For the first time in its 121-year history, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield has sourced its bunker sand from outwith the hallowed East Lothian grounds. In a historic move brought about by dwindling home-grown supplies, the discerning club opted for a new, free-draining sand supplied by Hugh King & Co, one of the country’s leading suppliers of sports sands.
The Open Championship venue began the significant sand-exchange programme in March swapping materials in all 148 of its on-course bunkers and three practice bunkers. The operation required 400 tonnes of King Bunker 8 sand, which is a heavier sand that is more wind resistant in exposed areas or during windy weather.
“We have always used native sand,” said Colin Irvine, course manager at Muirfield. “Before we moved over to Hugh King’s sand, we quarried sand off the course but the supply was running out and we were beginning to get inconsistencies. It meant sand in some of the bunkers was blowing away while others weren’t draining as well as we liked, so we decided to do an exchange.”
The landmark swap was made 16 months ahead of the 16th running of the Open Championship at Muirfield. More importantly, the sand had to win over the support of the members of the renowned club. “It had to be free-draining and it had to be the right colour,” Irvine explained. “We tried quite a few types of sand and worked with Hugh King to come up with a sand type that we liked and the members would like. In fact, a lot of people haven’t even noticed the change, which is great. As far as I am concerned, no news is good news.”
Hugh King & Co, which has supplied sands to over 100 golf courses around the UK, also provides Muirfield with Washed Dune Sand for top-dressing greens, tees and fairways. Graeme King, managing director of the family run firm, said the company’s involvement in the classic links course was a perfect match.
“We have been supplying Muirfield with top-dressing for about six years, so when we were approached about providing bunker sand, it made obvious sense. We worked with Colin to devise a solution and started implementing it earlier this year,” he explained. “The best feedback we have had is that the only complaint Colin received was about a bunker that had yet to get the new sand. Muirfield is one of the best courses in the world, and we are pleased the sand exchange has gone so well.”
With the world’s greatest golfers gathering to do battle next year at Muirfield for the 142nd Open Championship, timing was also an issue for the club. “Put it this way; I didn’t want to leave it until next spring,” Irvine said. “We wanted to introduce the new sand now to see how well it would drain. In some ways we have been fortunate because we have had so much rain that we’ve been able to really put the sand through its paces. It has certainly been well soaked and there has been no puddling, so I can only take that as a good sign - so far, so good.”
Hugh King & Co launched a series of ground-breaking products at the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition in January including three new bunker sands each developed to address the demands of both inland and links courses. In addition, a new top-dressing blend was introduced to complement Hugh King’s highly regarded Washed Dune Sand and soil mix.