August 2016

Kristel Mulle-Vaik, Current Chairperson of the Estonian Greenkeepers Association, and a R&A Scholar shares her recent Experiences


Kristel Mulle-Vaik (2nd from left) with her team from Niitvalja Golf Club


I wanted to share some examples of the great work that the R&A and FEGGA are doing – it could be really life changing.

Estonia is a small country (1.2 million people) but we have 8 golf courses. I´ve been a greenkeeper since 2004 and I always thought that one day it would be great to establish greenkeepers association.

The right time arrived in autumn 2013 when I was sitting in my office and was looking at the BIGGA website, suddenly I noticed that a program called GreenQampus is called in and one of the partners is one Estonian Vocational school – the purpose of the program is to develop and enable greenkeeping studies, and the program envolved 7 partners from different countries (Benesov College Czech Republic, Czech Greenkeepers Association, Kainuu College Finland, Luua Vocational Training Centre Estonia, SRUC Elmwood Campus, GT-E and the Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Association – FEGGA).

So I thought greenkeeping studies in Estonia – great. I wrote to Luua school and as the first partners meeting took place in Estonia I was also invited to attend. And that was the day when I met Mr Dean Cleaver – Executive Officer of FEGGA – and that was really life changing for me.

We started to make plans and Dean offered that they could come back to Estonia in the springtime (2014) and with the help and support from the R&A, would run a FEGGA Roadshow here for local greenkeepers. FEGGAś and R&A´s help and support has been priceless!

In March 2014 we had the first Roadshow in Estonia, it was a 2 day event and a really big success, we had more than 60 people all together (including GreenQampus partners) and it was a really big notice that greenkeepers in Estonia are interested to educate themselves, they wanted to be recognized as greenkeepers and they want to come together.

During that event we decided (me and 4 more greenkeepers) to establish Estonian Greenkeepers Association and I became the only member of the board (no one else wanted to manage it, but there´s probably a need to be one person in the beginning).

Then the golf season started and there was less time to work with greenkeepers association especially as I was promoted to Course Manager (I was deputy head greenkeeper for the last 5 years), then I was awarded an R&A Scholarship, and in December I graduated my golf course management 3-year studies in Sruc Elmwood (distance learning). What a great year!

In January 2015 we started to make new plans to organise next event in Estonia, in the meantime FEGGA held its annual conference, which took place in Portugal in February and I was also invited there and asked to make a small presentation. I was very nervous but I was really impressed how friendly people from every European association were and how well they welcomed me – it´s like a big family and I´m very proud to be part of that family.

The time went by and we found it difficult to organise all the speakers with such a short time (my idea was to have greenkeeping event in March when there´s not high season yet) and to have FEGGA Roadshow. So instead I decided to organise it myself, of course with the support from Dean and FEGGA. I also invited Alex Höfinger from Austrian Greenkeepers Assocoiation who I met in Portugal during FEGGA Conference and Symbio.

But still it was very first event I organised from the beginning – it was quite a big challenge because there’s so many small details to think about, starting from pens etc. I also managed to find 3 sponsors and charged from each greenkeeper 5 euros. So the date was 27th of March and again – I was really, really happy to see so many greenkeepers coming together, we had 47 people! And we recieved 20 more applications to become a member.

So what I´m trying to say – never give up and follow you dreams, if something doesn´t work out then the time just wasn´t right – everything happens for a reason and when there’s the right time. It’s always good to have great contacts!

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Golf course superintendent Neil Cleverly tackles Olympic task in Brazil with sense of adventure

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Olympic Golf Course achieves recognition from Golf Environment Organization

Following three years of extensive reporting, monitoring, evaluation and site visits from an independent auditor, spanning the design, construction and grow in phases of the project, The Rio Olympic Golf Course has achieved GEO Certified® Development status.

A spokesperson for the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) said: “The achievement is in recognition of the many nature conservation and resource efficiency activities undertaken to date. It takes into account the longer term net positive social and environmental impacts that the facility is set to deliver in the months and years ahead, which are framed within the management agreements.

“While this has been a complex and sensitive project, developed under tight deadlines, requiring considerable additional monitoring and evaluation from staff and the accredited, independent auditor, the work carried out by the design, construction and maintenance teams delivers against established best practices and industry standards that have been developed with input from numerous international specialists and stakeholders.

“The final outcomes are that a degraded site, that was primarily either devoid of vegetation or becoming over-run with exotic species, and potentially vulnerable to other forms of ‘harder’ development, will now be actively managed for nature conservation, local community recreation, education, and sports development by a non-profit sports body in collaboration with other local stakeholders, and guided by a robust environmental management plan.   We look forward to working with those partners and stakeholders in the project going forward to help make sure that the venue goes on to maximise its role in nature conservation, resource efficiency and innovation and community engagement.

“We are also pleased to highlight the valuable role the Rio Olympic Golf Course played in the road testing and development of a new sustainability standard for golf development, which is to be launched internationally in the near future.”

Antony Scanlon, Executive Director of the International Golf Federation (IGF), said: “The IGF is delighted that more than three years of planning, design and construction of the Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course have culminated in the course being awarded GEO Certified® Development status.

“From the start, it was imperative that this once degraded site should emphasise the biodiversity of the location while maintaining its environmentally protected status and ensuring that the risks to the indigenous species and habitat would be minimised. We believe this has been achieved successfully, and we are very proud of the fact that once the athletes leave, Rio will have a sustainable, environmentally protected setting to play an important social, educational and sporting role in the years ahead.”

Notable actions and achievements highlighted in the independent GEO Certified® Development report include:


  • 80% of the existing site had zero vegetation cover
  • Successful transplantation of more than 15,000 native plants with 95% success rate for establishment
  • Establishment of on-site plant nursery to propagate more than 475,000 plants from native seeds and stock onto the golf course site
  • Removal and control of existing exotic species
  • Overall compensation for 1.4ha of loss of reduced quality restinga habitat, with net increase in conservation managed restinga of more than 33 ha
  • Design of ‘naturalised’ golf course, creating opportunities for gradual re-colonisation by native species, and strong habitat connectivity across the site
  • Long term ecological and environmental monitoring and management plan in place and approved by local authorities
  • 167% increase in vegetation cover
  • Net increase in biodiversity reported of 118 to 263 species found on the site
  • Speedy recolonisation by rare and protected species including burrowing owl, caiman, capybara, lapwings, sandpipers and egrets
  • Comprehensive pollution prevention measures carried out across the course throughout construction and management, and integrated into the design and construction of the modern maintenance facility


  • Use of entirely on site construction materials – no extra sand or soil imported
  • Use of Zeon Zoysia and SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum grown locally – the most drought and pest tolerant species for the site, propagated in Brazil, which also allows for lower quality irrigation water, reducing need for water treatment
  • Use of fuel efficient and hybrid maintenance machinery. All Jacobsen equipment uses GreensCare™, a 96% biodegradable hydraulic fluid made of renewable seed-oil based product
  • Clubhouse designed using passive design principles
  • Clubhouse utilisation of local, recycled and certified materials
  • 100% recycled slate quarry waste for the pathways
  • More than 90% of all construction materials were sourced from within 400Km of the site
  • Cleared exotic plants were recycled as mulch to aid transplantation operations
  • The Toro irrigation system is pressurised with the most up-to-date energy efficient pump system in order to optimise pressure and minimise energy use


  • Agreement between municipality and BGC to run the facility as the Brazilian golf centre of excellence for coaching and training – of local golfers, as well as national teams
  • The agreement establishes that the golf facility will be free-access to the public and the development and implementation of four centres:
    • An environmental education centre to increase awareness about the environment and sustainable golf development at the local schools and communities
    • A knowledge and technical centre for youth ages 14-18, to promote social inclusion through sport, in partnership with technical schools and universities, offering caddie, coach and referee development programmes and specialised vocational training in greenkeeping and sports turf, Machine Operator and environmental management
    • A high performance Golf Academy – to improve the quantity and the quality of the Brazilian players at the world ranking

A development golf centre to grow the quantity of new golf practitioners through programmes like “Golfe para a Vida” (golf for life), in partnership with public and private schools and/or other communities.

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Toro® Irrigation Supports Water Conservation on Rio’s Olympic Golf Course

With the 2016 international sporting event in Rio de Janeiro nearing, the game of golf will mark its historic return following a 112-year absence. As many of the world’s top golfers take to Rio’s Olympic Golf Course, The Toro Company is proud to have been chosen to provide a fully integrated irrigation system featuring the latest technologies to help save water and energy.

“We are truly honored for the opportunity to provide irrigation solutions that will help create a world-class stage for bringing golf back to the premier international competition, while supporting efforts in water conservation,” said Rick Olson, Toro’s president and chief operating officer. “Our history of serving the people of Brazil dates back to 1935 when we established our first distributor in Rio de Janeiro. We look forward to the excitement of the 2016 Games, and continuing to support the people of Brazil with the most innovative products and highest level of service.”

Located at Reserva Uno in the Rio suburb of Barra da Tijuca, the Gil Hanse-designed golf course incorporates Toro’s GDC 2-wire system with the Lynx® central control system. In addition, more than 2,200 Toro DT Series sprinklers with integrated GDC decoder modules were installed throughout the course, along more than 1,000 water-saving Precision™ Series spray nozzles on bunker complexes. The irrigation system also includes Toro’s state-of-the-art Turf Guard® wireless soil monitoring system, positioned throughout the course to help the grounds team monitor turf health and more precisely apply water where it is needed.

“As superintendent of an environmentally sensitive golf course, it is very important that we are able to put the right amount of water on the course when and where we need it,” explained Neil Cleverly, head superintendent at the Olympic Golf Course. “Toro’s Lynx system allows us to have precise and accurate control to use our water resources most efficiently.”

“The Turf Guard sensors also help us manage other variables like soil moisture, temperature and salinity on our course. We can then use this information to more precisely deliver water and other product applications. This not only helps us better manage our resources, but also helps save money.”

Helping course superintendents achieve precise control and best manage irrigation system components, Toro’s Lynx software communicates with everything from the sprinkler GDC modules to the weather station to the Turf Guard sensors. Information is then plotted on an interactive map for a detailed view of the course. This enables the grounds crew to analyze course conditions and make adjustments in irrigation schedules and other applications; ultimately, resulting in reduced water and energy use.

Toro golf irrigation products

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In Memoriam of Jari Laitinen

Jari Laitinen, Vice-president of the Finnish Greenkeepers’ Association, passed away at the age of 48 on 23 May, 2016. Jari was a longstanding member of the board of the FGA and worked as Head Greenkeeper at Tuusula Golf Club in southern Finland for 13 years. He was passionate about developing the greenkeeping industry in Finland and actively participated in renewing the curriculum and qualifications together with the Finnish National Board of Education.

Greenkeeping, education, and professionalism were always very close to Jari’s heart, leading him to qualify as a greenkeeping examiner on the national level. His ambition to develop his own expertise led him to participate in many educational opportunities both in Finland and abroad. BTMIHarrogate, FEGGA conferences and national seminars were all of interest to Jari. During the winter months Jari wanted to develop his professional skills and network with other greenkeeping professionals by travelling abroad to volunteer on greenkeeping or construction teams on golf courses in the UK and France. Jari’s sudden and untimely death is a great loss to the Finnish greenkeeping industry. His family, the FGA, and many friends throughout Europe will miss his great and open-minded personality. May he rest in peace.


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The Koro Field Top Maker promotes new growth at Rio Olympic Golf Course

Golf has been reintroduced to the Olympic Games for Rio 2016 when some of the games top names will represent their countries on the course after a 114 year absence from one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

In 2013 Marcelo Matte’s company Green Grass Brazil started growing the grass for the new Olympic course at Barra da Tijuca in Rio. In 2014 they purchased a Koro Field Top Maker (FTM) with Universe® Rotor to maximise the harvesting of sprigs for transplanting.

Turf was grown using two grass species, Zeon Zoysia and SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum which are both drought tolerant with the latter also saltwater tolerant, a big advantage due to the varying qualities of water used to irrigate.

All of the grass was grown at Marcelo’s turf farm in Brazil and it was here that the Universe® Rotor really came into its own when it was used to harvest the Paspalum sprigs that would be planted as live material on the greens of the 85-acre course.

“The Universe® Rotor is very precise in the way it works; it means we can set it to produce smaller and better sprigs. The consistency of the machine resulted in the number collected per acre being double our normal rate because it cuts the size of the sprig in half, giving us more to plant on the course,” said Marcelo.

The vigorous root, stolon and rhizome production nature of Zeon is perfect for the efficient action of the Koro FTM’s Universe® Rotor and its ability to be adjusted to the ideal working height to produce fantastic results on both cool and warm season grasses. In fact the successful harvesting of the sprigs even exceeded Marcelo’s expectations.

“Most people did not believe we could make it on time, but the grow in was so good that the course was ready almost six months ahead of schedule. This is thanks to the good spreading habit of Zeon and excellent sprig harvesting rate of the Koro.

As well as the Paspalum sprigs for the greens Zeon has also been used on the tees, roughs and fairways and has low fertiliser requirements and grows a dense high-quality playing surface that make it difficult for weeds to grow.

This is a crucial benefit of the species because herbicides are unable to be used until permission has been granted.

Marcelo has 20 members of staff to install the grass on the course as well as guidance from David Doguet, the American turf grass breeder from Bladerunner Farms who is responsible for developing Zeon to be used on golf courses and other areas.

For the full range of equipment from Campey Turf Care Systems visit www.campeyturfcare.comFor the full range of equipment from Campey Turf Care Systems visit

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ICL offers scholarship opportunity for BIGGA members

The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association has announced the launch of a new scholarship in conjunction with BIGGA Partner, ICL.

The ICL Continue to Learn Scholarship will offer five BIGGA members the opportunity to attend the Continue to Learn education programme that will be held at BTME 2017.

Sami Strutt, BIGGA’s Head of Member Development, said: “As BIGGA Partners, ICL have long recognised the significant investment that greenkeepers make in developing themselves throughout their careers. Often this dedication is done at their own personal expense, and so I am delighted that ICL will help five BIGGA members with the support they need to make the most of the Continue to Learn education programme at BTME 2017.”

The scholarship is worth approximately £500 per person and comprises three nights’ hotel accommodation and a 15-hour education bundle.

Commenting on the sponsorship agreement, ICL’s Ed Carter, Turf and Landscape – Sales and Development Manager, said: “ICL are delighted to sponsor BIGGA’s Continue to Learn Scholarship as we are keen to promote education at all levels of turf management.”

“We see the Scholarship scheme as an exciting opportunity to provide Continue to Learn education to people who under normal circumstances may not be able to attend BTME, and we feel that it is an extension to the support we have always provided to the industry as a whole.”

Applicants for the scholarship must be BIGGA members and a panel, made up of representatives from BIGGA and ICL will review all applications and select the recipients of the five scholarships. Successful applicants will be advised in October 2016.

Visit the members’ area of the BIGGA website for more information and details on how to apply. (

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Donald Steel, Chairman of the GTC says farewell to David Golding

David Golding - Web

Speaking at a lunch held recently at the GTC and BIGGA headquarters, GTC Chairman Donald Steel gave a speech to David Golding who retired after 23 years with the GTC. These are his kind words.

I remember nothing of his remarks except for his opening which, for the height of pomposity, takes a lot beating. He said, I’d just like to say a few words BEFORE I start to speak.  I do not intend to speak, so to speak, this lunchtime.  I give you my pledge to be shorter than the Chilcot Enquiry but I do want to say a very few words on this AUSPICIOUS HAPPY/SAD occasion.

Sad that David has saddled up his horse ready to ride off into the sunset even if he looks far too young to retire.

Happy that we are celebrating the fact that he leaves behind a highly distinguished working legacy for training greenkeepers in which we have all, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, been fortunate to have played some part. I don’t need to enlarge for I know I am preaching to the converted but, I am sure you agree, it is a remarkable story.

There is a modern belief that the past doesn’t matter. Some say it is old hat.  They contend it is only the present that counts.  I agree you can only deal with situations as you find them and there is always a duty to try and shape the future but, without the past, there would be no present.  David has acted as Education Director of the Greenkeepers Training Committee for 23 years and has presided over an industry that has been transformed thanks to his dedication, vision and persuasive example. Greenkeeping has always been hard graft and David’s practical background as a greenkeeper meant he could speak from experience.  To me, greenkeepers are on a par as a willing and unselfish brotherhood  -or now sisterhood-  with our lifeboat men and National Hunt jockeys.  They never complain about their plight, they deal with the unexpected, they keep unsocial hours, and are driven to help others but David belonged to a generation of greenkeepers that wanted something better and, more poignantly, fought hard to achieve it.

He was one of the campaigners in the creation of BIGGA and, through BIGGA and the Home Unions, the GTC.  Today, greenkeeping has become the job of a lifetime -for a lifetime.  Many have never thought of doing anything else, eager to learn their trade and to have the qualifications to enable them to master the responsibilities they face.  And they are very good at it and, what is more, are delightful people. More than half the art of any tuition is getting the message across and here David’s presentation skills, scrupulously honest approach and genuine understanding have contributed enormously to the success of the GTC.

It is symbolic that the new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf should have been established a year before David’s impending retirement because Parliament’s awareness of the apprenticeship scheme is, in no small measure, down to his pioneering efforts.  The GTC has always been an apprenticeship scheme and David mounts his getaway horse after building up the GTC from modest beginnings into a notable national and international force.

More cogently, the training of young greenkeepers is perhaps the only thing from which all golfers, young or old, good or bad, man or woman, boy or girl, amateur or professional, benefit.

In the 60 years or so of my involvement in golf, greenkeeping has scaled the heights rather in the way that the playing of the game has done.  There have never been more good greenkeepers or more good players and, watching the thrilling final round of the Open on Sunday made me reflect that, in that time, the first prize in the Open has risen from under a thousand pounds to over a million.

Here, I must thank Fiona for all her good offices behind the scenes and for all the invitations and arrangements for today’s lunch.  Fiona has always been a comforting presence at David’s side, a duo that have made my Chairmanship an absolute joy and so it is with pride and delight that I present this Print to David, to wish him a happy birthday and a long and happy retirement and to thank him on behalf of the game and several thousand of greenkeepers for his supreme contribution to its welfare, enjoyment and efficiency.

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