The 2019 Presidents Cup looms as the biggest tournament in Australia for many years. Just a little pressure for Royal Melbourne’s Director of Courses Richard Forsyth. Melbourne golf writer CHRIS VOGT reports.
The world’s best players are headed to our greatest course, and will expect playing surfaces befitting their standing in the game. The spotlight will be on the greens and fairways, and the man responsible for keeping them pristine, Richard Forsyth.
“I’m committed to making this course the best it can be: a firm, traditional layout. That’s the expectation of the PGA, the team captains, and our club membership. And it’s always satisfying to see the greatest players on your grass.”
Forsyth (pictured above) is at ease in his office at Royal’s shiny maintenance facility, a major investment for the club in 2016. He’s proud of the space, his fleet of machinery, and of his 40 staff which maintain the club’s two courses and the 18-hole public facility across the road.
“There’s some longevity and experience here, and some newer faces. And we’ll top that up in December with another 50, from the US, UK, Japan, and across Australia. They’ll be with us for 12 days, including tournament week.”
Despite the arena in which he plies his trade, golf was not the early lure for Forsyth.
“I was raised on a dairy farm, and grew to love the outdoors. There was an interest in horticulture, and working with machinery, which evolved into a passion for fine turf.”
That passion took him to Melbourne’s exquisite sand-belt. 15 years in charge of Metropolitan’s renowned layout is as fine an apprenticeship as can be served when one has an eye on the pinnacle.
“This is a unique piece of land,” Forsyth says of his current base, and not without a little reverence. “It’s a premium club on the world stage, and the country’s best tournament venue.”
Forsyth’s role at Royal Melbourne comes with the daily pressures of grooming two courses for a discerning membership. The intensity of tournament preparation adds to the demands, but Forsyth finds much satisfaction in this dual responsibility.
“We’ve had our challenges here, with reinvigorating the courses post-drought. Our water infrastructure improvements are something I’m pleased with. And I enjoy seeing the members on quality surfaces.
“A tournament deadline certainly focuses the attention when you’re running significant course projects. But I’m driven by the team aspect of my role as much as anything, and they deliver.”
Forsyth does admit water is a long-term challenge for the industry.
“We need to get better at recycling, re-using.”
Preparations for next month’s Presidents Cup began when the tournament venue was announced, and all is on track for another memorable event at Royal. Richard Forsyth will be a busy man during competition week, with 4:30am starts, meetings with rules officials, media duties and a team to manage, and all with one eye on the weather. But there’ll be time to enjoy it, too.
“I think this course sets up as a great matchplay venue. Strategy comes into it with the slope and firmness of the greens, the decisions to be made on the tee. There’ll be drama at the 5th and 6th West (holes 3 and 4 for the tournament) due to the slope of the greens, and I think the short par 4s will make for interesting matchplay; the strategy, the decisions they make there.”
Ernie Els and Tiger Woods will bring their men to battle from December 12-15, on a field as fine as any they’ve played.