Meet the Manager… Helen Swaby

Appleby is a remarkable course in Cumbria – and it has an equally remarkable manager... Tell us a little bit about Appleby... We’re a moorland course. We own the land but it’s common land so we have graziers who have the right to graze the common. We have sheep and horses roaming the course, which is unusual. However, all of the greens are surrounded by wires which protect them, but the animals make Appleby. It makes the golf course quirky and unusual. We have about 600 greenkeepers! There are no par 5s for men, only longish par 4s, but there are several unusual holes. The 15th is our signature hole. It’s called the Bell Hole. It has Hilton Beck that runs along the right and has a hidden green. So you head for the marker posts when you play it.  How did you get into golf course management?  I started playing golf in 2009. I joined Appleby after going to the local driving range with my son and my family. I would have a basket of balls while he had a lesson which got me hooked, and I joined Appleby Golf Club after a year or so of having lessons. I live in Appleby, my husband plays, and I thought ‘we’ll have something to do together’. I was lady captain in 2013, ended up being on the committee, and then became part-time secretary of the golf club in about 2016 and then became manager in 2018. Appleby is close to a main road but is a bit set out on its own in Cumbria. I imagine there is a huge sense of community at the club... It is a very close-knit club. We have an active ladies section and our Ramblers section, which is the senior section of the club. I think everyone’s really missed being able to come into the club. During lockdown and, during this past year, it’s been really difficult for the club – not only financially but for the members too. Once we came back and were open for golf, I was basically here on my own and running the reception area. We don’t have a shop here and we don’t have a professional. We made that into a reception area, with me as the front face of the golf club – seeing people for their golf needs, green fees and essentials. The majority of staff were on furlough, with one greenkeeper staying on to do the essential work.  Unfortunately, in February 2021, we lost our Head Greenkeeper, after contracting Covid-19. This was a very challenging time. We then had the task of appointing a Head Greenkeeper and an Assistant.  Thankfully we now have both in post. Was that a challenge for you? You’ve obviously got the support of the committee but you’re dealing with lots of things and it looks to be a busy club? We’ve just topped 500 membership. I don’t think people actually realise what goes into managing a golf club. It’s not...
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