GOLF COAST GREENKEEPERS: GULLANE
On Scotland’s Golf Coast, we are extremely lucky to have so many great courses in such a small area. We are even luckier with their quality.
The weather plays a part, despite the recent snow. The micro-climate, of course. But, it is the skill, dedication and passion of our greenkeepers who go that extra fairway and make sure that the coast is bursting at the seams with memorable golf experiences.
In a series of blogs, we will speak to the personalities behind the improvements and conditioning of our courses. Occasionally, we take the level of agronomy for granted. Who is responsible for the hollow-tining and coring, the pin positions and length of the rough? They need to be lauded and applauded.
Stewart Duff, Course Manager, Gullane Golf Club
First on the tee is Stewart Duff, Course Manager at Gullane Golf Club. Not one, not two, but three courses to look after. Stewart is a local and knows East Lothian better than most.
Gullane 1 hosted the Scottish Open in 2015 and 2018. Along with its sister courses, 2 and 3, features in the recent Golf World Top 100 golf courses in Scotland. 1 is at #22, 2 is at #42 and 3 is at #88.
Stewart started at Gullane Golf Club as a 16-year old in 1985, working up to the position of Head Greenkeeper on No1. He briefly left Gullane to become the Head Greenkeeper at Rosses Point in 2002, but then returned to Gullane as Course Manager in 2006. That is a lot of early mornings! Imagine all those sunrises though.
In the winter, it’s a 6.45 wake up call, a two hour lie-in compared to the summer. The day starts with a team meeting at 8, then he’s off to survey his manor. There is normally a team size of 25, understandably reduced during the various lockdowns, which is an even greater testament to their effort and commitment.
Stewart works closely with his Deputy Course Manager and Course Supervisors and although not getting his hands as dirty as he once did, he is still very much involved in the day-to-day management of the courses. There have also been a couple of big projects recently which have taken up Stewart’s time.
New Short-Game Area
A new short-game area has enhanced Gullane’s golf offering even further. It involved changing the 18th on Gullane 3 into a par 3. The two tier green has gone. It’s now a short hole and a chance for a hole-in-one in front of the visitors’’ clubhouse.
Speaking of the visitors’ clubhouse, this is the second project. The shell is staying intact, but following consultation with members, visitors and tour operators, the clubhouse will be updated, improved, enhanced and will ultimately offer an even better experience for guests.
Firm, Sandy Turf, the Pot Bunkers and Views Across the Firth of Forth.
The courses are not undergoing any major changes, they are simply being kept in tip top condition. Gullane Golf Club is such a great example of how the region’s golf courses use the natural terrain, the undulations, humps and hollows creating the truest of links experiences. That firm, sandy turf, the pot bunkers and views across the Firth of Forth are special.
Having asked Stewart about his favourite views and time of day on the course, he effuses about all views and all times day. But, when pressed, first thing in the morning, with the freshest of air, looking westward to Edinburgh is a particular favourite. No arguing there!
Stewart’s Favourite Courses
Having been brought up in such a renowned golfing region and having been in the industry for a long time, he’s bound to have some favourites. Apart from his own three courses, North Berwick West is definitely one to put on his short list, aswell all remaining 18 courses in East Lothian. Royal Aberdeen and Royal Dornoch make the cut too. Clearly a traditionalist, Stewart slightly bucks that trend mentioning that Trump International Scotland, near Aberdeen is absolutely superb.
Lockdown Football and Yoga
Stewart is clearly proud of Gullane and East Lothian and can see no better golfing region. With an obvious bias, Stewart then goes on to recount tales of lockdown. Golf is still permitted in Scotland, but there was a period of closure in the summer last year. It’s with a smile that Stewart mentions the games of football played on his beloved links and even yoga on one of the greens. He doesn’t mind, he’s happy to see the courses being used respectfully, but is happy now that the golfers are back in their droves
And it is with respect to Stewart and his team, that Scotland’s Golf Coast can show off Gullane’s three courses. We look forward to the completion of the clubhouse and the continued global praise for three of Scotland’s firm golf favourites.