A day in the life: Richard Ponsford

Alistair
By Alistair November 28, 2020 07:26 Updated

The course manager at Clevedon Golf Club, a Somerset venue that celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

This varies depending on the time of year, but I’m not one who gets in five minutes before we start. In the summer months, I will aim to arrive 30 to 40 minutes before the team, which suits the demands and quantity of work on the schedule at this time of year. In the winter I only get in 10 minutes before them. I do a plan for the week on the Friday before, so the main structure of the work is normally already sorted.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Tea, tea and more tea! I will give the jobs out while the team are having their first tea or coffee of the day, and they can then ask any questions they may have for the planned day ahead. We currently have two apprentices so, once the jobs are assigned, I normally spend some one-to-one time with them, providing further explanations or specific training for their tasks.

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

We currently have a team of six, including myself. Team size is largely based on a club’s ambition – they understand we want more manpower, but I also appreciate it’s about balancing the books.

Do you share tasks?

I try not to give the same jobs to the same individuals week in week out.

Everyone tends to have a particular job that they like doing more than others, but it is important that we are all competent in as many tasks as we can be.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

Talking to them – communication is the simplest and easiest means of driving and motivating my team, ensuring they receive feedback, praise and encouragement all the time. I talk to my team … a lot!

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

Summer… Why wouldn’t it be summer?! It is the most rewarding time, being able to see the course look its best in the fine weather. It’s also the easiest time to get into a routine. The grass is growing and this drives a good momentum for keeping high standards of work flowing.

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

Obviously my biggest satisfaction is being able to present the course to the highest standard and seeing it looks its absolute best. In addition, training and developing employees, and seeing them do well gives me a real sense of achievement.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

I can’t actually think of anything at work that gives me little satisfaction. I love my job. I take the highs and the lows in my stride – it’s what I’m paid to do.

Have you attended any courses recently?

The biggest training event I go to every year is BTME. I think you’ll never know everything and so you can never stop learning. BTME is good because it touches every base and gives you the opportunity to increase your all-round knowledge of the industry. I also listen to a wide range of work-related webinars and volunteer for various golfing events. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be selected to work at the Waste Management Pheonix Open in Arizona USA which was an amazing experience.

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

On our greens, we use J All Bent from DLF, supplied by our local distributor AGS. For tees and fairways, we are using another Johnsons Sports Seeds mixture, J Rye Fairway. Both mixtures I find to be reliable and they deliver exactly what I want and need them to.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Aside from pay, the biggest thing I think that needs improving is simply reminding the industry that we all do the same job. It doesn’t matter what size or scale your club or course may be, there shouldn’t be a hierarchy or need to compare and look down on others.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not that I am aware of and I hope that they wouldn’t.

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

We are lucky at Clevedon Golf Club to have lots of wildlife around from deer to pheasants and birds of prey, and more recently we’ve had a heron come to visit. In terms of supporting wildlife, we have owl boxes and insect houses dotted around the course. We are also looking at creating a wild meadow and beehive on one of our old holes that is no longer used.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The winters are certainly milder which has meant that looking after sand-based, Poa greens is becoming more challenging, especially when also trying to use less fungicide.

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

I would imagine we’ve all had a couple of trollies or buggies that we’ve had to rescue from ponds or ditches.

I once had a team member stuck on the edge of a lake as he attempted to save his £500 blower and, in the meantime, lost control of his rough mower! I can laugh about it now but at the time, it wasn’t very amusing.

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

Learn the job. Be keen, enthusiastic and ready to grasp opportunities to work at different clubs as and when they arise. One thing I regret personally, is staying at the same club for over 10 years when I first started in the industry.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Spending time with my beautiful, energetic five-year-old daughter is my biggest and most enjoyable leisure activity. Alongside that, I have recently taken up road cycling in rehabilitation for a knee injury I sustained last year.

 

Alistair
By Alistair November 28, 2020 07:26 Updated

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