ONE of the most important elements of any business - and one that is often not invested in as much as it should be - is the staff. Most people might think that a good indicator of how good a member of staff is might be the amount they are paid, and of course salaries always come into it, but staff training and development is essential if you want to maximise the productivity of your staff.
Greenkeeping has evolved over the last few years and the reputation of just being gardeners looking after a golf course has changed and it is now seen as a professional career for young people, especially as the techniques and machinery used on golf courses have developed and health and safety has become more and more important.
We, as a golf club, when looking to employ new greenkeepers, now take more interest in their qualifications than just work experience.
There are NVQ qualifications in sports turf maintenance and management that provide an excellent level of knowledge for staff in understanding greenkeeping.
As employers, qualifications allow us to measure the level of competence of each member of staff but also provide them with new skills, and long term development.
Many golf courses now will only employ greenkeepers who have a set level of qualifications, although over the last three years we have employed trainee greenkeepers with no qualifications.
We have then put them through their training courses, and the NVQs are ideal as they allow the staff to carry out their training on the job - with distance learning and support from a tutor that consequently does not affect the business.
There are a number of levels of sports turf management NVQ that are possible, although the higher levels require a number of years experience and a high skills base if the candidate is to be successful on the course.
There are however, several other courses which greenkeepers can do that will help with day to day tasks and are paramount for certain jobs.
These include chainsaw licences for tree felling, grinding and welding courses for mechanics etc. If you have some of these skills in your team it can save a lot of money to the club rather than paying for other people to come in to do these jobs.
One of the crucial courses now is a spraying certificate; the chemicals used on golf courses today have to be environmentally friendly but also in order to be effective have to be applied in the correct amounts.
Many greenkeepers in the past have made the mistake of putting chemicals, such as wetting agents, on the course in either incorrect levels or at the wrong time and it has killed the greens.
Greenkeepers have a huge amount of responsibility in ensuring the course is in its best condition all the time, but with lack of experience or training small mistakes can have large consequences.
There is nothing more satisfying as a manager than seeing staff develop and improve and as a company you reap the rewards of achieving your end goal - a better golf course!
Super Start For Ellie
NORTH EAST golfer Ellie Givens has got her new season on the US college circuit off to a good start. The Darlington 20-year-old, a former England Girls Champion, is a student at Denver University and scored a top ten finish to help her college win the team event.
Ellie, who is a member at Blackwell Grange, was sixth on level par in the Ron Moore Intercollegiate at Highlands Ranch Golf Club in Colorado.
Her scores of 78, 68 and 70 helped her college win the title by a massive 27 shots.
Ellie, whose dad Ralph is head professional at Stressholme GC in Darlington, is one of a number of North East girls enjoying success in the US.