Reflections from Course Managers on the extreme weather

Golf Course Architect Tom Mackenzie gauges the mood among Course Managers dealing with the fall-out from prolonged adverse weather.

This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.

Course Managers across the land have opened up about the challenges presented by the recent weather patterns as record rainfall has played havoc at golf clubs.

Following months of adverse weather, Golf Course Architect Tom Mackenzie reached out to his extensive list of contacts to gauge the mood in the industry.

What he found was a group of dedicated professionals who were up against it like never before and still desperate to deliver a high-quality product despite circumstances conspiring against them.

“We are living through the most extreme period of weather, which I can see has pushed even the ultra-positive course managers to the limit,” said Tom. “Job satisfaction is at an all-time low — going out in the rain day after day and being unable to deliver the surfaces that they want to offer the golfers.

“A constant thread in discussions with them was the morale-sapping impact of those golfers
who cannot see beyond playing the blame game and totally ignoring the unprecedented weather.”

Below is a sample of those discussions, with contributions from Course Managers at a variety of clubs. You can read the full document compiled by Tom at the bottom of this story.

About Tom…

Leading architect Tom Mackenzie, principal at Mackenzie & Ebert, graduated with a Landscape Architecture degree in 1989 and began working with Donald Steel.

Along with Martin Ebert, he founded Mackenzie & Ebert in 2005.

Tom is also a member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, serving as president from 2015 to 2017.

What Course Managers are saying…

  • “In all the years I have worked here, I have never experienced a worse winter, just constant rain.
    The impact on the team morale is bad enough, but having to stop certain work due to flooding and
    saturated soil on a links course is unheard of. I really feel for the teams on inland courses that have been impacted worse than us.”
  • “This has been one of the most challenging winters in memory and remedial work to restore surfaces will
    go into the growing season for a few weeks longer than expected. This is not a situation anyone wants,
    but a reality as we face more and more extreme weather patterns.”
  • “One of the things that I found really tough every morning for four or five months was making the tough call on whether we are open, what temporaries to use and whether to allow buggies etc. That was done usually in the dark at 7am and I found that a constant drain. Then add on knowing you’ll get criticised whatever decision you make doesn’t help either.”
  • “In my 30 years of being a Course Manager, last year was one of the toughest by far, and had me at
    times scratching my head and questioning my own agronomic practices! I feel for all my fellow
    colleagues who are in similar positions and they should not feel alone, whether that be from the most exclusive golf club to a nine-hole pay and play, as we all want to produce the best conditions year-round for our members to enjoy. Sadly, there will always be an element of golfers with unrealistic expectations and zero tolerance for anything less than perfection, irrelevant of whatever Mother Nature has thrown at us!”

An Agronomist’s view…

Alistair Beggs, Head of Agronomy, R&A Sustainable Agronomy Team

“I have spent the last couple of months visiting clubs all over the land on all kinds of soils. In addition, I
have my winter experiences from Royal Liverpool Golf Club where, for the first time in my golfing
recollection, we have had waterlogging and flooding to an exceptional level.

“Our 1st hole, practice ground and most bunkers on the course have been flooded and out of use for large periods of the winter and spring season. Only in the last fortnight has the raised water table declined in level.

“Elsewhere the pressures have been greater. Other links courses in this area have endured raised water
tables, flooding and waterlogging and this has curtailed golfing and greenkeeping activities. Rainfall
levels in all regions of England are close to, or have exceeded, all-time records and clubs in East Anglia,
South East, Devon and Cornwall, The Midlands and The North have all been similarly affected. The
heavier the soil the more devastating the impact has been.

“Also, it is worth noting that DLI (Daily Light Integral) values are much lower than in previous years (lack
of sunshine) compromising turf health further. Having visited some local courses on heavier soils in the last fortnight (which has been a little drier), only now are they resuming normal greenkeeping activities. There is a lot of catching up to do!

“I have to say that there are a lot of deflated greenkeepers out there at the moment. However, in most
instances, there is some understanding from golfers that it will take some time for normal playing
standards to be restored. There are always a few exceptions where a document like this will help
(hopefully) to ease the difficulties.”

Read the full document (Click ‘download’ to view on mobile)


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