegrass soccer fields.  Later the same day we drove east to Bingley, England to tour the research plots and laboratories of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

The next day involved a long drive north; stopping briefly at the ruins of a Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall, and then onto Turnberry Golf Club to tour the Ailsa Course (site of four Open Championships) with Martin Lothian (Head Greenkeeper) and Euan Grant (Golf Courses and Estates Manager).  Turnberry was a great introduction to the design and management of a world-class links golf course.  We also received a brief greeting from Turnberry’s new owner, Donald Trump, as he surveyed the course at the same time.


Fine Fescue Sward at Turnberry Golf Club

Continuing north, our group spent the night in the historic town of Balloch, and then onto Loch Lomond Golf Club the next morning to meet with Head Greenkeeper, David Cole.  The Loch Lomond tour began with an overview of the history of the property, construction of the course, and the elaborate drainage system installed to handle the 70+ inches of rainfall that occurs in Western Scotland each year.  A walking tour of the course revealed high quality browntop/fescue greens and fairways surrounded by pristine natural areas.  The tour ended at the ruins of a 15th century castle, which stands guard over the 18th green.

After leaving Loch Lomond, we traveled north to the coastal town of Oban for dinner and a much needed rest.  The next morning, our group drove east through the Scottish Highlands to visit the magnificent and historic Sterling Castle.  After lunch, we took a short drive to Gleneagles Golf Resort to visit the PGA Centenary Course, host venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup.  Head Greenkeeper Steven Chappell provided a first rate tour of the course and discussed the extensive preparations being made for this major tournament.  The condition of the course was impeccable, as were the views of the surrounding hills and countryside.  Later in the day we arrived in St. Andrews and checked into the Russell Hotel; only one block away from St. Andrews Old Course.


18th Green of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles

Although Saturday was a “free day” for students, we spent a couple of hours visiting with Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping, St. Andrews Links Trust, and toured the maintenance facility for the six golf courses that make up St. Andrews Links Trust.

Sunday began with an early morning walk around St. Andrews Old Course with Course Manager, Gordon McKie. Students received an excellent presentation on the challenges and responsibilities of maintaining the world’s oldest and most famous golf course.  Among the major challenges are turf wear and compaction from thousands of golfers and curiosity seekers; restoring bunkers without changing the original design; and maintaining greens, tees, fairways, and roughs without interfering with the golfing experience of visitors from around the world.

Sunday afternoon was spent with Jon Methven, Interim Head Greenkeeper, walking the back nine holes of The Duke’s Golf Course, one of Scotland’s finest heathland courses.  Perched on a hilltop overlooking the town of St. Andrews, this course’s rugged bunkers, undulating fairways and greens, and natural appearance provides interest and a challenging golfing experience.

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The Duke’s Golf Course

The last day of the trip included a long drive north to Aberdeen to visit the spectacular and controversial Trump International Golf Links.  Upon arrival, our group was greeted by Penn State Alum and Head Greenkeeper, John Bambury.  John gave an interesting overview of the construction and grow-in of the course, and then took us on tour of this world-class facility.  We were all impressed with the design of the course, the excellent fescue fairways and greens that meander in and out of tall dunes, as well as the views of the North Sea and coastline from elevated tees.  It’s easy to see why Trump International Golf Links is ranked among the finest golf courses in the world.

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Trump International Golf Links

Our group traveled back to the U.S. on Tuesday, May 20.  All course participants, including the faculty, learned a great deal about golf course and sports turf management in the United Kingdom.  We also gained an appreciation of the history and culture of England and Scotland.  Our group would like to acknowledge and thank our hosts for taking time from their busy schedules to provide excellent tours of their facilities.  Hopefully, we will offer another international turf course in the future.


INTAG 499 Students Pose on Swilken Bridge at St. Andrews (Michael Cocino, Evan Fowler, Justin Eckert, Peter Daley, Kirk Bender, Evan Mascitti, and Alex DeHaven)