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A Day In The Life Of Neil Jarrett, Head Greenkeeper, Knaresborough Golf Club

An interview with Jarrett, Head Greenkeeper, Knaresborough Golf Club.

What time do you arrive at the club and what is your morning routine?

I arrive at the course at 6:15am and the first things I do is check the tee sheet, have a chat with the team and delegate the jobs that I have planned for the day ahead.

How many people are there in your team and do you share tasks?

We have five team members including myself at present, though we are currently looking for a sixth. We have three qualified members of the team and two trainees who have been working with us for roughly six months while also going through college. Myself, my deputy Gareth and Sam our senior assistant normally cut the fairways and semi-rough while Luke and Adam, our trainees, are learning the many different aspects of the job. While they’re still training, they mainly do the more menial jobs and cut the greens, tees, aprons, approaches at the moment.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I like to think we all motivate each other! We are a small, close-knit team who all get on well – we work hard but also have fun.

What aspects of your job give you the greatest satisfaction?

Like most greenkeepers, I get the most satisfaction when the course is presented at its best and the team are getting compliments rather than complaints.

And the least satisfaction?

Badgers damaging the course recently has been a real problem. We’re also now heading into the winter months where being cold and wet is never enjoyable.

Have you attended any courses recently, and if so, what did you take away?

Gareth and I attended an R&A sustainability course which was very interesting, especially the discussions around drainage. We both took a lot away from the day and hope to be able to implement some more sustainable practices around the course over the coming months and years.

What is your favourite season of the year and why?

My favourite season would have to be spring. The course really starts to come alive, the days get longer and warmer and we begin to see the benefits of all the work we have carried out over the winter months.

Are you witnessing evidence of climate change and, if so, how has your job had to adapt to changing weather patterns?

Yes, I’ve certainly seen a change in weather patterns since I first started greenkeeping 34 years ago. In my early days, the cutting season was shorter and we would frequently see weeks of frosts and snow. Now, the seasons seem to merge into one, with very few frosty/snowy days and very wet spells that seemingly happen anytime of the year.

Have you had to overcome any course issues with disease and/or pests?

After having them on the course for 10 years, we are currently really struggling with badgers. We have seen the badgers causing considerable amounts of damage to the course, which is heartbreaking. The team are then forced to spend hours repairing the damage, time which could be far better spent completing other jobs.

What piece of equipment would you say is the most popular and frequently used by you and your team?

I would say either our ProCore, which allows us to tine all the greens in just over a day, or our Trilo M3 which has been brilliant for other tasks such as the cut and collect of the long rough, a job we aim to do twice a year. The M3 also saves us huge amounts of time and labour when collecting leaves – we use the brush on the hard surfaces and carpark and the wanderhose to clear the ditches around the course of leaves and other debris.

With a growing focus on sustainability, do you deploy any sustainable practices in the management of your course?

Yes, it’s very important to the club and we have a sustainability committee who are always looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. One of the things we have implemented is not manicuring every inch of the course! With 148 acres of parkland to look after, cutting back on some operations has contributed to a big reduction in machinery/fuel usage.

What do you do to support wildlife?

This year we have created a 900m2 wildflower meadow as well as working on other initiatives such as installing more bird boxes. We have also spent time rewilding areas which has resulted in a big increase in the variety of wildlife we’ve seen, specifically bees, butterflies and hares. The course has also recently become home to a family of Peacocks, some of which have started coming into the greens shed which certainly makes things interesting!

What are the technological developments that you feel have been the most important in your career to date?

The biggest thing I’ve noticed since the beginning of my career is the development in irrigation systems – from being relatively basic to where they are today.

Do you use social media professionally and what do you think this contributes to the industry?

I don’t post personally, but I do read a lot of social media posts about the industry. The club often posts about the works undertaken by the greens team on their platforms. I think it’s very important to inform the golfers about what, when and why we do the work we do, educating them that these operations are all about improving the course.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Greenkeeping salaries continue to be a big talking point and is definitely something that needs to change. We are skilled professionals, using expensive bits of technology and machinery, we’re not just grass cutters.

What advice would you give to a young greenkeeper starting out today?

Enjoy it! It may not be the best paid job, but it is very rewarding! I would also encourage those who don’t already play golf to consider taking it up as a hobby – it will really give you a different perspective on the course.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Leisure time is commonly spent watching Leeds United play – I have a season ticket and try to go to as many away games as possible with my friends and family


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