A day in the life: Jason Sarna

Alistair
By Alistair May 7, 2022 11:03

The course manager at Brighton & Hove Golf Club, the oldest golf club in Sussex, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

Peak season I aim for a 4:00am start. In winter, I’ll arrive somewhere between 6:00am and 6:30am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

When I arrive on site, I’ll meet my assistant Kevin (who has normally been there since 3:00am!) for a coffee and discussion about the jobs for the day ahead.

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

It’s just the two of us at the moment. Starting early and utilising the ‘golden hours’ before play commences at 8:00am makes it manageable – you can get a lot done if you’re uninterrupted. Also, our greens’ chairman kindly gives us a lot of time and, in doing so, has learned exactly what is involved in creating a great course. This feedback then makes its way back to the committee.

Do you share tasks?

With a two-man team you have to! I control the fertiliser programme and heights of cut, so I do the feeding and spraying, along with mower maintenance and setup. We both have tasks we prefer, but we also both know exactly what needs to be done.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I set clear goals for the day, week and month. We collaborate as much as possible, and I value the input of my assistant. In my opinion, suggestions are always better than directions. Also, a ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ go a long way.

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

Summer. Shorts and short sleeves! The course normally plays firm and fast, and with the early starts, I can normally get out a few times a week to play.

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

A feeling of pride when we’ve turned out a top-notch course and watching the members and guests enjoying the playing surfaces. All of this stems from a well-researched and implemented maintenance programme, built over the 15 years of experience I’ve had at Brighton & Hove GC. I am also fortunate enough to work with a great team with the full support and backing of our fantastic committee.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Budgeting. It’s imperative that we commit the time and energy to the common goal of driving decisions and change, but it’s challenging when you’re working within the financial constraints of a nine-hole golf club.

Have you attended any courses recently?

Not for a few years, but I personally do a lot of reading and research.

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

I have only had to feed our fairways once in the 15 years I’ve been here, however, I feel this is going to become more of a necessity moving forwards with the lack of tools at our disposal to combat the increasing ‘bug’ issues.

Greens colour comes with plant health and plant health starts with good soil biology – a healthy soil grows a healthy plant. For me, Suståne Natural Fertilizers give the greens exactly what they need to perform. I like my greens to blend with the environment and not look false, so if the course is lush, the greens will match.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Encouraging others to become more environmentally conscious and sustainable. We need to be working in tandem with wildlife and nature. We have a flora and fauna section on our website and encourage our members to send photos in so we can update sightings. This helps to raise the biodiversity issue and increases the membership’s awareness of the work that we’re carrying out around the course.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

I’ve had a few balls hit at me whilst working. We have a strict policy, so anyone caught abusing this receives a single warning. I’ll ask, “If I were another golfer would you have still played the shot?” … the answer is no.

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

Years ago at another course, I was called into action to help an elderly chap out of a stream.

His electric trolley took off and when he tried to stop it, he was pulled in. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt and we laughed about it in the bar afterwards!

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

I’m incredibly lucky with the diverse wildlife we have around our course, so it’s impossible to pick just one. My favourites are stoats, newts, adders and the roe deer. We’ve also noticed our butterfly and moth populations have rocketed in the last five years with 32 different species being sighted.

Around the course, we’ve created hibernacula and areas for wildlife to live. We only intensely manage greens and tees. Fairways and semi roughs are mown and not fertilised unless it’s absolutely necessary, and only very rarely do we use herbicides. Deep roughs are cut in the winter and collected where possible with the aim of rejuvenating native chalk grasslands and wildflower areas.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

There has definitely been a seasonal shift of about two months I’ve noticed.

The growing season carries on right into December when in the past we would pack up mowers at the end of September. Also, we’re seeing low soil temperatures and poor growth until the end of May, when normally things would be going in April. This changes how we look at inputs for the fine surfaces and when to apply. We’ve also shifted a few of our bigger events on the calendar so they are played when the course is in peak condition.

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

Ask questions and listen. Often less is more in this job and always remember you cannot force nature. Also, play golf! I find this is very important because it encourages you to look at the course in a different way and makes you appreciate the needs and expectations of the members and visitors.

How do you spend your leisure time?

In my leisure time I enjoy playing golf, fishing and travelling. I also make the most of family time, in particular using radio-controlled rock crawlers with my son.

 

Alistair
By Alistair May 7, 2022 11:03

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