Challenges at Venus Rock

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Derek Smith has been in the golf business for 20 years. He has worked in 13 different countries, from USA to North Africa, Europe to the Middle East.

A graduate of Myerscough College, Derek, originally from Glasgow, graduated with a HND in Turf and Grass Science specializing in golf-course grow-ins.

He has worked for Aristo Golf for the last nine years as a grow-in specialist going into the site at the construction or grass-in stage, Derek will spend anything from 6 – 24 months in any one place until the course is grown and established.

He is currently at Venus Rock in Cyprus, a course designed by Golf and Land Design in conjunction with Tony Jacklin. Chinese owned Venus Rock, just outside Pavlos is set in the scenic valley of the Aphrodite Hills surrounded by mature trees and spectacular rock formations and the Secret Valley development is geared up to become one of the finest residential developments on the Mediterranean coast.   

Derek said, “This is probably the hardest climate I have ever experienced to grow grass in. It is arid, warm and humid in summer and wet in the winter. It has not rained since April. We also get a lot of undesirable grasses and insects – so this is not an easy place to manage.

Water for the course comes from an on-site dam. The ph is high because of the limestone and is full of bicarbonates. We inject acid into the water to lower the ph and help nutrients get released which before were locked in the soil.”

The date for the official opening has not yet been confirmed but the club had a soft opening in early September and the initial reports are good. The members are all impressed and surprised by the natural landscape, the river and large number of mature trees, which makes it very different from the rest of Cyprus’s golf courses.  

Derek first used Bernhard grinders in Germany many projects ago and has bought them for his last 6 projects.

“Grinders are essential at grow-in because the grass is not yet established and the ground is full of stones and debris. The new young grass needs sharp blades to cut it cleanly or you will tear it and let in disease and it will not be healthy enough to reproduce and thicken. We also have 80 cylinder head units to look after and keep in perfect condition.”

Derek has a huge team of 18 full-time greenkeepers. “We have a fabulous state-of-the-art maintenance facility which has got everything. It was designed for two golf courses, so we have a 3000 sq meter mechanics workshop that houses our Bernhard Grinders, Toro machinery and John Deer Tractors.

Given how much time Derek spends on a golf course he only gets to play a few times a year, which is a shame for someone playing off about 7.