Must Start With The Members
out old records for paper salvage aroused two emotions. Sadness at the loss of
archival material and frustration at the exhortations of twenty years ago having
been so obviously ineffective. I find that I am still having to stress the advantages
of sensible greenkeeping in terms of better course condition at lower costs and
less risk of disaster.
advantages and merits of the pitch and run-up principle over target golf still
seems unacceptable, especially to today's new-entrant golfers. It must be emphasised
that this advocacy of our traditional centuries old game and criticism of that
lush target version, developed on the other side of the Atlantic, has nothing
to do with old fogies nostalgically striving to retain the standards which applied
earlier in their golfing lives, but everything to do with costs and playing conditions.
greenkeeping not only produces better all round conditions - remember that our
winters last from October to April - with less disease and better grasses, but
costs much less. Good management avoids problems - and the cost of disease control
alone on overfed courses is enormous. Everything, plus and minus, hinges on money.
Highly paid tournament professionals make it clear that they want the element
of chance (luck) taken out of the game completely, as they are horrified at the
prospect of the 'rub of the green' affecting their finances. Furthermore, televised
golf demands that courses are 'photogenic' and are thus 'peaked' for events, but
remember that peaks are always preceded and followed by troughs !
biggest problems in golf today are, beyond argument, the demands of new entrants
into the game for those golfing conditions which they see on television. This
in turn plays into the hands of some (not all) fertiliser companies who grossly
over-sell the wrong fertilisers, justified all too often by showing so called
deficiencies 'revealed' by soil analyses. The fallibility of soil analyses in
greenkeeping, based on wrong and arbitrary standards. I have, in writing, one
fertiliser company's report advising fertiliser application in 10 of the 12 months
and an assurance that the average order for any Golf Club should be around 40
tonnes. All golf courses use a fraction of this amount - and no fungicides ! This
indicates one saving !
is the key - but it must start with the Club members. If they demand lush conditions
- "plenty of grass under the ball" - then clearly they have not been educated
in the skills needed to impart backspin from a tight lie; the virtues of the pitch
and run-up game; the benefits of having the option of taking a putter some distance
off the green (hazards permitting); and the desirability in terms of all-year-round
golf of firm fast putting surfaces as opposed to soft holding annual meadow grass
(and if necessary educate) your professional to help such newcomers to realise
the error of their ways. Education is also needed for (some) fertiliser company
reps - and directors. However, the lure of commission in the one case and profits
in the other makes this an unlikely starter. We have of course seen all this before
- in the sixties and early seventies when many of our first class courses were
ruined by gross over-feeding (and over-watering). Does no one else remember the
days when many inland courses switched permanently onto winter greens at the end
of October and did not play to full greens until Easter.
of greenkeepers is a happier story, but with no grounds for complacency. A national
structure provides the foundation for a sound instruction of new entrants both
at their place of work and through guidance from approved and invigilated colleges.
Such colleges also provide qualifications at higher diploma levels for more the
mature and experienced. In greenkeeping we are blessed with a greater number than
ever of brilliant course managers and a solid cadre of experienced head greenkeepers,
enjoying the confidence of their Club management.
these sadly are not a majority and there are clearly too many poorly educated
greenkeepers. They fall into a number of categories. Some, perhaps with reason,
fear dismissal if they oppose the 'green is great' school and others claim that
while they know it is wrong they must "give the punters what they demand". Others
became greenkeepers primarily so that they could enjoy free golf all the year
round and were not good enough to become Club professionals. Whilst others are
plagued by the changing ambitions of changing green committees.
these groups are prey to ill-educated sales reps and all desperately need educating.
During this process debate may convince them of the essential correctness of standard
traditional methods in terms of lower running costs; trouble free playing surfaces;
better grasses than annual meadow grass (whose faults have been so heavily debated
as to need no further condemnation); better winter conditions; better conservation
and anti-pollution management; and above all less nerve-wracking and more stress-free
have unequalled opportunities to encourage education at all levels for all staff
- and also members. No barrier should be permitted against further education,
even if this means staff losses as they move to better jobs, for their replacements
will themselves be better educated. Correct education is an obvious corollary
- so never send youngsters to the 'college down the road' (unless it happens to
be on the GTC fully approved list).
are hopeful signs that the leading authorities in golf are supporting the need
to get away from the 'green is great' school - and this should help you as Secretaries/Managers
to achieve results. It all starts with educating (some of) your members !