Greenkeepers reveal their BIGGEST ANNOYANCES when it comes to golfers!

GolfMagic speaks to NINE greenkeepers in Britain to get their take on what annoys them the most...

Andy Roberts's picture
Wed, 6 Nov 2019
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Golfers and greenkeepers. One can’t survive without the other and occasionally, things get a little heated out on the course.

What’s the solution? Here at GolfMagic, we’ve teamed up with the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) to hear things from the greenkeepers’ perspective.

We spoke to nine top greenkeepers up and down the country and asked them to be brutally honest about the things golfers do that annoy them the most. Their responses were very interesting…

Chris Sealey, course manager, Chippenham Golf Club, Wiltshire

"I hate to say it, but golfers ask the funniest questions. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how little golfers realise goes into the maintenance of the course. For example, when the members ask why we hollow tine, we tell them it’s to let the worms out! And they sometimes believe us!

"But sometimes, those things they don’t understand can cause problems for greenkeepers. For example, when the course is closed due to flooding, we get told ‘I live five miles away and my garden is dry!’

"That then becomes a problem if they leave negative feedback about the course, when there could be nothing the greenkeeping team could have done to prevent the flooding, because we’re in a valley next to a river and they live up on a hilltop!

"I think golfers should give greenkeepers the benefit of the doubt more often and if the course isn’t in pristine condition, ask them the reason why, rather than jumping to conclusions."

RELATED: THE TOUGHEST PARTS ABOUT BEING A GREENKEEPER

Andy Barber, course manager, Royal Winchester Golf Club, Hampshire

"I’ve been in this industry for a while now and I’ve really noticed the lack of etiquette among modern golfers. Sadly, it seems to be getting worse.

"By etiquette, I mean things such as golfers hitting balls at you – which is really dangerous – or things such as not repairing pitchmarks or divots, which is the age-old problem. It’s sad to say, but since we’ve opened up our golf courses to everyone and increased the number of visitors playing, etiquette seems to have deteriorated.

"The opinion seems to be, ‘I pay my money, I do what I like’ and how do you answer that? The sad thing is you can’t and you just have to walk away. Sadly, we’re losing a lot of good people from the industry because they’re tired of the lack of respect that golfers are showing to the course and to the greenkeepers."

RELATED: LEADING GOLF COURSE MANGER BELIEVES PUTTING WITH THE FLAGSTICK IN HAS BECOME A GIMMICK!

Sam Bethell, course manager, Chipstead Golf Club, Surrey

"My biggest bugbear is the lack of patience among golfers. I know it must be annoying when you’ve gone out to play golf and the greenkeepers are in the way again.

"But ask yourself, why are they there? Is it their last area to cut and they’ll then get out of your way? Have they even seen you? In most cases, there’s a reason they’re there.

"But either way, just wait a minute. Make sure they’ve seen you and that they’re safely out of the way before you play – you wouldn’t hit a ball if it was another golf stood in front of you.

"Don’t just send a shot up to give them a warning as you’d be amazed at the damage being hit by a golf ball can do to a person’s head or body and to the golfer’s bank account."

Adam Matthews, course manager, Moor Allerton Golf Club, West Yorkshire

"As you can imagine, there are quite a few of the usual annoyances, ranging from not raking bunkers or repairing pitchmarks, to ignoring traffic management and information signage.

"But for me, my biggest bugbear with some golfers is the ignorance towards weather and ground conditions and then the comments that follow.

"We’ll have golfers turn up on a weekend and seem to forget that the rain that fell all week didn’t just land on their homes, but it also landed on the course!

"A golf course isn’t an artificial surface – it’s fine turf, growing on soil – and so it’s affected by the weather, which includes getting muddy sometimes, or brown and dry if there’s a drought.

"We’ll always do what we can to improve drainage and keep playing conditions as good as we are able, but there’s always going to be some impact from the weather."

Billey Merritt, head greenkeeper, Beacon Park Golf Club, Lancashire

"A golfer once asked about the number of moles on the course and we told him it was because they were laying so many mole eggs, and he believed us!

"But in seriousness, my biggest gripe is the lack of patience that golfers have, when we are trying to make the course better for them in the long run.

"Sometimes it’s necessary to do something that will disrupt the course in the short term, but in the long run your greenkeepers are working for the good of the course and the changes will be for the benefit of everyone."

Lucy Sellick, course manager, Wenvoe Castle Golf Club, South Wales

"For me, there are a couple of things that golfers do, but that can easily be solved with a little understanding. One is that golfers seem to think we do things for no reason or, worse, just to annoy them!

"For example, we can’t cut our fairways immediately after a herbicide application, so the grass is slightly longer, but the golfers think we’re all taking a break!

"That brings me on to the next point, which is that golfers don’t seem to be able to read. I’ve had times where we’ve closed a hole because we’re felling large trees and it’s potentially dangerous.

"There could be a sign on the tee, a sign in the middle of the fairway and ropes directing them where to head and yet I have still found myself waving down a golfer who was about to play a shot over a Land Rover, tractor and trailer and us all, wearing bright orange personal protection equipment!

"The different standards we must deal with are frustrating. The finance committee will look at our budget and ask if the greenkeepers really needed £200 wet weather gear. They’ll have no reservations about spending £300 on their own gear, which they use for four hours, once a week, yet they expect greenkeepers to be out in all weather, in unsuitable working gear.

"That’s not great if we want to keep talent in the industry, rather than leaving to go to a profession where they’re more respected."

Antony Kirwan, course manager, Romford Golf Club, Essex

"Although the members at my club seem to be really understanding, in general there’s a lack of awareness among golfers about what it takes to prepare their course.

"There are some members who take the time to read the literature or ask you questions, but there are also many who will say things that aren’t constructive, like ‘my garden looks a lot better than the course at the moment!’ or ‘why is he putting holes in the greens, when they’re playing well?’

"I think we can all relate to the member who is an electrician, plumber, lawyer, accountant or PGA professional, who doesn’t consider that their course manager will have gone through as extensive training as they did, in order to get to that position. I certainly wouldn’t be telling them how to do their job and yet golfers don’t give greenkeepers that same courtesy.

"As someone who spends a lot of time out on the course, it’s also true that etiquette is, at times, shocking. We see images on social media everyday of bunkers not being raked, pitchmarks not being repaired, divots taken out of the green and the near misses that greenkeepers endure every day, because a golfer can’t wait to hit his shot.

"I’m not point the finger at every golfer, as there are many that understand. But the small percentage really do make our job hard at times."

James Braithwaite, course manager, Long Ashton Golf Club, Bristol

"Sadly, there’s a lack of respect for the role we’re in, with many not even recognising it as a profession. I gave a lecture recently, speaking to golf club managers, and we went around the room and asked what a greenkeeper did.

"So many people just answered ‘they cut the grass’ and were amazed when I reeled off the list of actual duties that greenkeepers do. We’re politicians, agronomists, scientists, magicians, spray technicians, tree surgeons and the list goes on and on. We set budgets, deliver presentations, fight turf diseases and unfortunately that’s not recognised in the industry.

"As a golf club, your biggest asset is the course and the greenkeepers are responsible for looking after it. Yet they’re not given the same status as the club manager or the professional. Greenkeepers will speak to their members and there’ll be someone who may be a dentist, a doctor or an electrician, telling the greenkeeper how he should be maintaining the course, which is mind-blowing.

"I'd like to say that the solution is making golfers more aware of what greenkeepers do to maintain the course, but the golfer has to want to learn and that’s not always the case."

Colin Hopper, head greenkeeper, Elsham Golf Club, Lincolnshire

"The most annoying – and potentially dangerous – thing about golfers has to be etiquette with regards to having golf balls hit towards the greenstaff.

"Although these are quite isolated incidents, there are still occasions where there seems to be no regards for our safety. Working with the club, safety measures have been put in place by means of signage, wearing high visibility jackets and vests.

"We’ve also had meetings with the individuals involved and posted comments on the information newsletters that are sent out to the members.

"I guess we have all heard the excuses before, such as ‘I didn’t see you {(while you were sat on your mower, 150 yards down the fairway)’, ‘I didn’t think I could hit it that far’, ‘I thought you waved me up’ or ‘I thought you had moved out the way’.

"I recently had one golf ball landed about 10ft from my mower after hitting the top of the tree just behind me, which was about 50ft tall. His excuse was ‘I knew it wasn’t going to reach you’!

"We haven’t had any greenkeepers hit for a good number of years here at Elsham, but there have been a few near misses. I guess the only way to stop any greenkeeper being hit is to be more severe with any punishments or start working nights!

"It would be great to hear from other golf courses about this issue and how they deal with it."

For more information about the work of greenkeepers, visit the BIGGA website.

 

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