Life as a Greenkeeper – My Career So Far

Life as a Greenkeeper – My Career So Far

The Ohio State Program 2012-2013

Just over five years ago I made the decision to start my career as a sportsturf Greenkeeper. Without having any previous Greenkeeping experience, my first challenge saw me jetting off to the United States of America to be a part of The Ohio State Program. I represented the program on a 12 month internship where Michael O’Keeffe (Intern Program Manager) situated me on two different golf courses to manage cool season and warm season grass species in order to help my career development.

The first part of the internship started at Saucon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania. Situated on 850 acres, the golf club boasts three parkland championship courses (Old, Grace and Weyhill) which have been ranked in the 100 courses in the USA and consistently ranked in the top 10 in Pennsylvania. I started working on the Old Course which was designed by British architect Herbert Strong in 1920. The U.S amateur (1951), U.S junior amateur (1983), U.S senior amateur (1987), two U.S senior opens (1992 & 2000) and most recently the U.S Women’s Open (2009) have been held on this prestigious golf course. The membership demands are very high.

I came across several challenges whilst working at Saucon Valley. One of these challenges was the climate which contained a high altitude of heat and humidity. This is something I had never experienced before in the UK. Temperatures rising from 30-38˚c with 70-90% humidity tested my ability to work under these conditions. We had to work hard to keep the course alive with hand watering techniques on pure bentgrass greens, fairways, tees and approaches under the climatic conditions. We worked from 11am till sundown to keep the cultivar alive throughout days of heat stress. During my time at the golf club I was fortunate enough to learn to use different types of equipment such as pedestrian & ride on machinery, spraying fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and wetting agents, tee set up, aerating greens (hollow coring & pencil tining), top dressing and so much more. I was working 90-100 hour weeks including weekends to meet the golf course demands and make sure it was of a high standard for members. My boss at the time told me “you will learn more with all the time you put in”, He was certainly right and all of the knowledge and experience gained there enabled me to prepare myself for my next adventure.

The second part of the internship took place in Naples Florida at The Club at Mediterra. This is another private membership club which is limited to 450 members and consists of two parkland 18 hole golf courses (North & South) designed by the well-known American architect Tom Fazio. When I arrived at the club both golf courses were going under major construction. During the construction process both courses were closed whilst they re-turfed certain tees & fairways, replaced bunkers & improved and replaced irrigation to benefit the layout of the two courses in the future.

It was safe to say that the work undertaken was very challenging as membership demands were high so they needed to get the courses open on time. During my time at the club I also volunteered for the PGA tour’s Northern Trust Open event at the Riviera Country Club located in Los Angeles. To my surprise I was selected to hand mow greens which was a big responsibility. In the evening my duties were to hand roll greens (if needed) and divot the fairways. The experience gained from this event was very valuable to me and something I will never forget. I am very thankful to the director (Frank Heery) at Mediterra for letting me get involved during the busy times at the golf club.

St Andrews Links Trust 2013-2015

After an enjoyable year working in America, the opportunity arose for me to work as a Seasonal Greenkeeper at the home of golf, St Andrews Links Trust (SALT) for three seasons. To work at this prestigious links venue was a great honour. I was situated on The Old Course for two seasons and my last season on the Eden Course which was created by no other than Old Tom Morris. It was a great experience to work on a golf course that had a sustainable approach to manage the fescue surfaces with cultural techniques which included fertilising & wetting agent applications to light top dressing on the sand based surfaces. During my time at SALT I was fortunate enough to work at major events such as The Women’s Open 2013 and The Open Championship 2015

Qualifications, Achievements & the Future

Whilst working at SALT I decided the time was right to gain some sports turf qualifications. As my knowledge of golf courses was quite weak, I needed to build on this, and therefore I decided to take the HNC & HND in Golf Course and Sportsurf Management at the SRUC Elmwood College. Completing these qualifications enabled me to successfully become an R&A scholar and achieve the SRUC Student of The year 2015 award. After I finished the HND, I decided to take the challenge and proceed with the BSc (hons) degree in Sportsturf Science & Management at Myerscough College where I graduated with a 2:1.

Since graduating I have managed to secure a full time job as an Assistant Greenkeeper at well credited Golf Club. I would now like to concentrate on gaining more hands on experience and have set myself targets to eventually work my way up the management ladder.


News1 comment

One Comment
  1. Great article Simon, no one said this profession is easy but you proved that hard work can open any door for you. We are very proud of you. Sincerely, Mike O’

Leave a Reply

  • News digest