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Golf greenkeepers ask for support

Golf greenkeepers ask for support: BIGGA has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the timetable for the reopening of golf.

As the members’ association for golf greenkeepers in the UK, BIGGA is acutely aware that golfers are eager to get back out on the course and start enjoying the limitless physical and mental health benefits of our wonderful sport.

Golf greenkeepers ask for support

Golf greenkeepers ask for support

However, as golfers have found in Scotland, where courses have remained open for limited play, this has been an incredibly wet and difficult winter and many greenkeepers have reported being able to do very limited maintenance throughout the colder months.

As such, while disappointed that the restart of golf will not be until 29 March in England, BIGGA welcomes the notice period as it will enable golf facilities to complete any essential winter maintenance and prepare the course for play to a standard that will not be detrimental to the long-term health of the facility.

Over the coming weeks BIGGA will be working alongside the governing bodies in golf to provide information regarding reasonable expectations of course presentation, so that returning golfers are aware of the challenges greenkeepers have faced with regards climate, staffing and COVID-19 restrictions and to ensure a safe, happy and prosperous return to golf for everyone.

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Greenkeepers’ caution on golf’s return

Greenkeepers’ caution on golf’s return: Golfers were warned to expect “inevitable disappointment” when they were able to return to play whenever government lockdown restrictions are eased.

Only essential maintenance has been permitted, often by stripped down greenkeeping crews, since the decision was taken to shut the doors on clubs on March 23.

Greenkeepers' caution on golf's return

Greenkeepers’ caution on golf’s return

Images spread across social media over the past few weeks have shown courses looking striped and fantastic during the spring sunshine.

But the reality, when getting up close, will be areas – such as rough – that have not been as closely monitored as teams have stuck to guidance issued by governing bodies and worked with limited numbers.

Speaking during a Talking Shop webinar held by the British & International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA), a panel of course managers urged caution.

“It’s expectation. They (golfers) are going to come back and they’re going to think that everything is fantastic,” said Scott Reeves, Leyland course manager and BIGGA chairman, when asked what the biggest challenge was going to be on the resumption of golf.

“(The perception will be that) The course has been empty, so the greenkeepers must have all been beavering away making everything absolutely perfect in their absence.

“We’re going to have to manage that. We’ll have to manage the expectation prior to opening, or partial opening, communicate effectively and, once they are on site, explain and build relationships back up again with golfers.

“There’s going to be inevitable disappointment.”

Andy Ewence, course manager at Woking, explained he had stopped using twitter when the lockdown began to temper expectations.

“We can keep the surfaces looking OK, fairways, greens, tees, but it is the strimming, the rough, the weed spraying,” he said.

Ewence continued: “The problem is there’s what you’re doing and the golf course down the road could be doing something totally different and the members speak.

“It’s going to be hard one. One golf course might look absolutely outstanding that have had most of their staff there, and the other one doesn’t. Going from public, private, exclusive, they are all going to be different.”

Craig Haldane, golf courses manager at Gleneagles, said communication – and doing it at the right time – would be absolutely crucial in getting everyone on side.

He added the possibility of full crews not being able to return for some time even after reopening, because of various restrictions that would still be in place, meant greenkeepers would also have to moderate their own expectations.

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New Zealand greenkeepers return

New Zealand greenkeepers return: Mowers started up for the first time in three weeks on Tuesday at many of New Zealand’s 400 golf courses.

Greenkeepers returned “just in time”, with some facing overgrown roughs and disease encroaching on the greens.

New Zealand greenkeepers return

New Zealand greenkeepers return

The Government gave the all-clear for golf course maintenance to resume, following lobbying from those in the golfing community. The stipulation from the Ministry of Primary Industries, which applies to bowling and croquet greens and nurseries, is that the maintenance must be urgent.

The upkeep of golf courses is a daily task, and if maintenance were delayed further, it could have a million-dollar impact, said Remuera golf club superintendent and NZ Golf Superintendents Association board member Spencer Cooper.

“We’ve got back to work just in time. It’s essential we maintain the properties so we’ve got something to go back to,” he said.

“Delaying… there would be tens of millions of dollars worth of damage.

“A lot of golf courses wouldn’t survive and it would result in a lot of people losing their jobs unncessarily.”

Cooper arrived on Tuesday to find “really nasty” fungal disease starting to appear on the greens. Some diseases can spread “extremely quickly” and wipe out entire greens within 48 to 72 hours.

“For the golf courses that do financially survive, the damage could be quite severe which would cost a lot of money to repair,” he said.

“It would keep the golf courses that do survive closed for longer and it would take longer for people to get back to playing golf.”

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the country, with more than half a million players picking up the golf clubs in the last 12 months.

Cooper’s club has a membership of 1600, and has more than 60,000 rounds of golf per year.

While Cooper is sceptical about the sport resuming in the next few weeks, he said golf offers an opportunity for exercise while in isolation.

“I believe people can go and play golf, in pretty much isolation, out in nature, get a bit of exercise, getting a bit of sunshine, without coming across too many other people,” he said.

“If we do it properly we believe we’re one of the few sports that can really be viable when others can’t…[and] there’s a huge mental health benefit.”

For now, he and his team are happy to be out on the course, also working on their mental health.

“This something extremely therapeutic about mowing grass and the smell of it… it was amazing,” he laughed.

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Greenkeepers work fury

Greenkeepers work fury: Greenkeepers at Caird Park Golf Club in Dundee are said to be fuming they are being forced to continue going in to work despite two of their colleagues testing positive for coronavirus, according to the region’s Evening Telegraph.

A report from BIGGA last week claimed that it was in their understanding that greenkeepers are able to keep “essential maintenance” of golf courses should they wish to, despite the UK lockdown for COVID-19 so that golfers would still have courses to play when the health crisis is over.

Greenkeepers work fury

Greenkeepers work fury

Union bosses are said to be backing the call for greenkeepers at the club to be off work due to two members of staff testing positive for COVID-19, with one other self-isolating due to having symptoms.

A decision to remove staff workers from the course is now being strongly backed by union bosses representing the club.

“Following the confirmation of the cases the remaining staff feel they shouldn’t be asked to go into work,” said Dundee branch secretary of the GMB, Jim Cunningham.

“The union is backing this call and we are demanding that our members should not have to go to work in the meantime. We have asked that the remaining workforce is currently removed from such  hazardous duties.”

He added: “We have been told that golf courses must be maintained so that when the current crisis is over they can immediately come back into use.

“However, we don’t believe that the greenkeepers and groundsman are essential staff currently. City council gardeners are not working at the moment and we don’t think our members should have to either.”

It is also claimed in the report that members of staff were not being supplied with the correct level of protective equipment with which to go about doing thejr jobs on the course.

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Greenkeepers still able to work

Greenkeepers still able to work: Following the Prime Minister’s curbs to fight coronavirus, greenkeepers can still attend work for ‘security and essential maintenance purposes’

But all work “must be carried out in accordance with government guidelines on social distancing”, and the association that represents the profession is seeking further guidance on what that means.

Greenkeepers still able to work

Greenkeepers still able to work

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Monday evening imposed strict new curbs on movement in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

The restrictions insisted people must stay at home except for medical needs, daily exercise, shopping for basic necessities and travel to and from essential work. He added that police would be given the powers to enforce those rules.

That announcement led to England Golf instructing all clubs, courses and facilities to close, while Scottish Golf asked all golfers to “refrain from playing” until further notice.

The body which represents greenkeepers, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), subsequently sought government clarification on whether it was appropriate for “limited and cautious maintenance of golf courses to take place”.

England Golf issued a brief statement, which said: “In order to provide clarification for golf clubs following on from the Prime Minister’s statement of 23 March, we are able to inform you of the following: For security and essential maintenance purposes, greenkeeping staff can still attend work.”

And in an email to members, BIGGA chief executive Jim Croxton said the association was now seeking “further clarification urgently” on what essential maintenance would entail.

He wrote: “Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening that the country is effectively in ‘lockdown’, we have been working hard to obtain clarification as to what that means in practice for our members, many of whom are looking for reassurances with regards their careers and income.

“It is an unprecedented time for us all and firstly I want to reaffirm the message that our members’ health and that of their families come first.

“Today we have received the following information from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS): ‘For security and essential maintenance reasons greens staff can still attend work.’

“This is, I believe, only partial clarification. It permits greenkeepers to work on essential maintenance but does not clarify what that means. We are naturally seeking further clarification urgently.

“At this moment BIGGA is working tirelessly for our members; we’re working closely with our golf industry partners to get further clarification from government and also to support all those people in the golf industry that are affected by the crisis.”

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Coronavirus tips for greenkeepers

Coronavirus tips for greenkeepers: BIGGA – the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association – explain how clubs can assist their vital greenkeeping teams during the pandemic.

Greenkeepers are an essential part of keeping a golf club open. The clubhouse may be able to temporarily shut its doors and ask golfers to change at home or in their cars, but if the course isn’t maintained then a club is losing its key asset.

Coronavirus tips for greenkeepers

Coronavirus tips for greenkeepers

In providing advice to greenkeepers, BIGGA is doing what it can to keep golf courses open, primarily for the economic health of the sport, but also because the government is concerned about ‘isolation fatigue’. As it is able to played without direct human contact, golf is a low-risk opportunity to stay active if you’re able to leave the house.

However, if a golf club’s entire greenkeeping team is forced to self-isolate or is unable to work due to illness, then the health of the golf course will be at risk, not just in the immediate future but also long-term as it will take some time to recover and the damage could be substantial.

Spring’s warmer weather means the turf will start growing at an increased rate. If courses can’t be maintained for an extended period then the finer areas – greens in particular – will suffer. Disease occurrence is more likely and once the grass is longer, it can’t just be chopped down to its previous height.

The following is guidance to help keep your greenkeeping team healthy during the current health crisis:

1. Split your team up into separate groups and keep them isolated from each other. Make sure you have groups who are able to complete specialist tasks as a unit, although this may also be an opportunity for trainee members of the team to learn new skills. If you need to speak to members of a different group, call them over the radio or phone, rather than meeting in person. As course manager, you also need to stay separate from the teams otherwise you risk spreading the virus among your team.

2. Allow different groups of staff to start and finish at half hour interviews and stagger their coffee breaks and lunch times. Make sure food and drink is stored in separate compartments and ensure each group completely cleans the breakroom after they have used it.

3. It may be an idea to ask the team to lunch in their cars rather than the mess room. Greenkeepers spend a lot of time working alone and so when they come together for a lunch or coffee break, it is a prime opportunity for the virus to spread. At this time, as much isolation as possible is hugely important.

4. As in all aspects of life at this time, hygiene is essential. For greenkeepers, that doesn’t just mean washing your hands for more than 20 seconds, but also ensuring that any equipment you use is completely and efficiently cleaned after use. Likewise, areas such as communal areas, washrooms and offices should be comprehensively cleaned on a regular basis. The current outbreak is an opportunity for a bit of spring cleaning.

5. There are tools that greenkeepers can use to help protect the course if they are unable to gain access for a period of time. The use of dew dispersant will suppress the formation of dew and reduce turf problems made worse by excess moisture. It will also decrease drying times following rainfall.

6. Growth regulators can be used to slow down the growth of the turf, reducing the need to mow it as frequently. Growth regulators work by causing a temporary halt in the production plant hormones responsible for promoting growth in grasses.

7. A programme of Integrated Pest Management will take a proactive approach to disease control and preventative fungicides can help reduce the instances of disease on the turf.

8. Most importantly, if you’re ill or showing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home. The golf club will survive without you for a few days, but if you make the entire team ill and indirectly cause the closure of the course, then the consequences could be dire. At times like this, it’s better to be cautious.

9. Being prepared for the worst by developing contingency plans are important and you can find more information about these, such as buddying up with other clubs and training other staff members or volunteers, by checking out the guidance BIGGA and golf’s other membership organisations recently published.

10. Other advice to prevent the spread of coronavirus at golf clubs includes:

  • Leave the flag in the hole at all times
  • Remove rakes and any other pieces of course furniture that golfers may touch – let the greenkeepers rake the bunkers and golfers can wipe their own golf balls on a towel
  • Only pick your own ball up
  • Do not share any equipment, such as golf clubs or rangefinders
  • Try to keep a distance of two metres from your playing partners
  • Don’t shake hands after your game
  • Adjust your catering provision to reduce physical contact – keep a barrier between you, use disposable plates and cups, have hand washing facilities available on every table
  • Prioritise online services for entries, bookings and scoring.
  • Take payments using contactless means.

For more information, visit the BIGGA website, or reach out on Twitter

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Greenkeeper’s 30 years of service

Greenkeeper’s 30 years of service: Market Drayton Golf Club’s head greenkeeper has achieved a remarkable 30 years of service with the club.

Simon Cotterill, who joined the club staff as the 11-hole course was expanding to 18 holes, has greatly influenced its development.

Greenkeeper's 30 years of service

Greenkeeper’s 30 years of service

Market Drayton Golf Course is now recognised as one of the best in the area and can boast a challenging, well-maintained, scenic course that is rarely closed.

During the ongoing development of the course, the club has been mindful of its beautiful natural surroundings, with Cotterill always been a great advocate in this area. He also undertakes extracurricular work on behalf of the club through his role in maintaining the playing areas of a number of local sports facilities.

The club said: “The extraordinary contribution of Cotterill over the years and the superb quality of the course and greens, is testimony to his long-term commitment.

“Simon is a keen angler and the club demonstrated their gratitude for such loyalty by presenting him a significant gift to enhance his enjoyment of his favourite pastime.”

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Greenkeepers keen to maintain course

Greenkeepers keen to maintain course: Parkview Golf Club’s green-keeping team has completed a five-day project to mow about three kilometres of the verges along the golf course perimeter.

The project, at an estimated cost of R15 000 is part of the club’s embracing programme to secure the environmental integrity of the course, according to club director, James Searson.

Greenkeepers keen to maintain course

“We are proud to contribute to the enhancement of Parkview, Greenside and Emmarentia where we can,” he said, “and work hard to ensure that the club is kept in top condition not just for golfers’ enjoyment but to add value to the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Searson said the club employs a cleaner whose sole task is to continually remove litter, especially plastic, from the ‘sluit’ through the course, to prevent as much as possible of the litter fouling the watercourse downstream. The process removes tonnes of rubbish each year.

To assist municipal engineers to combat the erosion of the sides of the sluit, the club has opened the property to them and their contractors to set up a site office to store their equipment and gain easier access to affected areas. To limit water usage on the course, the club draws non-potable ‘grey’ water (unfit for human use) directly from the Braamfontein Spruit in terms of its riparian rites, pumps into a dam and then filters and sprays it onto the course. To combat invasive polyphagous shot-hole-borer (PSHB) that has infected some trees and threatens many trees throughout South Africa, the club has engaged an arborist to assist it to control the pest through spraying.

Searson added, “Because we see our club as an integral part of the local community, we offer residents walking and social memberships and welcome casual visitors to a round of golf or a drink or meal on our ever-popular balcony.”

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Greenkeepers reveal greatest annoyances

Greenkeepers reveal greatest annoyances: Golfers and greenkeepers. One can’t survive without the other and occasionally, things get a little heated out on the course.

What’s the solution? Here at GolfMagic, we’ve teamed up with the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) to hear things from the greenkeepers’ perspective.

Greenkeepers reveal greatest annoyances

Chris Sealey, course manager, Chippenham Golf Club, Wiltshire

“I hate to say it, but golfers ask the funniest questions. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how little golfers realise goes into the maintenance of the course. For example, when the members ask why we hollow tine, we tell them it’s to let the worms out! And they sometimes believe us!

“But sometimes, those things they don’t understand can cause problems for greenkeepers. For example, when the course is closed due to flooding, we get told ‘I live five miles away and my garden is dry!’

“That then becomes a problem if they leave negative feedback about the course, when there could be nothing the greenkeeping team could have done to prevent the flooding, because we’re in a valley next to a river and they live up on a hilltop!

“I think golfers should give greenkeepers the benefit of the doubt more often and if the course isn’t in pristine condition, ask them the reason why, rather than jumping to conclusions.”

Andy Barber, course manager, Royal Winchester Golf Club, Hampshire

“I’ve been in this industry for a while now and I’ve really noticed the lack of etiquette among modern golfers. Sadly, it seems to be getting worse.

“By etiquette, I mean things such as golfers hitting balls at you – which is really dangerous – or things such as not repairing pitchmarks or divots, which is the age-old problem. It’s sad to say, but since we’ve opened up our golf courses to everyone and increased the number of visitors playing, etiquette seems to have deteriorated.

“The opinion seems to be, ‘I pay my money, I do what I like’ and how do you answer that? The sad thing is you can’t and you just have to walk away. Sadly, we’re losing a lot of good people from the industry because they’re tired of the lack of respect that golfers are showing to the course and to the greenkeepers.”

Sam Bethell, course manager, Chipstead Golf Club, Surrey

“My biggest bugbear is the lack of patience among golfers. I know it must be annoying when you’ve gone out to play golf and the greenkeepers are in the way again.

“But ask yourself, why are they there? Is it their last area to cut and they’ll then get out of your way? Have they even seen you? In most cases, there’s a reason they’re there.

“But either way, just wait a minute. Make sure they’ve seen you and that they’re safely out of the way before you play – you wouldn’t hit a ball if it was another golf stood in front of you.

“Don’t just send a shot up to give them a warning as you’d be amazed at the damage being hit by a golf ball can do to a person’s head or body and to the golfer’s bank account.”

Adam Matthews, course manager, Moor Allerton Golf Club, West Yorkshire

“As you can imagine, there are quite a few of the usual annoyances, ranging from not raking bunkers or repairing pitchmarks, to ignoring traffic management and information signage.

“But for me, my biggest bugbear with some golfers is the ignorance towards weather and ground conditions and then the comments that follow.

“We’ll have golfers turn up on a weekend and seem to forget that the rain that fell all week didn’t just land on their homes, but it also landed on the course!

“A golf course isn’t an artificial surface – it’s fine turf, growing on soil – and so it’s affected by the weather, which includes getting muddy sometimes, or brown and dry if there’s a drought.

“We’ll always do what we can to improve drainage and keep playing conditions as good as we are able, but there’s always going to be some impact from the weather.”

Billey Merritt, head greenkeeper, Beacon Park Golf Club, Lancashire“A golfer once asked about the number of moles on the course and we told him it was because they were laying so many mole eggs, and he believed us!

“But in seriousness, my biggest gripe is the lack of patience that golfers have, when we are trying to make the course better for them in the long run.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to do something that will disrupt the course in the short term, but in the long run your greenkeepers are working for the good of the course and the changes will be for the benefit of everyone.”

Lucy Sellick, course manager, Wenvoe Castle Golf Club, South Wales

“For me, there are a couple of things that golfers do, but that can easily be solved with a little understanding. One is that golfers seem to think we do things for no reason or, worse, just to annoy them!

“For example, we can’t cut our fairways immediately after a herbicide application, so the grass is slightly longer, but the golfers think we’re all taking a break!

“That brings me on to the next point, which is that golfers don’t seem to be able to read. I’ve had times where we’ve closed a hole because we’re felling large trees and it’s potentially dangerous.

“There could be a sign on the tee, a sign in the middle of the fairway and ropes directing them where to head and yet I have still found myself waving down a golfer who was about to play a shot over a Land Rover, tractor and trailer and us all, wearing bright orange personal protection equipment!

“The different standards we must deal with are frustrating. The finance committee will look at our budget and ask if the greenkeepers really needed £200 wet weather gear. They’ll have no reservations about spending £300 on their own gear, which they use for four hours, once a week, yet they expect greenkeepers to be out in all weather, in unsuitable working gear.

“That’s not great if we want to keep talent in the industry, rather than leaving to go to a profession where they’re more respected.”

Antony Kirwan, course manager, Romford Golf Club, Essex

“Although the members at my club seem to be really understanding, in general there’s a lack of awareness among golfers about what it takes to prepare their course.

“There are some members who take the time to read the literature or ask you questions, but there are also many who will say things that aren’t constructive, like ‘my garden looks a lot better than the course at the moment!’ or ‘why is he putting holes in the greens, when they’re playing well?’

“I think we can all relate to the member who is an electrician, plumber, lawyer, accountant or PGA professional, who doesn’t consider that their course manager will have gone through as extensive training as they did, in order to get to that position. I certainly wouldn’t be telling them how to do their job and yet golfers don’t give greenkeepers that same courtesy.

“As someone who spends a lot of time out on the course, it’s also true that etiquette is, at times, shocking. We see images on social media everyday of bunkers not being raked, pitchmarks not being repaired, divots taken out of the green and the near misses that greenkeepers endure every day, because a golfer can’t wait to hit his shot.

“I’m not point the finger at every golfer, as there are many that understand. But the small percentage really do make our job hard at times.”

James Braithwaite, course manager, Long Ashton Golf Club, Bristol

“Sadly, there’s a lack of respect for the role we’re in, with many not even recognising it as a profession. I gave a lecture recently, speaking to golf club managers, and we went around the room and asked what a greenkeeper did.

“So many people just answered ‘they cut the grass’ and were amazed when I reeled off the list of actual duties that greenkeepers do. We’re politicians, agronomists, scientists, magicians, spray technicians, tree surgeons and the list goes on and on. We set budgets, deliver presentations, fight turf diseases and unfortunately that’s not recognised in the industry.

“As a golf club, your biggest asset is the course and the greenkeepers are responsible for looking after it. Yet they’re not given the same status as the club manager or the professional. Greenkeepers will speak to their members and there’ll be someone who may be a dentist, a doctor or an electrician, telling the greenkeeper how he should be maintaining the course, which is mind-blowing.

“I’d like to say that the solution is making golfers more aware of what greenkeepers do to maintain the course, but the golfer has to want to learn and that’s not always the case.”

Colin Hopper, head greenkeeper, Elsham Golf Club, Lincolnshire

“The most annoying – and potentially dangerous – thing about golfers has to be etiquette with regards to having golf balls hit towards the greenstaff.

“Although these are quite isolated incidents, there are still occasions where there seems to be no regards for our safety. Working with the club, safety measures have been put in place by means of signage, wearing high visibility jackets and vests.

“We’ve also had meetings with the individuals involved and posted comments on the information newsletters that are sent out to the members.

“I guess we have all heard the excuses before, such as ‘I didn’t see you {(while you were sat on your mower, 150 yards down the fairway)’, ‘I didn’t think I could hit it that far’, ‘I thought you waved me up’ or ‘I thought you had moved out the way’.

“I recently had one golf ball landed about 10ft from my mower after hitting the top of the tree just behind me, which was about 50ft tall. His excuse was ‘I knew it wasn’t going to reach you’!

“We haven’t had any greenkeepers hit for a good number of years here at Elsham, but there have been a few near misses. I guess the only way to stop any greenkeeper being hit is to be more severe with any punishments or start working nights!

“It would be great to hear from other golf courses about this issue and how they deal with it.”

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Greenkeepers’ Acclaim For Meeting Ryder Cup Challenge

Greenkeepers’ Acclaim For Meeting Ryder Cup Challenge: For years the greenkeepers have remained the ‘unsung heroes’ behind tournaments and big events. For sure this year’s Ryder Cup coverage was focused on the players and the matches, but there has been far wider acknowledgement of Le Golf National as perfect hosts, and unprecedented praise for the role of the greenkeeping team.

During his opening speech, European Captain, Thomas Bjorn, singled out Alejandro Reyes, Golf Course and Estates Manager at Le Golf National, with appreciation for his pivotal contribution in crafting the course setup. In the final euphoria, Ian Poulter took the time from his jubilant celebrations personally to meet, greet and embrace the greenkeeping team on the 18th green.

This time, the European Tour created its own promotional video of what goes on for course preparation behind the scenes. Other broadcasters and media took advantage of a peak into life in the greenkeeping sheds, to show video footage of turf management practices and personal experiences from the Turf Team Challenge website.

Greenkeepers’ Acclaim For Meeting Ryder Cup Challenge

Syngenta’s Daniel Lightfoot, using his Master Greenkeeper experience gained as Course Manager of Bearwood Lakes Golf Club, spent a full week with the LGN greenkeeping team in its preparations and over the full tournament.

“It has been a fantastic experience, to share such an incredible week with so many highly talented and fully committed greenkeepers,” he said. “And it has been very welcome that all the work has been so widely appreciated.”

Daniel believes volunteering at Le Golf National has been an extremely valuable experience for greenkeepers’ personal and career development.

“You get to learn new skills and techniques from the best in the business – both the resident teams on the course and from the other volunteer greenkeepers involved. But equally valuable is learning to work as a team and the great comradery and friendships that develop from meeting the challenges of preparing and delivering a great tournament venue.”

And it doesn’t get any bigger or better than Le Golf National. Alejandro Reyes himself has been a keen volunteer at events across the world, citing it brings a new perspective for greenkeepers, and can be an inspiration to introduce new things on their own courses.

“For sure, I love to do tournaments! Between the European Tour and the PGA Tour, I’ve lost count of the number of tournaments I’ve worked on. And every time you work on one you see something different,” said Alejandro.

“You get a picture of something and think ‘ah, that could work on my course’ or ‘we could do it better if we did it like this’.

“I am incredibly grateful for all the courses and superintendents who gave me the opportunity to see what they did through volunteering, so it’s a chance to give something back.”

Alejandro acknowledged it’s an investment in time for greenkeepers to be away from the course. “But the experience that they bring back is extremely valuable. Also it’s good for the team to welcome other people and to share experiences.”

Kerr Rowan, Course Manager at Sand Golf Club, near Jonkoping in Sweden, pointed out his key learn from working at Le Golf National has been to focus on attention to detail. “I think we run at a pretty high standard, then you come here and you think, ‘No we don’t!’. Out there it’s fantastic, so for me it’s about being a little bit more switched on.”

If there is one thing he’ll take back on the turf quality, it would be the incredible density of the turf surfaces across the Le Golf National course. “I’m just amazed by it. They’ve really tuned in their fertiliser strategy and it’s got me thinking a lot about fertiliser, brushing and density and watering and thinking, how can I be as good as here, or at least as good as I can be for the resources I have?”

Improving turf density, smoothness and consistency for players has been the key driver for using Primo Maxx II for Tournament preparation at Le Golf National. The team pointed ut that players would experience the same playing conditions and pace in the morning, as the last players out in the afternoon.

Lucas Pierre, Alejandro’s right-hand man and Head Greenkeeper for the Albatros Course, also reported the difference with the fairways this year using Primo Maxx II, compared to last year without.

“When you were cutting the fairway every day, you had to empty the box every five minutes; this year, it’s like the guys are saying ‘you never empty the boxes’ it’s perfect for us.

“You save on time; the quality of cut is better; turf looks better; you have better roll. We have more consistency. It really helps.”

For Lucas, the relationship he has developed with Syngenta has been very important. “For us, this could be one of the successes of the Tournament,” he said.

Managing such a big greenkeeping team – of some 180 volunteers and course greens staff – has been a challenge in itself. Stefan Carter, Senior Greenkeeper at Wentworth, highlighted the atmosphere had been fantastic.

“There’s been a lot of people, putting a lot of hours in. It’s a great bunch of guys and women from around the world. We all shared stories and shared experiences, which has really made it a happy place.”

He welcomed the chance to see the range of jobs involved and the opportunity to do a bit of everything.

“!t’s the way that they refine every detail and the finishing touches that sets it apart. To be part of the biggest golf event in the world has just been so fantastic,” reported Stefan.

“The networking here can change your career; it’s not just one week’s work, it’s a potentially life changing opportunity.”

For Swedish greenkeeper and mechanic, Johan Olsson, the mantra learned at his Le Golf National time has been to ‘check, check and check again’, just to make sure everything is set up precisely and will work perfectly and consistently out on the course.

“Then, when they’ve finished the morning session, it’s check it all again, ready for the evening. It’s just been the biggest thing you can experience, as a greenkeeper or mechanic.

“Watching 180 guys move out in the morning; it’s unbelievable, and something I can really recommend,” he added.

Wendy O’Brien, Golf Course Superintendent at Jurmala Golf Club in Latvia, highlighted just how much fun the whole greenkeeping team had, but also the opportunities for seminars and career development, along with the chance to glean the knowledge of others.

“For example, I have capillary concrete in my bunkers back home, so it’s been great to talk to others about their experiences and how they best manage them.”

She welcomed the professionalism of all the greenkeepers and organisational staff that had ctively encouraged and integrated women working on the team throughout the preparations. “We are all used to working as a minority group, but to be treated exactly the same and given the same responsibilities and jobs for our skills alone has been a great experience,” added Wendy.

Chloe Gallagher, of Sunningdale Golf Club, concurred. “Being part of a team with a dozen or more women has been really different and a great experience.

“It’s a fantastic industry for women and it’s given a showcase for what we can achieve. In the future the industry is going to be equal across the board, which I think is really good.”

South Africa’s Leopard Creek Country Club Golf Course Superintendent, Neville Wenhold, found the whole process of handling the pressure of a big tournament fascinating.

“Alejandro has made it a lot easier for us because he’s so professional at what he does. He makes it clear what expects from the team. He prefers for us to make sure that we are doing the right thing, rather than just pushing, pushing, pushing and making a mess along the line.

“He’s the key to everyone doing such a good job. The standard out here has been unbelievable. I’m taking a lot back home; new ways of doing things. It’s been really good learning from these guys.”

The BBC on-line commentary team summed-up the team’s performance perfectly at the end of the event:

“As the sun sets on Le Golf National, the Ryder Cup organisers are getting the presentation ready on the 18th green. The greenkeeper must be having kittens.…” “He deserves a pint or 10. What a course it has been this week. I’d say it’s the best course I’ve ever seen in a Ryder Cup. Let’s get it back again asap.”