Career profile - Head greenkeeper

A head greenkeeper is responsible for ensuring that each and every part of the golf course is maintained to the highest possible standard.

They will achieve this by supervising a team of greenkeepers who carry out maintenance and renovations on the course. The head greenkeeper will also manage a budget for the golf course and regularly liaise with the club's committee as well as its members, updating them on the condition of the course, listening to their concerns and resolving any issues that may arise.

What is best about being a head greenkeeper?

"Making a difference every day to the people who just want to play golf," says Glenn Rayfield, head greenkeeper at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club in Suffolk. "And the lifestyle - being outdoors every day and the way that it fits into family life. You start early in the morning and finish early. The quality of life is fantastic." Gareth Williams, manager of Newbury & Crookham Golf Club in Berkshire, adds that another highlight is "just that sense of achievement - looking at the golf course and seeing it all laid out and looking beautiful. The comments you get from members when it looks good are great."

What kind of skills, attributes, knowledge and experience do you feel are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment - and why?

Passion for the job

"On a golf course you come up against varying conditions because it's a living product," Rayfield explains. "One day the course is great, the next day it's not. You have to take the lows with the highs. Some things you can do, some things you can't." Williams points out that "the weather really dictates the course", adding: "Last winter, for example, we had a little bit of rain every day so our head greenkeeper could not get out and do the work on the course that he wanted to do."

Ability to play the game

"You get some greenkeepers who are not golfers but they don't understand how their members who play golf want to see the golf course - in terms of where you hit your golf ball from the tee to the green," Williams explains. "Knowledge of the game really helps you live it and breathe it. Some of the best greenkeepers will keep playing their own golf course. It also helps if you play on other golf courses because seeing other greens gives you fresh ideas that you can bring back to you own golf course. You might pick up some real gems."

Solid greenkeeping background

"As well as following the required path of education, you have to have had a sound, long-term career in the greenkeeping industry and be able to deliver results," Rayfield maintains. Williams adds: "You have to have the knowledge to make it all happen. For example, you have to put fertilisers and wetting agents down on the course. You have to know the right time to put them on and have good judgement and be prepared to be flexible because the weather can change all of these rules (and your plans)."

IT skills

Rayfield points out: "Although it's one area I detest, you also need to have good IT skills. For example, a lot of equipment, such as irrigation systems, is computer-operated."

Communication skills

"You have to lead by example, have great working relationships with your team members and be very motivated," says Rayfield. "You also need to know how to present information about the golf course in committee meetings and the like. For example, I run members' evenings where we explain everything that's going on on the course. I'm speaking to 150-200 members, answering their questions, including tricky questions. Greenkeepers often get people who think they are not doing a good job."

What would you need to see from a potential candidate in terms of qualifications and experience to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

Rayfield has a firm belief in the importance of training and currently has three apprentices who have recently completed, or are nearing completion of, the level 2 apprenticeship programme with Easton & Otley College. He notes that, in most cases, head greenkeepers would have worked their way up from this apprenticeship level so would have held an NVQ level 3 qualification in work-based horticulture (greenkeeping) for five or six years. "Most likely they'll have 10 years' experience," he says. Williams also says head greenkeepers work their way up from a traineeship. "You would want to get a head greenkeeper job about five or six years after you'd qualified (at level 3)."

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from other horticulture roles?

"Yes, but you don't see many people take a direct jump from another area of horticulture to the role of head greenkeeper," says Rayfield, adding: "It can be very hard sometimes to go from, say, a role as head gardener to head greenkeeper. There are so few jobs out there so employers would rather employ greenkeepers."


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