Simon Olver, course manager at Ganton, on the myriad opportunities in greenkeeping
Many of you will have noticed there’s a lot of movement in the industry at the moment as we experience a shortage of greenkeepers across every level of the profession. Some of the reasons are complicated while others are very simple, but while I could fill a few pages on why this has happened, I’d rather tell you why it’s a good time to join the industry.
Since I started my career, as a 16-year-old apprentice at Dunstanburgh Castle, the industry has moved on immeasurably.
Gone are the days of intense weeks of manual labour thanks to greater access to machinery at clubs of all sizes. Gone too are the days of greenkeepers just being grass cutters – despite what some may still think.
The education systems in place now are phenomenal – from entry-level college courses and structured apprenticeship programmes through to foundation degrees and higher education opportunities.
There is also a much wider understanding of the profession and its many facets within golf clubs, meaning there are greater opportunities to specialise. The range of greenkeeping specialisms varies from mechanics to spraying and irrigation technicians, while more clubs are working with agronomy and ecology consultants than ever before. There are also many fantastic opportunities to work in golf course construction and travel the world shaping new courses.
An increase in expectations from golfers has required increased levels of training and more emphasis on skilled greenkeeping practices. That development is only set to continue as organisations like BIGGA, The R&A and GEO continue to create and develop training programmes to fit the various needs of clubs.
There are also many opportunities for greenkeepers in individual clubs as well. From a career in golf course management and its myriad skills to working at events like The Open or US Open, the opportunities are endless. While it’s a demanding job with early starts and long hours in the height of the season, there are so many positives to being a greenkeeper.
In my experience, it’s a profession where you always get out what you put in. If you’re willing to develop your skills, the sky really is the limit. I’ve chosen to study hard while others have travelled extensively. A willingness to learn and expand your knowledge can carry you a very long way.
At every level, it’s also a role with lots of time outdoors and plenty of variety. In my time, I’ve also been lucky to be part of fantastic teams with great camaraderie.
For a passionate golfer, it’s a chance to work in an industry you already love – not something you get in a lot of jobs.
For anyone inspired to join the profession, there are a number of entry level roles available right now at clubs across the region – from apprenticeships to seasonal roles. There are also a number of college courses for those looking for that route.
Be keen and get stuck into every task, and ask plenty of questions when you do get a start. From there, you should be supported by your club to earn your qualifications or specialise in a particular skill. There’s lots of support out there, so being keen to learn and develop is really important.
From there, just enjoy it – there’s far worse places to earn a living than the golf course.