A career change in his early 40s has led to trainee greenkeeper Gregg Hood winning SRUC Elmwood’s annual John Deere HNC Student of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere and Scottish turf dealer Double A. Gregg was selected for his conscientious and enthusiastic approach to his programme of studies during the 2017/2018 academic year.
Born and bred in Glasgow, Gregg had a successful career as a qualified accountant and then a mortgage broker before making the jump into greenkeeping at the age of 42. “It was one of those life changing decisions that I just had to make,” he says. “I had thought for a couple of years that it was time for a change. I’ve always loved my golf, and thought it was a great environment to work in. I was also interested in how golf courses are put together, how they’re looked after and made to look so good.
“My partner Lisa was very supportive, so I finally left work in June 2017 and applied to the SRUC, having been in contact with Elmwood’s greenkeeping coordinator Mike Clark for a year or so before that. We agreed that the HNC in Golf Course Management would be the best entry level course for me, combined with volunteering on a golf course to get some practical experience.”
That golf course turned out to be St Andrews Links, where Gregg started volunteering two days a week from September 2017, about two weeks after starting the course. “It’s been fantastic, and course manager Kevin Muir and his team couldn’t have been more helpful. Everyone’s been very happy to give me the benefit of their time and knowledge, so it’s been an absolutely brilliant opportunity.
“Going in I was obviously a little apprehensive about my age, but both Mike and Kevin said if you show a good attitude and you’re there to learn, then as long as you can do the work and be a part of the team, there are no issues. I haven’t given it another thought since.
“I’ve never been part of anything like this before, certainly not in accountancy, where there’s always that element of competition, even when you’re working in a team. The only competition on a golf course is to improve your skills and make yourself a better greenkeeper. People at St Andrews Links and the college are really impressive, and all round I’ve found it to be a very encouraging environment to work in – I’m still very excited by it all.
“I’m now a BIGGA member and contracted at St Andrews Links until November 2018, and if a permanent position became available then I’d definitely apply. If not then I might try a warm weather grass course abroad over the winter months. Ultimately I would like to hone my skills and get more experience, including tournaments at other courses.”
Course tutor Paul Miller, who is based at SRUC’s Elmwood campus in Cupar, Fife, adds: “Gregg’s decision to change career was made after a great deal of research, preparation and consideration of all the implications. This thoroughness of preparation soon became evident in his course work, which he produced most conscientiously and to a very high standard right from day one – his commitment to making the most of the learning opportunity was impressive.
“Quickly realising that he would also need to build up his practical skills and his industry networking, Gregg volunteered to work at St Andrews Links, again demonstrating his enthusiasm and willingness to learn in that environment as well as in the classroom. He also applied for and was successful in gaining an R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship through SRUC.
“Having also secured a seasonal position on St Andrews Links, Gregg’s development continues apace. We all look forward to watching his growth in the industry and the contribution that he will make to greenkeeping as his career progresses.”
St Andrews Links have appointed Sandy Reid as Director of Greenkeeping at the Home of Golf. A hugely experienced figure in the greenkeeping industry, Mr Reid will make the move from Carnoustie Golf Links where he has worked as Links Superintendent since 2012.
St Andrews Links Chief Executive Euan Loudon said: “We are delighted to welcome Sandy to the Home of Golf. He has an outstanding track record at Carnoustie Golf Links, as evidenced by the wonderful condition of the Championship Course for The 147th Open Championship this summer.“Sandy has a great deal of experience of operating within a multi-faceted golf venue such as ours and shares our commitment to delivering unique and memorable experiences to every golfer. He is passionate about the game of golf and is committed to delivering the highest quality results in golf course maintenance and improvements to all our courses, operations and staff.”
Mr Reid originally hails from Blair Atholl and trained at Elmwood College in Fife before starting his career at Letham Grange. He joined Carnoustie Golf Links in 1997, becoming Head Greenkeeper of the Championship Course in 2005.
Mr Reid said: “I am extremely honoured and excited to be joining the hard working and dedicated team at the Home of Golf. “St Andrews Links is the pre-eminent public golf complex in the world and I hope to play a small part in ensuring that it continues to deliver excellence to all golfers and visitors who come to the Home of Golf.”
Over the last decade St Andrews Links has continued to make major investments in its facilities and services. In addition to maintaining seven public courses, St Andrews Links is now home to three clubhouses, five shops and the Golf Academy. It employs just over 400 people in the high season with almost 230,000 rounds of golf played on the six 18-hole courses in 2017.
Mr Reid’s appointment arose following the retirement of incumbent Gordon Moir, who has worked at the Links for more than 26 years and began his tenure as Director of Greenkeeping in October 2000. Mr Reid will take up his new role in St Andrews in early December with Mr Moir formally retiring at the end of the year.
St Andrews Links Trust www.standrews.com
Le Golf National, the host venue for The 2018 Ryder Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics, has retained GEO certification, once again highlighting its commitment to sustainable business management.
Having completed the new and improved OnCourse® programme, the venue was recently visited by independent verifier Pablo Munoz Vega, who confirmed demonstrable results and continual improvement actions over the previous three-year period.
Paul Armitage, General Manager – Le Golf National, said: “By proudly flying the GEO flag every day we are showing our customers, whether they be local residents, international visitors or corporate groups that we care about the same things that they do. We also want our staff to feel engaged and proud of the fact that Le Golf National provides great golf and much more for our community.
“Thanks to our Environmental Co-ordinator Artur Lecomte and the staff out on the course and in the clubhouse, the work we have done on waste separation, with increased reuse and recycling is particularly rewarding for all involved. All the team have found OnCourse® to be very easy to use and helpful in guiding and tracking the work and GEO Certified® is a tremendous reward.”
Le Golf National continues to show how an approach to fostering nature, conserving resources and supporting the community is part and parcel of running a profitable and highly respected golf facility.
The venues efforts are also contributing to The Ryder Cup Green Drive – the event’s sustainability programme – with partners Ryder Cup Europe and The Ryder Cup Organising Committee in France aiming to deliver the cleanest, greenest and most sustainable Ryder Cup yet.
Ryder Cup Europe Director, Richard Hills, said: “Le Golf National is a world-class golf course and we commend Paul and his team for their commitment to sustainable business management. It is vitally important that along with delivering one of the greatest sporting events in the world, that we also address these important issues and continue to work on maximising the social and environmental contribution of golf in the communities in which we play.”
Alejandro Reyes, Golf Course Superintendent added: “In the last three years sustainability has really become a facility-wide effort – moving from the golf course and maintenance facility into the clubhouse and now into marketing and communications. OnCourse® has helped a lot in that process and gives us a consistent way to make sure our practices are delivered and extended, our key data is in one place and our highlights are communicated and shared.”
Julie Duffus, Olympic Movement Sustainability Manager at the International Olympic Committee added: “Le Golf National is an excellent example of how a sustainable and successful Olympic Venue can be planned, designed, constructed and operated. Our Congratulations to the team for their efforts and success on retaining GEO Certified Status. We look forward to working together in the lead up to the Olympic Games in 2024”.
Richard Allison, Certification Manager at GEO Foundation, said: “We congratulate Le Golf National on this excellent and thoroughly deserved achievement. With the eyes of the sporting world on the course this autumn for The 2018 Ryder Cup, Le Golf National continues to strengthen its position as an ethical leader – fostering nature, conserving resources and supporting the community.”
Munoz Vega added: “It has been tremendous to witness the development of Le Golf National since their initial certification a short time ago. Commitment to sustainability and a desire to improve and keep innovating is deeply embedded in the management culture. With performance already very high I look forward to seeing the new projects and initiatives of the future.”
Key activities and results at Le Golf National include:
• Commissioned 19 hybrid electric Jacobsen Eclipse walking mowers
• Reduction in irrigation consumption by almost 40% as result of new Toro irrigation system
• 16 hectares removed from irrigation (20% of irrigated area)
• Sprinkler heads improved water distribution by 26%
• New storage reservoir and drainage allows recycling of rainwater (44% of total consumption)
• 340 tons of material recycled every year including glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and organics
• Sand from ‘Paris beach’ recycled after every summer for fairway top-dressing
• Trialling of non-chemical pest and disease control with UV lighting unit to reducing fungicide applications
• Partnership with Natural History Museum and French Golf Federation to evaluate, conserve and promote biodiversity
• Interconnected management of 10 EUNIS habitats including forest, wetland, open water, meadows and mineral landscape (three of which are classed as rare including tree species, riparian reeds and willows)
• At least 350 flora and fauna species identified to date, including 70 birds
• 13 species identified as rare including European, French and regional ‘red list’ species
• Eight microhabitats created including hibernaculums for amphibians, rock walls, beehives, bird nests, dead branches and standing tree remnants
• Increase in low-maintenance ecological rough areas
• Significant reduction of maintained turf areas, new no-spray areas and habitat buffers
• New policies and pricing to increase public access to the golf courses
• ‘GoforGolf’ campaign to introduce new players to the game
• Spearhead the development of new affordable short courses around the country
• Increase in social media presence to communicate the benefits of sustainability
• Collaboration with local government to restore the ‘Porte du Merantais’, an historic gate to Versailles Palace
New technology provides precise irrigation control while helping to save water and costs
Effective water management is key to creating championship-quality playing conditions at any golf course. That’s why Le Golf National has installed a completely new drainage and irrigation system using Toro® products. The state-of-the-art technology is already helping the course save both water and costs.
Located 24 kilometers from Paris, Le Golf National consists of three courses: L’Albatros (Albatross), L’Aigle (Eagle) and L’Oiselet (Birdie), as well as an area dedicated to training. It has hosted the French Open since 1991, and the Albatross course will be the host venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Le Golf National’s new irrigation system features Toro’s Lynx® Central Control, INFINITY® sprinkler heads, as well as a new pump station provided by local Toro distributor Solvert. The products work together to give course greenkeepers precise control over watering schedules, along with extensive soil and water usage data to make informed decisions. This system was recently put to the test during the HNA Open de France in June, when temperatures soared as high as 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
Alejandro Reyes, manager at Le Golf National said: “On the Albatross course alone, we have installed 1,500 sprinklers. What impressed me the most was the INFINITY sprinkler — it’s so innovative with the top accessibility. As for the Toro Lynx system, for me, the best thing about it is the ease of use. The fact that everything is there on the screen and with just one click you can make the adjustments you need.”
Since the irrigation system was installed, Solvert has continued to provide Le Golf National with daily support as needed. This includes coordinating pump station maintenance with the help of local technicians, as well as training course staff to optimize the capabilities of the Lynx system. Le Golf National also has a contract with Toro NSN, a service that provides 24/7 irrigation and central control system support.
“Whenever you need Toro, it’s there,” adds Reyes. “You know they are good, reliable products. And it’s comforting to know that there’s always someone on the other end of your mobile phone. That’s very important to us, because we are carrying out so much work in so little time. We need responsive partners, and with Toro it works really well.”
The new system positions Le Golf National to address the challenge of water conservation well into the future, especially as the course prepares to host events like the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. “Toro has always been committed to helping customers make smart use of resources, both natural and financial,” says Marco Cappelli, EMEA senior marketing manager at The Toro Company. “We are honoured that Le Golf National has chosen to use Toro irrigation technology to help prepare the venue for major international events.”