We must inspire and recruit a new generation of turf professionals
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

I firmly believe we can always learn from our peers and previous generations who are always keen to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the next generation.


The 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings last week has inspired me to write this week’s blog. The sheer scale of the operations was staggering with over 300,000 people landing on the Normandy beaches to help liberate Europe and end the Second World War. It was very moving to see and hear the comments from some of the surviving 400 veterans, an extraordinary generation talking about their experiences of the landings all those years ago.

It is poignant that we do not forget the sacrifice these veterans and the many, some 22,000 men, who gave their lives to give us the freedom we enjoy today.

I firmly believe we can always learn from our peers and previous generations who are always keen to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the next generation.



I have said on more than one occasion, our wonderful turfgrass and amenity sector is a unique and rewarding industry to work in. The scope and variety of work and the opportunity to work anywhere in the world is astounding. Once you have acquired the basic fundamental skills of horticulture and groundsmanship, there is no end to the opportunities on offer within this ever changing, global industry.

Just taking sports turf alone, look at all the different sports you could be working within. Football, tennis, rugby, bowls, cricket, golf, horseracing, croquet and polo to name a few.



The vast skill set you acquire while working in any one of these sports should set you up for life. I firmly believe it is important to have worked on the tools and used the vast array of machinery and resources on hand to give you a full understanding of the nature of our industry.

Today’s groundsmen need to be a jack of all trades, utilising many skills, with the ability to use modern aides and technologies to deliver the expectations of ever- demanding clients and owners. In essence he or she needs to be a plant pathologist, mechanic, chemist, mathematician, IT literate, a good communicator, flexible and have good people skills.

I also know that I could give ten people an unlimited budget, machinery and resources and still end up with ten different outcomes. The quality of the work achieved is very often dictated by the experience, knowledge, dedication and passion of the individual person and their attitude towards the job.



We have, over the last 40 years, produced some of the finest groundsmen in the world, who have without doubt taken standards of groundsmanship to new levels, largely due to some of the early pioneers, such as:

Eddie Seaward (Wimbledon), Steve Rouse (Edgbaston CCC), Harry Brind (The Oval), Pete Marron (Old Trafford), Steve Patrick (Blackburn Rovers), Chris Hague (Parken Stadium), Richard Norton (Bolton Wanderers), Keith Porter (Manchester Utd), Steve Braddock (Arsenal), Keith Kent (Twickenham), Walter Woods (St Andrews), Gordon Moir (St Andrews), Laurence Pithie (American Golf) and the McMillan Family to name but a few.



Their legacy lives on with an ever-changing new breed of groundsmen who have taken on the mantle to even greater achievements, with the likes of Paul Burgess (Real Madrid), John Ledwidge (Leicester City), Karl Standley (Wembley), Jon Calderdwood (PSG), Darren Baldwin (Spurs), Neil Stubley (Wimbledon), Ed Mowe (Leicester Tigers), Gary Barwell (Edgbaston), Steve Birks (Trent Bridge), Karl Mcdermott (Lord’s), James Mead (Rugby School), Keith Exton ( Perfect Pitches), Will Relf (Loughborough University), Chris Parry (Loughborough Endowned School), Roy Rigby (Manchester City) and Dave Roberts (Liverpool), along with numerous others.



However, none of this could have happened without the investment / R&D of many industry machinery manufacturers and suppliers, who over the years have worked tirelessly with many practising groundsmen to develop new products / services that on the whole have improved the quality of natural grass surfaces immensely.

Today’s groundmen have a plethora of machinery and equipment on hand compared to what we had when I started out in the early 1970s. When I was working at Cocks Moors GC we had very little in the way of equipment to maintain the course. It was limited to a tractor, two sets of trail cylinder gang mowers (rough and fine) and a couple of pedestrian cylinder mowers to cut greens, tees and banks, plus a Patterson spiker to aerate the greens.

Even when I worked at Portsmouth FC in 1983 we only had two Dennis mowers to cut the pitch and an old SISIS outfield spiker. We did not even have a line marker back then. We used a can of paint and a 4 inch paint brush. One of the first things I bought was a dimple line marker.



Today, modern professional groundsmen have vast array of machinery and equipment to help them manage and maintain their facilities. We have a greater choice of mowing equipment, both ride-on and pedestrian. Cutting technologies have improved with the electronic clipping rates, mower cassette systems have enabled more efficiencies and increased the range of tasks that can be done by one machine. We also have an array of different types of aeration equipment. For me it has been the development and introduction of the specialist pitch renovation kit that has changed the way we can renovate our pitches more quickly.

Without doubt the Koro Fraise mower, along with the verti-drain type deep tine spiker , top dressers and disc seeders have made a significant impact on our industry. Coupled with the development of the lighting rigs, irrigation systems and improved fertiliser and seed products.

However, that said, we must not forget the role and support we have had from our sport governing bodies and the land-based colleges and universities who over the years have played a part in setting up recognised educational paths and training opportunities.

The balance of having appropriate paper qualifications, certificates or degrees and working life experiences, is the key to the development and maturity of those seeking a career in this industry.


We should not rest on our laurels though. It is important we continue to inspire and recruit a new generation of ground professionals to come and work in our industry - and more importantly that they have the opportunity to learn from their peers.

We also need to ask ourselves, are our colleges and universities teaching the relevant skills and knowledge base to enable these newcomers to do the job that they have been employed for?

There has been a lot of talk in the press recently about Generation Z - people born 1995-2010. A fascinating insight into this working generation, comparing it to previous working generations since 1946, can be read here. It says this new GEN Z has the following strengths and weaknesses.


  • This generation are the most tech competent of any generation, members of Gen Z are able to pick on developments quicker than other employees.
  • Gen Z are natural entrepreneurs, with 72% wanting to start their own business and hire people.
  • Described as the “always on” generation, Gen Z are able to multi-task unlike any other generation, using up to 5 screens at once.


  • Gen Z are regarded as more cynical than their predecessors, favouring a realistic outlook over the idealism of Gen Y.
  • This generation is not likely to show too much company loyalty, with 25% believing they should only stay in a job for a year or less also Gen Z don’t know much about a time before social media and easily accessible tech. This can make them very reliant on technology to solve problems for them.

So, based on this survey and information, I wonder how many from this age generation will be willing to come and work in our industry?

Having said that, we must take every opportunity to promote our diverse industry whenever we can. We must particularly target schools and colleges to showcase the variety of careers that are available.

Having spoken to a number of colleagues in the industry, I also think we as an industry should find a way to enlist and retain many of our top respected turf professionals - so they have a chance to influence and educate the next generation coming through.

On educational tour
Visit to Stoke City with Campey and members of GAD Groundmen Association of Denmark

Thirty-eight groundsmen from Denmark and Spain have spent three-days learning from some of the best turf professionals the United Kingdom has to offer on a Campey Turf Care Systems educational tour.


Thirty-eight groundsmen from Denmark and Spain have spent three-days learning from some of the best turf professionals the United Kingdom has to offer on a Campey Turf Care Systems educational tour.

The trip was arranged by Thomas Jorgensen, chairman of the Groundsman Association of Denmark, Campey’s Danish dealer, Havdrup Maskinforretning and Spanish dealer Deltacinco. The emphasis of the tour was to learn from experienced groundsmen while looking at the technology they are using.


Visit to Stoke City with Campey and members of GAD Groundmen Association of Denmark

Typically, Danish groundsmen operate on lower budgets compared to their UK counterparts, and this was taken into consideration when picking venues with Salford City Reds and Newcastle Under Lyme Football Club both chosen to show that high-quality surfaces can be achieved with a smaller budget.

The 38 strong group also visited leading venues such as Arsenal's London Colney training centre, Liverpool Football Club, Stoke City Football Club, Tottenham Hotspur’s Enfield Training Ground and the brand-new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium where head of playing surfaces and estates, Darren Baldwin, gave up his time to give the group a tour of the stunning new facility and answer questions from the groundsmen.


At Arsenal


Thomas thinks everyone on the trip has benefitted from getting to interact with the groundsmen from each club while seeing the pitches they produce.

He said, “I thought the variety of venues we visited was excellent, we saw the top of it all in terms of stadium, but we also experienced some more down-to-earth facilities that we can better relate to, but it is important to experience both on such a trip.

“It is very important to be able to learn from others in the industry who have experiences that we don’t yet have ourselves. The English football pitches are on a different level to Denmark, so the experience is important. However, we must remember that the money is also different in England.

“For me, the experience was absolutely great. We visited Steve Braddock at Arsenal. He is simply fantastic and has tremendous knowledge, he gained great respect throughout our group.”


At Tottenham

As well as talks from leading figures in the industry, the group also saw a grassroots renovation in action at Newcastle Under Lyme FC and had the chance to view machines at Campey HQ and have an evening barbecue.

Campey said in a statement that they have always focused on providing education to further the knowledge of those in the industry and they are delighted to continue their support of groundsmen abroad.

Ambrogio robot mowers maintaining pitches
L-R: Steve Dommett and Simon Warne of Devon Garden Machinery with the Ambrogio L400 Deluxe

East Devon District Council have partnered with local dealers Devon Garden Machinery for a robotic mowing trial on an area of several football pitches and a clubhouse, totaling over 25,000m2.


East Devon District Council have partnered with local dealer Devon Garden Machinery to have Ambrogio robot mowers installed into a key site to autonomously maintain pitches, freeing up their team to do other skilled tasks.

Forming part of a larger trial, the site which totals over 25,000m2, has several football pitches and a clubhouse area. The flagship Ambrogio L400 Deluxe (20,000m2 capacity) will be mowing the pitches, while a smaller Ambrogio L350i Elite (7000m2) will maintain around the clubhouse.


L-R: Steve Dommett and Simon Warne of Devon Garden Machinery with the Ambrogio L400 Deluxe

Devon Garden Machinery supplied and installed the robots with the support of Magic Distribution, suppliers of Ambrogio in the UK. Installed with the Honda powered Ambrogio NT60 wire laying machine, the full installation of over 6 acres was completed within a day.

Steve Dommett of Devon Garden Machinery, said, “It’s been a pleasure to work with East Devon District Council to provide a mowing solution that matches their aims for groundscare moving forward. We’re really excited for them to see the turf quality once both these robots have had a chance to settle in and transform the area.


"Robotic lawnmowers are a significant part of our long term plan. With Ambrogio we have a full range which allows us to provide a quality product for any customer, ranging from small intricate lawns, through to tens of thousands of square meters with commercial models.

"To be able to install two robots into this size area so quickly makes this a really feasible project and something we look forward to doing more of.”


DGM's Steve Dommett pushing the wire laying machine

Utilising their multichannel setup, the two Ambrogio models can be installed directly next to each other leaving no uncut area between the two installations. Depending on the application, Ambrogio robot mowers can also be set up to work within one installation, sharing their GPS data with each other to cleverly work around each other and increase the total area that can be covered.


John Golding, East Devon’s Strategic Lead - Housing, Health & Environment, said, “As part of our Transformation Strategy we are always striving to continuously improve what we do for the benefit of East Devon residents and visitors and this long term robotic mower trial is an exciting and interesting example of this.

"We are carefully assessing cutting edge technology to maintain our green spaces, to analyse the potential for this technology to reduce maintenance costs and improve quality. This will free up our permanent staff to work on more highly skilled tasks in our parks and gardens, as well as reducing our carbon footprint, as the machines produce up to 90% less CO2 emissions than standard petrol mowers and are much quieter.”

Greenkeepers vs managers
Matthew Mears presenting the ClearWater Cup to Managers Captain Jane Harfield 2019

Bishopswood Golf Club was the venue for this year’s CourseCare Cup held recently when the South Coast Greenkeepers played the Wessex Managers.


Bishopswood Golf Club was the venue for this year’s CourseCare Cup held recently when the South Coast Greenkeepers played the Wessex Managers.


Matthew Mears presenting the ClearWater Cup to Managers Captain Jane Harfield 2019


Bishopswood, a challenging 9 hole par 72 course receives very good reviews and 9 holes is certainly no indication of it being easy! Lee James and his greenkeeping team had ensured that this pleasant course was at its best. With an ideal day weather-wise for play, both teams set off with the Managers keen to prise the trophy away from the Greenkeepers.


The Managers, captained by Burley’s Jane Harfield, did prevail and enjoyed an emphatic three matches to one win! Congratulations to them and commiserations to the Greenkeepers.


Matthew Mears, General Manager of Acumen’s ClearWater Division presented the ClearWater Cup to Jane Harfield and the day was rounded off by drinks and a meal for all with thanks given to Acumen for their sponsorship for this popular event.


The Winning Team ClearWater Cup 2019

In Ellington, near Huntingdon
The Ben Burges team at the new Ellingtoon depot

Family run dealers, Ben Burgess have opened a brand new, custom built depot just off the A14 in Ellington.


Family run dealers, Ben Burgess have opened a brand new, custom built depot just off the A14 in Ellington, near Huntingdon.


Ben Burgess have been serving the farming community since 1931 and has supplied grounds care equipment since 1962. As one of the two original John Deere dealers, the company also supplies several other brands in the agricultural, construction and grounds care industries including Grimme, STIHL, Hitachi, Manitou, Weidermann, Kuhn and Timberwolf.

The new, custom built depot, spanning 7.5 acres, is located just off the A14 at Ellington, Cambridgeshire, and includes a modern retail store and a state of the art workshop.

The recent opening event saw over 300 people from across the country attend. Guests were able to view products and machinery as well as see the technology from FarmSight and precision farming in action.

Tim Vasher, depot manager said, "The depot is light and modern and allows customers and families alike, to visit and enjoy all of the great products on offer. The location is convenient for customers who have seen it growing over the last few months to have their machines serviced, browse new machinery and the technology or bring their families to enjoy all the area has to offer. The team at Ben Burgess have worked incredibly hard to make this open day a success and they have succeeded. It is great to see existing and new customers here today and I would like to thank the team for their commitment to customers at Ben Burgess."

Ben Turner, managing director at Ben Burgess said, "It is often the case that business open events like this are restricted to those in the commercial world and not open to the general public, children and families. Here at Ben Burgess, we wanted to ensure that as many people as possible could come along and enjoy the great atmosphere and food. In so doing, we hope to inspire the next generation to learn more about the agricultural, groundscare and construction business."

The depot was officially opened by North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara. Shailesh supported the planning application for the depot and was complimentary about its architecture, position and appeal.


Shailesh Vara MP cutting the ribbon on the new depot with Ben Burgess md Ben Turner

Shailesh Vara MP said, "It is great to see so many faces and families here. Ben Burgess is going from strength to strength and engaging the next generation in this business. This depot is in a great location for the local farming industry and construction alike. I am honoured to be asked to come and open the depot today."

Second battery half price offer
STIHL's cordless promotion

STIHL has announced a new end-user promotion on select tools for both professionals and homeowners.


STIHL has announced a new end-user promotion on select tools for both professionals and homeowners that they say will support their 2019 TV advertising campaign.


The new promotion is available on Compact and Pro cordless models with a battery slot, and will run until 31st December 2019.


With every purchase of a tool from either range with the recommended battery and charger, based on the sets from the STIHL 2019 catalogue, customers will be eligible to purchase a second battery half price.

Cash & robotic donation
The launch of the Swedish garden in Gateshead

Manufacturer supporting the National Garden Scheme charity in the creation of a Swedish garden in Gateshead’s Saltwell Park this August.


Husqvarna will make a cash donation plus one of its robotic lawnmowers to the National Garden Scheme (NGS) charity in order to support the creation of a Swedish garden in Gateshead’s Saltwell Park this August.


L-R: Robin Costello, project manager, Terry Burke, VP & CFO, Husqvarna Division, Helen Cadzow of Cadzow Estates, Maureen Kesteven regional chairperson of the National Garden Scheme, Helen McArdle of HMC Group, Caroline Theobald. North East honorary consul for Sweden, and Stuart Bell of the Friends of Saltwell Park


Husqvarna has backed the summer project which will see the NGS combine with Gateshead Council, the North East Honorary Consul for Sweden, and sponsors, to create ’The Buzzing Garden’ - a Swedish-designed greenspace.


The Buzzing Garden will be open to the general public and is a reciprocal effort following the work of garden designer, Susie White, who brought a piece of England to the Västra Götaland region of Western Sweden in 2017.


This year, Swedish garden designers will return the favour with the help of Region Västra Götaland as a partner, to mark the 10th anniversary of the link between the North East and Western Sweden, which involves businesses, academia, culture and local authorities. Saltwell Park in Gateshead was chosen as it has been voted by the public as one of the UK’s top 10 parks.


The design will include a woodland, a meadow area and elements of a coastal landscape - its August opening will also coincide with the World Transplant Games which are being held in the town.


Maureen Kesteven, NGS regional chairperson, commented, “This project comes from the strong links that have been forged between, and in fact the friendships developed in, the North East of England and West Sweden. It could not have happened without the costs being covered by our sponsors, both local and Swedish businesses. We hope it will prove to be an attraction for tourists to the North East; a place for Swedes and others to bring their families and friends; raise the profile of the National Garden Scheme; as well as being an asset for the local community ”


Terry Burke, VP & CFO Husqvarna Division, added, ”Being a Swedish company and with our connection to gardens, Husqvarna is proud to be supporting this initiative which will give back to the local community of Gateshead and celebrate the link between Western Sweden and the North East.


”The work which the National Garden Scheme does to make the UK a greener place and also contribute to nursing and care charities is fantastic and we all in Husqvarna, are very excited to see the final outcome of this ambitious project.”


As part of its support for The Buzzing Garden, Husqvarna will install its Automower 520 which will work unassisted to maintain the grass of the garden.

Caravan park invests in Toro
Newlands Holidays’ Rex Ireland, centre, with Reesink Turfcare’s John Pike, right, and Devon Garden Machinery’s Robert Guntrip

Newlands Holidays, a family-run caravan park, has recently invested in a Groundsmaster 3500-D to help maintain its 23 acres of landscaped grounds.


Newlands Holidays, a family-run caravan park, has recently invested in a Toro Groundsmaster 3500-D to help maintain its 23 acres of landscaped grounds.


Newlands Holidays’ Rex Ireland, centre, with Reesink Turfcare’s John Pike, right, and Devon Garden Machinery’s Robert Guntrip


Situated near the World Heritage village of Charmouth in Dorset and a short walk away from the stunning Jurassic Coast, Newlands Holidays is a popular vacation destination. As such, maintaining the grounds to a high standard is vital says business partner, Rex Ireland.


“The appearance of the park is of the utmost importance for our business,” says Rex. “It’s a significant factor in customers choosing to holiday here and it’s essential the park looks its best. That’s a major factor in keeping our customers happy and coming back.”


With that in mind, Rex was in the market for a reliable machine which could easily cope with the undulating terrain, bank cutting and general maintenance cutting around the 23-acre site.


Having briefed his local dealer on his requirements, Devon Garden Machinery brought in the Toro Groundsmaster 3500-D, amongst many, to trial and despite tough competition the GM3500-D’s performance won in the end.


“The performance of the Toro machine was just great compared to the other brands,” says Rex. “It did really well on the banks which was very important as we have a fair amount of undulating terrain. Overall, the GM3500-D showed itself to be a really reliable machine and since it will be used for the bulk of the work here, that was really important. It was clear it would provide the best fit for us.”

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Find our previous features here
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If you want to catch up with any of TurfPro's previous features, here is the place to do so.

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Catch up with Laurence Gale's recent blogs
TurfPro editor, Laurence Gale

Want to catch up with one of editor Laurence Gale's blogs? Here is the place to do so.


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