A day in the life: Jonathan Taylor

Alistair
By Alistair December 28, 2019 14:28 Updated

Jonathan is the head greenkeeper at the The Grove. The Hertfordshire venue opened in 2004 but is already considered one of England’s finest courses.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at 5:30am to set work up with the senior greenkeepers ready for the morning meeting at 6am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Once the morning briefing is over, I will send a daily maintenance update to the golf operations team, check over the weather, go through my emails and plan for the day ahead. I will typically go out on course to check on our set up for the morning and help the team prepare for any special events coming up that day.

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

We have a greenkeeping team of 21 and an estates team of 12. We just about have enough across the two teams to keep all of our facilities at their best.

Do you share tasks?

Jobs are rotated through the team as much as possible, this is assisted by a dedicated trainer we have who ensures the guys are trained up on everything they need to be.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

We have a very self-motivated team; they are all hungry to progress within the industry which is a pleasure to see. We always get out and have a social event or play golf elsewhere when we have the chance. Pizza and beers always go down well when we’re working longer days!

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

Do we have four seasons anymore? I think through the middle of the summer, we keep our playing surfaces irrigated and let the roughs and natives burn out. This creates some really nice contrasts out on the course. The playing surfaces are at their best and the greens are firm and fast.

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

Two things – seeing guys in the team develop and progress in the industry and receiving positive feedback on the course. This always gives the whole team great satisfaction.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Poor etiquette … unraked bunkers, divots and pitch marks.

Have you attended any courses recently?

I am taking part in the global Troon LEADer programme covering all spects of maintaining a golf facility from the golf operations side right through to the food and beverage served. It has been a big eye opener seeing what other departments do, how that effects who comes through our doors and what their guest journey is like.

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

We use a range of Johnson’s Sport Seed mixtures including J Rye Green on our fairways and roughs, J Fescue on our tees and J Premier Pitch on our NFL and football pitch. We have had fantastic results with all of the mixtures we have used over the last couple of seasons.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Greater recognition and coverage of what our industry is all about and the efforts that go into creating and maintaining golf courses. I think this would help it to be seen as more of a profession, hopefully leading to better facilities and salaries.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

I don’t think so … well I hope not anyway!

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

Yes! I once put a Toro 648 aerator in a lake while pro-coring a bank at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Washington, Virginia. It was typically cored with just four people holding the machine so it didn’t slide into the water! It wouldn’t pass our health and safety regulations here I don’t think.

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

The Grove are active members of the Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust and work alongside their advisors. We have lots going on across the estate in order to preserve habitats and develop our grounds which are only 18 miles from central London. We have Egyptian geese that have had The Grove as their home for many years, an abundance of red kite that target field mice through our 25 hectares of native grasses and one of only roughly 200 natural chalk streams globally which is protected.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

I think the way the weather patterns have changed throughout the different seasons is a clear representation of climate change, and it is affecting our jobs hugely. Increased pressure on water usage and increased disease pressure are going to be topics that are at the forefront of our industry for many years to come.

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

Don’t be afraid to go out and get stuck in and ask plenty of questions along the way. Get some education behind you and don’t be afraid to go abroad to experience a different culture and way of doing things. It is a great industry to be involved in and you can make friends all over the world. Nothing will ever be handed to you on a plate, you’ve got to get out and earn it.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I spend my leisure time traveling back up north to see my wife’s family and mine. I love to get some golf in when possible, and if the weather isn’t favourable, a weekend watching sport is always on the cards.

 

Alistair
By Alistair December 28, 2019 14:28 Updated

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