DON'T STIFLE NEW IDEAS
Says golf agronomist Greg Evans
Independent golf agronomist, Greg Evans, has warned the industry not to suppress new ideas coming from the new generation of greenkeepers.
The 46-year old Master Greenkeeper has welcomed the recent influx of new greenkeeping talent in UK golf but cautions that old-fashioned attitudes are still widespread, and can often affect the confidence and stifle the creativity of newcomers.
Greg Evans (right) with Richard Elderfield, Head Greenkeeper at Sandy Lodge GC. (Photo: Andy Hiseman)
“It is crucial that experienced greens staff find a way of passing on their knowledge without micro-managing the life out of new talent,” said Greg, who started his Greg Evans Golf Course Solutions consultancy business in 2009 while he was the course manager at Ealing Golf Club, in Middlesex.
“A welcome trait of the new breed of greenkeeper is that they are prepared to challenge traditional thinking. Of course they are sometimes quite raw in terms of experience, but they are energetic, ambitious and willing to devote themselves to learning how to prepare a playable golf course.
“They need help in fulfilling their potential. Thankfully there are some wonderful examples in the UK golf industry where highly experienced course managers have taken a new protégé under their wing, creating a healthy combination of intensity and new thinking combined with the sure-footedness which can only come from decades of work.”
Evans also reports a shift away from thinking dominated by pure soil science, and towards a ‘performance and playability’ mindset in the greenkeeping world.
“Ten years ago it was all about agronomy,” he said. “Now, it’s more about the end-user, and how the golfer sees the ball performing on the golf course. I spend a lot of time talking to greenkeepers about ball roll, and how the ball reacts when it interacts with playing surfaces, especially greens.
“I think that golfers appreciate a greenkeeping mindset which is about creating maximum playability, rather than coming at it first and foremost from a soil science point of view.”
Another change over the last decade is that the industry has begun to embrace, rather than resist, the rise of the consultant, says Evans.
“Initially, some head greenkeepers saw people like me as a threat, but attitudes towards getting external help have changed for the better over the last decade.
“When I arrive at a golf club to assist with a project, I try to inject new levels of energy and drive into the existing team. Rather than rushing to change everything, and everyone, I prefer to advise and oversee the existing greenkeeping team.
“If I do expose any prior weaknesses we tend to find solutions quickly and efficiently.”
New 2019 projects at Ogbourne Downs, Test Valley, Harpenden Common, Westgate & Birchington, West Herts, Hamptworth, Wyke Green and Bishop’s Stortford have all benefitted from Greg's approach to improving conditions for golfers.