A day in the life: Ian Hockley

By Alistair August 12, 2020 07:41 Updated

The course manager at Royal Ascot Golf Club, the second oldest, and the only royal, golf club in Berkshire, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive around 5:30am throughout the year, as we always aim to start at 6am. In the winter months, this means using headtorches to stay ahead of the golf.

Can you describe your morning routine?

I always have the week’s work planned in advance, so a typical morning will see us arrive and grab a coffee, over which I will discuss any potential changes with my deputy. Then we will give out the jobs for the day ahead and make a start.

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

There are currently five, including myself – this said, we do have contractors in for some of our mechanical work which certainly helps. More staff would always be helpful, but we plan and manage our time well, so we get through the workload.

Do you share tasks?

I have always shared out tasks. With a relatively small team it is important that everyone can undertake any and all tasks, plus it helps to give the team variation and stops complacency. I always work with the team and join in as I feel it helps to create mutual respect.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I try to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere where people know they are valued and their opinion matters. As a team we try and play golf and we try to arrange other team outings as much as possible.

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

It has to be spring – you’re coming out of winter and seeing the course wake up, knowing that the golf season is about to start.

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

I’m fortunate that I really enjoy my job. It’s great when you know that everyone has put in a hard day’s work and that results in seeing the course presented to a good level.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

I find getting complaints about things that are out of our control frustrating. We do not have fairway irrigation and with the last two summers, some of the fairways have struggled. Equally some of the holes have also struggled with the very wet winter. I understand the golfer’s point of view but unfortunately there is only so much we can do on these areas.

Have you attended any courses recently?

I am CPD active and have also recently completed my HNC in Golf Course Management. I believe it is always beneficial to understand what is going on within the industry and what can be taken from this and used to improve your course. I also try to encourage the team to engage with training, to help them progress and further their individual careers.

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

On the greens we use an all bent mixture but are currently undertaking a trial with creeping bents here. On all other areas we use Johnsons J Rye Fairway. This mixture of ryegrass and fescues gives us strong growth and great wear tolerance.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

I feel there will eventually be a shortage of greenkeepers and work needs to be put in now to make people be aware of the job and what a rewarding career it can be. There needs to be a raise in the profile of greenkeeping and the salary structure needs to be reviewed, with clubs willing to invest more in their staff.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not whilst greenkeeping but when I first started, I worked on a driving range and was a regular target when out collecting balls.

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

I have had to pull the odd mower out of ponds, these things can happen occasionally. Recently we had some golfers who had been enjoying themselves a bit too much and drove a buggy into a ditch. It was a funny one and luckily no one was hurt.

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

We are fortunate to have a lot of deer, including Muntjac, which are always good to see on the course. To support wildlife we have two environmentally sensitive areas – which golfers are not allowed to enter – to protect newts, and have recently had beehives placed on the course which now produce honey for the members.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

It’s clearly noticeable that there is a shift in seasons and weather patterns, and this is forcing us to adapt our programmes to cope with these changes the best we can.

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

Turn up on time, learn as much as you can and stay off your phone!

How do you spend your leisure time?

I have a young family so a lot of my time is spent with them. When I have free time, I enjoy watching sports and playing golf.

By Alistair August 12, 2020 07:41 Updated

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