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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 Golfers of Christmas – The Greenkeeper

Welcome to another Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers we’ve all played with over the years. The series proved so popular last year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise this Christmas, too.

Once again, I obviously pre-wrote these so I don’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. Still no flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family; eating and drinking too much; and taking long walks, sadly without Izzy in tow.

Oh, Izzy. Merry Christmas my big lassie. Still miss you big time.

2. The Greenkeeper

Amazing how many amateur golfers seem to think they know more about agronomy and greenkeeping than head greenkeepers.

Owning up time: I know nothing about agronomy/greenkeeping. I don’t even try to pretend to. No point. I’d soon get found out.

I worked a couple of summers at Westmount Golf Club in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, but I was on the sod squad – as in I mainly laid sod. Funnily enough, the head greenkeeper didn’t consult me on a daily basis.

I read Jim Arthur’s seminal tome Practical Greenkeeping many years ago. Ditto Dr Alister MacKenzie’s The Spirit of St Andrews, Donald Ross’s Golf Has Never Failed Me, Colt & Co by Fred Hawtree and other books that deal with agronomy and all things greenkeeping. All are in my library, but reading said titles make me no more an expert on agronomy/greenkeeping than reading the instruction books in my library makes me an expert on the golf swing.

I’ve been playing the game for nearly 30 years and I have nothing but admiration for the keepers of the greens, those people who put their heart and soul into preparing the course to the best of their ability considering the weather, budgets, rounds played, etc. They've got the sweat under their armpits, dirt under their fingernails, bags under their eyes, and they don't get paid a fortune. Most do it because they love working outdoors, take immense pride in what they do, yet get very little recognition.

As I’ve noted before, often the only time the greenkeeper gets acknowledged is when some know-it-all member complains that the greens aren’t running at 14 on the stimpmeter, the course doesn't look a patch on Augusta National, even if it’s the middle of February, the temperature hasn’t risen above five degrees Celsius for weeks, and there has been rain every second day.

It doesn’t stop the armchair greenkeeper from pontificating about what the greenkeeper should be doing. The greens are never right. There isn’t enough sand in the bunkers. There's too much sand. The flags are in the wrong places. The fairways are too narrow. The rough is too deep. The tees aren’t in the right place. You name it, the wannabe greenkeeper complains about it.

When you point out to the moaners that greenkeepers don’t wake up in the morning and wonder how they can upset the majority of the membership, that they try to create the best course possible every single day, the wannabe greenkeeper just scoffs. He – for it is mostly men who think they're experts – knows better.

Wannabe greenkeepers often try to drag me to their point of view because I’ve worked in the golf industry for so long. Somehow they think that infers I have great knowledge on all things agronomy. I try not to get drawn, often trying to change the subject. But sometimes I just want to say, if you don’t like the golf course mate, then go play somewhere else!

Bet many head greenkeepers, secretaries, and golf club managers would love to utter those exact same words.

#JustSaying: “Anyone who criticises a golf course is like a person invited to a house for dinner who, on leaving, tells the host that the food was lousy.” Gary Player

#JustSaying2: “ Carnoustie Golf Club, Scotland: a good swamp, spoiled.” Gary Player

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