Kent

Sandwich Open golf course affected by dry weather

Ground staff
Image caption There are just over five weeks left until the start of the tournament

The lack of rain has put pressure on ground staff at the Kent golf course holding the Open golf tournament in July.

After the driest spring for 100 years staff at Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich are having to work round the clock to prepare the course.

Seeing players wading knee deep through the rough looking for stray balls has become a tradition at the Open.

But the lack of rain means the grass has not grown as deep as was hoped for.

Golfers who have been practising over the past few weeks have told ground staff that even if the rough does not come up to the level it should, the course still presents a challenge.

'Proud moment'

Christopher Gabbey, club secretary, said: "The rough may be slightly less than we would have wished but then the ground will be firm, the greens will be firm and they will still find it quite difficult.

"A lot depends on the wind we get during the week and the best man will come to the fore."

There has been just over 33mm (1.3in) of rain in Kent between March and May compared to an average of more than 148mm (5.8in).

Image caption The last time the Open was held at Sandwich was in 2003

To help keep the course watered, the club is allowed to draw water from the nearby River Stour. Since March it has taken two and a half million gallons - nearly half its annual allowance.

Graham Royden, head greenkeeper for this year's competition, said: "This is the pinnacle of my career -something I've worked towards for the last 27 years as a greenkeeper.

"It will be a very proud moment when I stand there on the Sunday and see the champion presented with the trophy."

The dry conditions mean the course is being closed to the public a little earlier than expected and there will be no further play from 20 June.

The Open Championship takes place from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 July.

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