Over two hundred greenkeepers were crammed in to the conference suite at the Holiday Inn, all expecting a lively discussion between the assembled panel of speakers and the packed audience.
The panel was made up of some of the UK's leading greenkeepers, agronomists and golf architects, including Greg Evans, whose current greenkeeping practice at Ealing Golf Club (as featured in Pitchcare magazine) of maintaining greens at 2mm, was the catalyst for the debate.
The panel comprised:
Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping, St Andrews Links Trust
Kenny Mackay, Devere Belfry Director Of Golf Courses
Greg Evans, Course Manager Ealing GC
Paul Lowe, Course Manager Bromborough GC
Daniel Lightfoot, Course Manager Bearwood Lakes GC
Stuart Yarwood, Course Manager Lymm GC
Richard Windows, STRI Turfgrass Agronomist -South of Scotland
Euan Grant, Golf Courses & Estates Manager at Turnberry GC
Kenneth Moodie, Principle Architect Creative Golf Design
David Cole, Course Superintendent/Estate Manager Loch Lomond GC
The debate was chaired by David Croxton (Board member of the English Golf Union). The morning got underway with some statistics and slide presentations about green speeds and how they had increased over the years. Each and every panel member then spoke about their own specific maintenance regimes and stated the green speeds they achieve at different times of the year.
All the evidence pointed to the fact that, since green speeds became measurable as a result of the introduction of the stimpmetre back in the late 1970s, green speeds for all speed bands had increased by around one foot, with the average summer speed now being around 9 feet for general play and over 10.5 feet for tournament play.
A couple of members of the panel then asked Greg questions about his current maintenance regime and whether he thought it was sustainable. Not surprisingly, in his opinion, he believed it was.
Then, finally, after this very controlled programme of questions to the panel, members of the audience were given the floor.
This was the moment we had all been waiting for. However, after only five questions, the debate was closed!
For me BIGGA got the format totally wrong. Far too much time was given to the panel (one and half hours) and not enough to the floor. I know for a fact that there were many people in the audience who wanted answers to some searching questions.
I spoke to many who attended, and they all felt that the 'debate' had been stage managed to ensure it did not get out of control.
And that's a shame. There were so many waiting to have their say and get out into the open their feelings about all the issues and pressures of being a greenkeeper, especially during the current economic climate.
If the floor had been allowed more time I'm sure we would have had a passionate debate on our hands.
It was a great opportunity missed. The debate may have been centred around the 'short cut' issue, however, given a more equal balance between the panel and the floor, I am sure we would have had a fascinating insight into the current state of the greenkeeping industry.
Personally, I hope we can have more opportunities in the future to give greenkeepers a platform on which to be heard.
My thanks to Paul Woodhall for organising the debate. I look forward to attending the next one.
You can see some of the comments about the 'non-debate' on the following links :-
BIGGA Open forum - (BIGGA members only)
KM gc Kevin Munt website