Q&A with Richard Bell, course manager at Dullatur Golf Club

By Alistair November 1, 2021 10:07 Updated

Bell talks about maintaining the course during a period including the pandemic and significant climatic issues.

Can you give a brief description of your background and how long have you now been at Dullatur Golf Club?

I started my greenkeeping career at Dullatur Golf Club as a summer worker in July 2002, after the summer was over my course manager Lachlan Kennedy offered me an apprentice role which I was happy to take as I knew that I enjoyed the job, and it was a good fit for someone like myself who has always had a keen interest in playing golf and watching it on the television.

I was a junior member at Dullatur before starting my career there and was falling in the love with the game at the same time Tiger Woods was coming onto the scene. A very exciting time indeed to be a golf fan! I attended GOSTA training in Glasgow and gained my SVQ Level 2 and 3 along with my spraying and chainsaw certificates. Lachlan then moved on to Kilmacolm Golf Club in around 2004 and Robert Fleming took over the course manager position. Lachlan and Robert were both very good greenkeepers and I very much enjoyed my time working underneath them. Robert then retired in 2008 and Thomas Adamson was appointed the course manager and I was lucky enough to be picked as his deputy at the age of 24. Thomas then moved on in 2014 and I was appointed the course manager in June 2014 at 28. It was a fantastic but challenging opportunity and one I have enjoyed ever since taking the position. I am now 19 years at Dullatur, seven years as the course manager. Dullatur has 36 holes, a putting green, a bowling green and a practice area.

The climate and the pandemic have presented challenges this year. How have you kept abreast of course maintenance?

I think every course manager will agree that the last 18 months have been very challenging. We have gone from reduced teams due to Covid and furlough into what has been very challenging weather conditions.

The winter was very harsh – many courses experienced winter kill and we were no different. Then the spring was very very cold in April and May. Thereafter we went straight into a very warm, dry summer so therefore we have had little ‘ideal’ growing conditions to work with. We are lucky and have a fully automatic irrigation system on all greens and 23 tees. The tees that did not have irrigation this season were very difficult to manage and suffered badly from dry patch.

We have managed to gain some recovery on them before heading into the winter by carrying out aeration, top-dressing and over-seeding tetraploid perennial ryegrass. The golf club gained 250 members through 2020 and this of course brought challenges, albeit welcome ones, you could say as it was great to see many golf clubs of our size doing well through the pandemic. We had to increase the tee size on a few holes after the summer of 2020 due to the sheer volume of golf being played. Particularly par three tees were a problem, and we have increased tees on three separate holes.

What projects will you be undertaking to improve the course over the winter period and what are your expectations for 2022?  

We are installing irrigation in various tees this winter to try and be better prepared for the hot dry summers if we experience them again next season. Fingers crossed we do! We will be carrying out renovations to our bunkers on both courses. We are carrying out changes to the second hole on The Carrickstone and have been working alongside Will Swan, our golf course architect. We have houses down the right-hand side of the second and have had to construct a new tee following Will’s safety report. We are now on phase two this winter and will be installing a ditch and planting gorse and trees 35 metres away from the boundary of the course to force golfers left away from the houses.

You invested in Lastec XR700 rotary trailer mower. What were your reasons for selecting this particular piece of kit, how often are you using it and for what areas, what level of quality in cut does it deliver and what time savings have you experienced?

I had a look at several articulators and decided the XR700 would be best suited to our needs.

The XR700 allows us to cut all the rough on both courses and the practice area in four days. It provides a uniform quality of cut and does so with great ease.

We are a very hilly site, and the tractor manages to transport the XR700 around both courses with very little problems.

The articulator has been a good addition to the machinery fleet and will be for many years to come.

Who were the biggest influences in your career path to date and why, what are the things that you enjoy most about your job, what do you do to continually advance yourself and what are you most proud of and how does this make feel?

Lachlan, Bobby and Thomas all had an influence in my career collectively. I gained valuable experience from each individual and thank them for spending the time training me when I started in greenkeeping. My fellow greenkeepers at Dullatur over the years with whom I have shared thoughts on how we achieve the best results possible with what we have at our disposal. I recently volunteered at the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and enjoyed experiencing what goes into the preparation of a major event. This was my first-time volunteering, and I will be doing it again at the next opportunity.

I enjoy many things about my job. One of the best feelings is of course seeing the golf course in its best condition throughout the summer period. From how the greens are performing to simple things like the latest fertiliser application coming to life. Thinking back to winter projects and remembering how difficult it was to carry out a project and then seeing it benefit how the course is playing or looking is always great. Seeing greens staff take great pride in their work and sharing their results with myself is always a highlight of my day.

I am constantly learning as every greenkeeper is and it’s important to continue to gain as much knowledge as possible throughout your career. Education comes in many forms in this industry and it’s important to always continue to learn.


By Alistair November 1, 2021 10:07 Updated

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