A day in the life: Dan Kendle

By Alistair August 21, 2021 07:47 Updated

The course manager at Newquay Golf Club – a revered Harry Colt designed course built in 1890 – takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

During the winter we start at 7am so I am generally at the club by 6.30am and during the summer months we start at 6am, so I aim to be on site between 5:00am and 5.30am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Normally the first job will be to get a coffee on the go, and if I have my dog with me, we will take a quick walk around the course before the rest of the team arrive. A quick check of the weather and completing any paperwork is next on the agenda. Once the rest of the team have arrived, we will have a quick run through of the day ahead, in terms of golf on the course and anything else to be aware of and so on. I will then allocate the jobs before heading out onto the course.

Newquay Golf Club

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

We are currently running a team of five, including myself. Two of the team have only recently joined us and are both new to greenkeeping, so they are currently going through a ‘baptism of fire’ period to get them up to speed with the job! We also have a young lad who is part of a ‘Get into Work’ scheme who joins us for one or two days a week to gain some experience of a working environment. As for whether it’s a fair number, I think any course manager would be lying if they said they had enough staff.

Do you share tasks?

As a small team, it is imperative that each member of staff can carry out as many tasks as possible. Either myself or my deputy will do the spraying, but all the other jobs are shared around. I think it also helps with morale if people are able to carry out different jobs throughout the week.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I’m a firm believer in not making any member of staff do something that I’m not prepared to do myself, so I aim to lead from the front. I also try to create a relaxed atmosphere, the lads know what I expect from them and that has worked well so far. We are a close-knit team who all share similar interests outside of work and all like to have a good laugh. Regular supplies of Jaffa Cakes and doughnuts always help too!

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

I’m not sure we really have seasons anymore, but I like that period of the year coming into the spring where we start to sharpen up the presentation of the course coming out of the winter months.

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

In this job, and at this particular location on the Cornish coast, there is no greater feeling than standing at the top of the course on a sunny Friday afternoon in the summer and seeing the course presented at its best, knowing you’ve done all you can to deliver a course that is as good as it can be.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

I think from the problems we’ve had this year, with extensive damage across the course this spring, it would have to be leatherjackets. The knock-on effect from that has been the negative attitude from some members towards the greenkeeping team and our ability to do our job. Disappointing…

Dan Kendle

Have you attended any courses recently?

Unfortunately, with Covid and lockdowns it has not really been possible, however I do a lot of online reading to brush up my knowledge. I’m always looking to improve the training for the staff and the club back me in doing that.

Do you have a feeding programme for your fairways? How do you ensure your greens have good colour?  

The fairways tend to just get a slow-release feed at the start of the season, so we don’t really have a programme as such. The same would go for tees, although they do also receive a wetting agent and seaweed. Unfortunately, we don’t have irrigation on the tees or fairways as yet, so I’m a little restricted in what I can do without relying on favourable weather.

With regards to the greens, in 2019 I made the decision to move to using Suståne granular fertiliser. The greens will receive an application of 6-2-4 Turf Revival during our maintenance periods in April and August, and applications of 5-2-4 in early June and early October. They also receive a wetting agent on a four-weekly basis mixed with seaweed, humics / fulvics and aminos. I’ve been really happy with the transition to Suståne and the benefits we’ve seen from using it.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not at me personally, no.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

I think pay is a huge issue within the industry, in some areas it is possible to earn more money by stacking shelves in a supermarket. Over the past few years, it has been a real struggle to recruit new staff – I think the industry could be better in promoting itself which would help to bring new people into it.

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

When I first started out in greenkeeping I did manage to find my way into a pond with a greens mower… dewy banks and slick tyres don’t mix! Last year we had to go to the rescue of a visiting golfer who had upturned a buggy into a bunker which she claimed she hadn’t seen. To this day, I still don’t know how she survived the accident.

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

Over the past year we have been very fortunate to have choughs feeding on the course. The chough became extinct in Cornwall in the 1970s but a natural colonisation in 2001 by a small influx of wild birds has brought about its return. The chough is the county bird of Cornwall and a protected species too. Last year the club purchased a flail collector mower and we have started work on a rough management plan, whereby we are trying to thin the areas of long rough on the course to increase the biodiversity within them. We are already species rich in terms of wildflowers, birds and invertebrates but I want to increase that to other areas of the course. Last year we also signed up to Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator and as part of that we overseeded an area of banking near our sheds with a coastal mix of wildflowers. Whilst not on the course (but visible from it), we have also been lucky enough to watch dolphins feeding out in Fistral Bay.

Newquay Golf Club

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

As I mentioned earlier, we don’t seem to have set seasons anymore. Rainfall doesn’t seem to come in steady showers, it either comes in spells of 10mm+ or nothing at all. Colder, drier springs seem to be the ‘norm’ now. Periods of drought and extended periods of strong winds. Can it all be attributed to climate change? Who knows, but it certainly does have an effect. It’s getting harder and harder to plan work when the weather forecasts seem to be so unreliable, three different weather apps can all give different forecasts for the same day.

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

You only get out what you put in, so ask as many questions as you can, and show a willingness to get stuck in.

How do you spend your leisure time?

My wife and I have two children, Alexa (11) and Jago (7) so they tend to keep us occupied. Coastal walks with our dog are always on the agenda. I’m also a big armchair sports fan, following both Norwich City and Wasps Rugby.


By Alistair August 21, 2021 07:47 Updated

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