One of the most influential events in the golfing calendar takes place in Yorkshire this month, writes Karl Hansell, head of communications at BIGGA.
This year is set to be an incredible one for golf in the UK and we’re going to be spoiled by an absolute festival of sport throughout 2022.
The 150th Open will be taking place in St Andrews, The British Masters returns to The Belfry for the second consecutive year and the AIG Women’s Open is heading to Muirfield.
But did you know that for lovers of the game at every level – from the most modest 9-hole pitch and putt all the way up to most historic championship venues – one of the game’s most influential events is taking place this month?
Golfers don’t tend to spend a huge amount of time thinking about what it takes to prepare a golf course for play.
Sure, we get upset if a hole is closed due to maintenance or if there are holes in the green, but how often do we actually stop to consider what it takes to maintain a modern golf course, with the exacting standards we have come to expect (at both premium and budget venues)?
For greenkeepers, that very same golf course is their office, their canvas and their passion. And criticism of the course cuts deep, particularly when it comes following circumstances that are beyond their control – such as poor weather, a global pandemic or budget cuts.
The solution comes each year to the vibrant North Yorkshire town of Harrogate, which comes alive as golf greenkeepers and groundsmen from all over the globe reunite for a week of professional education and networking.
The BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition usually takes place in January each year but was postponed to 22-24 March due to COVID-19 and at this event ideas are shared, knowledge is gained and discussions take place that turf professionals then take back to their workplace and implement.
A genuine community of sports turf professionals, many of whom are members of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, come together to help raise standards of course presentation for everyone.
Angus Macleod is director of golf courses and estates at The Belfry. The five-time Ryder Cup venue is hosting this year’s British Masters, but Angus said he always makes time for his team to attend BTME: “The Belfry sends every team member to BTME and it is fantastic to see new starters amazed at how bug this industry is and the positive change that is happening.”
It might seem incredible to think it, but UK greenkeepers are exposed to more education opportunities than practically any other profession.
The education programme at BTME is known as Continue to Learn and, taking this year’s programme as an example, features more than 200 hours of professional development opportunities from speakers that include The R&A’s Agronomy Team, responsible for hosting The Open each year, and Linda Moir, who was head of Spectator Services at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games and oversaw the customer experience for more than 9 million spectators.
There’s sessions on all aspects of course presentation and effective team management, helping retain and inspire staff to achieve bigger and better things.
Golf facilities and other venues that choose to invest in their greenkeeping team find they are rewarded with loyalty and greater staff engagement, with the added benefit that this elevates the standard of the course.
Continue to Learn provides educational experiences amounting to almost two hours of learning for every golf club in the United Kingdom. No other event throughout the year comes close to being that influential on a grassroots basis.
“BTME is a chance to talk to so many likeminded industry people, with the realisation that we are all battling to overcome the same issues,” said Graeme Beatt, course manager at Royal Portrush, host of The 153rd Open in 2025.
It’s reckoned that your average golf course covers 111 acres, so that’s a lot of hard work that goes into keeping it spick-and-span. Doing so takes years of experience and a surprising amount of professional education.
Why not speak to your course manager about BTME and Continue to Learn and discuss whether taking a couple of days away from the facility to attend the trade show could have incredible long-term benefits for your golf course?
Where: Harrogate Convention Centre, Kings Road, Harrogate
When: March 22-24