Meet the Greenkeepers

Jun 15, 2018 | Jenni Ashford

Steve Sheldon from the Golf Committee caught up with the golf course greenkeeping team to find out more about them, the work they do and what they have to deal with in a typical day.

Introducing the team
above photo, left to right

Adam Hayes – Head Mechanic (1 years service)
Matt Banning – Assistant Greenkeeper (1.5 years service)
Jim Brookes – 1st Assistant (3 years service)
Aiden Fone – Assistant Greenkeeper (3 years service)
John Parr – Golf Course Manager (30 years service)
David Chappell – Deputy Golf Course Manager (3.5 years service)
plus, Martin Hamon – Assistant Greenkeeper (30 years service) missing from photo

Steve’s day with the Greenkeepers started with the question, “tell me about a typical day in the life of an Exeter greenkeeper”.   The greenkeepers explained to Steve that it is impossible to describe ‘a typical day’ as despite detailed plans and plenty of meetings, their job is entirely dictated by the weather and ground conditions. As well as dealing with whatever nature throws at them, the greenkeepers work schedules have to also fit around an extremely busy golf course.

Dave Chappell, Deputy Golf Course Manager explained that the greenkeepers start around 6am and usually finish around 2pm, however this often changes and an earlier start or later finish is often on the cards. Dave said, “We do whatever is needed to ensure the golf course is the very best condition possible.”

Steve noted the immense pride and passion that exudes from the greenkeepers when they talk about their work maintaining both the course and the vast array of plant and machinery required.

Mechanic, Adam Hayes is responsible for maintaining and repairing every piece of plant and equipment needed to keep the golf course running. With the variation and amount this involves, it is no mean feat. The skills and experience of the greenkeepers is vast, and Adam is no exception. His knowledge and background stems from a long career within the water industry, maintaining and repairing sewage plant and treatment works.  At the point Steve spoke with him, Adam was due to repair the ropes on the 7th fairway bells before going on to fit a new compressor to the shoe-cleaning machine. ‘Variety is the spice of life’, they say, and Adam certainly has that in this job.

Although Adam’s work is often in the background, it is this which enables the team to tackle everyday tasks, along with those surprise jobs which crop up along the way.  Of course, unexpected changes in weather, often alter plans, which create last minute demands on Adam’s time…his ‘can do’ attitude is welcomed by the team.

As if to emphasise this point, Golf Course Manager, John Parr was called away for an emergency during his conversation with Steve. A specialist contractor dealing with an ongoing problem with the irrigation system, needed John on the course to progress with work.  An armoured electrical cable feeding the irrigation system had become fractured in the ground, requiring urgent repair.  The cable is essential to keeping the greens watered and in tip-top condition, so time is of the essence.  As ever, John’s priorities shifted and he turned his attention to resolving this issue.

John explained that this time of year is critical for the golf course. The additional work created by this emergency requires a great deal of time and effort by the greenkeepers until detection equipment was brought in to locate the cause of the fault.  John told Steve how immensely proud he is of the team in keeping on top of issues like this and other situations as it is their dedication that makes sure the golf course is as good as it can be.

Generally the greenkeepers have to complete the following tasks to prepare the course for the day:

Mowing and rolling of greens

Verti-cutting greens, as and when weather and ground conditions permit

Maintaining and preparing bunkers & checking rakes

Empty bins, refill ball washers and seed bins

Replace divots and repair pitch marks where evident

Set up the tees of the day

Disease disorder and pest controls

Cutting and maintaining fairways, aeration and organic matter controls

Strimming and maintaining hedgerows

Controlling rough, semi-rough and surrounds

Maintaining practice areas and pathways

Maintaining health and safety and operational course matters

Although there is an annual plan for on going course maintenance such as aeration, hollow tyning and more, Dave, John and Jim meet at the start of the week to plan the days ahead.

Training is vital. John Parr places a huge emphasis on training his team and ensuring their ongoing development is progressive and at the forefront of golf course maintenance.

The team explained to Steve that the enjoy chatting to members and appreciate the positive comments about the condition of the course, especially at this time of the year.

Steve said, “Stopping for two minutes to say hello, introduce yourself and give the greenkeepers the credit they deserve, really makes the team feel valued. After all, they maintain one of the best golf courses in Devon and the South West.”

Darren Thorpe, Chair of Greens added, “This is my fifth year as Chair of Greens and I believe we have an incredible team. Each one of them brings something different. It’s clear when you spend time with the team that they all get on and support each other with one thing in mind – the presentation of our golf course. They all take such pride in their work. John Parr absolutely lives and breathes this golf course. We are so fortunate to have someone who carries such a reputation within the industry. It’s been a great pleasure to work with him.”

Lyndon Bent, Men’s Golf Captain commented, “I have learnt a huge amount from John, Dave and the team about course maintenance, but this only scratches the surface of their immense knowledge and experience.” He added,  “I am sometimes disheartened by criticism the course receives on occasion, as it is clear that there is little understanding and appreciation of the challenges our green army have to keep our course in tip top condition.  I would like to thank Steve Sheldon for highlighting the work they do.  They are truly our unsung heroes”.



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