A day in the life: Damien Bowe

Alistair
By Alistair November 30, 2019 16:04 Updated

The course manager at Canons Brook Golf Club in Essex takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

In summer our day starts at 6am and during winter we start at 7am. I always try to get in half an hour earlier than the rest of the team to make any changes to our plans, if needed.

Can you describe your morning routine?

My morning routine starts with me giving the three Arsenal fans in our team a bit of grief (especially on a Friday!) Then we’ll see if any changes are needed to be made to the day’s schedule – this is always an important time as the lads can add their input to the day ahead.

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

We recently increased to five full-time members of staff with the addition of an outstanding young apprentice to our team. The difference in attention to detail we have now is superb with the members very happy with the team’s efforts. I would still love to have an extra person though, so we could really push the presentation of the course on to another level.

Do you share tasks?

Yes we do, that way the quality of their work is always to a high standard.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

A truly motivated team is the best way to get the results you want out on the course. I always welcome ideas and give the lads the freedom to express themselves when they work – especially if it’s an improvement to the current way things are done. We have improved the quality of the course steadily in the past few years with each member of the team contributing. Rightly so, they have enjoyed the accolades received from members and guests alike.

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

Since I have been managing clay greens with very little drainage, I’d say that spring is now my favourite as it is the time we can start to dry the greens out and produce some quality surfaces after a long, hard winter. Before I came to Canons Brook, I would have said winter as that was always when we would get stuck into various course projects to improve the course for years to come.

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

I think that, as greenkeepers, we always love to see our course looking great and playing well, with golfers enjoying the efforts we put into producing the course to a high standard. But I do also take a great deal of pleasure from seeing a team of greenkeepers enjoying and taking pride in their work, as no one wants to work hard in a place they don’t like.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

That’s easy… autumn – leaves, leaves, leaves everywhere! You spend all day clearing them up then one gust of wind and it’s like you’ve done nothing for the past few hours.

Have you attended any courses recently?

My deputy Petr and I re-took our first-aid qualification earlier in the year. We also always attend the London and Essex BIGGA seminars as a team, as I think you always come away from them with something which makes you think. The event at Gerrards Cross Golf Club this year had an excellent presentation on mental health amongst greenkeepers, something which I believe is a big issue in our industry due to the amount of time we can spend working alone.

Do you have a feeding programme for your fairways?

The fairways recovered nicely from the tough summer of 2018, so we proceeded with a granular feed in April and overseeded the worst affected areas. I used to then apply a granular fertiliser again in the autumn but this year we decided to try something different. In June, after we had a couple of wet weeks, I decided that we would look to apply a liquid fertiliser / iron mix to try to keep the fairways strong and healthy as we approached late summer.

We achieved fantastic results using Headland Amenity’s Xtend 21-0-0 and Elevate Fe, and with some advice from Headland’s Peter Blackaby, we added some Clipless NT growth regulator to this tank mix. We have achieved fantastic results on the fairways this year, especially on some of our problem areas that have a history of drying out, with TriCure AD. We applied this at a rate of 2.5L per hectare, which seemed to enhance the germination we achieved from the overseeding carried out earlier in the year.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

If I had a magic wand, I would make everyone appreciate the time and effort that greenkeepers put into their job. I would also love to see the pay reflect the hard work and diversity of the job we all do. I have seen so many excellent greenkeepers leave the industry due to poor pay, which is not only heart-breaking but it also weakens our industry.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

No, but to be honest most of the golfers I know struggle to hit a bit of turf 500m2 so hopefully I’m safe!

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

We regularly have to pull out trolleys or buggies from the brook, but in the past we have had a sofa and a garden shed flow past the 18th green following a heavy spell of rain!

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

Around the 13th hole we always see a buzzard flying around early morning, though he never lets us get close enough for a good photo. We also have a beautiful egret which can be seen around the brook on the 17th hole.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

I don’t think anyone except for President Trump can question if climate change is real! I have been in the industry for 27 years and I can say I’ve noticed the winters being warmer and the summers also getting both warmer and drier – we have only recorded 270mm up to September this year.

After we lost a lot of turf coverage on our fairways in 2018 the autumn didn’t provide any recovery and we went into November in a poor way. Surprisingly though by the time we got into January, they had about 75 per cent recovery.

With more and more chemicals being removed and the possibility of golf courses having to use less water in the future, I believe we will have no choice but to look at encouraging bents or even fine ryes into our greens to make them more sustainable.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, nobody knows everything. Try to visit other courses and speak to other greenkeepers, there are many ways to run a golf course.

Take pride in what you do and enjoy the job.

Attend as many courses as you can and listen during the seminars as there is always something to take away that will help you out in the future.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Greenkeeping is a job which tends to involve some long hours so when I get some spare time, I spend it with my family to remind them of who I am! I try to play five-a-side once a week and spend most weekends during the football season moaning about Spurs.

 

Alistair
By Alistair November 30, 2019 16:04 Updated

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