Clicky

Gerry Byrne
Gerry Byrne
Pat Freeney, Head Machanic
Pat Freeney, Head Machanic

Interview with Gerry Byrne, K Club, County Kildare.

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Gerry Byrne’s primary role is Resort Superintendent at the K Club in County Kildare, Ireland. He also operates and manages 11 other golf courses as part of the Carr Golf Group and as if that is not enough he is the Technical Advisor for Le Golf National, host of the 2018 Ryder Cup as well as the current home of the French Open.

As a regular runner and Marathon Runner, Gerry is clearly a man of boundless energy and determination. His running, he says, gives him energy and the time to unwind and reflect. “Running clears your head of clutter and it allows me to put the worries of the day behind me.” With the punishing demands on his time you can understand why he needs to keep himself in top condition.

 

The K Club

The K Club offers 36 holes on two championship golf courses designed by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, the Palmer course built in 1990 and the second Smurfit course built in 2001. The venue was the host for 13 European Opens (1995 to 2007) and the 2006 Ryder Cup, a parkland course with wonderful mature trees, wide fairways and spectacular views of the River Liffey,

The Smurfit Course enjoys a peaceful, rural setting with several lakes and streams and a dramatic man-made rock face that rises some 60 feet out of one of the lakes. 

I asked Gerry when he had first come across Bernhard and why he has always been such a staunch supporter of our products. His mellow Irish accent burst with enthusiasm for what he calls his ‘partnership’ with Bernhard.

“I guess my relationship with Bernhard started in 1996 and I view my relationship with them almost like a partnership. I use the word ‘partnership’ with Bernhard very much like mechanical support, because it is so important.

I’ve done 11 European Opens and a Ryder Cup and I must tell you, the key to success is not only having the right equipment to maintain your golf courses but more importantly the grinding support through our partnership is essential to maintain quality of cut. This can only be met in my operation with a partnership role. It can’t work any other way.

Bernhard have always been there, not only with Tournament Support for the Ryder Cup and European Opens but also with the day-to-day maintenance and training. That is very important and it’s good, so that’s why we only have Bernhard grinding units in our facilities.

The first request I put in when I joined Golf National in 2011 was the purchase and installation of the highest spec grinders on the market. For me Bernhard Grinders fulfil everything that we need, and we always address the quality of cut issues immediately. That is where it all starts.“

 

Big money saving on out-sourced grinding.

Gerry’s combined second role as Director of Agronomy with a golf maintenance company, Golf Course Maintenance Services [a joint venture with the K Club and Carr Golf Services] saw the company recently oversee the maintenance of the highly prestigious Killarney Golf and Fishing Club in Co. Kerry. The first purchase was to buy a complete set of Bernhard grinders.

“It was the first thing we did. We have 96 cutting units at the 54 hole club and there were no grinders, so it was my priority. I reckon we saved the club, on average (annually) £20,000 on out-source grinding. We expect to get 10 – 20 years out of these machines so the cost benefit, when you break it down certainly is evident very quickly.

If you are sending cutting units away and you don’t have a precision cut on a regular basis I doubt if you can meet the expectations of today’s demanding players.

I asked Gerry why he thinks every greenkeeper doesn’t recognise the absolute importance of regular grinding. He seemed both surprised and thoughtful that they didn’t.

“I suppose traditionally as part of our job we would send units away at the start of the year. One grind would last the whole season, but greenkeeping practice has changed radically over the last 20 years. We are now using more sand top dressing and greater capital spend is put to additional sand topdressing on fairways which by its very nature is abrasive and the need for a quality cut has really become more important than ever. Out-source grinding is expensive and largely impractical.

I don’t understand any resistance to owning your own grinders. We have carried out all the cost benefits in all of our facilities and we have always come back to need and benefit from having grinders on site.”

I asked Gerry for his views on the health of precisely cut grass blades.

“There’s no question that by the very nature and action of precise cutting with a sharp unit the grass blades are quicker to recover, see less disease, which is more important than water to me, and less fungicide which both ultimately lead to better take-up of liquid nutrients and more sustainable green speeds for the players. Their expectation in my view can only be met by precision cutting.

Players are more discerning these days and their discretional spend has diminished so if a guest is going to pay money for a game or membership not only is their expectation greater than it was, but their penny is so much more valuable now so they demand and expect quality presentation every time, more so now than ever, even though now uniformly, most greenkeepers have seen their budgets cut by an average 30% to 50%. Certainly in Ireland 50 %.”

Golf course management has changed so much over the last 30 years, from working as an apprentice under my father to where we are today. The principles of our industry however remains the same, providing quality putting and playing surfaces for our members and guests.

The most positive support tools we currently have are better and more environmentally conscious fertilisers, pesticides, machinery and machinery support. Bernhard provides us with the confidence that we can carry out our jobs in such a professional manner and forms key part of providing for our members and guests expectations.

 

Thank you to Gerry for his time and help in writing this article.