Meet the former Toro Student Greenkeeper of The Year

Alistair
By Alistair June 21, 2021 10:30

Jason Norwood, the course manager at Reay Golf Club in the Highlands, and former Toro Student Greenkeeper of The Year, details how he maintains the venue.

Can you give a description of your career path to the course manager of Reay Golf Club?

When I was still at school my plan was always to be a PGA teaching pro. I was an assistant professional for three and a half years but eventually decided it wouldn’t be the right career for me. After seven years of having jobs that had very little prospect to them, I decided I wanted to get back into the golf industry and got a greenkeeping job at Rudding Park. After six months of being at Rudding I was placed onto the new Level 2 greenkeeping NVQ with Myerscough, passing all three assessments with distinction in November 2019. I also utilised what BIGGA provides with education days, course walks and BTME. In September 2019 I was named the winner of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of The Year. As a result of this I got to attend Winter Turf School at the University of Massachusetts. Before leaving to go to UMass I was also enrolled onto my level 3 NVQ again with Myerscough and I completed this qualification in March 2021.

I think being a little bit late into the industry helped me a huge amount to get to where I am now, as I’m much wiser and understand that the more you put into something the more you will get out. It certainly helped living in Harrogate and being able to fully maximise BTME without the costs of accommodation to think about. Rudding, especially Richard Hollingworth (head greenkeeper at Rudding) were very supportive of me by allowing me to attend events and putting me through training programmes. I started at Reay on March 1, 2021, I work as a lone greenkeeper with the help of volunteers during the growing season.

As a lone course manager, what challenges are you currently experiencing and how have you coped throughout the pandemic to maintain the course and what are your hopes for this season?

When I arrived at Reay, golf could be played, unlike the restrictions that were in place in England at the time, so I’ve not had to deal with the impact Covid-19 has caused with work restrictions and so on. My main challenges I have faced so far have certainly been the cold weather, I knew being at the very top of the UK the growing season would start a few weeks later than I would have experienced back in Harrogate, but even now at the end of May the grass still hasn’t started to grow consistently. Another issue has been routine work such as verti cutting greens. I have had to plan when to do this work with the volunteers as I can’t do it by myself without impacting the golfers. This has proved a challenge with the inconsistent weather forecasts. With me arriving just as the growing season should have started, all of the fertilisers had already been ordered for the season, so this season it’s about settling into Reay and firmly getting my feet under the table. I think I will be able to put more of my own ideas into practice for the 2022 season after gaining the experience of how the course evolves during the year.

What are the things that you enjoy most about your job, what accomplishment in your career are you currently most proud of and how does this make you feel?

I enjoy the fact you can finish a job relatively quickly, such as edging a bunker or mowing tees and straight away you can see a vast improvement. I can’t think of many jobs where you can complete a job and be able to stand back and really see a huge difference.

My biggest accomplishment has to be winning the Toro Student award. I dedicated so much time into my presentation and when I look back at the first time I attempted to speak in front of someone I couldn’t do it. I spent 30 minutes trying to gain the courage to present my presentation in front of my wife with many stop start moments. To be able to look back now and think in the space of a month I went from not even being able to talk in front of my wife to presenting in front of highly respected people within the greenkeeping industry really makes me proud.

What was the reason the club invested in a Tru Turf RB 48 11A greens roller, what difference have the members noticed to the green performance and how often will you be using it as part of your programme?

Before arriving at Reay, the club only had a mower to perform any sort of work on the putting surfaces. With Reay being a true links course, growth is much slower than you’d find on other courses. The greens also have a very high fescue percentage and so it’s not required to mow the greens every day during the growing season. The club decided to purchase a Tru Turf to still provide consistent putting surfaces but to help lower the stress placed on the plant by not having to mow every day.

When the Tru Turf was first used, members noticed that their chips into the green were rolling out much further than they anticipated and that the final 10 feet of roll is much more consistent than it has been in previous years. During the growing season I will plan on trying to alternate mowing and using the Tru Turf throughout the week and with the help of volunteers, mow and roll on the morning of big club events.

The course is the most northerly 18 hole links course on the British mainland with living dunes and incredible biodiversity. What do you strive to achieve from the course now and for the future and what do you look to deliver to the golfers?

With the limited resources available and also the fact that sections of the golf course fall into a Scientific Site of Special Interest (SSSI), there is more of a push to be environmentally friendly. This is something Reay have endorsed in the past, which resulted in winning an award back in 2005/06. With the lack of products being available to help combat disease and pest pressures I feel that using traditional methods of greenkeeping will be a must and also help promote fescues and bents that are more likely to thrive in the links environment Reay is situated in. Educating the members is also an area I feel will be very beneficial going forwards. This will not only help them understand the possible difficulties we face in the industry, leatherjackets being a good example, but it will also allow them to get more of an insight into what is required to maintain an 18 hole golf course and ultimately lead to having a few extra volunteers to help out when required.

 

Alistair
By Alistair June 21, 2021 10:30

Follow us on social media

Join Our Mailing List


Advertise with Greenkeeping

To advertise in the magazine or online, contact:



or email marketing@thegolfbusiness.co.uk

View our latest issues