Jim Croxton speaks up for Course Managers' inclusion in senior teams

Tania Longmirein Golf

The CEO of Europe's biggest greenkeeping association, BIGGA, explains that the entire structure of a golf club relies upon a well-maintained course that is enjoyable and attractive to play.

As I consider what I would like to say in this column for The Golf Business, it springs to mind that there would be no 'business' at any golf club without its course.

If a golf business is to thrive, it can generally only do so if the golf course is thriving. The entire structure of a golf club relies upon a well-maintained course that is enjoyable and attractive to play.

It brings to mind the words of one golf course owner I spoke to, who hadn't tarmacked his car park or invested thousands into the locker rooms. "What do I want to do that for?" he told me. "It's out there on the course that people spend four hours of their day and it's the course that keeps them coming back."

And if the course is central to the golf club business, then it stands to reason that the greenkeeping team are similarly important.

However, a couple of years ago our friends at England Golf ran a project across three counties, whereby they offered free, high-quality business advice to golf clubs. Those clubs that took up the opportunity were asked to get their senior management teams to meet the advisor. How many of those clubs included their head greenkeeper or course manager, would you imagine?

Well, despite their being responsible for the successful operation of the club's most valuable and expensive-to-maintain asset, more than 80 per cent of the clubs who took part didn't include their course manager in the senior team.

I find this extremely worrying. But having worked with many golf clubs that do involve the greenkeeping team in the overall business, I know that a solution is possible, and a club will thrive if it does engage in this way.

Of course there are two sides to this and I accept that our members must play their part to ensure they are perceived as being at a management level. They have to involve themselves in business matters at the club and be prepared to get out of their comfort zone. This means building relationships with other heads of department and members or customers and recognising that they are part of a broad leisure experience.

BIGGA as an association is doing its part to provide its members with the ability to rise to this challenge. Our annual exhibition and conference is all about providing greenkeepers with the tools they need to do their job effectively. That can be the latest machinery and equipment, or it can be the skills and knowledge that enable them to earn the respect of members at their club.

At BTME in 2019 the Continue to Learn education programme provided more than 6,000 hours of education on subjects as varied as communications, finance, public speaking and purchasing, as well as agronomy and ecology. There aren't many professions that have access to such a varied and engaging programme and I believe many would be surprised to discover the level of education available to their greenkeepers.

Greenkeepers are highly trained professionals and it's now up to golf clubs to live up to their side of the bargain. If they want have the best course and attract the best talent, golf clubs will have to demonstrate they have a coherent business structure in place that ensures accountability for all and the backing and support to allow their staff to thrive.

I can't finish without a brief mention of a topical greenkeeping challenge; the effects of last year's summer. If your club lost grass cover due to the extreme heat and drought I hope that remedial measures were permitted and resourced in the autumn to begin recovery. If not then unfortunately the bare earth will turn to patches of mud following the first heavy downpour - much to the disappointment of the greenkeepers!

For more information, visit www.bigga.org.uk

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