Healthy minds

Greenkeeper Simon Olver on creating a healthy environment in our golf clubs

Mental health was never a subject people wanted to talk about, but things have really turned a corner in the last couple of years. With one in four people having mental health issues – it’s an important issue in every walk of life. There is no difference in the world of greenkeeping.

I would expect a lot of you to be quite surprised by this – but I hope this column will open your eyes to some of the pitfalls of the industry which so many of us choose to go into for our love of the game. I also want to demonstrate how everyone can play their part in ensuring their club is a healthy environment.

Managing a golf course is tough. It’s a diverse role, combining technical and managerial skill with physical work while delivering a 12-month product under time, budget and environmental stress.

In situations where focus has not been given or management within clubs has placed unacceptable levels of stress on individuals, the results can be catastrophic.

In some cases, greenkeeping can become a world in which staff are not given the opportunity to train in specific areas, not suitably supported and equipped, and have 500-plus unpleasable bosses – many of whom they’ll only ever have negative interactions with. This only creates a negative environment.

So, how can we do things better? Responsible businesses have a structured approach, suitably trained staff and management systems which drive a positive culture. Well-supported staff are motivated, energised and more productive – they also crucially feel safe. Clubs which do this will lead the way with happy customers and staff who are proud of the facility.

This of course isn’t the easiest thing to bring into a golf club. Where staff are managed by an ever-changing committee of generous volunteers, there is always the possibility of a bad egg upsetting the bunch. Clubs must ensure that no one official has the power to create a culture which is harmful to individuals.

Businesses can also ensure they have structured management systems in place with clear channels for employees to communicate in confidence. A designated individual who is responsible for psychological health and safety in the workplace is also really important.

For golfers out there – there is never a bad time to let people know they are doing a good job. Small things matter and can make a huge difference to someone’s day. Remember that your words and actions can have a hugely negative effect too. Always show respect to the highly skilled individuals who devote themselves to delivering a golf course you can be proud to play on.

Golfers have high expectations no matter what size, standard or stature of course they play. The good news is these standards can be achieved and even surpassed at any level if staff are well supported, happy in their work and feel appreciated.

Greenstaff will never do their best on their own, we all need the support of every golfer to make the partnership work.