I read, with interest, a recent thread on our message board regarding fatigue in the workplace, and it got me thinking; how many sports clubs, schools and golf courses really understand what it takes, in time and effort, to maintain their facilities in light of all the complexities faced on a daily basis?
The postee in question was being asked to abolish flexitime on the golf course he worked at and also introduce a clocking in system. As head greenkeeper, his work hours were being set at 6.30am-3.00pm and his staff's at 7.30am-4.00pm. So, in an effort to 'find out what the 'norm' at other golf courses was?', he posed that very question.
He had explained to the committee, without success, that the new system would not allow him to perform his role satisfactorily, but their argument was that the greenkeepers would suffer from fatigue if they carried on under the flexitime system he had been operating.
In all the years I have been involved with the turfgrass industry, it has been commonly understood that we have always been early starters, particularly on golf courses, and that we are, generally, always willing to put in the extra hours to complete the task.
Traditionally, we have always been seen to start much earlier than other trades. Most golf greenkeepers start between 6.00am and 6.30am and finish at around 3.00pm, averaging a nine hour day. This is offset by reduced hours in the winter.
I personally think the real debate here is all about understanding how much a sports facility should be investing in staff and resources to maintain it to the standard the owners and end users expect.
I firmly believe we need to have some clearer national costs and indication on appropriate staffing numbers for given sports club facilities.
I recently visited an 18-hole parkland golf course in mid-Wales that was being maintained by three greenkeeping staff. An immense effort was being put in daily by all three staff members, often working many additional hours (without pay) to keep the course playable.
What should the staffing level be on a typical 18 hole golf course? At the end of the day, there are still eighteen greens, fairways, rough, semi-rough and tees to be mown, plus all the other daily chores, moving tees boxes and pin position, servicing machinery, raking bunkers ... the list goes on and on.
I accept that no two golf course will be managed in the same way, as they all have different conditions to be met - location, size, topography and type of course will dictate the level and amount of work required to keep it maintained at the desired standard, but we have to start with a basic minimum requirement, and three it is not!
There is plenty of documented evidence available to validate the work of the greenkeeper or groundsman and the costs incurred in maintaining a facility, plus daily works diaries that could be used to account for how long a particular job takes.
As an example, Laurence Pithie, Europe's first Master Greenkeeper has written a complete Maintenance Manual that gives guidelines on costs and resources taken to maintain a golf course. It consists of 28 different sections and covers virtually all aspects of setting up a maintenance system for managing a golf course. It is not a manual for growing or maintaining fine turf, but a series of documents, work sheets and records that will help you manage your course in a more effective and professional manner.
I would like to see similar guidelines produced for other sports, e.g. cricket, bowls, rugby and football where a lack of manpower, resources and money invested is all too common.
Isn't it about time the management of these facilities recognised their value to the community at large and provided the tools and expertise to manage the surfaces accordingly?
We are not just grasscutters!
Laurence Gale, Editor, Pitchcare