We've Been Closed For Almost Six Weeks This Winter, I've Never Seen Anything Like It British Greenkeeper On Fighting Tough Conditions, Being Appreciated, And Finding The Next Generation
We’ve Been Closed For Almost Six Weeks This Winter, I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It British Greenkeeper On Fighting Tough Conditions, Being Appreciated, And Finding The Next Generation

For the thousands of greenkeepers who work in Britain and Ireland, it can be very hard to do their jobs during the cold winter months. It starts to rain more, the winds pick up, and the temperature drops, but many of the tougher players still come out in the cold and expect to play whenever they want.

But what is it like for the people whose job it is to take care of the holy grass at the more than 3,500 sites across the British Isles? How have they dealt with the extra work? What are the hardest things about it when the worst weather comes? Do they just cross their fingers that the weather will be nice enough to keep disasters from happening, or do they take steps to avoid them? What can you do to help?

A member of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), Rob Duval is the head greenkeeper at Scraptoft Golf Club in Leicestershire. Golf Monthly talked to him to get some of these questions answered.

READ MORE: The world’s five hardest golf courses.

First, how have you been coping with the rough weather this winter so far?

RD: I mean, it’s been definitely tough. We’ve had an enormous amount of rain this year in particular. Since I’ve worked at Scraptoft for almost 24 years, I have no idea when it was stopped for this long. During the winter, we’ve been closed for almost six weeks, which is never the case. And when it’s this wet, it makes a lot of problems.Of course you know that golfers want to use the course, and we want to let them while also keeping the course in the best shape possible. You can’t get any tools out there to do anything when it’s wet, though.

Do you need a lot of money to do a good job, or does what you learn matter?

“No matter what the weather is like, I think most greenkeepers are able to make the course look its best for their members,” said RD. But in the end, you can’t do it if you don’t have the money. To make what people want, you need the right tools.

Do you think people who play golf like what you do?

In terms of golfers recognizing what we do and realizing how much work goes into it, I think things are getting better. Now that there are people like you and social media, green keepers can talk about and show what it takes to maintain a course in the winter and how much attention to detail it takes to deal with unusual playing conditions.Ten years ago, winter golf was just winter golf, and people got used to it. These days, though, people expect to be able to play golf on a pretty good course all year long, which is very, very hard to do.

What can golfers do to help the people who take care of the greens? fixing things like pitch marks correctly, for example?

RD: “It’s all year long for everyone to learn how to do things right, like fixing pitch marks.” I don’t want to say that it needs to be brought up again, but some people don’t seem to respect the golf course, and I think that needs to be pushed again. I’m not sure how to do that, but everyone needs to behave better on the golf course again.During the winter, most golf courses only have a drawn white line or a rope to keep people from going off the course. This is done for a reason. It’s to keep the ground from getting too hard around the greens so that everyone can have a better time in the summer. But a lot of players choose not to care about it, which is a shame. It would also be helpful if everyone tried to follow those rules a little more.

READ MORE: Golf balls will be rolled back by the USGA and the R&A for both pros and amateurs: report

Have you been able to meet enough people to join? How hard is it to find new people to work as greenkeepers?

“There is definitely a problem there,” said RD. We’ve had a terrible time getting in touch with people about hiring. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough greenkeepers, so we have to work with less experienced staff and a smaller team to get things done. So I think it’s a real problem in the greenkeeping business to hire people.Not enough people are getting into the business. It looks like the days of younger members coming in to help out for the summer are over, which is pretty much how I got into it.A nearby school will visit us as part of a new program called “First Greens.” We’ll show them what it’s like to work in the golf industry. But that’s true in every area, not just greenkeeping. BIGGA is doing a great thing with that project, and I hope it helps.

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