A day in the life: Geoff Smith

Tania
By Tania November 30, 2018 06:22 Updated

Geoff is the course manager at Abridge Golf Club. The venue is set in 160 acres of parkland and offers breathtaking views of the Essex countryside.

What time do you arrive at the club?

Depending on the time of year, I arrive between 5.30am and 6.15am

Can you describe your morning routine?

I sit down at my untidy desk and plan the day’s work over a couple of cups of coffee! Then once the jobs are given out by myself or my deputy Ben, I will either go out onto the course or catch up with some paperwork for an hour. Previously I would try and plan a few weeks in advance and, although I still do this to an extent, I find that the crazy weather and other factors we encounter these days mean we have to be more flexible and adapt to change.

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

Including myself there are eight full-time staff and one part time summer worker. My team includes Ben Scrivener, my deputy (eight years’ service), Jamie Blagden, first assistant (three years’ service) and Paul Aylett (approximately 15 years’ service), who is our mechanic / buggy fixer / problem solver / odd job man and occasionally we let him loose on the course! Our assistants are Ian Cannell (nine years’ service), Marc Mountney (two years’ service) and Paul Bannock (too many years of service to remember!) Adam Fowles is our casual helper in the summer and we presently have a vacancy following Nick Lappage leaving. We are an Open regional qualifying course and pride ourselves on our large, highly-manicured site. So, to answer your question – is it enough staff? You can never have enough staff!

Do you share tasks?

We share tasks but in the lead-up to big competitions I tend to give people set jobs for a few weeks so that they know what I expect to be done.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

We always have great banter in the tea room, they’re a great bunch of dedicated chaps and apart from the odd occasion, they are all pretty self-motivated. I try to encourage open discussion on many different aspects of the job and get the staff to discuss how we could do tasks differently. There are no tasks that are above or below any of the staff skill sets, though the chaps will tell you that I just hate cutting tees (and I’ve not cut one for 10 years!) We also socialise outside of work and have had some entertaining nights out over the years, but that would be more suitable for other magazines!

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

It has to be spring. It’s so nice to get back out cutting and smelling the fresh grass, completing spring renovations, overseeding and starting to see the course transform. Also ‘cabin fever’ has normally exploded, so the guys can’t wait to get outside more and get on with things!

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

Looking at the course when it has all been cut and set up, and seeing the ‘wow factor’ achieved by the guys’ hard work.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Golfers thinking they have different weather conditions at their homes to what we do at the course! Some members are just never satisfied, no matter how fantastic condition the course is in!

Have you attended any courses recently?

Not recently. I have been very busy the last few years, with planning and overseeing the installation of a new full irrigation system, reservoir and drainage project at Abridge, meaning I’ve not had a lot of time.

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

We do. For the last nine years we have used Headland Amenity’s Multigreen® on the fairways. It just keeps going and going and to coin a phrase: ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin!’ We follow that up with six weekly applications of wetting agents and seaweed. In the autumn, after scarifying, we apply TriCure AD and Elevate Fe to the fairways.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Provide better education to golfers on the limitations we as greenkeepers face on products, the effects of the weather, budgets, manpower and people’s expectations. Every golf course is different and these factors should be taken into account.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Probably!

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

It seems seasons’ dates are changing – spring is later and we seem to be cutting grass much later into the autumn these days.

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

When I was at London Golf Club I managed to get a mower nicely stuck, hanging over one of the lakes! This year we had to rescue one of our members from our pond at the second, who just would not accept his ball was lost!

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

We have some wonderful wildlife on our course including hawks, kites, spotted and green woodpeckers, deer, Reeve’s Muntjac and snakes to name but a few. We actively try to encourage all wildlife and try to create suitable areas for different species where we can. I love watching the stags we have stand on the top of the seventh tee looking so proud of themselves!

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

My advice would be listen, ask questions and learn from your mistakes. Whatever you supervisor might tell you, we have all made them!

How do you spend your leisure time?

Playing sport, watching sport, and spending time with the wife and three children who are all at university. Oh, and trekking the odd mountain or two!

 

Tania
By Tania November 30, 2018 06:22 Updated

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