IF ever golf course superintendents, greenkeepers and volunteers needed recognition for their service to the golf industry it is now – especially after witnessing the devastating floods in South East Queensland, northern NSW and Sydney.

In years past, Australia has witnessed not only floods but fires and drought, and yet the stewards of our golf courses have fronted up to give golfers the best playing conditions possible.

Even those ground’s staff members who were trying to save their own homes from flood damage recently still managed to turn up for work at the crack of dawn each day to clean up debris and present a good product.  

They are forever mindful that there are some club members who believe that by paying their membership fee gives them the right to whinge and moan about the most trivial things on the golf course.

Oftentimes, these men and women who take on golf course maintenance responsibilities need a thicker skin than a rhinoceros.

Being a greenkeeper can be a stressful and thankless job, but it’s equally rewarding for those who choose it as a profession. They take enormous pride in their work.

Let’s not forget they are out there working in all weather conditions – even extreme conditions. They sit on their mowers for hours on end, hand-water greens, blow debris off greens, edge and rake bunkers as routine work. 

On top of that they deal with the unexpected irrigation blowouts, machinery breakdowns and any other manner of emergencies that arise.

It’s a big responsibility as a member of the greenkeeping staff at Royal Melbourne Golf Club found out when nine greens were accidentally wiped out when the wrong mix of herbicide was applied.

“Most of the members are understanding and encourage us as ground staff, which is good because they know the hurdles we face,” said Stephen Milgate, Beerwah Golf Club’s long-serving superintendent.

“We all want a perfect golf course and I tell the members I don’t leave here thinking the course is perfect. Every week we walk away knowing some things could be better, but we only have a small team and we do strive for perfection.”

Which brings me to ‘what if’?

What if the entire ground’s staff team at your club contracted COVID at the same time and had to isolate for seven days? And what if it was passed on to members of their families and they had to have more time off work?

Then you’d see a few members wondering around looking as if they were sucking on a lemon or had swallowed a wasp.

How many winners of a club competition thank the superintendent and the ground’s staff for the presentation of the golf course at the presentation of prizes?

Former chair and now ground’s staff volunteer at Adelaide’s Mt Osmond GC, Andrew Long, told Inside Golf his club ran a “winner takes all” hole-in-one competition, which has been known to pay out four-figure sums.

“It has been running for years and members eagerly put in their dollar anticipating getting lucky,” he told Inside Golf. “The pot is collected on a regular basis which raises the question … ‘what if?’

“What if the superintendent hadn’t put the hole right there on that particular day? It could have been in another location or the green could have been running slow that day – so no payout!

“The point is that the ground’s staff are often overlooked and their good work goes largely unappreciated. 

“At my club and I’m sure at all others around the country, the staff present the course in terrific condition week-in, week-out.

“So it comes as a surprise that not one of our hole-in-one winners has ever gifted a slab or two to the staff in the ground’s shed to thank them for putting the pin, on their lucky day, in that exact spot.

“We all have expectations that our course will always be in tip-top condition without giving a thought as to the work in the days leading up to the round.

“Even a few hours raking bunkers with the staff will give members a real appreciation of how hard their work is.

“Let’s all acknowledge what an outstanding job they do. What if they weren’t there?”


Educating golfers

PERHAPS it would be beneficial if course superintendents hosted “field trips” for members.

They could give members an insight into mowing greens, changing cups, raking bunkers and taking care of the course and equipment.

Superintendents need to communicate with all members – not just the handful of volunteers that turn up for working bees. It’s been said that for half of a group to get a message and understand it, the message must be communicated 18 times.

Members can take their non-golfer kids and grandkids along as an introduction to golf. After a tour of the course, take them to the range and putting green to hit golf balls. Maybe they could plant a tree as a reminder of their introduction to the game of golf. It just might keep them coming back to the game … and take more care of the golf course environment.

About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.

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