Experienced golf agronomist Greg Evans, who is celebrating 10 years in business has an independent consultant, 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.
“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 Evans, who started 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 Evans’s unique approach to improving conditions for golfers.
Terry Crump at Harpenden Common Golf Club has worked with Greg Evans over the last 10 months. “In less than a year, Greg helped us to transform our playing surfaces,” he said. “I’ve been at this club for 36 years and our greens are now the best they have ever been. The transformation has been unbelievably fast. Twelve months ago, Harpenden Common’s greens were unremarkable. Now, they’re rated as the best in Hertfordshire by visitors and elite players. Our green fees and society bookings are 30% up this year, and our membership numbers have risen healthily. This is because people across the county are now talking about our amazing greens.
“Greg helped us to achieve this by inspiring our relatively young existing greenkeeping team, starting with Sean Brocklehurst, our head greenkeeper. With seven USGA sand-based greens and eleven clay-based greens, producing consistent putting surfaces was the big challenge. We are all gob-smacked by the results Greg and the team produced in such a short space of time. Any nervousness we had about employing a consultant vanished as soon as he started talking to us. The way he uses his experience to bring about significant improvements is just exemplary.”
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