A day in the life: Andrew Howarth

By Alistair July 16, 2022 08:06

The estates manager at Gog Magog Golf Club, which has two golf courses that currently feature in the top three best courses in Cambridgeshire, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I live on site, so I have a very short commute through my garden gate! This means I arrive at about 5.30am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

I head out and walk a couple of holes to get a feel for the day’s conditions, before meeting my number two, Aaron Bowen, to finalise the plans laid out the day before. We then have a morning briefing with the rest of the team before getting out onto the courses at 6.30am.

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

We currently have a team of 15 which is a good number, but we have 36 holes laid out over 360 acres so when you spread the team out across that, it is a lot of ground to cover. The job is never done.

Do you share tasks?

Absolutely, I think it is really important that as many of the team are capable and confident in as many tasks as possible. However, there will always be things that people enjoy more and excel in than others, so it makes sense sometimes to play to people’s strengths to achieve the best results.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I don’t think there is any better motivation than being told you are doing a good job and it is something I try to communicate whenever it is warranted.

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

Autumn for me. I think this is when the presentation of our courses becomes the easiest. Being on a chalk hill with limited irrigation and water resources, moisture management is a big challenge for us so in autumn it feels like that pressure is eased a little.

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

Presenting the courses for larger events. We host a world ranking amateur event every May and regularly host England Golf events. I really enjoy pushing the courses to get the very best presentation and then seeing players of a high standard tackling them

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

The occasional lack of understanding from golfers that there is a process to everything that we do and that it is all done for a reason.

Have you attended any courses recently?

I must admit I haven’t attended much in recent times what with Covid restrictions and so on. I do always make the effort to attend regional seminars and things like BIGGA’s Continue to Learn programme. There is always something to take away from these events.

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

We do not have fairway irrigation so much of the focus is on root growth and stress mitigation – using products containing bioactives to maintain microbial activity in the soil and give us the desired turf strength. What is ‘good colour’ for a green? I think this depends on your individual site, soil type, species composition and greenkeeping philosophy. If you had a room full of course managers, you would probably get many different answers!

Our approach is very much towards sustainable practices with a focus on organics, and me personally, I’m a big fan of the C-Complex range from Headland Amenity for this.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Pay. I think anybody that has gone through the recruiting process recently would probably say the same.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not that I know of.

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

We do not have water hazards in any form on our courses. Although in previous employment I have pulled many a trolley and buggy from lakes.

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

We have a large array of wildlife across our site, muntjac and roe deer are always nice to see. We also have buzzards and kites regularly flying overhead. Much of our site is defined as an SSSI due to the calcareous grassland so we work hard to maintain this and within these areas we have many rare and threatened grass and flower species that attract all kinds of fauna. Last year we spotted small blue butterflies which is something we have been working to attract so that was particularly rewarding.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The seasons definitely seem to be shifting along. April and early May have been much more like winter months in recent years, making course presentation and preparation difficult at the start of the golf season. We are also seeing the summer extend later into the year, with good temperatures and grass growth well into November.

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

Don’t be afraid and experience as much as you can. You will make mistakes but learn from them.

How do you spend your leisure time?

With my wife Louise and son Tommy walking our dog Moxy … to the pub!


By Alistair July 16, 2022 08:06

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