A day in the life: Richard Sheldon

By Alistair May 15, 2021 08:38 Updated

Richard, the golf course and estates manager at The Welcombe Hotel and Golf Club in Warwickshire, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at 5:40am. This gives me time to have a quick coffee before starting at 6:00am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

My alarm goes off at 5am so I can sit and have a coffee in bed before I do anything! I’m fortunate enough to only live 10 minutes from work so at 5:30am, I drag my dog out of her bed and we head in. When we get there, she takes herself off for a little walk while I have my coffee and make any amendments to the day’s schedule of tasks.

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

Currently there’s only four of us. We look after the golf course, a football pitch, all of the grounds and the Italian-style hotel gardens. Really, just to cover the very basics, we could do with at least six people. Hopefully we’ll get back to that soon, once our hotel is all up and running again following the Covid restrictions.

Do you share tasks?

Yes. For me, one of the best things about this job is the variety of work you do, so I try and swap jobs around as much as possible. It also creates a much more flexible team.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

Motivation is more important than ever at the moment – what with being furloughed, the course opening and closing on three separate occasions and having such a big workload to share between just the four of us. Luckily, the whole team works really hard and they are always focussed on what they’re doing. This means I can keep things light-hearted and relaxed with my approach. We get really positive feedback from our members who see how hard we work, and I always make sure to pass this on. I also try my best to give them everything they need in terms of good uniform and so on.

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

I like spring. After a long (and usually wet) winter, it’s great to see everything coming back to life and be able to get the course back into its top condition.

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

Winter projects give me the most satisfaction as it’s a permanent improvement. It’s great mowing some straight lines on a fairway but it grows out after a few days and needs doing again. Adding or improving features on the course give you job satisfaction every time you pass them.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

My biggest headache at the moment is machinery. Every time the various bits of equipment leave the shed, I wonder which one will break down first! A lot of the fleet was due to be replaced last April but it hasn’t happened yet due to the financial implications of Covid. I’m hoping it’ll be sorted soon now that everything is starting to look a lot more positive.

Have you attended any courses recently?

It wasn’t recent, but by far the most beneficial course I’ve been on was the Future Turf Managers Initiative back in 2014, run by BIGGA and Jacobsen. The standard of the presenters bought in to run the workshops was phenomenal. I took a lot away from that few days which helped me get to where I am now.

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

I’ve been using Headland Amenity’s Elevate Fe on the fairways mixed with a selective herbicide in spring. There were quite a few weeds when I started in January 2020 and generally the sward was thin. This combination has turned both of these issues around quickly. The colour of the greens isn’t something I worry about too much. I try to give them just enough inputs for what they need but little enough that they still have to work for it a bit, by setting down deeper roots and so on.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

It must be the only job where you can spend years on an apprenticeship, do loads of extra courses, get certified for extra tasks such as spraying and chain sawing, and still barely scrape a living! The only positive is that this creates an industry full of people who do the job because they genuinely love it and are passionate about it.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

In 15 years, I’ve had two run ins with golfers. One drove their ball into the green while I was mowing the approach, and the other played to the green while I was changing the hole. They were both professional golfers!

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

Has someone told you ask this?! I put a greens triple in a pond once… I don’t know how deep I expected it to be, but I remember taking a very deep breath as it went over the edge! Luckily, only the wheels got wet.

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

I’ve seen a kingfisher a couple of times which was great to see. I’m currently implementing an environmental plan, including cutting and collecting the long grasses, and once ready I’m looking to add some wildflowers to these areas. We’re based in the Warwickshire countryside so have all sorts of wildlife roam the course. It really is a great environment to work in.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The seasons seem to be getting later and the weather certainly seems to switch from one extreme to the other. Good drainage in the winter and good irrigation in the summer is now a necessity for keeping the course playable.

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

Show an interest and ask questions. When you’re sent out to do jobs like scarifying or verti-draining, always ask and understand why you’re doing them. As you progress in your career, you‘ll need the knowledge to go with the practical skills.

How do you spend your leisure time?

It’s getting to the point where I can’t really remember! I was in the pub on April 12!


By Alistair May 15, 2021 08:38 Updated

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