A day in the life: John Hunnisett

By Alistair November 19, 2022 09:57

The course manager at Gillingham Golf Club in Kent, which was laid out by James Braid in 1919 and constructed by the army, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at the club around 5.30am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Depending on the time of year, it will either be a short or longer course inspection and then updating the website accordingly.

On my findings, I’ll discuss with my first assistant the tasks needed for the day and who is going to carry out what task. We’ll then inform the staff of their jobs for the day ahead.

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

Currently there’s four full time members of staff and one part time, and this is not enough mainly because I’m the only greenkeeper – the rest of the team are either full time or part time trainees.

Ideally we need a team of six, which would include myself, four other qualified greenkeepers and one trainee.

Do you share tasks?


How do you motivate your colleagues?

Although my team is made up of trainees, we are an older team. Three staff members are also members of the golf club, so they take great pride in how the course looks and are very self-motivated.

In addition, after work we will meet up for a beverage at least once a week and, now and again, we will go for lunch at a local café.

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

Coming out of winter and emerging into the spring when everything begins to take off and the course presentation looks mint!

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

Seeing the presentation of the course on a Friday, when the efforts and hard week’s work preparing the course come together in time for the weekend.

It’s very satisfying admiring the team’s work, and I enjoy taking a few pictures which I then include in my monthly news blog.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Extremely wet days and paperwork!

Have you attended any courses recently?

No, unfortunately the last time I attended anything was before Covid.

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

No, for fairways it’s just a spray application of iron and seaweed in the spring. My greens programme uses mainly products from Headland Amenity and will switch between an autumn / winter programme and a spring / summer programme, with applications of chelated iron for colour if needed.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

This is a difficult one as many good greenkeepers are leaving the industry, with little in the way of young trainees coming through. I would say terms and conditions of the role and the wage structure needs reviewing.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not directly, no.

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


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

Not on my current course but on previous courses I have worked at there were roe deer, peacocks and pheasants. To support wildlife, we have bird boxes around the course and the odd habitat pile here and there.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

Yes, either it’s been too wet in the winter to carry out any planned construction work and then it’s too dry in the summer, which leaves you in a dilemma without the necessary resources. Seasons are now a thing of the past.

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

This is another difficult one!

Firstly, it does help if you are a golfer – if you enjoy being outside and like the way the golf course is set up and presented – and believe that is something you would like to be involved in – then that’s a great start.

Then keep your head down, take all the training that is offered to you, watch and learn from the experienced staff and once you have gained your qualifications, the choice is yours. I can remember when I started out how hard it was, and I would say that it’s even harder now for a young trainee.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I like to relax and spend time with my grandchildren.


By Alistair November 19, 2022 09:57

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