A day in the life: Rob Groves

By Alistair June 27, 2024 08:32

The head greenkeeper at Letchworth Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire, a parkland course that is well renowned for its firm, fast greens, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club and what is your morning routine?

I arrive at the club around 5.40am and check the weather forecast for the day. I have usually checked the club’s planner the night before so know if there’s anything on that day. We then have a cuppa and a chat, assign the jobs for the day ahead and go through any ideas or questions the staff may have before we get out on the course.

How many people are there in your team and do you share tasks?

We currently have six full time greenkeepers – Troy Miller (deputy), Brandon, Kain and Jenson who are recently Level 2 qualified and Rhys, our apprentice, and one seasonal member of staff, Steve, who has been with the club for a number of years but is now starting to deservedly wind down. The number is manageable until we get into holiday season and we are hoping to add another seasonal team member this year.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

As a team we have quite a lot in common, and we get on both inside and outside of work so regularly meet for drinks, a round of golf or the occasional competitive darts competition.

What aspects of your job give you the greatest satisfaction?

I have always had great enthusiasm for my job and to see that rub off on the rest of the team is always pleasing. I never get too high or too low – I try to keep things pretty level when it comes to praise and criticism, as it can switch quickly one day to the next, and so keeping that mentality seems to help me.

And the least satisfaction?

People who really don’t understand the job of a greenkeeper and have no desire to learn about it. There are people I see regularly who still don’t really know what I do day to day.

Have you attended any courses recently, and if so, what did you take away?

I always attend BTME with as many of my team as possible as this gives us all an insight into the industry as a whole. I also try to sit in on the odd seminar. The more recently qualified members of the team are currently going through their sprayer training, with the full support of the club who are great at encouraging the development of our staff.

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

I always enjoy the summer, but equally I do love winter projects… just not the weather! This year we had a new irrigation system fitted by Irrigation Control and undertook the last three phases of our ongoing bunker projects with Mckie Group Construction. These projects are always tiring but very rewarding, and you learn so much working with professionals who are at the top of their game.

Are you witnessing evidence of climate change and, if so, how has your job had to adapt to changing weather patterns?

I think the seasons are changing. Spring seems to be starting a lot later in the year than it used to, and we are cutting pretty much year-round now. We have also definitely seen less steady rain and more deluges in the past couple of years.

Have you had to overcome any course issues with disease and / or pests?

We have issues with worms which we unfortunately cannot do much about. We are brushing surfaces a lot more before cutting and have increased sand dressing as a means to keeping them under control.

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

I have just purchased a GKB Combiseeder which has been a great addition to our fleet and was critical in a lot of the repair and recovery work following the disruption from the aforementioned winter renovation projects.

With a growing focus on sustainability, do you deploy any sustainable practices in the management of your course?

We have definitely shifted towards more cultural practices on our surfaces as a means of trying to move away from fungicide usage, but I still use them at peak times and when needed during the year. We also have two electric mowers in our shed and will be looking at more battery-powered equipment in the future.

What do you do to support wildlife?

We see a lot of red kites, the odd buzzard and foxes around the course. To encourage birds we do have a number of bird boxes up.

What are the technological developments that you feel have been the most important in your career to date?

I do like the mobile application for the new Rain Bird irrigation system. This can pinpoint problems and gives you easy and instant access if you’re out on the course and locate an area that needs watering, for example.

Do you use social media professionally and what do you think this contributes to the industry?

I use X (formally Twitter) but apart from that, I keep away from other platforms.

I find X very useful and I often have DM chats with other course managers in my area to share / gain information and advice, which is always helpful.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

I think we need a concerted effort to try and get people into the industry and that always seems to come down to salaries.

Recently we’ve not had much success when advertising vacancies and a lot of that comes from a lack of understanding about what we actually do, where the position could lead to, and the money of course.

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

I would always say, show enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, be open to talking to your manager and do not be afraid to ask questions. Managers will be more willing to give responsibility to those who demonstrate a willing and enthusiastic approach. The industry is full of good people to learn from – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Matt Towler, who gave me the platform and opportunity to learn and grow.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I play golf, watch Tottenham (for my sins) and enjoy spending time with my wife and two kids, whether that’s at home or on a family holiday to Disney or Universal in Orlando!

By Alistair June 27, 2024 08:32

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