IMG Prestige Q&A with Andrew Ikstrum, Golf Course Superintendent at IMG managed Dreamland Golf Club, Azerbaijan.
1 – You joined Dreamland as Superintendent in October last year, after 2 an half years as Deputy Superintendent at IMG Prestige club Education City in Qatar. What are the main differences between both jobs and both countries?
Great question, two of the biggest differences would have to be the weather and grass variety. I’m really enjoy the cooler change after 3 summers in Qatar. It’s great to be back working with cool season grass. I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed the finer leaf playing surfaces since last working with bent grass back home in Australia. Bent greens really are the pinnacle of turf management and when we get them right nothing compares!
Although I must admit I am missing the lead up and hype of the European Tour Qatar Masters. The buzz you get gearing the course up all year round for that week is something special. Just need to believe, back yourself and plan your work out in the lead up. “Plan your work – work your plan” as we say. Once the tournament week arrives there’s nothing more you can do and it’s show time.
2 – Which are the main areas you’re planning to work on the course over the next 11 months?
Really looking forward to the next 11 months at Dreamland. I’ve got plenty of ideas, visions and projects for the course. Our winter projects for 2021 are under way at the moment, we have been busy concentrating of the fine details, the 1% if you like which makes a huge difference ahead of the season. Adding some additional native olive trees and landscape areas continues to help us minimise our grass footprint and add definition with more pronounced dog legs which have framed the holes better.
Dreamland is quiet a large turf footprint covering 64 hectares for 18 holes. To put that into perspective Education City Golf Club was 65ha and they have 33 holes. Shortly after I arrived we started to fescue project, to grow out and establish over 10.4ha of fescue areas in out of play and outer rough areas. So I’m looking forward to see how these areas establish this growing season.
Another big focus will be our spring and fall renovations in March and October. We had great success with our fall renovation last year with the course responding extremely well. Thatch management of our fairways, collars and approaches will be big focus this year. Poa Annua eradication/ control is also going to be a big project. Our greens are extremely pure, so keeping the Poa at bay is a big focus for me. The list goes on and on so it’s going to be busy year ahead.
3 – How is the interaction with Dreamland members going? How do you keep them updated about the golf course?
We have a weekly newsletter for our Dreamland members to which I contribute. It’s a great way to keep our members informed what is going on around the course. Playing and interacting with the members has made my moves from country to country a lot easier as I get to meet people so easily. I love the game of golf, so any of my spare time I’m on the course playing or practicing. I normally play both days on the weekends with different groups members which is proving profitable. When I interact with members, it gives them a chance to ask questions about the course and our plans for the future. The opportunity to talk about and share with them what it takes to maintain our surfaces is well received, I guess we all have the same aim: look after the course the best way we can. Sharing plans and keeping ahead with communications has created some positive feedback.
4 – What are your thoughts on training & development, and how do you plan to develop Dreamland’s current greenkeepers?
I believe it’s huge part of our day to day roll as superintendent. I really like to lead from the front and at the end of the day we are all one big team. I really believe coaching and mentoring is huge, especially when English is not a first language in Azerbaijan.
By showing the team first hand you can set a standard and a benchmark that we continue to improve and raise day by day. I remember when I was learning as an apprentice it was so much easy to understand the task seeing it firsthand. There would be no better feeling as expat superintendent to see our Senior Greenkeepers and Assistant Superintendent taking over from me in the years ahead.