A day in the life: Alex Lowes

Tania
By Tania May 31, 2019 10:45 Updated

Alex is the head greenkeeper at North Manchester Golf Club. The tree-lined parkland course offers spectacular views over Manchester.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I normally arrive at 6.30am. If there are competitions on, we will arrive between 5.30 and 6.00am, to give us enough time to get the course into shape.

Can you describe your morning routine?

The usual routine when I arrive is to give myself 10 minutes or so to wake up and eat a bit of breakfast. I’ll then dish out all the tasks for the day ahead and get out there with the lads.

How many people are there in your team and is it a fair number for your collective workload?

There are five members of staff including myself and an apprentice. For a golf course of our size, five is really the bare minimum we could operate with.

Do you share tasks?

A golf course like ours has some tedious tasks and to keep assigning these to certain members of staff will only burn them out. It is important to keep your staff interested. I find you get a better response from them, whilst at the same time, it keeps their various greenkeeping skills sharp.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I am lucky to have a very self-motivated team, who are enthusiastic from the moment they walk through the door. Sharing the tasks really helps them to stay interested in the job, and I would never ask them to do a job that I wouldn’t do myself. We have a great atmosphere in the team, lots of banter and a lot of trust between me and the team. Producing what we do on a daily basis keeps the lads’ motivation high.

What’s your favourite season of the year and why?

That is a tough question. Being in the north of Manchester, and tucked between the Pennines, we can get hit really hard in terms of weather conditions. I love the presentation of a golf course in the middle of the summer, but I’ve always enjoyed building something from nothing. Winter gives me those opportunities to make some serious improvements to the course. Seeing a brand-new bunker or tee that I have designed, and we have built as a team, gives me a buzz. I’m going to have to cheat on this question and say middle of summer and middle of winter!

What aspects / functions of your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?

There really is no greater satisfaction in this job than hearing your members and visitors complementing your golf course especially in such a political, and sometimes brutal, industry.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Finding pitch marks on your greens or seeing golfers deliberately ignore fenced-off areas really grinds you down. You put so much work and effort into the job for a dozen or so golfers to try and ruin it by being lazy.

Have you attended any courses recently?

I haven’t attended any actual courses for a while, although I do plan to attend more when my youngest daughter eventually goes to school. In my view, you can never have too many qualifications. I have attended a couple of seminars focusing on fungicides recently which gave a good insight on the control measures we currently have, alongside those that are being taken away. It is also good to hear from other greenkeepers on the subject.

What seed mixtures and / or cultivars do you use for your greens, tees, fairways and roughs?

I use DLF cultivars as they have given me great results and offer great support should I have any problems or questions. I was having superb results with Johnsons Velvet Bent but unfortunately Velvet is no longer being produced so is no longer available from any supplier. I now use the Johnsons J All Bent mixture, which is still giving me great results on my greens. For fairways and tees I was using Johnsons J Fairway, but I am switching to the Masterline PM40 mixture this year, to add some Highland Browntop Bent, which is native to the area.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Wow, tough one … there is so much you could improve. I think communication is one of the biggest issues we face as greenkeepers. Having conversations with other greenkeepers is so beneficial, it’s so easy to pick something up from them, or them from you. It is not the easiest industry to be in so I think bringing the greenkeeping community closer would really benefit the industry.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

I’ve had impatient golfers hit towards greens as I’ve been cutting them. I also took a shot to the ribs last year, but that was accidental – allegedly…

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

That is an interesting question which, as I am writing this, is on the back of a two-week heatwave experienced at the end of February. The last four or five winters have been wet rather than particularly cold, with very few frosts, which has meant that trying to complete renovation projects during the winter has been much more of a challenge.

Have you ever had any mishaps with lakes on the course or had to undertake a rescue of a daft golfer?

I’ve seen a few golfers who haven’t turned their electric trolleys off properly and then watched their bag run off into the lake! Luckily, I had the pleasure of being a spectator that day.

What is the most interesting animal you have seen on your course and how do you do support wildlife?

The most interesting animal I’ve come across here was a huge red stag, who was chased out of the woodland by a miniature Yorkshire terrier one day.

It was a magnificent sight, the biggest I’ve ever seen! We have a lot of woodland areas around the course so to try and utilise these better for wildlife, we have recently introduced some bird boxes.

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

I think the best advice I can give is to get involved in as many different aspects of job as you can. Learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to try and form an opinion. You will make mistakes along the way, just don’t make the same mistake twice.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I have a wife and two young daughters, I am very family orientated so enjoy spending a lot of time at home.

If I’m not there, I’m in the gym. I also like to play team league games for the club with some of our members during the season, which is a great laugh.

 

Tania
By Tania May 31, 2019 10:45 Updated

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