A day in the life: Mat Edwards

By Alistair January 31, 2019 08:40 Updated

Mat is the managing director of Looe Golf Club in Cornwall. Designed by Harry Vardon, the course is set in an area of breath-taking beauty.

What time do you arrive at the club?

Our working hours change throughout the year dependent on daylight hours. In the summer I get in between 6:00 and 6:15am, but if there are competitions on at the weekend, we will sometimes start any time after 5:00am to cut ahead of the first group of golfers. In the winter, when days are at their shortest, we start at 7:30am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

We will open up all of the sheds, have a quick cup of coffee and arrange the jobs for the day, depending on the tee time book and the weather for the day ahead.

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

The most we have at one time is four, although more often than not it is two or three as the club job-shares, meaning that occasionally we have to cover shifts in the clubhouse. When everyone is fit it works out, however if someone phones in sick or they are on holiday then it becomes very stretched. I think every club would always wish for extra green staff as there are always jobs to do.

Do you share tasks?

With such a small workforce, it’s impossible not to share tasks.  Everyone knows how to do every task, except for spraying which is only done by myself. Also, due to a staffing reshuffle, I have now been made managing director of Looe Golf Club, so my workload has now increased significantly.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

We have all known each other for a relatively long time thanks to being members at Looe Golf Club since junior level, so we get on very well, which creates a good working atmosphere. We are always ‘winding each other up’! We all play golf as well, both socially and for the club (with one lad playing for Cornwall), which also helps when setting up the course.

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

It has to be spring. Seeing the course start to recover from the cold, and usually waterlogged, winter months is great as we can get out and finally start getting a little more definition in places where grass growth had slowed or stopped.

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

Getting the course completely cut and prepared by Friday, ready for the usually-busy weekend of play is very satisfying. All of our members really appreciate the work we have put in over the last few years to greatly improve the playability and appearance of all areas of the course.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Seeing unrepaired pitch marks, divots and unraked bunkers after a shot has been played is highly frustrating, when they know how much work we put into achieving the standard players now expect. Also, constantly clearing leaves and pine needles in the autumn is very time consuming.

Have you attended any courses recently?

I am relatively new to the industry having only started at Looe Golf Club in 2014. Personally, I haven’t attended any courses since acquiring my spraying licence in 2016, although I do attend the occasional seminar. Over the last two years we have sent a couple of our staff on chainsaw courses which has worked very well, as we have lots of trees around the course. Being built on one of the highest points in Cornwall, we are very exposed to the elements so we often have damage to attend to.

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

Our budget doesn’t allow for fairway feeding, only greens, tees and approaches at the moment. With many products being taken off the market due to new legislation, a lot of courses now prefer the use of natural products like seaweed and other bio-stimulants to maintain a healthy sward. Keeping an eye on nutritional inputs is very important as over-encouraging growth can lead to disease, while managing the height of cut around times of high turf stress is also beneficial. We have a very good relationship with Headland Amenity and our local rep, Richard Shapland, lives only 20 minutes away. He is always on hand and willing to give us any advice or information on products and procedures. Headland’s C-Complex fertilisers are, in my opinion, the best on the market for use around greens’ renovation time.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

In my opinion, investing in training is key for any new individuals looking to start a career in the industry. Gaining as much knowledge as possible is a must, especially as legislations change and new rules are introduced by The R&A.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not to my knowledge, although I have had a ball land on the green a few times whilst I’ve been mowing it. After a few choice words of wisdom, it hasn’t happened again!

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The last year has been a real challenge, not just for us, but for probably every greenkeeper in the country. We went from the wettest winter on record into three weeks of snow, which we hardly ever see in Cornwall. Then we went straight into the driest summer on record. To make matters worse, our watering system died right in the middle of the drought, so most days we were trying to pump water straight out onto the greens. After a few weeks we had to give up and pray for rain. The course has recovered well since then. All of our greens are old clay ‘push up’ greens with little to no drainage, so should the winters continue to get wetter then we will have to look to install a proper drainage system around the entire course.

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

Our only lake is by the 10th tee which, thankfully, is almost impossible to slip into. On the odd occasion we have had to rescue players in a stranded buggy or someone who has managed to get a buggy beached on one of our mounds!

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

We quite regularly see deer and foxes running across the course from the adjacent woodland, and we do get inundated with pheasants as there is a shoot not far away. We also have a lot of buzzards nesting in the area. Over the next few years we are going to try and plant some areas of the course that are out of play with wildflower mixes to encourage some new species.

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

Get as much training as possible and pay attention to those you work with, whilst listening to all instructions.

Getting something wrong on the course could be disastrous to the surface and if it’s working with large machinery, could be potentially dangerous.

How do you spend your leisure time?

In the last year myself and my better half have purchased our first house, so all of our spare time is spent working on that. Given the chance (and time) I might pop out for nine holes!


By Alistair January 31, 2019 08:40 Updated

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