Overseeding Brings Benefits to St Andrews

Overseeding strategy offers big advantages at the Home of Golf


On the Old Course at St Andrews

The playing experience at the Old Course has to be second to none. Whether you’re an Open Champion, an R&A member, a yearly ticket holder, or one of our many domestic or overseas visitors, it should be the experience of a lifetime.

Under pressure

Whatever perfection is, and if it can ever be achieved in greenkeeping, is a matter of opinion and the subject of ongoing debate.


What is certain is that in any process, optimal results are achieved when components complement each other and work in harmony at just the right time. Unpredictable Mother Nature plays a significant role in course conditions, but new technologies and innovations help greenkeeping teams refine processes to enable small, but important steps to be taken in their quest for high quality, year round playing surfaces.


The challenge 

On the Old Course at St Andrews, overseeding greens is an especially challenging task. With 50,000 rounds played each year, it is in constant use by golfers, caddies and streams of tourists who make the pilgrimage to walk the iconic course when it’s closed to play on Sundays. There’s a vast area to cover, some 30,000m2, and windows of opportunity are short. The venue’s autumn calendar includes back‐to‐back R&A fixtures in September followed by the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships which runs into early October, preventing Course Manager Gordon McKie and his team from carrying out maintenance when weather conditions are ideal.


Gordon said: “On our double greens, there are inevitable variances in the playing surface, so we are aiming to improve consistency as golfers move across the area. To achieve this, and to ensure the surfaces remain in excellent condition all year round, we’re improving our species composition to increase our levels of fescue, while also introducing bentgrasses where Poa annua is dominant. With continual footfall, overseeding is an essential restorative and regenerative task, but more so here than at possibly any other golf venue, we need it to be frequent, swift and effective, with minimal disruption. There are two key factors that we have found make a significant difference – the performance of the seed we use and the effectiveness of our seeding operations.”


The UK Grass Experts help out with the best grass varieties for golf 

Dr David Greenshields at Barenbrug UK has worked closely with Gordon and Director of Greenkeeping, Sandy Reid, for a number of years. He explained how their seed strategy is benefitting the Old Course greens. “They are being overseeded with fescue and our All Bent product. Bentgrass tends to outperform fescue coming out of winter into spring. It continues to grow a little in colder conditions and generally delivers better year‐round surfaces. Cultivars Charles and BarKing complement each other. Charles is relatively new and has excellent shoot density and a very fine leaf. It establishes really well under rigorous maintenance regimes where seedlings are under significant pressure. BarKing has excellent winter performance and disease tolerance.


“We provide superb‐quality seed bred to perform under the toughest conditions. Getting bentgrass to germinate is easy enough, but these seedlings are under serious pressure from day one, and it is vital they are given the best opportunity to establish and build resilience.”


Great equipment
The other major contributing factor to recent overseeding success has been the addition of a Wiedenmann Terra Float Air to the St Andrews fleet, which has allowed them to increase the number of times they overseed without disrupting the surfaces.


“The pneumatic air seeder gives us a really good seed bed,” Gordon explains. “It has very fine rollers and calibration is extremely accurate. It aerates or loosens the ground with a rotary spiker, then the air flow and deflector system meters seed uniformly and accurately into the holes. The brush and roller combination incorporates the topdressing and it leaves a very clean surface.


“This approach and the continual advice and support we receive from the experts at Barenbrug and Wiedenmann gives us confidence that the full value of every bag of seed is realised. The playing experience at the Old Course has to be second to none. Whether you’re an Open Champion, an R&A member, a yearly ticket holder, or one of our many domestic or overseas visitors, it should be the experience of a lifetime so we cannot, and will not, compromise on quality. This process delivers both short and long‐term benefits. Our teams have observed excellent results on other courses. We’ve only been seeding this way on the Old Course since June, but early indications are that it could be a game‐changer, enabling us to optimise conditions and revenue in the years to come.”