Andrew Dadge is the Deputy Head Greenkeeper at Søllerød Golfklub in Denmark, a role he took up in March 2018. In this question and answer session, he tells us more about his work in one of the most economically and socially developed countries in the world.
Pitchcare: How did you get into the industry and where did you work prior to your current position?
Andrew Dadge: I started as a seasonal worker at Furesø Golfklub in Denmark. When they asked me to be an apprentice I jumped at the opportunity. I was with Furesø for eleven years, before taking on a new challenge at several courses and a private estate in Surrey.
What training and education did you undertake?
I took my NVQ 2 through Myerscough College and then several follow up courses with Danish colleges. Also, I am fully qualified to operate a chainsaw and also to use a chainsaw while climbing.
Was there one person who inspired you?
I've been lucky enough to work under some very talented head greenkeepers, but my first boss, Hans Beurling, was a pioneer in Danish greenkeeping. He was a solid influence on me as a young apprentice.
I consider our club's current Head Greenkeeper, Mads Andersen, as a mentor to me as we have worked together for over ten years.
Are you responsible for budgets or do you report to someone else - for example a greens chairman or committee?
Budget is the head greenkeeper's responsibility, but I hope to learn more about the process in the oncoming years.
Can you tell us a little bit about the course?
The club was founded in 1972 and today has approximately 1,200 active and 400 passive members.
It's an open parkland course, that has an almost typical English look. The main 18-hole course is a par 72, 5,993 metres (6,554 yards). We also have a 9-hole par 3 course and a driving range. The total area covers roughly 173 acres (70 hectares).
The driving range is fully automated with a mowing robot and a ball-picking robot.
What are your staffing levels?
We have a full-time staff of four, plus an apprentice and one seasonal helper.
Our apprentice is coming along well. We enjoy having the opportunity to teach a person who is eager to learn more about greenkeeping as part of our team.
We believe that all employees should be able to do all jobs, and we strive to have a solid rotation when handling the weekly task list. I believe that this also makes for a better work environment.
We follow the guidelines of current legislation and make sure we stay up to date. Every year, the Danish Greenkeeper's Union offers a 3-day seminar full of info, training and education. We also assist our employees when looking to enrol in further education or courses.
We don't currently employ a health and safety officer, but the head greenkeeper and myself are responsible for first aid.
We are hoping to employ a workshop technician in the future. Currently, servicing and machinery maintenance is outsourced for now.
Do you and your staff attend industry shows, seminars, demo days, road shows?
Yes, when appropriate, we attend local course walkarounds, trade shows and seminars.
How would you describe the soil profile generally and how were the greens and tees constructed?
We have a mixture of clay and sand. Our greens are push up, but topdressing over the years has provided us with a top layer that drains and performs well. The tees have not received the same amount of topdressing and that's something we will be concentrating on.
What are your maintenance regimes?
Previously, the greens were maintained mostly as poa greens with large amounts of N and water. This resulted in 8-9% organic material in the top 20mm.
We have started a good aeration and topdressing programme, but also lowering the N output to try and get the greens back to a healthier state. We also overseed with fescue and colonial bent.
With the exception of one green, we have a reasonably open course with a fair amount of undulation which provides good airflow.
We use temporary greens during the winter months to reduce wear and tear.
The cutting height for greens is 4mm, for tees and approaches we cut at 10mm, fairways are 15mm and semi-rough is 1.5 inches.
Regular soil samples are taken, mainly on greens, to monitor thatch levels.
Our aeration programme this season has consisted of seven passes with solid tines on the Toro Procore, one pass with hollow core tines, followed by overseeding twice, once after the ProCore and once at the end of the season, followed by one pass with an Air2G2. We scarified the greens four times, just to give the surface more air and to thin out the playing surface.
Danish legislature prohibits the use of most herbicides and fungicides. Our land is owned by Skov og Naturstyrelsen (Forest and Nature Conservation Department), so we must also abide by their local legislation which is even stricter. Therefore, we are challenged to control any diseases, insects and weeds with natural and mechanical remedies.
What end of season and ongoing renovations do you undertake?
Overseeding and verti-draining of the greens, tees and fairways - as well as bunker maintenance and path renovations - all happen in the late summer/autumn.
Are renovations affected by budgets?
Yes, the amount of seed and topdressing used is often dictated by the amount we have budgeted for.
Does the course suffer from any regular natural occurrences such as flooding, high winds, excessive snowfall/frosts, drought etc?
Danish winters see frost on a regular basis, but we now seem to see more extremes in the weather - heavier rainfall, showers more often, higher temperatures, more uninterrupted sunshine - in the past ten years.
In 2017, the course was affected strongly by frequent and heavy downpours, which was contrasted by a severely dry summer last year so, like many courses in Northern Europe, we have had to adjust our duties to meet expectations.
Presentation ranks high, but it is not always easy to put presentation at the top of the agenda as we are a limited size workforce and completing other tasks may be more important.
As we are in a protected area and are not able to add more drainage solutions, to help dry our fairways we have added 400 tonnes of fairway topdressing to the management plan, for future seasons. Also in the future, when combatting drought, we would like to update our irrigation system.
That leads us on nicely to your environmental policy. Is this important and what do you have in place?
I think it is very important for our course to consider any potential impact on the surrounding areas, including wild animals and plant life.
Our local environmental agency has put environmental policies in place. We work closely with Skov og Naturstyrelsen (Forest and Nature Conservation Department) and the local council.
At the start of the 2018 season we hired a consultant from STRI to prepare a report on the current state of our course.
Due to local legislation, we are restricted to the amount of work we can do to ponds and wooded areas, but we are constantly in contact with Skov og Naturstyrelsen to discuss solutions and practices.
How do you interact with your club members - for example, regular newsletters, notice board or course walks?
We offer email newsletters as well as having an electronic notice board at our clubhouse and we often update our webpage.
Are you working on any special projects at the moment?
We are in the planning phase of a complete bunker and green surrounds redesign, working with architect Philip Spogard of Spogard & Vandervaart. We are also looking to update our irrigation system.
We will be beginning construction of our new greenkeeper's compound in the very near future!
Previous projects have included the automation of the driving range, which is a relatively new feature which our members benefit from.
Do you source additional help or is the work done in-house?
Our fairway topdressing and rough harvesting was outsourced this season.
How do you undertake pest and weed control?
Due to Danish legislation, we use a chemical-free and mechanical approach. This has its challenges but also adds a level of interest when solving problems.
This season we have struggled with Brown Patch and Anthracnose and, with the local regulations, there are no chemical or biological aids which we can use. We have been attempting to find a suitable solution to this problem whilst adhering to local guidelines.
There is a thriving mole population, which can be a nuisance and we also struggle with worm casts on fairways.
We topdress our fairways to combat the worm casts but, as for the moles, we use traps, but it doesn't always work because they are sneaky!
What would you consider to be the state of our industry?
I found that my time working in England has shed some light on the issues greenkeepers face there, such as lower pay, lack of contracts, pension schemes and lack of unions.
In Denmark, the greenkeeping industry is unionised, and the wages are fair and adequate. We are an up-and-coming nation on the golf and greenkeeping scene, whereas England has always been a leader in the industry, but the employees are being left behind due to lack of support and resources. Many of them are moving out of the golf industry and into lawn care, private estates, etc. to earn a better wage and work in better conditions.
I think the golf industry in England, as well as BIGGA, should step up and do more to support the average worker in terms of offering job security and leading change.
Are we undervalued?
I think it can be a thankless job at times, but we are an integral part of golf and that is why working for a respectful employer is so important.
How would you raise our profile?
Networking and education are helpful factors to educate others about the complexity of our roles in the clubs. We offer email newsletters as well as having an electronic notice board at our clubhouse, and we often update our webpage.
What's in the shed?
Toro 4700 semi-rough mower
Baroness fairway mower
John Deere fairway mowers
Jacobsen Eclipse greens mower
John Deere 2500E greens mowers
John Deere 2500E for tees and approaches
John Deere 2500 with scarifying units
Smithco greens roller
John Deere utility vehicles
John Deere 4720 tractor
John Deere ProGator mounted with a Hardi sprayer
"Machines are sourced via local Danish dealerships. We have purchased some machines outright, others on a lease, as well as second-hand when it is reliable.
We are not loyal to one manufacturer; we find the right machine for the right job, which is more important. But I am a Toro-man myself.
The Smithco greens roller and our Baroness fairway mower have made an impact on our playing surfaces.
We hired an Air2G2 for an autumn aeration pass.
All the above are washed down with a recently purchased Waste2Water system.
What would my wish list include? New greens, tees and approach mowers and a turbine blower would be at the top of my list."