Leading By Example In
The Search For Sustainable Growth
Callander - Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
you first arrive at Temple Golf Club, near Maidenhead, there seems little to distinguish
it from most other traditional British clubs. It has an attractive, but far from
opulent, clubhouse which offers fare you might find at clubs all over the country.
has its own professional's shop and even an obligatory pole on which a flag flies
at half mast whenever a member dies. It all appears remarkable only because it
is so unremarkable. Then you set foot on the course.
is almost as if you have been transported back 20 or 30 years - to a time when
British courses were in their prime. And never is this more apparent than if you
visit in winter - when many other traditional clubs are so wet underfoot as to
be almost unplayable. You can play here.
amateur golfers will be aware that during the last two decades course conditions
throughout Britain have deteriorated alarmingly. This is particularly the case
during the winter months, when the weather is at its worst.
once we could consider ourselves unfortunate to encounter temporary tees and winter
greens even in the most inclement conditions, now they are commonplace for three
months of the year.
is no exaggeration to suggest that, at some clubs, golf is no longer a 12-month
game. We might all fork out annual subscriptions which, on the face of it, entitle
us to year-round golf, but the reality is that many courses are now in such a
state of disrepair in winter as to dissuade all but the most enthusiastic golfers
from venturing out at all.
years ago Temple, like so many other clubs, was heading that way too. Then head
greenkeeper Martin Gunn, chairman of greens Malcolm Peake and secretary Keith
Adderley decided to transform the club's maintenance policy.
plan proved successful. So successful, in fact, that the club recently won the British and International Golf
Greenkeepers' Association Golf Environment Award for 1999.
What Gunn, Peake and Adderley
realised was that the club, like so many others, had, almost inadvertently, fallen
foul of the 'Green is Great' mentality. With grim consequences, it had become
all the rage at clubs throughout the country.
on replicating the verdant and lush conditions of Augusta National and other foreign
Tour venues, Temple, and all too many other clubs just like it, began, little
by little, to use more water and fertiliser than ever before. In turn, this began
to encourage infestation of poa annua grass at the expense of indigenous bents
the process is self-perpetuating. The more poa annua, the more a club needs to
water and fertilise just to maintain a reasonable playing surface. Put simply,
the course becomes addicted to regular - and very unnatural - feeding. It is akin
to agricultural land whose fertility becomes dependent on intensive farming methods,
and which, in the long term, prove unstable and unsustainable.
Temple was caught in a vicious cycle. It needed to spend more and more on maintenance,
yet, inexorably, the condition of the course declined.
was a very real problem for us and one for which there was no easy cure," Gunn
said. "It takes time to turn things round and you have to be prepared to face
an awful lot of criticism along the way."
had found, at the outset in particular, that they had to endure the wrath of their
members - particularly when conditions first seemed to deteriorate rather than
improve. Gunn said: "I know I was fortunate to find someone like Malcolm who was
willing to take a few hits for me. I needed support from some senior individuals
within the club and that's what I got from Malcolm and Keith."
knew such backing was necessary because he was well aware it would not be easy
to return Temple to its former glory. The only way was to kill off poa annua,
a weak, shallow-rooted grass prone to disease, and, in turn, promote the return
of native bents and fescues. This would have to be done by firstly starving the
turf of water and fertiliser and then implementing an aeration policy designed
to relieve compaction and promote root growth.
is very difficult to achieve but both processes can cause short-term anxiety among
members, particularly among those who fail to realise that the indigenous grasses
will not return overnight. The greens, in fact, will look even worse before they
start to look better, which is why it is vital that a club talks to its members
about what it is trying to do.
can't offer other clubs a simple solution but what I would do is stress that communication
is vital if they are to come through unscathed. Communication is king," Gunn said.
"You will never
be able to appease the vocal minority, but what you can do is work on the silent
majority. They are much more likely to be receptive if they know what you are
doing and why you are doing it."
a while at least even this determination to involve members was not enough to
dispel all doubts. However, little by little, as the condition of the course began
to improve and - of equal importance - as Gunn's natural maintenance techniques
encouraged the return of indigenous species, the critics were silenced.