This year has proven to be a very strange year with Covid 19 taking centre stage in all of our lives. During the first lockdown in 2020 there were quite a number of weeks when there was no golf allowed, and I know some members thought that with not all of the greenkeeping staff being furloughed, the golf course would be kept in pristine condition. However, what many don’t know is that during those months only two staff were allowed to do basic maintenance which really amounted to cutting the greens and fairways only, thus cutting down on the possibility of infection as per our club risk assessment. This unfortunately led to a situation where many areas of the course (in particular the burn running across the 1st nine, tees and rough) received no attention till the period of lockdown ended, by which time many areas were overgrown and out of control. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the greenkeeping staff, full-time, part-time and volunteers who worked wonders to bring the course under control in a short period of time, allowing us to enjoy the course while it was under improvement. I noted with pleasure (on behalf of the staff) that the majority of comments from both members and visitors, then and now, reflected that improvement and their enjoyment of our course.
Another major factor in the year has been the weather – which continues to keep us away from our golf! As in a previous year the area between the burn and the 1st/9th tee was flooded to a depth of at least 5 feet and was mere inches from overflowing the boundary walls of the properties adjacent. Once again the staff have done a great job in bringing the 1st nine to a state, which though soft underfoot, allowed us back playing in a remarkably short time.
Toward the end of the playing year a group of council members (including our head greenkeeper, Bill Shepherd) did a walk round the course to establish a three year improvement programme. The current weather has meant that some of what was planned for the first year of that programme has been slightly delayed, but Bill and his staff have been working to improve the areas which border holes, drainage of the fairways, replacement of blocked drains and change/improve various bunkers around the course.
After only part of a year observing greens staff, I have to say that given the size of our greenkeeping team, they punch well above their weight in how effectively they serve the membership. I’m aware of clubs around us who have many more than the three full time staff (Bill, Innes and Phil) and one part-timer (John Geddes) to maintain and improve our course year on year. I don’t forget also those from among our membership who have volunteered in this past year to help out when the workload was practically impossible to keep up with. Thank you again.
I’m sure that many of you will be aware that Phil Pelham has reached that stage in his working life when he wants to cut down his work commitment and enjoy more quality time with his wife and family. This means that from the end of December 2020 Phil has moved from full time to part-time (working from April/May to Sept./Oct. 2021). Clearly this has left us with a manpower deficit which we have had to address. Bill Shepherd, head greenkeeper has expressed his preference, a preference the council share, to employ an apprentice greenkeeper as soon as possible to take up the slack. Bill feels that this is the best option for ensuring continuing availability of labour, some succession planning for future years and the ability to keep greens staff wages budget neutral. A fact which I am sure many of you will appreciate having just paid your fees for 2021.
I’m aware that my report will be different in style and content to those previously enjoyed from Mike Morrice. As always I am happy to chat about member’s concerns where the course or greens staff is concerned, and pass on important concerns or suggestions to whoever is appropriate.
To conclude - here’s to a rapid end to this devastating pandemic, and to the quick return of sunny weather and lots and lots of golf here at McDonald Golf Club.
Bill Haining (Greens convener)
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