IN CONTROL: Greenkeeper Tim Peterson is helping the Riverside Golf Club maintain its status as one of the most picturesque courses in Sunraysia. Despite the recent heatwaves, Tim has the Nichols Point venue in top condition ahead of this weekend’s Summer Open. Photos: KIERAN MANGAN
By MITCH RODD
SUNRAYSIA is blessed with some of the most picturesque golf courses in regional Australia.
These horticultural venues don’t happen by accident, however. It takes a myriad of time, effort, water and luck to make a course picture-perfect.
The region’s hot and dry climate always presents an extra challenge for those maintaining the local clubs. The extreme heat across this summer has ensured greenkeepers have needed to spend extra hours assessing the health of the grass and taking care of any issues that may arise.
Punters can often be deterred from having a hit during unsavoury weather spells, however Riverside Golf Club’s fortunes have fared much better, with an increase in memberships and record entry numbers for recent events.
Much of this can be attributed to club greenkeeper Tim Peterson as the outstanding condition of the course is credited with bringing golfers back time and time again.
It can be ‘hard yakka’ at the best of times, and even more so when major events, such as this weekend’s Riverside Summer Open, come around.
THE role of a greenkeeper can be tough. Hours of planning and preparation can be thrown into chaos if Mother Nature decides to exert her influence.
The main judgement point of any golf course is the condition of all 18 holes, and especially the greens.
As Tim Peterson put it, “No-one says ‘How good was that rough?’ after they play a round.”
Tim served his greenkeeper apprenticeship under the guise of Glen ‘Aussie’ Cumming at Coomealla Golf Club, where he worked for six years. Tim has now been in charge at Riverside for just over a year.
Tim said he would spend anywhere towards 50 hours a week at the club, especially during the hot weather, to keep an eye out for any potential warning signs of stress in the grass.
“You have to get on top of any issues as soon as possible,” he said.
“It can be a matter of hours between grass dying or keeping it alive. You’ve got to be wary and be looking out for signs almost before they happen.
“I was always taught that the damage done in three hours can take three weeks to repair.
“If greens are stressed they tend to turn a blue colour. Blue patches can show up due to tree roots sucking the moisture out of the grass.
“The greens are the point of which a course is judged the most harshly. The condition of the greens is always a talking point with golfers in the club house afterwards.”
Many a backyard lawn has suffered from dehydration over recent months, so imagine trying to keep an entire golf course green.
Water usage is not an issue for Riverside, however, with plenty of stores in the club’s possession to keep the course in top shape.
“About 95 percent of our watering is done overnight, and if it’s stinking hot we can use up to as much as 1.4 megalitres a night,” Tim said. For comparison, an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds about 2.5 megalitres.
“The fairways get water for about 45 minutes a night at the moment, but as the weather cools down that time will reduce,” he said.
“In a week like this ahead of a major event, I’ll do a lot more of a clean up, doing a lot more with the whipper snipper and edging around the fairways and the sponsorship signs. I like to have the course at 90 percent at all times, and ahead of major events you go that little bit more to make it look in top condition.”
While it is hard work, Tim is proud of his efforts while overlooking the venue from the clubhouse.
“You’ve got to (be proud of the effort you put in). Once you don’t you may as well go to another job. It’s the same as any line of work, you have to have pride in what you produce to get the best out of yourself.”
RIVERSIDE Men’s Captain, Brendan Rowse, said the club has “a real buzz about it” and hopes it can continue on its upward trajectory.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the number of entries we have been receiving for events,” he said.
“A lot of this is to do with the condition of the course, of which Tim does an amazing job, and us coming up with new ideas to promote the game and the club.
“The heat has brought a lot of challenges for Tim, but from day one he’s done a magnificent job. Tim would be here up to 50 hours a week, but he also has a good group of volunteer members that help out when needed as well.
“There are plenty of new faces around the club at the moment. The increase showed in our Australia Day Ambrose where we had a record 140 players. We’re also looking at potentially 200 golfers for the Summer Open this weekend, which would be a record.
“We like to create a relaxed atmosphere and we just want people to come out and play, no matter their ability, experience or age.
“We’re looking at adding more and more social events on the calendar during the year. The availability of direct debit memberships has really made a difference with membership numbers.”
Adding to the excitement at the course will be the re-development of two new greens, for which works will begin on Sunday and should be completed ahead of the Riverside Open later this year.
ENTRIES are still open for the Riverside Summer Open, which will be played over the next two days. For enquiries, or to book a tee-off time, contact the club on (03) 5023 1560.