Since buying an Ecosol Drill n Fill aerator in March 2013, Royal Golf Club Marianske Lazne, the oldest course in the Czech Republic  has twice been voted best course in a prestigious national award.

Stuart Burridge, British consultant  greenkeeper/course manager  at RGML, explained that the Czech Golf Federation prize was two-pronged and his course had netted both achievements, two years running! Firstly, a panel of Federation representatives assessed the golf course condition and secondly, players voted for their favourite club via the Federation website. “Last year and in 2013 we won both prizes, voted for by the panel and golfers alike,” said Stuart. “It’s a tremendous accolade and one that we would not have won had we not had the Drill n Fill aerator.”

The ancient course was opened on 21 August  1905 by the King of England, Edward 7th – hence the Royal title in Marianske’s name and now has 500 members. It hosted the Czech Open in 1937 but its owners struggled to keep it from destruction both during the world wars and afterwards when under Communist rule, golf was deemed an upper class sport not available to the ordinary person. The first important post-war  event hosted by the Club was not until 1978 when the European Junior Championship took place there. In 1994, they held the Czech Open, the first PGA Volvo Tour ever to be held in Eastern Europe and by 2006 were hosting the St Andrews Trophy in which Rory McIlroy played.

The ancient  and beautiful  6o hectare course is a challenge for the greenkeepers, continued  Stuart. The greens are made by the old push-up construction out of clay and drainage is a problem. Each hole is tree-lined with several large pockets of very old dense pine forest. “The greens had had  little or no aeration in the seven years before I took over, so the profile was 6-8cm pure thatch, under which was a black anaerobic layer going deep into the profile.”

Root development was non-existent and grass cover extremely poor. Stuart  implemented  a heavy aeration programme targeting all levels of the profile. “An intense hollow coring programme is taking care of the thatch while constant Drill n Fill is improving the black anaerobic conditions deeper in the profile” he said.

“This is only really possible with drill n fill and it has made a huge difference to our greens.” This regime is being complemented by a huge new drainage system being installed on  the entire course, including bunkers, over the next two years. New tees and a new irrigation system are included in RGCML’s eight year plan.

“So little was done for so many years, that we now face an uphill struggle, but with a good strategy in place and support from the members, we are confident we can bring RGCML into the 21st century,” concluded Stuart.