Career profile - Head Greenkeeper

A head greenkeeper is responsible for ensuring that every part of the golf course is maintained to the highest possible standard by supervising a team of greenkeepers who carry out maintenance and renovations. The head greenkeeper also manages a budget and liaises with the club’s committee and members.

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. 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."

What skills, attributes, knowledge and experience 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." Williams points out that "the weather really dictates the course".

Ability to play the game

"It helps if a greenkeeper can play golf as they can see the course from a golfing as well as an agronomic point of view," says Williams. "Knowledge of the game really helps. Some of the best greenkeepers will keep playing their own golf course. It also helps if you play on other courses because seeing other greens gives you fresh ideas that you can bring back to you own golf course."

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 know the right time to put fertilisers and wetting agents on the course and have good judgement and be flexible because the weather can change all of these rules."

IT skills

"Although it’s one area I detest, you also need good IT skills," says Rayfield. "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. I run members’ evenings where we explain everything that’s going on on the golf course. I’m speaking to 150-200 members, answering tricky questions. Greenkeepers often get people who think they are not doing a good job."

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

Rayfield has two greenkeepers working with him on level-two apprenticeship qualifications and hopes to progress one of the past level-two apprentices, Zoe Lee-Amies, onto a level three very soon. He notes that, in most cases, head greenkeepers would have worked their way up from 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. "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 any 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. "It can be very hard 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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