A day in the life: Stuart Adams

By Alistair April 22, 2022 08:25

The course manager at Cardigan Golf Club, a course built on elevated ground with spectacular views of Cardigan Bay from every hole, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

For the past four years my alarm clock has taken a good battering as I live just over an hour away, down the coast from the club. This means I’m up an hour and a half before clocking-in – 5am alarm in the summer, for a 6:30am start and a ‘lie-in’ of a 6:30am alarm for an 8am start in the winter.

Can you describe your morning routine?

On arrival we all meet in the mess room for a brief on the day ahead, weather is noted in the diary and work laid out for the team. We’ll always have Plan A prepared, but this is often altered due to the weather, which means I’m yet to achieve a full week of executing Plan A without changes! Every day – with the exception of Christmas Day – we conduct a full course set-up, which adjusts depending on the weather and fixtures. I’m a firm believer that you wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and sit down without a clean dining room and laid table to eat from! For us, when the first golfer stands on the first tee, rest assured that the team and I are out in front to deliver the best possible presentation and experience.

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

Officially I have a team of six, with the support of Casey Walters (an artisan) for summer and autumn weekends, however only myself and my deputy Jac Emanual are full time. Craig Thompson and Paul Legg are both part-time and we also have Henry Malloy and Max Lodder-Rhodda who are on zero-hour contracts. We manage but have to make the very best of our labour budget by thinking outside the box.

Do you share tasks?

I would ideally like to see all staff be capable of completing all jobs, but in reality for our team to function effectively, we have to work to individual strengths – “goalkeepers rarely score goals”.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I pride myself on leading by example. I also encourage everyone to take ownership of their work, take their time and be proud of the results, which has really helped to raise standards. All of the staff are also members, so a lot of the pride they demonstrate is very obviously present. I’ve never needed to raise my voice, neither do I intend too, and expect this level of respect to work both ways.

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

If the truth be told, I don’t have a favourite. Once the cutting / summer playing season slows, I look forward to the winter project work and the measures we bring in to protect the course. As the weather and calendar then dictates, the season returns, and I look forward to the regular maintenance and pushing the performance of the course once again.

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

I simply love what I do and will often say it’s the greatest job in the world! There’s so much to enjoy – the fresh air, working in a beautiful environment close to nature and having the opportunity to travel all over the world, making some really good friends along the way. There’s lots of opportunities for continued professional development and lots of problem solving as we all continually strive for perfection. It’s also very satisfying to look at where we’ve come from and see all that’s been achieved, and when you get those compliments from the members and guests it’s even better!

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Machinery breakdowns, although thankfully that’s happening less and less as servicing and investment improves.

Have you attended any courses recently?

In 2020, I finished a six-year distant learning through Elmwood College, completing both the HNC and HND, which has been an absolute game changer for me, alongside being one of the BIGGA Future Turf Manager graduates in the class of 2016. I was also part of the Bernhard’s delegation to GIS in 2018 which opened many doors and on which I made a fantastic group of friends (#still10), all hungry for success and prepared to put in the long miles to get there. Opportunities through the R&A scholarship to Askernish ‘18 and Singapore Open ‘20 have also allowed me to further my international networking and see different levels of what can be achieved at courses around the world. Although Covid has restricted shows like BTME and a few local seminars, as the situation allows, we will definitely be attending again.

What seed mixtures and / or cultivars do you use for your greens, tees, fairways and roughs?    

When it comes to seed selection, we have to find cultivars that will suit our site – as a clifftop links course, we are extremely exposed to the elements and tend to dry out very fast with the warm sea breeze we experience in the summer. For these reasons, we predominately choose hard, strong and slender creeping fescues.

We use Johnsons J Fairway which we have always found to be very drought tolerant, which is important for us as we have no irrigation on our fairways. For the greens, we’ve been using Johnson J Fescue to deliver improved cultivar and species diversity into the sward, increasing resilience to the year-round biotic and abiotic stresses.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Pre-Covid, this answer would have been very different to the one I give today… The health benefits that outdoor exercise and golf brought when there were restrictions on other outdoor sports have significantly increased membership and green fees. In some cases, the financial boost that golf received undoubtedly saved jobs and some clubs from closure. Another thing that will always be great within this industry is the ‘family-feel’, and the willingness to help others along the way – long may that continue! Saying all of the above, I feel we’ve lost some really talented greenkeepers in the last decade as a result of clubs being mis-managed. There’s still a lack of understanding about the depth of knowledge and skill set required, meaning the career can still be poorly rewarded. The lack of opportunities to progress and the worldwide recession has seen wages slip, and skill-sets disappear for good. This means there’s now fewer qualified and experienced greenkeepers in the industry but hopefully the perfect storm of factors has passed, and those people that remain can excel and set a precedent for the next generation to learn from.  We need to keep producing and overachieving with the resources we have available, keep to good codes of conduct and not get drawn into club politics. By staying professional, and communicating effectively with members and committees, we will be treated that way.

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

With a sea view on every hole, it’s difficult to think of a more stunning place to work or play. As a place of outstanding natural beauty, I feel we have a duty to protect the wildlife and environments for which they thrive – golfing in symbiosis with nature at its very best. Red kites and buzzards are common residents on the course and we run a WhatsApp page, that’s interactive with staff and members, for spotting and identifying fauna and flora all year round.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The four seasons of old are exactly that … of old, yet the expectations of golfers have never been higher! Extremes are fast becoming the norm with words like coldest, warmest, wettest and driest all now commonly found in a greens’ report. Being able to adapt to these conditions is all part of the skill of greenkeeping and it takes a flexible approach to maintenance to manage these extreme conditions, rather than sticking rigidly to the calendar. Irrigation, moisture management and drainage are more important now than ever and we shouldn’t shy away from re-arranging fixtures when needs must, to relieve pressure.

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

Patience and persistence are the two words that spring to mind. Ask questions, network like crazy and take educational opportunities, as well as listening to tried and tested greenkeepers, whose first-hand experience can really bring on your career.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I spend my leisure time with my family, walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path and visiting local tourist spots. I also enjoy spending time in the garden, in front of an open fire pit with a beer in hand… outdoor living at its finest!


By Alistair April 22, 2022 08:25

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