Could you tell us when you joined the club and in what capacity - also when you became assistant course manager if you didn't join as in that capacity?
I joined the London Club in 2003 after applying for the First Assistants job. Immediately after I arrived the team was restructured and I was asked to take the Head Greenkeepers position on the International course. Within four months I moved to the Nicklaus designed Heritage course and adopted my current Head Greenkeeper / Assistant Courses Manager role. This is a great role that keeps me involved with all aspects of the business, from operations meetings with the senior management team to raking bunkers at the weekend with the casuals.
What time do you arrive at the club?
Anytime from 5.30 to 6.30 depending on the time of year. We have needed to start as early as 4.30 for some of our larger events.
Can you describe your morning routine?
I'll get in and help open up the greenkeeping complex, check the weather, check the numbers of golfers going out, check the event sheets for the day to see if here any special requirements, finalise the day’s work plans, go through the days objectives with Ben my First Assistant. I'll then discuss with Paul Kennedy the other Head Greenkeeper his plans for the day and look to see if there may be any machinery conflicts, what we can do to help each other out and then we present all of this information to our greenkeeping team in our morning meeting.
How many people are there in your greenkeeping team and is it a fair number for your collective workload?
26 in the department including our Courses Manager, Irrigation technician, two mechanics, two in our landscape team and Dawn in admin to keep us all in line. That leaves 11 on the Heritage course and 8 on the International. Is it a fair amount? We tend to exceed customers expectations but I'd always like more.
Do you share tasks?
Job rotation is very important to us, we work very hard to get the team trained on as many tasks as possible. The only limitation to the speed we get people onto all jobs is their aptitude for the task and myself and Paul's time to go through our extensive training program.
How do you motivate your colleagues?
We have a great team who are all very focused on achieving the best we can within the available resources. We invest a lot of time and effort in training both internally and externally, work hard on job rotation, where possible get the team involved in decision making and give them as much feedback as we can but I find food is the quickest and easiest way to put a smile on most Greenkeepers faces.
What’s your favourite season of the year and why?
Autumn is my personal favorite, knowing you've done a good job through the season and preparing and planning for a winter of projects always gives me a bit of a buzz. If we had the leaf clearing operation that some courses have I think I'd give you a different answer!
What aspect/functions of your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Variety, my job involves such a wide range of tasks no two days are ever the same so it's very difficult to find individual things I find satisfying. I've always had a passion for the technical side of growing turf but equally I love preparing and presenting he course during the playing season, large construction projects during the "quieter" winter months, the buzz of tournament preparation and the challenges of motivating such a large team. Probably the most satisfying is seeing my team develop and hopefully go on to get bigger and better jobs, knowing you've helped someone on their path to a satisfying and rewarding career is pretty special.
What gives you the least?
Repairing vandalism, in fact it's not the repairing but the finding it in the first place. Doesn't happened often, just thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine!] Have you attended any courses recently? If so, which ones and how has this helped? I've just returned from BTME at Harrogate which once again exceeded my expectations. Whilst there I did a day’s workshop covering Budgeting and Financing with CMAE which was very good and gave me a fascinating insight into how different golf club business models can work and helped me understand how to interpret their accounts.
What tools do you use to keep the greens in tip top condition? How do you ensure they are the perfect putting surface?
We use a wide range of tools to maintain our greens in the best condition possible. I'm a big fan of rolling here as we have very well drained USGA spec greens and get great results with alternate rolling and cutting during the season. Traditionally our difficult time was during the awkward Spring when our Poa greens are prolifically seeding. We've found that the AT&T cassette system we purchased last year has helped during this period. Having the option to use the ultra groomers and vibrating rollers with an internal brush have given us some options we didn't previously have to deal with this tricky period.
How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?
More greenkeeper training aimed at grass roots level. As an industry we're great at providing training for those of us fortunate enough to be somewhere near the top of the career ladder, I feel the less experienced are often overlooked. It's all too often left entirely in the hands of their supervisor which doesn't always lead to the most balanced of views.
Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?
I'm sure at some point in my career the occasional golfer hasn't had the patience to wait for me to finish cutting a green but I can't remember a specific example.
What is your favorite machine and why?
Toro's sidewinder range have saved us hours of flymoing which puts them at the top of my list.
Have you ever had any mishaps with lakes on the course or had to undertake a rescue of a daft golfer?
We've had many golfers walk onto our lake liners during dry summers leading to significant investment in lake repairs, Is that a mishap? Do the golfers need rescuing? Only from angry Golf Course Managers and Owners!
What is the most interesting animal/bird you have sighted on your course and what do you do to support wildlife?
We have large expanses of wild grasses and scrub that is managed in an environmentally sound manner. This encourages many visitors from Skylarks, Kestrels, Badgers and the occasional Buzzard. Are you experiencing any evidence of climate change? If so, in what way is it affecting your job? Definitely seeing drier periods followed by short sharp rain showers. This can cause problems with our heavily bunkered courses. Last heavy storm we had we put in over 60 man hours to get bunkers back into play.
What advice would you give to a young greenkeeper starting out today?
Try to work at several different places before you have too many commitments, before your opinions are fully formed and before you climb too high up the career ladder. There are many different ways to prepare and manage a golf course. Working under several different Course Managers will help to give you a much more balanced and stable platform to make decisions from as you further your career.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Mostly my time is spent with my Wife Angela and two young girls Cerys and Evie. When we’re not at home I’m driving the children up and down the M4 delivering them to Grandparents in South Wales. When I get the odd moment to myself I like to get out my camera and take some photographs or even squeeze in a few holes of golf.