A day in the life: Darren Moxham

By Alistair May 22, 2020 07:30 Updated

The course manager at Saltford Golf Club, a 116-year-old venue located between Bristol and Bath, takes us through what his average day was like during the lockdown.

How has Covid-19 impacted on you, your team and your club?

When the announcement came that the country was going into lockdown due to coronavirus, it was a strange time for everyone.

The club decided to furlough three of the greens staff, so reducing the team by 50 per cent, and the decision of who to furlough was based on experience and personal circumstances. I continued to work, so the effects of lockdown for me are different to those of many others.

We followed the ‘essential maintenance’ guidelines and when amendments were made allowing us to complete winter projects, we filled our eight newly reconstructed bunkers with bunker sand, and finished off one or two other projects. The course did reopen at the first opportunity and two of the staff returned the day before this, to help reinstate the bunkers – of which many had been left untouched for seven weeks. The staff have been very understanding throughout and have really worked hard, especially under the circumstances.

The club’s membership year starts in July, so an offer was made to the members to pay their fees for 2020/21 earlier than usual, to help the club financially during this difficult time. The response has been excellent, which has been a big help. There remains uncertain times ahead, but hopefully over time we can all return to something which resembles normality.

What time do you arrive at the club?

We start at 6:15am in the summer and 7:15am in the winter so my deputy and I arrive approximately 30 minutes beforehand.

Can you describe your morning routine?

The first things we will do is check the day’s weather forecast and leave course information messages on the phone line and club website, before discussing the tasks for the day ahead. We have reintroduced start times for the 1st and 10th tees, which are always 45 minutes after the greens staff begin their workday, so we can keep in front of golf during morning set up.

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

We have six full-time greens staff, including an apprentice, to maintain our 18-hole parkland course and a nine-bay covered driving range. This year we will be opening up a new 750m chipping green and a six-hole academy course, so that will definitely keep us on the busy side when it comes to maintenance.

Do you share tasks?

We do share the majority of work but there’s a small number of tasks which are carried out by certain members of staff, based on qualifications and experience.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I am lucky that I have a motivated and self-disciplined team. I do find that treating them as individuals and communicating with them on a regular basis has positive benefits in terms of motivation. I also find that making the odd trip to one of the local shops for cakes and chocolate biscuits has a positive impact!

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

Like most other course managers, I would say spring – especially if we’ve had a difficult winter. It’s great to see the definition coming back through growth, regular mowing and it’s also nice to see leaves reappearing on the deciduous trees.

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

One of the greatest satisfactions is seeing winter projects coming into use in the following playing season, knowing the staff have worked hard on them to achieve a high standard of work. I also like to see staff taking pride in their work and it’s always great to see an apprentice become qualified and be taken on as a full-time assistant greenkeeper at the end of their training.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Poor etiquette and vandalism have got to be right up there.

Have you attended any courses recently?

Apart from BTME I haven’t attended as many courses lately, so once the restrictions have lifted I plan on getting out and about more, starting with the renewal of my ‘first aid at work’ certificate.

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

We regularly use Johnsons J Rye Fairway for divoting tees and over the last two autumns have over sown our fairways with Masterline PM51 – which we also used to grow in our six-hole academy. On the surface of our new chipping green and the academy greens we decided to use Johnsons J Rye Green to minimise the effects of wear and tear. The greens haven’t been used for play yet, but they have established well, so fingers crossed they play as well as they look. We also have five wildflower areas throughout the course (3750m squared in total) all sown with DLF’s Pro Flora 8 mixture, and this year we are introducing a small wildflower area alongside the 1st tee and clubhouse, on which we’ll use Colour Boost 6 from DLF.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Increased opportunities for young greenkeepers to access education outside of their workplaces through colleges, associations and industry suppliers.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not that I know of, but I’m sure one or two have thought about it.

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

Not really, apart from getting the odd rough mower stuck on the edge of a ditch trying to save on the amount of strimming/

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

At the end of 2018 we removed a decaying wall and steps from around the 14th tee to discover a couple of Great Crested Newts, which had more than likely come from our only pond/lake on the course, so we stopped work until the April of 2019. In the meantime, we built a couple of hibernaculum’s for the newts to take residence after the removal of the wall and steps.

To support wildlife, as mentioned, we introduced hibernaculum’s and this winter we built a bug hotel to go alongside one of our many wildflower areas.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

I think the extreme weather we have experienced in recent times has got to be connected to climate change. To go from the prolonged wet weather of the winter of 2019/20 where we had three storms in the month of February, to the warm and dry weather of this spring does make you think climate change is definitely having an effect. Trying to keep the course open and fit for play during the winter is proving a more difficult task due to the wet weather, and the prolonged dry spells are also challenging when you are trying to produce healthy and well maintained surfaces during the summer.

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

My advice would be to treat greenkeeping as a vocation, not just a job. Try to be involved in as many educational opportunities as possible, network with others and enjoy what you do.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I’d like to say golf, but a problem with my shoulder has put me on the golfing side-lines for over a year. I take long and varied walks with Archie, the family’s working cocker spaniel, and I play badminton at least once a week with my 10 year old daughter/ at least until she starts beating me on a regular basis! I also try to head out into the Cotswolds on my bike when the sun is shining.


By Alistair May 22, 2020 07:30 Updated

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