A day in the life: John Cunningham

By Alistair May 6, 2020 07:03 Updated

The head greenkeeper at Isle of Skye Golf Club, the seaside nine-hole venue that’s the only one in the world to have its holes named in Gaelic, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

It doesn’t quite go dark during the summer months, so the light is good for early starts – I’ll come in around 04:30am. In the winter months it pushes back to 07:30am, as there’s not any light until at least 8 o’clock.

Can you describe your morning routine?

I’m a morning person so once I’ve had my coffee, I’m flying! I’ve normally prepared for the following morning in advance, so once I’m in I just go and get on.

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

It’s just me! I’m a one-man band but I genuinely enjoy it. As the weather up here can be a tad wild, I will regularly jump from one job to another to keep myself on track. Maybe in the future, if it’s possible, we could take on an apprentice or an extra pair of hands for the summer.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I absolutely love my job so self-motivation is not an issue. I’m always itching to crack on and try to get the course in as good a condition as possible.

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

We get all four seasons in one day up here in Skye so I’m spoilt for choice! I’d go for spring though, as the golf course comes to life and you start to see the wildlife coming out.

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

I really enjoy seeing our members and visitors happy with the course.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

What frustrates me, in one word… midges!

Have you attended any courses recently?

I’ve recently attended both the annual BIGGA and IOG shows. I do intend to get back to studying soon as it’s something I really enjoy about this job.

What piece of equipment would you say is the most popular and frequently used by you and your team?

We have recently purchased an INFINICUT® floating head 22″ pedestrian mower with a selection of interchangeable cassettes from the TMSystem™. It’s an amazing piece of kit and I’m looking forward to using it extensively through the cutting season.

John Cunningham

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

I  think the industry needs to get into high schools and inform the children how great a career choice it is – show them all the different avenues you can go down and the training that’s involved. In this job, you never stop learning.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not that I’m aware of, but I was once tripped up whilst hand cutting tees when I working as an apprentice. It’s fair to say this wasn’t tolerated by the club.

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

I’ve never worked in close proximity to any lakes, but I have had to rescue a golfer’s electric trolley that went rogue one time… which (inwardly) I found hilarious!

What is your favourite machine and why?

Again, our INFINICUT® mower. It not only does its main job exceptionally well, it’s like a Swiss army knife, and all the applications I can use it for it does so well.

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

We do have a lot of deer up on the Red Cuillin mountains, to the back of the golf course, but in terms of the best bit of wildlife I’ve seen, it’s got to be a white-tailed eagle.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

One hundred per cent. You can’t really define the seasons anymore. Like the rest of the UK we have seen a really wet and mild winter, we’ve hardly encountered any frost and it’s not been overly cold. It’s just not normal…

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

Be a sponge! Try and soak up all the information you can, from all different people, with all different levels of experience. Never stop learning and always ask questions.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I’ve got two kids under the age of four so I love spending time with them, my wife and our dog Davie. I try to get a round of golf in now and again but there’s never enough time! I’ve also been known to enjoy a whisky (or bottle of!) on a weekend.

By Alistair May 6, 2020 07:03 Updated

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