We highlight the current topics of conversation among golf greenkeepers at clubs up and down the country
10 Things Golf Greenkeepers Are Talking About
Over the course of a year, the Golf Monthly staff get to meet, and sometimes play with, a number of golf greenkeepers and course managers.
This year has, of course, thrown up its own peculiar set of problems thanks to Covid. But every year the greenkeeping teams at clubs up and down the country face constant challenges in the quest to maintain and present their courses as well as possible for as long as possible.
Needless to say, these challenges generate much behind-the-scenes chat. Here, we report back on what a number of golf greenkeepers told us (anonymously) were the main talking points among their peers right now…
Worm casts and leatherjackets
The world is changing, and many of the insecticides and pesticides that were once the godsend of golf greenkeepers everywhere are gradually being withdrawn.
Of particular concern at many courses is the damage being caused by birds and other animals foraging for leatherjackets and chafer grubs. Then there’s the issue of worm casts creating muddier playing surfaces.
Greenkeepers appreciate that this is, ultimately, the right thing to do in the quest for ever more environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices. But in the short term there are few, if any, alternatives, and course conditioning is suffering at some clubs.
The greenkeeping workload gets busier in the summer. Those who rely on casual seasonal staff from overseas have found them harder to recruit this year thanks to the pandemic.
This then had a knock-on effect on manpower during the summer months. Those months, in turn, proved busier than ever as a result of golf’s membership boom.
Finding space to work around full tee sheets
That brings us nicely on to this Covid-generated problem. While greenkeepers appreciate that increased membership is good for the financial health of the club, it has created a problem in terms of access to the course, with precious few gaps in the tee sheets at many clubs for months on end.
Early morning starts helped in the summer, but that won’t be so easy over the winter. With more clubs boasting more members, greenkeepers are concerned about how easy it will be to work if tee sheets remain full to overflowing.
Changing weather patterns
Whatever your personal views on climate change are, most greenkeepers we speak to tell us things have changed. Warmer, wetter winters and less predictable weather patterns are making it harder to plan a work schedule, with increased flooding a real issue at many clubs.
Leaves on the course
A greenkeeping variation on the ‘leaves on the line’ theme! The labour, and indeed, fuel costs in keeping our courses as clear as possible from leaves in the autumn can be a real headache and take up far too much valuable time. One greenkeeper told us it will be a major task until early December.
Food for thought next time you can’t find your ball and start grumbling about why the greenkeepers haven’t cleared all the leaves away. It’s a Herculean task!
What more can 2020 throw at us?
Maybe this is tempting providence, but after the challenges of lockdown and Covid, some may have forgotten that an incredibly wet early 2020 left many courses saturated and closed for long periods of time.
Ultra-busy courses post-lockdown have added to the challenge, along with prolonged dry spells in the summer that left many courses parched.
They’re probably saying it in very hushed tones, but many greenkeepers are pondering just what else 2020 can throw at them before it’s done!
Golf course rankings
Some greenkeepers may tell you that course rankings don’t matter; others are eager to know what they can do to potentially improve their course’s ranking; some will even have such a task on their job description.
We get a lot of requests every year asking about our Top 100 rankings and what a club might have to do to get in or improve its ranking. Our rankings clearly set out the criteria we work to. Out of professional pride, it’s understandable that greenkeepers talk about such things among themselves.
Wilful damage to the course
This is understandably a real bugbear, and it happens far too often if you follow the Twitter feeds of various greenkeepers.
Whether it’s practice chipping divots out on the course, divots on greens from an angry swipe with the putter, or mindless vandalism as at Walton Heath earlier this year, such things are enough to make a greenkeeper’s blood boil. Rightly so after all the hours spent trying to get things in tip-top shape.
Preparing the course for winter
Another major task right now is getting the course ready for winter, whether that’s mowing and preparing temporary greens, deciding which tees to close or rest, or bringing in winter mats on some or all holes.
It’s a bit of a thankless task as there is much to do to prepare the course for the kind of set-up that most golfers would prefer never to face.
Members not following winter routings
Another real bugbear are the members who think the winter routings don’t apply to them and just walk where they’re clearly not supposed to, even lifting ropes to take their trolleys underneath.
Greenkeepers do all these things for a reason – to minimise wear in key areas so the course is in better condition for golfers.
To have this effectively thrown back in their faces does nothing for greenkeeper/member relations!