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“This is not a practice round. The tournament is today.”

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Golf Course Superintendent, Rodney McKeown has been at Sentosa for nearly 2 years and it’s a job that gives him enormous pleasure.

“We have steadily built a reputation for being one of the best clubs in Asia and we are understandably very proud of that.

We have hosted The Barclays Singapore Open, known as Asia’s Major for the past seven years and last February also hosted the HSBC Women’s Championships.”

Sentosa built the Tanjong course and a modest club house in the mid-70’s, as the vision of Dennis Lee. In 1993 they added the award winning club house and the Serapong Championship course, designed by Golf Plan, which was one of Ronald Fream’s creations.

In 2006 The Serapong Course added the Serapong Club House and the course was redesigned by the Bates Golf Design Group. This was the assignment of Director of Agronomy Andrew Johnston, who works closely with Rodney masterminding the Agronomy Program.

Rodney said, “We put a lot of effort into keeping the course in tournament condition every day of the year. Peter Downie, our Director of Golf and General Manager has a saying, which we live by, ‘This is not a practice round, the tournament is today’, and he is right.

Our greens are extremely large by modern standards, 1.8 hectares for the full 18 holes. Greens speeds on a daily average exceed 10 feet on the Stimpmeter.

We top dress our greens and tees on a weekly basis and we hand mow all greens and tees. It is essential that the quality of cut meets our high standards and allows us to produce high-end surfaces on a daily basis.

Singapore has a challenging climate. The weather is traditionally classified into 4 stages depending on prevailing winds:

a) Northeast Monsoon Season (December to Early March)

b) Inter-monsoon Period (late March to May)

c) Southwest Monsoon Season (June to September)

d) Inter-monsoon Period (October to November)

It is extremely hot and humid for most of the year, with an average temperature of between 24 at night and 32 degrees in the day. Humidity is high, 60% plus, and we experience a long monsoon season so grass grows aggressively all year round.

We monitor the grass carefully on a daily basis to explore possible problems, which can arise any time such as Leaf Blight, Army and Cut Worms. If problems are spotted a programme is quickly implemented to deal with it.

If the grass is not clean cut, the risk of disease increases, so we have two full-time mechanics, who are trained in reel grinding and setting up height of cut to tournament specifications. It is truly an art to see them set up the reel to bedknife contact as the tolerances are so small and unforgiving if not set up properly.

We have a large fleet of fairway mowers, walk-behind mowers and triplex mowers to keep in first class condition on a daily basis.” Rodney added, “We dedicate a lot of time each day to grinding and this is why we decided to acquire the best and most productive grinder in the market and we are happy with our decision on the new Express Dual 5000.”

Originally from Belfast, Rodney studied in the UK, working in England and Scotland before heading east to Indonesia in 1997.

He worked at the Singapore National Service Resort & Country Club as Golf Course Superintendent for 8 years before joining Sentosa in 2010.

Sentosa are devoted to staff training and development. “This is the key. We are only as good as our staff, so they must be the best.” Rodney said. “We hold regular meetings to look at new ideas and are constantly looking at ways of improving.”