0 The greenkeeping team at Hillside prepare for the Betfred British Masters

With just over a month to go until the start of the Betfred British Masters, Chris Ball, Links Manager at Hillside Golf Club gives Lee Williams a brief update on preparations and we speak to a selection of team members to get their thoughts.

Chris commented: "The greens have reached a standard the Tour specified and, at the minute, we are mowing at 5mm with John Deere 220B mowers. We have put a lot of light dustings of sand on the greens (no more than four tonnes a time) and have applied iron only (without Nitrogen) to avoid disease and help combat the Poa coming through. We aren't using drag mats but choosing to hand brush instead."

"We have been working on timings for the tees, in terms of how many staff it will take to cut them daily during the event, along with shaping them, adding new edges to the sides and lining them up with the hole. All tees, fairways, semi-roughs and new greens runoffs have been sprayed with Consolidate to promote a greener, stronger leaf."

"The Tour will revisit over the next week to inspect all bunkers sand, depth and shape" Chris continued. "The type of rakes caddies use on each day of the tournament are really important; if a player uses a bunker, the caddie has to rake it and can be fined if this is done incorrectly. As a result, we need to ensure the bunkers are in the correct state each morning. I have a feeling we might have to scoop out some of the sand as, this winter, we added eight tonnes - which could mean there is too much. The Tour have eluded they think they're a bit flat, so this will need to be rectified. We have also been working on mowing in walkways for the players, as we have never had them before."

"I can't wait for the tournament to start now. It's been hard work, but it's also been good fun. A big part of getting the course ready for such an event comes down to the team here and they've all done such a great job so far."

We spoke to a selection of the team to get their thoughts on preparations for the event, which can be viewed in this video.

Firstly, Adam Smith (23), Greenkeeper, who has been at Hillside for six years.

How did you feel when Chris revealed the club was going to hold the Betfred British Masters?

It was very exciting and an excellent opportunity for the club and the local area. I'm so happy I've got to experience this, as we have only ever had qualifiers and smaller competitions since I've worked here.

Have you been involved in an event like this in the past?

No, this will be my first one and it will be great for the CV.

What challenges have you faced so far in getting the course ready?

A big part of my role has been overseeding after the heatwave last summer; as you can imagine, there were a lot of burnt of areas around the course. I have played a significant role in helping the greens get back to their best by doing a lot of hand mowing. We have done a lot of work across the entire course and we have all played a big part in it.

What's the best part of preparing for a big championship event?

The excitement of knowing the TV cameras will be there. My work is going to be on display for all my friends and family to see.

Have you learnt anything new since preparations have begun?

Yes. I have been doing a lot of path work which I have never done before. I've learnt a lot more about the science behind how grass grows and, with us doing a lot of overseeding, I have got a much better understanding of different cultivars of seed.

Are you looking forward to working the event?

It's something new with some big names playing at the event - it should be good.

What will be the biggest challenges you face when prepping the course on the days of the championship?

The pressure we will face to get the whole course prepped on time. But, we will just all have to keep cool heads.

What will your responsibilities be the week of the championship?

I will be looking after the 18th green, cutting by hand with a John Deere so, I will have to keep my lines as straight as possible. Eddie from the European Tour says he will measure the width of each line to make sure they are equal. No pressure there then lol!

Are you looking forward to working alongside the volunteer greenkeepers?

It will be nice to meet a lot of new faces. We have got people coming in to help from all over the country.

Left: Adam Smith Right: Craig McKenna

Craig McKenna (33) Greenkeeper - twelve years served at Hillside

How did you feel when Chris revealed the club is going to hold the British Masters?

I was so excited as it's great news for the team and the club. It will bring a lot of attention which is good for the local area.

Have you been involved in an event like this in the past?

Not a European Tour event, but we have had British Masters Open Qualifying, Home Internationals and quite a few other things, but nothing as big as this!

What challenges have you faced so far in getting the course ready?

Just the weather mainly. We had a scorching summer so there was a lot of damage to the fairways and it's all been about getting them back into top condition ready for May.

What's the best part of preparing for a big championship event?

The banter and the excitement everyone has towards it. The fact the event will be shown live on Sky for everyone to see is definitely something to look forward to.

Have you learnt anything new since preparations have begun?

The Tour want things done in a very specific way for the tournament so attention to detail is key. We have changed the way we cut the fairways and surrounds and learning why is interesting.

Are you looking forward to working the event?

I can't wait! Maybe not the early mornings, but we will all be part of it.

What will be the biggest challenges you face when prepping the course on the days of the championship?

Getting here for 4:30am will be a challenge in itself! Seriously though, getting everything done before the first tee time at 7:30am, with it being a two tee start - that will be the biggest challenge.

What will your responsibilities be the week of the championship?

I'm in charge of cutting seven fairways that week, with the help of two volunteer greenkeepers from Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

Are you looking forward to working alongside the volunteer greenkeepers?

It should be good banter between us over the week, but at the same time an excellent opportunity to gain some more ideas and knowledge from other greenkeepers around the country.

Left: Robert Doyle Right: Richard Hodge

Robert Doyle (46) Assistant Greenkeeper - four years at Hillside

How did you feel when Chris revealed the club is going to hold the British Masters?

I was delighted, it wasn't even muted. Obviously, Tommy Fleetwood decided on the spur of the moment he wanted to do it and it was kept under wraps for a little while. I was shocked by how little time we had to prepare but what a great event to be involved in.

Have you been involved in an event like this in the past?

No, just the qualifying competitions that were here for the Open Championship in the last few years.

What challenges have you faced so far in getting the course ready?

It's been a big challenge considering the summer we had last year. There's been a lot of intense work on the fairways and many other areas around the course that were needed. We have had to cut back on the more laborious tasks to concentrate all our efforts on getting the more intensive work of getting the grass back to where it should be.

What's the best part of preparing for a big championship event?

The anticipation and the excitement. When we were given the tournament, we had six months to prepare, and it seemed like a long time back then. That time has flown by so fast and, now it's almost upon us, I'm looking forward to the week of the event now - it will be really special.

Have you learnt anything new since preparations have begun?

I have learned that it needs a lot of co-ordination; from people inside and outside of the club coming together to share different ideas. The amount of machinery that's required to get the course prepped for the event and the help from other companies is unbelievable. It has been great to see all this come together.

Are you looking forward to working the event?

I cannot wait. It's going to be tiring here all day, but it's a week out of your life that you're never going to forget.

What will be the biggest challenges you face when prepping the course on the days of the championship?

Getting off the course in time, but we will have plenty of volunteer staff to help. If the weather isn't good that will have an impact on things, but fingers crossed the sun shines on us all week.

What will your responsibilities be the week of the championship?

As far as I know, I might be sharing the responsibility of cutting the 18th green with Adam, as well as a few other greens.

Are you looking forward to working alongside the volunteer greenkeepers?

We had the Ladies Amateur event last year and we had three or four volunteers for that. A lad came over from Ireland, another from down south and they're coming back again so I'm looking forward to seeing them. In addition, there will be twenty-eight others and I don't know where everybody's going to go? It's going to be mayhem, but I'm looking forward to it.

Richard Hodge (33), Greenkeeper, twelve years at Hillside

How did you feel when Chris revealed the club is going to hold the British Masters?

Absolutely excited for the club, greenstaff and everyone associated with holding a major tournament as it is.

Have you been involved in an event like this in the past?

We have done the Open Qualifiers, Ladies Championship and British Amateur Championship but this one is a huge event to be involved in.

What challenges have you faced so far in getting the course ready?

I have been on the fairways quite a bit, getting them pristine ready for the tournament. Done a lot of tree felling and thinning out to make the course look a lot better visually.

What's the best part of preparing for a big championship event?

The excitement of the players coming to play the course, and it will be interesting to see what their thoughts are on how it is performing.

Have you learnt anything new since preparations have begun?

How we can adapt to different jobs in a short space of time, as we have only had six months to get it ready. We used to cut the semi-rough with a rotary mower but, after advice from the European Tour, we are now cutting with a cylinder mower - which is a new experience for me.

Are you looking forward to working the event?

I can't wait. I imagine it will be tiring but it will be great to be involved, and it won't look bad on the CV either.

What will be the biggest challenges you face when prepping the course on the days of the championship?

Getting up for work with the early starts. As long as everyone works as a team, I'm sure we will get through it just fine.

What will your responsibilities be the week of the championship?

I will have seven fairways to cut with the help of the volunteer greenkeepers.

Are you looking forward to working alongside the volunteer greenkeepers?

It will be a good laugh I imagine and a good experience for us all. I'll hopefully learn a few new things along the way.

You can follow Hillside's journey to the Betfred British Masters by viewing these further articles:

Exclusive interview - Dreams do come true at Hillside Golf Club

Machinery and mechanic talk as Hillside Golf Club prepare for the Betfred British Masters 2019

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