10 Things Golf Greenkeepers Are Talking About

We highlight the current topics of conversation among golf greenkeepers at clubs up and down the country

Golf Greenkeepers
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

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

Golf Greenkeepers

More clubs are experiencing this kind of foraging damage as certain pesticides and insecticides are banned

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many of the insecticides and pesticides that were once the godsend of golf greenkeepers everywhere are gradually being withdrawn.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.

Recruiting staff

Golf Greenkeepers

Recruiting casual seasonal staff hasn't been as easy this year

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

Golf Greenkeepers

Busy courses are leaving greenkeepers fewer gaps to work in

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

Golf Greenkeepers

Greenkeepers will tell you that weather patterns are definitely changing

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

Golf Greenkeepers

Leaves, leaves and more leaves to clear away on some parkland courses in particular

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?

Golf Greenkeepers

A wet start, followed by Covid and then parched conditions at some courses... what more has 2020 got in store?

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

Golf Greenkeepers

How to climb the rankings is a topic of conversation for some greenkeepers

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

Golf Greenkeepers

This kind of wilful green damage is enough to make a greenkeeper weep, and is reported too often on Twitter

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

Golf Greenkeepers

Getting the course ready for winter is another topic of conversation

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

Golf Greenkeepers

Clearly some members don't think the white line applies to them judging by the trolley trails

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!





Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response