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Stephen Chappell, Golf Course Superintendent at Royal Bled talks about his first year in Slovenia. IMG has been providing management services to Royal Bled since 2015.

I arrived in Slovenia on the 5th of February, excited by the challenges of being in a new country. Unfortunately the late end to the winter meant I didn’t get to see any grass until the 25th of March due to the snow cover, so it was a very quick transition to get the golf courses cleaned and in good shape for opening on the 11th of April.

It was a relief to see that the playing surfaces had come out of the winter snow cover without any significant damage, only a loss of colour to show their winter hibernation. The exception to this were the greens that being a monoculture of creeping bent grass had cruised through the winter, and with the Spring sunshine now on their backs were starting to wake up nicely.

Our focus here at Royal Bled is to offer everyone who visits the club, whether a member or guest, the ultimate experience including a tournament golf course. Working with a new team, and a new language, I knew it was going to be interesting to see how they developed along with the golf course as we entered the main season. In June we hosted the EGA European Seniors Championship, our first real test as a team, and the guys produced the golf course to the highest standards for the event. It was great to see everyone understanding their roles and tasks for the week, looking out for each other and focusing on attention to detail, a real team effort.

The weather during the summer produced some challenges with temperatures reaching 36.5 degrees during July, but the balance between applied irrigation and turf conditioners such as seaweed kept the surfaces in great condition and performing well. We saw an increase of rounds played of 20% through the season compared to 2017 and it was great to hear the positive feedback from the members and guests as they enjoyed the courses through the Summer and into the Autumn.

As the leafs started to fall we turned our attentions to some light reconstruction work to further improve the swale/run off features around the greens complexes, which had become a stand out feature of the golf course through the season. With these works completed well, we started our final agronomic work to the main playing surfaces which included aeration, sanding and conditioner applications before installing the covers onto the greens, approaches and tees and wishing them a comfortable 3 month hibernation under the snow.

I have really enjoyed my first 10 months here, Slovenia is a truly beautiful country filled with amazing landscapes and friendly people. It has also been good to see that my philosophy to produce great quality playing surfaces through developing a healthy grass plant, whilst keeping inputs of fertility and water to a minimum ensuring that the golf course is managed in the most sustainable way possible, has worked well here at Royal Bled.

Both my team and the golf courses have developed well through 2018 and we now turn our attention towards 2019. We can all look forward to another successful year in what the marketing team rightly describe as “Heaven on Earth”.

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