Green masters ensure slick course despite drought

The Serapong Course in Sentosa is in pristine condition, thanks to a good water management system using only rainwater.

SINGAPORE - As the record dry spell envelopes Singapore, spectators at the HSBC Women's Champions may wonder how the tournament greens remain slick as ever.

What they might not notice is the haggard look on the face of Sentosa Golf Club's chief agronomist Andrew Johnston, who also has to deal with unseasonably strong trade winds.

The American and his crew have worked around the clock in recent weeks to ensure the 6,035m Serapong course is ready for the world's top female hitters.

Since the area has experienced little rainfall in two months, including a record 27-day spell between Jan 13 and Feb 8, Johnston said "several million" gallons of water had to be transferred through underground pipes to Serapong from a secondary storage facility at its sister Tanjong course.

Only rainwater is used and stored in a collection basin that could be filled up entirely by a storm bearing 25mm to 50mm of rain.

Water samples are taken several times a day to ensure adequate mineral levels. An average of 4.5 million litres of water, enough almost to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools, is needed daily to keep all 18 holes in tip-top shape.

"We go through small droughts each year so we balance it out between the two storage facilities, but never on a scale like this before," said Johnston, who has over 25 years' experience in golf course design, construction and turf grass management.

Winds of up to 20kmh, coupled with the drier conditions, also mean that officials regularly whip out a stimpmeter - which measures greens speed - to ensure they do not get too quick.

Serapong is manicured to ensure that it does not exceed 12 on the device.

The players appreciate the effort.

Defending champion Stacy Lewis said: "The balls are bouncing up a bit because it's drier but the greens are holding shots well.

"You can't tell that there's been a drought - that means those guys have done a really good job."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg

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