As the 16th edition of the HSBC Women’s World Championship is set to return for its 11th year at Sentosa Golf Club’s renowned Tanjong Course from February 29 to March 3, 2024, Golf Matters spoke to Andy Johnston, the General Manager and Head of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club as he shared the meticulous preparations behind the scenes and how pivotal his and his team's roles are in hosting 'Asia's Major'.

Nestled on Sentosa Island, Sentosa Golf Club stands as one of Asia's premier golfing establishments, adorned with accolades such as being ranked within the 'Top 100 World’s Greatest Golf Courses' by Golf Digest and 'Top 100 in the World' by Platinum Clubs of the World.

Against the backdrop of Sentosa Golf Club's 50th anniversary celebration and its groundbreaking achievements in sustainability, Johnston sheds light on the agronomic policies and best practices employed to ensure a successful and memorable event.

How did you navigate and address the unique challenges in meticulously preparing for the HSBC Women's World Cup in March 2024, considering the magnitude of hosting such a championship?
Navigating and addressing the distinctive challenges associated with meticulously preparing for the HSBC Women's World Championship in March 2024 has been a difficult process. The multitude of obstacles encountered during the build-up with unpredictable weather conditions proving to be a prominent factor. December and January posed unprecedented challenges, marked by irregular monsoonal weather patterns. However, as we enter February, there is a positive trend towards normalization, with occasional showers leading up to the event.

Adapting to the unpredictability of daily showers, the heavy monsoonal events, and thunderstorms demanded an intuitive and nimble approach to ensure we meet our required goals for an event such as the HSBC Women’s World Championship. These weather conditions not only increased disease pressure but also disrupted our meticulously planned mowing routines.

Another significant challenge arises from the higher-than-usual planning occupancy, placing excessive wear and stress on our facilities and infrastructure. The global nature of the tournament further complicates matters, introducing logistical challenges in shipping equipment and supplies to the destination. Overcoming these hurdles underscores the necessity for intricate preparations for globally significant events like the HSBC Women's World Championship on the LPGA Tour.

Despite these unique challenges, our commitment to delivering a world-class tournament experience remains unwavering. We recognize that such events demand resilience, adaptability, and a proactive approach to ensure a seamless execution to showcase the best in women's golf on the global stage.

Can you elaborate on the significance of the partnership between Sentosa Golf Club and the HSBC Women’s World Championship, highlighting the positive impacts this collaboration has had on both entities?
The collaboration with HSBC and the LPGA Tour has helped to significantly heighten women’s golf and of course Sentosa Golf Club’s prominence, positively influencing visibility and overall development. High-profile moments such as Paula Creamer’s incredible putt, Michelle Wie’s chip-in, and back-to-back victories for former world No.1 Jin Young Ko, have played a pivotal role in enhancing the Club’s reputation on the world stage.

These iconic moments have become synonymous with Sentosa Golf Club's commitment to golfing excellence. Engraved in the memories of golf enthusiasts worldwide, they have garnered global recognition for the Club, solidifying its esteemed status in the golfing community.

The Club's affiliation with the tournament underscores its dedication to excellence, positioning it as a top-tier venue capable of hosting world-class events. The event not only draws significant media attention, showcasing the Club's scenic beauty but also establishes it as a preferred destination for international golf events.

Hosting a major event also bring economic benefits to the local community and contributes to tourism, creating a positive impact, supporting local businesses and positioning the region as a premier destination for golf tourism.

Andrew Johnston - General Manager, Director of Agronomy and Resident Golf Course Designer at SGC

 

In what ways has Sentosa Golf Club played a transformative role in shaping the golf landscape in Singapore and Asia by bringing elite-level women's golf to the region through hosting the HSBC Women’s World Championship?
The Club has helped to make a significant impact on Singapore and Asia by introducing elite-level women’s golf to the region. The annual hosting of the HSBC Women’s World Championship stands out as a pivotal event with far-reaching implications for the golf landscape in the region.

It stands as a catalyst for inspiring future generations of female golfers. The visibility of top women players competing at the pinnacle of the sport acts as a powerful motivator for young aspiring golfers in Singapore and across Asia, fostering increased participation.

Through the presentation of a world-class women’s golf event, Sentosa Golf Club has emerged as a key influencer in promoting the sport at the highest level, inspiring a new generation of golf enthusiasts, and positioning the region as a central hub for top-tier women’s golf competitions.

How does Sentosa Golf Club consistently maintain its reputation as one of the best golf clubs globally, attracting top-tier players and contributing significantly to the success of high-profile events like the HSBC Women’s World Championship?
At the heart of the Club’s appeal lies its world-class golf course design. Both courses’ layout, coupled with challenging features and meticulous maintenance, deliver an exceptional playing experience. Meticulous attention to detail in course design guarantees that it aligns with the elevated standards expected by elite players, as well as our members and guests.

Our unwavering commitment to maintaining tournament-ready conditions 365 days of the year is a pivotal factor in its global reputation. The thorough care given to both courses by our agronomy team ensures that playing standards remain in optimal condition. This dedication to course maintenance proves indispensable when hosting major tournaments.

We have a great track record in organizing and hosting high-profile events. This has helped us establish a legacy that transcends amongst the top players in the world and solidifies our reputation as a venue synonymous with elite-level competition. Events at Sentosa Golf Club are always ones that players aspire to win.

Ensuring an exceptional experience for our members and guests is also of paramount importance. The combination of a world-class golfing environment, exceptional hospitality, and an unwavering commitment to customer service creates a setting appreciated by all who visit the Club. Continuous improvement and innovation are at the forefront of our vision, whether through adopting cutting-edge technology, enhancing the course, or upgrading facilities.

Could you provide insights into the agronomy techniques and their role in contributing to the success of hosting world-class sporting events at Sentosa Golf Club, particularly in the context to the upcoming HSBC Women’s World Championship?
To meet the requirements of hosting world-class events, the Club employs a variety of specific agronomy techniques, including customized turf management, precision irrigation systems, strategic fertility programs, regular monitoring, and analysis, as well as aerification and topdressing.

Our agronomy practices are meticulously crafted to address the unique demands of hosting top-tier events. This often involves the integration of precision techniques, sustainable approaches, and a steadfast commitment to the long-term health of the courses. By implementing these practices, not only do we ensure that the playing standards consistently meeting professional standards but also actively contribute to the overall sustainability and resilience of the golf course.

This approach aligns with principles of environmental responsibility and community engagement, reflecting the Club’s dedication to a holistic and responsible approach to golf course management.

With Sentosa Golf Club committed to sustainability, how does the Club continue to commit to the cause throughout the preparations for the HSBC Women’s World Championship?
It doesn’t matter whether we are hosting a major tournament or preparing the courses for general play, the Club is always dedicated to sustainable golf course management. Our agronomy practices align with our overarching environmental objectives. The Club actively incorporates various eco-friendly measures, including integrated pest management, minimal use of pesticides, and strategies for waste reduction, aimed at mitigating the overall environmental footprint.

Back in 2022, the Club signed a 10-year partnership with The Toro Company to create a Centre of Excellence that would help to develop new techniques and test the latest hybrid and electric equipment.

Our preparations are also designed to minimize the effects on the biodiversity around the property. Initiatives have been implemented to help preserve water resources and foster soil health. These not only serve to limit the overall impact but also play a significant role in maintaining the overall ecological equilibrium of the golf course.