0 Flavelle of the month

Cosby Golf Club is set in the heart of the Midlands and, for the past two and half years, has gained the expertise of Head Greenkeeper Thomas Flavelle. Editor, Kerry Haywood, sat down with Thomas for a Q&A session to find out about the recent renovations and maintenance regimes at this eighteen hole parkland course.

How did you get into the industry and where did you work prior to your current position? What training and education did you undertake?

I started my career at Lingdale Golf Club as a trainee in 2007, where I undertook my NVQ level 2 in Sports Turf with Myerscough college. Once completed, I decided to self-fund the Level 3 diploma course, again through Myerscough college for further professional development. During this period, my tutor Jonathan Knowles entered me into the very prestigious 'Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award' and I was extremely fortunate to be announced as the 2012 and 24th winner of the award. This gave me an exciting opportunity to travel to the USA where I studied and graduated the 'International Winter School' for Turf Managers' at the 'University of Massachusetts. Following my return to the UK, I was offered a role at 'The Luffenham Heath GC' which was about to host its first 'Regional Open Qualifier for the Open Championship, and I gained a great understanding on the management of heathland golf courses. I moved to Cosby the following year and took over as Head Greenkeeper of the 18 hole parkland golf course. To further my qualifications, I decided to enrol on the Foundation Degree course, through Myerscough/University of Central Lancashire and, along with this, I was accepted by The R&A on their Scholarship programme where I graduated in 2016.

Was there one person who inspired you?

Over the years, I have been inspired by many people. I wanted to start a career in greenkeeping because of my father who had been a course manager before he retired. As my career progressed, I found inspiration in other successful greenkeepers and what they had achieved with their careers.

Are you responsible for budgets or do you report to someone else?

I am responsible for the day to day running of the greens department, which includes managing the course budget, procurement of machinery and the day to day challenges of maintaining the golf course. I am very fortunate to have a very supportive greens chairman; we work together as a team and he trusts in my ability to achieve the goals we have set. The overall budget is set by the finance committee, but I am responsible for splitting this figure between each nominal code.

What is the total acreage and how is this split up?

Cosby Golf Club is situated in South Leicestershire and was formed in 1895. Like many golf courses, it started as a nine hole layout before further land was purchased to extend the course to eighteen holes in the 1950s. A ten bay driving range was added in 2007. The course measures 6474 yards from the medal tees with a par 71 and consists of 13 par 4s of varying lengths, 2 par 5s and 3 par 3s. The course is situated on 45-hectares of land, split by the Shuttleworth Lane. The greens are just under a hectare in size, with the tees and approaches taking up 1 hectare. The fairways, which were reshaped last season to ensure that players are rewarded for hitting the fairway with a clear shot to the putting surface, takes up 9.5 hectares. The rest of the land is maintained as semi-rough or amenity rough.

Thomas, Jack and the team

What additional staff do you have?

The greenkeeping department has four other team members, Mike Laheen (42) has been working at Cosby since 2015, and was promoted to Deputy Head Greenkeeper this year. Myself and Mike trained together at Lingdale Golf Club from 2007-2013. Joe Ashdown (34) joined Cosby in 2016 as an Assistant Greenkeeper, having worked in greenkeeping/grounds maintenance for ten years, and he's brought a fantastic work ethic with him. Neil Green (22) began his career at Cosby in 2015 and has very recently completed his level 2 Greenkeeping certificate through Brooksby College. Liam Plant (37) has been a member at Cosby for twenty-four years and in 2016 joined the Greenkeeping team.

Do you employ a workshop technician?

We do not employ a workshop technician. Mike carries out most of the machinery maintenance and he is self-trained, from building up a vast skill set through his ten years of greenkeeping, to become a very talented mechanic in his own right. The other lads are encouraged to try to diagnose and repair breakdowns to help increase their own skills.

Is servicing and machinery maintenance carried out in-house or outsourced?

We complete all our own servicing in-house. Keeping the fleet well maintained is a high priority, as without it we cannot maintain the course to the standards we wish. To help maintain the life span of the machines, they are serviced as close as possible to the manufacturer's guidelines. The shed also contains Bernhard grinders, which are machines that I simply couldn't live without. We aim to keep the blades regularly sharpened to help maintain plant health, therefore reducing disease risk. We usually get through around three sets of blades a season on the greens mowers, which may seem costly, but if it saves on application of fungicide then it will have saved us money in the long run whilst making us more sustainable. With the limited number of staff, it is extremely difficult to keep on top of all the maintenance. Unfortunately, members do not always realise that a morning maintaining equipment is as vital as being out working on the course.

Do you receive any additional help?

The range balls are collected by the 'Range ball collector' and the flowerbeds by keen gardeners within the club. The club have several volunteers that help to run Opens and decorate the clubhouse and would be severely stretched if we were required to complete these works alongside our maintenance of the golf course. We work closely with an external agronomist, who is a great aid to have on the end of the phone, in addition to the course visits.

How would you describe the soil profile generally?

The course is formerly farmland and is typical Leicestershire clay which can make it very difficult to keep the course dry through the winter months. We have endeavoured to make the course more playable through the winter, without causing damage to the main playing surfaces, by implementing winter tees. This currently consists of areas cut into the rough away from the main tees, but the plan over the next two years is to provide winter tee mats for each hole. We are considering having mobile tees as these can be moved accordingly to vary the golf holes.

How were the greens and tees constructed and do they require any special maintenance techniques?

The greens pose a big challenge as eleven of them are old clay push-ups, six built with sand bases and one single USGA construction. For the first couple of years, the greens performed very similarly, although the sand based greens would show the signs of nutrient/water deficiency sooner than the clay base greens, which is expected with the higher leaching capacity of these greens. This winter has shown the first signs of having to introduce slightly different management strategies. The sand based greens were hit with an outbreak of Michrodchium patch just after Christmas, which I was surprised to see, as traditionally the clay based greens have been the usual suspects for outbreaks. Rather than apply a fungicide, we opted for a light application of 4-3-4 ammonium sulphate which checked the disease. I have found, when applying water to the greens, that the sand based green will require around twice as much compared to the clay based greens to help maintain them within our moisture targets.

Do you have any additional equipment/systems at your disposal?

The course boasts an excellent irrigation system, which covers the tees, approaches and of course the greens. The system allows me to set exact amounts of water from each station (most greens have two stations) which results in being able to add more water where required and vary amounts from green to green. The system is extremely easy to use and, with a few weeks trialing different amounts using a moisture probe, I can confidently set programmes without worrying about under or over watering.

Does the course suffer from any regular natural occurrences such as flooding, winds, excessive snowfall/frosts, drought etc?

In general, the playing areas have good sunshine and airflow. Two tees in particular suffer from having trees planted too near to them, which pull water away from the grass, often resulting in areas drying out, but we try to hand water these as best as possible. One teeing ground suffers from both tree roots and shade and I'm currently researching an alternative grass(es) to try and improve this playing area. I am also looking into a seed mix which will help to improve these playing areas, with a plan to strip and re-seed with this mix.

Do you use temporary greens?

Yes. When I first started greenkeeping, we always used temporary greens due to the damage which was caused through root sheer and crushing of the cells. There is plenty of member pressure to play on the greens in the frost because 'so-and-so club' down the road does it. We have worked hard at Cosby to get the greens playing well and, in my opinion, playing on frost has no advantages, therefore playing them can only have disadvantages.

Do you have a driving range/practice facility?

The club boasts a ten bay driving range along with a practice chipping green. I have my eye on turning the chipping area into a 6-hole pitch and putt area for short game practice and beginners. I have been researching artificial greens for this area to help provide a consistent playing surface without the high maintenance regimes.

6th bunker and the 16th green

Maintenance regimes

Maintenance regimes are very much dictated around growing conditions and the needs of the grass plants to keep them healthy and sustainable. As an example, during dry conditions;

Greens. Cosby invested in a new Toro 3400 Triflex which arrived a couple of weeks ago. The greens will be cut on a daily basis; to 4mm March-May and then 3.5mm May-September, with grooming taking place at 2mm below HOC around three days per week. On the run up to big tournaments, the greens might be double cut for 2-3 days prior and the greens rolled every other day. Otherwise, rolling will take place as required. The greens will be verticut between -2mm and +2mm as required, which as a rule will be once to twice a month. Brushing of the greens using a sweep and fill brush is used to reduce lateral growth, and topdressing (away from the maintenance weeks) will consist of light dressing between 8-10 tonnes and is completed following sarrel rolling each month. Through the winter, the greens are cut at 4.5mm as often as required, with rolling taking place when the conditions allow.

I tend to use Headland products to apply around 80 units of N; this consists of granular feeds of c-complex 4-3-4 either prior or following maintenance weeks. The summer feeds are applied through liquids, although I am looking to try to apply half rates at two week intervals. The tank mixes include Clipless, which is a PGR. We have used these products for the last two seasons with fantastic results. Wetting agent is applied on a monthly programme starting in April using Tri-cure and Turf Complex. These products have shown fantastic results and have also been moved onto tees and approaches this year.

We purchased a Toro 648 Procore, which keeps the greens aerated each month, with depths between 25mm and 108mm. I like to use needle tines, particularly if we are not following with topdressing, as it leaves little trace. Although we have a vertidrain available, I made the decision to hire an Air2G2 last autumn to help achieve some deeper aeration and create a better draining soil for the winter months. This was an ideal piece of kit as it left far less surface disruption which, following the maintenance in early September, was far more tolerated by the members. Now that we are reaching our goal of organic matter (more later), I am planning to start overseeding with Agrostis Cappiliaris (Browntop Bent), this is planned to begin next spring and will take place monthly.

Tees and approaches are cut using a John Deere 2653B set at 11mm in the summer and 14mm for the winter. They are cut as required, which is usually 2-3 times per week. The tees are cut 50-50 which reduces wear on the smaller tees. Aeration doesn't take place as often as liked due to staffing levels, but they are hollow cored each spring and autumn.

They are fed around the middle of March and late September with a granular feed of Mulitgreen 22-0-5 and Mulitgreen 22-0-5 respectively. Throughout the summer, Xtend 46-0-0, Clipless and Elevate are applied for colour and to lower clipping yield. As mentioned, Tri-cure has been moved on to these areas for the first time this summer. Topdressing is to be applied for this year at 100 tonnes per hectare, which again is the first season this has been introduced.

Fairways. We have around 9.5 hectares of fairways, which are cut 2-3 times per week using a John Deere 7700a fairway mower. We cut stripes from the left and right, to create a diamond pattern throughout the summer, and revert back to 50-50 in the winter months. Cutting heights vary between 15mm and 19mm. In places, the fairways are particularly undulating with some ridge and furrow, which makes maintenance on these holes difficult. The fairways in the last two seasons have received three treatments of Headland X-tend 46-0-0, Clipless and Elevate. I try to schedule this work around the main events of the season to help give some colour to fairways. A selective herbicide is applied, if required, to target weeds on the fairways which are usually white clover and plantains. I am really keen to develop these areas with the purchase of a fairway scarifier to help keep the fairways as dry as possible during the winter months, through vertidraining which is a very long task taking around three weeks.

Semi-Rough & Rough. As a both a golfer and a turf manager, I was really keen to have a semi-rough cut at 20mm around the green complex's, which incorporates the mounds and hollows around the green. The machinery was updated in 2015 with the purchase of a Toro 3100 sidewinder, which was definitely the ideal machine for the job. The moving units allow the team to get closer to the bunkers, removing the wear and tear as well as keeping the staff safe. These areas are cut around three times per week and, to help maintain grass sward density in the winter months, we do not cut the semi-rough, but allow it to grow back to rough height.

The rough is cut using a Toro 4500 Groundmaster which is a brilliant piece of machinery. We cut at 52mm, cutting one band around the fairway and then the rest block cut in the opposite direction, which helps to keep the players focus on the fairway. The tee carries are striped with different patterns to the operator's discretion.This season, the semi and roughs are going to receive an application of selective herbicide which will target mainly clover, dandelions and plantains which are lowering the playing qualities of these surfaces.

View from the 2nd green

Do you have specific tasks for specific staff or is it an 'all hands to the pump' approach?

As a manager, I try to spread the jobs around each week so that no-one is just working one area or machine; with the exception of the rough which is rotated on a weekly basis. I have implemented this for two reasons; as an apprentice/assistant, I cut the rough every week all summer which, although I enjoyed, I did want to see some rotation. The second reason is that I want the team to have a high skill level across all of the machines. I will often try to keep operators on machines that they struggle with for a couple of weeks until they master it. I also feel this is key for them to move on up in their careers having a wide range of experience. As mentioned earlier, Mike completes 90% of the mechanics jobs as we need machines back up and running as soon as possible. Other areas, such as irrigation, I will spend time with the team to ensure they are confident in what they are doing and I am happy with the results. I am very grateful for the effort the team make to help maintain the course to a high standard, often staying late to ensure tasks are completed with no complaining (at least I don't hear any) and I couldn't have achieved everything without them.

Where does presentation rank?

Presentation ranks high on the order of priorities, particularly on the run up to main competitions, however, it is important that the course is playing well and not just looking good. I have always ensured that aeration and topdressing takes priority over presentation, with this work completed away from the main tournaments which can be very difficult through busy playing seasons.

What end of season and ongoing renovations do you undertake?

When I took over at Cosby, the greens, tees and approaches all had one thing in common, high organic matter (OM), with some of the greens showing signs of thatch collapse. Very little aeration or soil exchange had taken place over the previous few years. I was tasked with improving the playing conditions, which meant that these levels would have to be lowered to sustainable levels; with the budget being tight, the greens would be the priority.

It was important that we improved the porosity of the soil and increased the tonnage of topdressing to help diffuse the OM although, due to the high levels, it would also need to be mechanically removed through hollow coring and scarification. It was also important that production of OM was also reduced, which we would achieve through reducing the N input, which is now around 80-90 units, along with controlling the moisture levels in the greens which would stop the grass plants becoming too productive.

I set a target of aiming to apply at least 150 tonnes of Banks Medium B straight sand topdressing, which would be applied in bulk in the spring and the autumn with lighter dressings through the summer for playability. I knew this would be a big change for the membership and I had to keep them on side. I decided to set my stall out early and, in my second week in charge, solid tined followed by sand. I was approached by a member who complained 'we want you to improve the greens, not make holes and build sandcastles.' I politely explained to him why we were completing the work and that it would improve the putting surfaces. I can happily say that member is now fully on board with the works that go on.

Each spring from 2015, we have used 15mm hollow cores with 50x50 spacing, set at a depth to pull at 60mm in order to remove the unwanted OM. I didn't want to core too deep as I wanted to keep the sand in the upper levels where the problem was occurring. The procedure was successful and we immediately saw the benefits with the surfaces firming up, however, I felt that we could be more efficient with some of the newer equipment available on the market.

Following the purchase during the summer of a Toro Procore 648 and a sweep and fill brush, we continued the regime of hollow coring in the autumn, which was extremely successful with around 50 tonnes of sand applied to fill the holes. The spring of 2016 saw the same treatment and now the greens had really firmed up in the upper levels and, unsurprisingly, greens performance was rapidly improving.

Sand injection with the Graden

I was very conscious, with the amount of sand we were applying, that it would start to bury the OM, making it far more difficult to get out. With some consideration, whilst also saving money from the budget, we contracted in John Fitzpatrick with his Sand-injection Graden which removed a much higher proportion of the surface area. I made the decision not use any seed as I felt that it was unlikely that the seedling would survive through the autumn maintenance, and this helped to make the work more affordable.

The soil was starting to show good results, but I was concerned the OM was being pushed into the deeper levels of the green. With this in mind, I purchased some micro hollow cores for February 2017, followed with just under 20 tonnes of sand and we followed this with the main hollow coring to 15mm in April. We have just received our soil results for this year and they are all in the target zone, as shown in Fig1. I'm really pleased with the results as it shows that the hard work was all worth it. We have a little bit of work to reduce the 20-40mm range over the next season to the desired target ranges. This spring following renovations we will being overseeding with Agrostis Capillaries.

Are renovations affected by budgets?

As mentioned, it was tight to fit the Graden work into the budget last year and, unfortunately, I won't be able to undertake similar work this autumn, therefore it will be hollow cored instead. I have and will continue to tighten other areas of the budget to ensure that we have the money each year to reach our topdressing targets, as this would help to reduce the cost of fungicides. I made a very conscious decision when I took over at the club that we wouldn't fight disease purely with fungicides. The disease risk at Cosby is/was very high due to the high OM levels and it being Poa annua dominated. I was extremely confident that, if we reduced the OM levels through heavy topdressing, then the risk of disease and requirement for fungicides would be reduced.

How have changing weather patterns affected what you do?

The weather patterns have been very similar in the time that I have been a turf manager. However, I certainly feel that golf clubs need to adapt, as golf competitions start too early in the season, usually around March, which is before the growing season, and the competitions are finished late August and yet we still often have a great September and early October. I have found this great for autumn maintenance as, with careful aftercare, the greens can be back to their best in a very short period. This spring has been particularly challenging due to the extremely dry weather. Many golfers think that it has been perfect for grass growth, yet soil temperatures haven't got particularly high due to the cold nights. The lack of rainfall has resulted in a lot of irrigation water being required which has also further lowered the soil temperatures, however, it has allowed us to keep on top of
the rough.

Fig. 1

Do you take regular soil samples to ascertain what work is required?

Over the last two years, we have had soil samples taken from three greens and, as Fig.1 shows, the top 0-20mm are showing great results. The tested greens consist of two sand and one clay based, and I have been concerned that these greens perhaps are not showing the true picture, so I have requested a further three greens to be tested. I have selected greens that I think are particularly high in OM as I wish to ensure that every green is within the OM target range. The soil results also provide other important information, such as pH levels and nutrient levels, which help to write programmes for the following season, ensuring that we have a balanced soil.

How do you interact with your club members?

I produce newsletters and course updates, which are scheduled monthly but can often be more depending on the importance of the information.

What projects have been undertaken in recent years?

We have been levelling out 2-3 tees each year, which has had two benefits; obviously to level the tee but it has also completely removed the OM. The ladies 9th, 12th and 14th, along with men's 10th, 17th and 18th tees, have been completed so far. The 1st tee project undertaken last year resulted in the team lowering the back tier to create more teeing space as well as building a new set of steps.

Since being involved in the industry, I have always been interested in the use of artificial bunker revetting, and we have had a few bunkers we could try it on. Currently, two bunkers have been renovated in this fashion very successfully. I understand that they are a bit of a marmite product within the industry, and I fully agree that traditional revetting looks sensational, however, in Cosbys scenario, it has been the perfect product.

As a parkland golf course, time through the autumn and winter months is spent collecting leaves, and we are often still mowing into November, so maintaining real sod bunkers to a high standard would be difficult. The first bunker we built on the 10th is south facing, collecting loads of sun. I estimate that, if built with real sod, then the longevity of the bunker would have been two, maybe three years before requiring a re-build. When I first started researching the product, I was concerned about the cost of it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was far more cost effective than sod revetting.

Most players are astonished when they hear that it is artificial. This winter's projects have seen the front nine trees crowns lifted and the removal of some trees. In particular, hawthorns have been removed from the 1st fairway, 17th green side and 18th carry, to help open up the holes so players can see our marvellous golf course. To help keep the balance of habitat, gorse has been planted in its place. This will provide both habitat and be aesthetically pleasing. We had a number of members volunteer to help plant just fewer than 4000 plants last month.

Do you source additional help or is the work done in-house?

To date, the majority of work has been completed in-house, apart from the Graden work which we contracted. I have found that there is always help available when required and, if I am ever unsure about ideas, I will always seek further advice, be it through a professional discussion with my deputy, Mike, other members of the team or with our agronomist. I have never been afraid to ask, and I think that if I was to give advice to up and coming Greenkeepers, that would be it.

Are you and your staff compliant with current legislation?

Yes, I have worked long hours through the winter months to get the Health and Safety folders up to date.

Do you offer ongoing training to your staff?

I offer as much training as I can fit into our training budget. I have made sure that we have a range of skills throughout the team, so that even if people are absent the work can still continue. I always encourage the staff to undertake further training and, if I can't support them financially, I will always provide the time they need. My deputy, Mike, was a member of the 'Future Turf Managers Initiative 2017', of which he has returned a more determined greenkeeper than ever before.

Are you considering employing or do you currently employ apprentices?

I have always tried to employee apprentices where possible. If I hadn't had the opportunity as an apprentice, then I wouldn't be writing this article. Neil started at Cosby as an apprentice and has gained his NVQ level 2 through Brooksby Melton College this April. Liam, who joined the team last year, has recently begun his NVQ 2, again through Brooksby and I'm confident Cosby will be the start of a rewarding career for both. I am hoping next year we will be able to take on a further apprentice to help keep the course playing to the highest standard.

How is this working for you?

I have found through experience that employing the right apprentice is key; in the short term, they can take up a lot of yours and others staff time, and it feels like you could have done the job on your own much quicker, but over time they will become capable of completing most tasks on their own, in fact it could be hard to even know they weren't qualified. In terms of employing an experienced greenkeeper, an applicant with 5+ years experience may be a better option than someone qualified with less experience.

Do you employ a health and safety officer?

Within in the club, several members work in this line of work and they give up time to help all departments of the club to maintain health and safety. I am responsible for managing the H&S for the golf course and they regularly check that targets are being met.

Who is responsible for first aid?

The greens team have one 4-day qualified first aider as well as two members with one-day first aid. This year, I am working on getting as many staff qualified to a minimum of emergency at work first aid.

Machinery?

We purchase our machinery on a five year hire purchase deal. The aim is to keep the machines serviced to book standards and keep them running for seven or more years. This will then give us the opportunity to purchase other desired equipment rather than consistently replacing the same machines every five years. Cosbys machinery was all John Deere when I first took over, with the equipment doing a fantastic job, although some of the mowers were nearly twenty years old.

Over the first year, I kept a very close account on the maintenance costs that these older machines were costing us. Once I had this, and had demonstrations from new equipment, I convinced the club to update the machinery which, to date, has all been Toro.

We order our machines through Reesinks area sales manager Andrew Humble, however the machines are built and delivered by 'The Mower Shop' in West Haddon. I wouldn't say that I am 'loyal' to one company, but I do try. As mentioned, the majority of the kit has come from Toro as I think they are sturdy machines with a finish to match. I have kept an eye on the second hand market, but have found it a frustrating area, as often machinery has sold before I can raise the capital required through the club.

Are there any new pieces of kit that have significantly helped to improve your playing surfaces?

Without doubt the TORO Procore 648. The greens were very shallow rooting in early 2015, with very little aeration having taken place for several years. The purchase of the Procore saw us able to aerate the greens regularly, without having to take tractors around the greens, which was paramount during the winter months. Over the ten years that I have been in the industry, I have worked with Ryan GA30s and various tractor mounted aerators. Compared to the Procore, I find them very difficult to operate (maybe I'm not a very good tractor operator) often with incorrect speeds ripping playing surfaces. Working on tees has become extremely easy with the Procore, therefore the task is completed regularly which improves the soil, resulting in better playing surfaces.

Do you have a wash down area that is compliant with current legislation?

Yes, a Bywater system was purchased in 2010.

What would your wish list include?

  • More staff!! It can be tough to compete with other courses that have significantly larger budgets and staff
  • A set of Sisis Vee mows which I think would help us transform our fairways and approaches
  • The ability and financial capacity to topdress fairways would be a game changer for me, as we could then begin to maintain the fairways to the same standards as the other playing surfaces. I have looked into it and it certainly doesn't look feasible for the foreseeable future.

How do you undertake pest and weed control?

Weed control has traditionally only taken place on tees, approaches and fairways using selective herbicides. Weeds on greens and fringes are removed by hand. This season, I have planned to extend the spraying for weeds into the semi-roughs and roughs to help improve these playing surfaces.

Looking up the 2nd fairway

Does your course suffer from specific disease outbreaks?

The most prominent disease is Microdochium nivale. One of the reasons, away from the increased performance of the greens for the sustainability work, is the reduction in use of fungicides to fight this disease. I certainly believe that one of the reasons we suffer at times is, as a typical parkland golf course, we have Poa annua greens. I don't believe that is the best grass species for golf greens, but I do however believe that it is manageable. I have already spoken about plans to overseed the greens with bent grass, but why? Poa provides a fantastic playing surface, certainly through the summer months, it does however have drawbacks. It goes through seeding periods at the start and end of the playing season, which can cause some unevenness on the greens. The plant is greedy, wanting plenty of water and nitrogen, which leads to an increase in OM production and, most notoriously, high disease risk.

As a sustainable turf manager, I do not rule out the use of fungicides completely, although I hope there is a day when I will not require them. I utilise them to keep the playing surfaces as clear as possible of disease. The progress we have made on the reduction of OM will help to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks. I certainly believe that grass plants are far more capable of fighting the disease now than when I began, with most outbreaks showing on greens in micro-climates. As we begin to increase the number of bents grass in the swards, I am confident that our fungicide usage will decrease. Ideally, I would like to complete this goal as soon as possible, however, the end user at Cosby wish to play golf for twelve months of the year, and I'm guessing that they don't really mind what type of grass they are putting on as long as they are reasonable fast and certainly smooth, which is why my aim is to replace the Poa over time.

What would you consider to be the state of our industry?

I think the industry is going from strength to strength; there are lots of opportunities around the globe to get involved in varying aspects of managing or working on a golf course. In recent years, at times, the industry has been split over different management techniques; most notably the 2mm debate. I think debates are fantastic for the industry as, if we all followed the same ideas and beliefs, we would learn nothing new. I'm sure most readers will know where my thoughts and beliefs lie as a turf manager, but who knows, maybe one day Bent/Fescue won't be considered the most sustainable grasses within the industry?

Are we undervalued?

No, I don't think we are undervalued, although possibly if we only consider what we receive in our pay packets which, of course, is important to us. The people that play our golf course value what we do, in preparing the course for them to enjoy their hobbies. Yes at times, it may not feel that way, but I feel it's more of an education issue rather than being undervalued.

Do you and your staff attend industry shows, seminars, demo days, road shows?

I try to attend shows as much as I can and I encourage the staff to find ideas that they are passionate about and research them. However, I often find that I cannot afford the time away from the course to attend as many as I would like. I will plan in advance if there are certain days that I am particularly interested in.

What's in the shed

Toro 3400 Triflex
Toro 3100 Side winder
Toro 4500 Groundsmaster
Toro Workman with back box & Multipro sprayer
Toro Workman MDX
Toro 648 Procore
JD 2500e
JD 2653b
JD 7700a
JD 4720 Tractor with loader
JD 3520 tractor
JD E-Gator
JD 260Sl Hand mower x2
JD 260B Hand mower
Dakota 410 Topdresser
Weidenmann Terra Spike
Tru- Turf Roller
Hyundai Stump Grinder
Bernhard's Expressdual 3000 & Anglemaster 3000
Vehicle lift
JCB 3t digger
Sisis Sarrel Roller
Sisis Oversedder
2000 Speader x3
Sweep and fill brush
STHIL Stimmer
STIHL Chainsaws
Toro Hover Pro 500 x2

Read Getting Personal with Thomas here

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