A day in the life: Nigel Thompson

By Tania March 30, 2019 18:46 Updated

Nigel is the course manager at Lilley Brook Golf Club. The mature parkland course offers panoramic views of Cheltenham.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at 5:30am in the summer and 6:30am through the autumn and winter months.

Can you describe your morning routine?

My morning routine starts with a cup of tea with the staff, discussing the jobs for the day ahead. Sometimes our schedule has to change due to weather conditions, and with staff being off. Then the team and I get out onto the course to carry out the tasks, before the members and visitors tee off. This way we get a chance of completing our work without disturbance.

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

I have five full-time members of staff, and this season we employed a seasonal member of staff who worked three days a week which has been a really big help. Ideally, I could do with one more full-time member of staff as the course is a on a large layout of land.

Do you share tasks?

Yes, I try to be fair as possible – it’s a good way of keeping staff on their toes and raises morale and confidence in the jobs that are carried out.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

Since I’ve been at the club, we have started a new challenge pushing hard to improve standards, and what has been pleasing is that the membership has been very complimentary of what we have achieved. The boys hear this, making them happy and motivated to do their work. We also all enjoy a curry and a few beers every month or so – sometimes even the chairman likes to join us for a beer or two.

Nigel Thompson

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

For me, I like late spring and early summer as the course really starts to take shape, with the definition of the layout, the trees in full bloom and the greens starting to look good ready for the main playing season.

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

Again, for me it has to be the work on the greens. We’ve got push up greens and we had an issue with high organic matter content. To improve our situation, we have been carrying out good cultural practices to the greens which has dramatically improved the surfaces and their playability. We are also in the middle of a project to install drains into the greens, which we are doing in-house. So far, we have completed seven greens and the transformation has been really good – water is draining away much quicker, improving the playability even in the wet winter months.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

My least favourite job is managing the leaves in the autumn! I don’t really need to comment more on that… Also clearing up after a bad storm with either heavy rain and / or strong winds..

Have you attended any courses recently?

I’ve attended a couple recently, including a presentation by Johnsons Sports Seed and another by Rain Bird Irrigation. I found both very interesting and they gave me more vision and scope for future projects.

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

We have just started to overseed our greens with an all bent mixture featuring Arrowtown, Jorvik and Manor Browntop Bent cultivars. For our fairways, tees and approaches we have been using a variety of different ryegrass mixtures which have all worked very well. Until now, I haven’t had an overseeding plan into place, but we will be starting this next season.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

For me, to take our industry forward we need to give our young, future greenkeepers more encouragement though I do think we have some great educational opportunities.

I would also like to see our employers and / or club committees getting more involved, to see what goes on in our industry! Being a greenkeeper, every day and every worksite is different, and I think a good understanding between employer and employees would really help.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

That’s more than likely…!

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

We have had to tow out a buggy from a lake on one occasion and another time we rescued an electric trolley and a golfer’s bag, which was a good few feet into the water!

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

We have a couple of buzzards which is a lovely sight in the mornings, and we also have deer that roam around the course. To encourage wildlife we have prepared a wildflower area which attracts a great variety of bees, birds and deer. We have also placed some old tree brash and branches around to form ‘den’ areas. along with a number of birdhouses located around the course.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

I think it’s definitely changing. Take this season for instance – we had a very wet winter, a small break in May and then we had one of the hottest summers on record! With this we are having to change our approach to maintaining our golf courses, if we are to keep it in the best possible shape.

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

Firstly, enjoy your working environment. Grab every opportunity you can regarding education and learning and don’t hesitate to ask your fellow peers for help and advice. Finally take pride in your work and you will get great satisfaction.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I enjoy spending time with my family, and I do also play golf (though I’m a sore loser!)


By Tania March 30, 2019 18:46 Updated

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