With a little help from some trusted industry contacts, like Richard Shapland of Headland Amenity, Jon Funnell decided to “give it a go” and take over as Head Greenkeeper at Westcountry Golf Academy in 2010. Developed from a 12-bay driving range, to a challenging Par 3, 9 hole golf course in 2005, Westcountry is located in 15 acres of Devon countryside. Despite having no previous greenkeeping experience, Jon has since transformed the clubs approach to maintenance, and in turn the results being achieved.
“I’d worked in retail for the previous 27 years in various managerial roles, and decided I wanted a complete change. I knew Stuart the owner of WGA and approached him for some work. Initially I worked in the range and shop, but when the previous greenkeeper left, I was determined to give it a shot.” Jon admits that for a start cutting was the only maintenance taking place before Richard Shapland came in to advise on the basics. “I was starting from scratch so began implementing things that people like Headland were suggesting. Richard popped in every month with plenty of ideas and advice and gradually we got the course moving.” Now implementing top dressing, tree management and installing a water and irrigation system the maintenance approach is proactive, rather than reactive.
Richard conducted a soil analysis and suggested a simple yet effective course-wide nutritional programme. “We start our greens feeding programme in March with Greentec 4-0-4+9Fe to check any moss we may have. Following this we apply C-Complex 7-0-7 to keep us going through the summer, with C-Complex 4-3-4 used during our August renovation work. We also use Seamac Ultra Plus through the summer to improve stress resistance. We identified that the main reason for course closure during the winter was the weak structure of the approaches. We started a programme to strengthen the sward by boxing up on every cut, combined with the use of Headlands Multigreen 30-5-14 over a 6 month period.” Annual soil analysis now keeps them on track.
After a few tough years, Westcountry now boasts a membership of 300+ and a further 60 junior members. Jon again, “We’re very fortunate that our owner Stuart Sawyer has really invested in the course, and it’s thanks to this together with elements such as the nutritional programme that has boosted the overall course condition; this pro-active approach means we’re continuing to improve plant health rather than firefighting problems. Just one example is the number of days the course has been shut. In previous years this has been up to 30 days a year, but last year the gate was shut for just three. Though there’s still work to be done, we’re making great strides in establishing ourselves as a quality place to learn the sport or for those members that want a challenging course without the physical stress of walking thousands of yards.”
Westcountry Golf Academy www.wgagolf.co.uk
Headland Amenity www.headlandamenity.com