From football to Penwortham Golf Club
My interest in the turf industry began after seeing an advert in my local careers office for a course based on Groundsmanship. I had always played an active part in most sports, and with my dream of playing for Barcelona diminishing by the day I thought that this might well be the next best thing.
I enrolled at Myerscough college on the National certificate in groundsmanship and greenkeeping which I later successfully completed. I then began the National diploma in turf science. For my student placement, which began in the second year, I was offered a place at Blackburn Rovers based at Brockhole training ground, needless to say I jumped at the chance. After spending ten enjoyable months there during the championship-winning season I was offered a permanent position by Steve Patrick (head Groundsman), which I duly accepted. After spending two more years working between Ewood Park and Brockhole as a deputy, I was offered, and accepted the position of Head Groundsman of the newly built Youth academy. It was an excellent experience to be involved in working with such professional people, and one that I think gave me a sound grounding in the industry.
I've been at Penwortham Golf Club now since August 2002, originally being appointed as an Assistant Greenkeeper. Last Christmas I was promoted to Deputy, then took over as Acting Head Greenkeeper in March and offered the permanent position in August. You could say it's been a hectic twelve months.
The course is predominantly clay based with a high percentage of ridge and furrow. I am told that the course has held up relatively well down the years, but, with recent weather trends changing and becoming increasingly wetter coupled with higher usage, it has suffered and struggled to keep up with the
Last winter one of my tasks was to oversee a drainage program on the fairways. This had started the previous year with the help of local contractors. We now have the majority completed but are aware that it is generally an ongoing operation.
This season seems to have been quite a struggle. The season was on us before we could blink and without correct preparation in many areas we knew it was going to take a lot of pulling back. The brief for the season was to work with what we had got, improve where we could, and generally try to give the membership a course to play without many more disruptions to play. Machines seemed to be spending more time being repaired than out on the course (always seeming to be at the most important of times), and we had an irrigation system with a mind of its own. In total the system was fully operational and running for about three weeks during August, the rest of the time manual runs and pipes were the order of the day. I must say though that L.S irrigation were a great help in finally getting to the bottom of the problems.
The height of cut has been a bit of a balancing act this year, the new greens were being cut at 7mm whilst the old greens were at 5mm. There were obvious playing differences varying from green to green, which we were all very conscious of. The idea was to drop the height on the new greens as soon as possible without causing much stress. In the end we managed to settle on 5.5mm on all greens, which seemed just about manageable. During the season the greens are generally cut with a J.D triple 2500 machine, when time allows or for the larger events we try to get out with J.D pedestrian cylinder machines. We also try to get out once a week during the winter with the pedestrians, weather permitting.
We plan on having an evening with the members early next year, this we hope will have a positive outcome. It will give both myself and Dave a chance to introduce ourselves properly and to put forward a 5-year plan containing just what we hope to achieve. It will I'm sure also provide a chance for the members to air their views. We have good communication links within the club. I work closely with both the club manager (Neil Annandale) and the greens committee. They are aware that there are no quick fixes and are happy with the way we are heading.
Coming from football to a golf environment, I am asked if I found the transition difficult. I must admit that it was a baptism of fire for the first 3-4 months, but I also feel that it's been one long learning curve this year, and one that, for the most part, I've enjoyed. I'm lucky to have a good deputy who gives me a lot of support. In return, I've tried to give the benefit of my experience of winter sports pitches. In the end it all comes down to turf management and dealing with certain situations at different times. In football we had end of season renovations and a chance to put the pitch to bed for maybe 5-7 weeks, whereas in golf we are trying to keep on top all season to minimise the work at the back end when the growing and recovery conditions aren't so good. That's been one of the biggest differences.