"A Real Kick In The Teeth" - Greenkeeper After "Embarrassment" Course Comments

We chat to James Tibbles, head greenkeeper at Andover GC, after he was subject to negative comments on the course's condition

(Image credit: James Tibbles)

We chat to James Tibbles, head greenkeeper at Andover GC, after he was subject to negative comments on the course's condition

Greenkeepers have been under more stress these past 18 months than perhaps ever before, with sky-rocketing numbers of golfers playing the game and a global pandemic to deal with.

Many greenkeeping teams were reduced in numbers due to the furlough scheme or illness, all whilst us golfers continued to expect the very best.

One greenkeeper, James Tibbles, recently took to Twitter (opens in new tab) after his course's greens were called an "embarrassment" for being too slow after maintenance.

James is based at Andover Golf Club in Hampshire, where he is head greenkeeper along with a team of volunteers.

He has received advice on how to improve the course's playing surfaces and posted evidence of the incredible transformation.

Still, that wasn't enough to please some golfers who both commented their distain to him and to his volunteers.

He says that the comments were "a real kick in the teeth" and doesn't think that all golfers respect just how much work it takes to maintain a golf course.

"Obviously all of the competitions have been pushed back from when they were going to happen before the lockdown so August, September has been fully booked for comps so we managed to squeeze our maintenance week in just at the end of August," James told Golf Monthly.

"We didn’t really do a big one, just what we needed to do, basic stuff and then literally about a week later we were getting comments saying that the greens are an embarrassment.

"People were saying that they’re the worst greens they’ve played on, that there’s better greens at other courses and yeah it’s a bit hard to take at the time.

"So I found some before and after photos because I was a bit fed up with all the comments.

"I found these photos and I said to my boss I think people don’t realise how much work we’ve put in and how far we’ve come since I’ve started and I just put it on Twitter because I thought a couple of people would be like ‘You’ve done well there’ and that sort of thing.

James tweeted after getting the negative comments:

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"So then obviously it went just absolutely nuts, all these nice comments and stuff so it was nice to hear that.

"It’s just frustrating at times because obviously it’s always been a case that the majority of the golfers are really nice, 95% of them, but you always get the odd few that have the loudest voices that seem to be the ones that moan all the time.

"It’s just a real kick in the teeth when at the end of the day I’m there trying my hardest with my team to make the course as best as I can for people and you get little comments like that and all the good comments sort of go out the window and you focus on the bad ones.

"So that’s one thing I need to learn is not to take it in so much, all the bad stuff and just carry on and listen to the good stuff.

Related: Greenkeeper Mental Health: 80% worried about a colleague

"I used to play a lot of golf and you do just expect it all year round to be top quality but now obviously doing the greenkeeping for eight years, I’ve realised you don’t get that quality without doing a lot of work.

"So you’ve got to have a couple of weeks out where they’re not going to be 100% and it is tough.

"Obviously with the budgets and the machinery you don’t see that behind the scenes and obviously staff levels and I know people have struggled with the lockdowns and Covid, not everyone have been fully staffed.

"So yeah I think you get the majority of golfers are fine but you just get the odd few that still expect so much and I think that’s why people get frustrated.

"I think that’s why the Tweet got so many comments on it because I think everyone’s feeling the same and I’ve said it how it is and people can relate to that.

"You do get a lot of golfers who do understand but there’s a lot still that don’t get it and they just want more and more and more, and it to look like a Wentworth or an Augusta.

"They see it on the TV and they turn up and they expect that standard but they don’t realise that it’s never going to be that."

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x