My View

Continued Professional Development; essential for the modern greenkeeper

Paul Worster, BIGGA rep on the Board of FEGGA, shares his views on career progression.

By Paul Worster

8th November 2013
Managing personnel
Greenkeeping is now far more than a practical, hands-on, outdoors occupation  

Never has the world changed and developed as fast as it is now, and put quite simply; he who does not develop at a similar rate gets left behind. Period.

Consider for a moment the staggering advances in Information Technology, Research and Development, Agronomics, Science, Communications, Economics, PR, etc .....oh, and don’t forget peoples’ expectations for they too have gone through the roof.

Somewhere in the middle of this maelstrom of development is the humble greenkeeper who is trying to do his job.

Now, this is where we need to be clear. It is not an option to bury our heads, or to think we can ignore the world around us and just keep doing what we do – we absolutely have to keep up with modern circumstances. And that means investing our time, effort and energy in our Personal Development in order to keep pace.

Going back into education can be daunting – particularly for older people.....and let’s make no bones, I’m including myself in that category!

Personal development

Personal Development means understanding and maintaining your strengths while working on your weaknesses


But this isn’t a question of dashing back to College and start trying to re-learn how to be a greenkeeper. This is not what Personal Development means. Personal Development means understanding and maintaining your strengths while working on your weaknesses.... The Americans have a term for this which is ‘Gap Analysis’. Gap Analysis lets you develop your strengths, while all the while identifying and working on your weaknesses to fill the ‘Gaps’.

May I digress for a moment.... I don’t sit on interview panels – but I know people who do, and a stock interview question goes rather like this..... “So, you qualified 8 years ago from such-and-such a College with NVQ Level Four.... what have you been doing in the meantime to keep up with changes and developments in the industry”? A lame answer such as “well, I read magazine articles and I’ve been to Harrogate a few times” is unlikely to score many points.

A far better answer, and the one that people are looking for is “I am a CPD-active greenkeeper and have been for some time. I keep up with the industry by attending seminars, reading and writing articles, mentoring other greenkeepers in my area, visiting Trade and Industry Shows, and speaking at local and regional events”.

This is a CPD process. As a greenkeeper, I really like the CPD scheme that BIGGA offers. For example, a set number of points are gained for attending educational events, set points are awarded for life skills and set points will shortly be awarded through on-line assessment of your understanding of informational articles, etc. The points are credited to you and a certain number of points gives you a certificate, and then a diploma. BIGGA have worked to upgrade this scheme and make it appropriate for the 21st Century, arousing the interest of FEGGA and other organisations.

All your experiences both at and outside of work contribute to your life-skills, for example volunteer work, mentoring, charity work, public speaking, or further education. You should attempt to get the most from all your experiences to make yourself into a more rounded and employable person.

So how best to map progress? Well you might start off with a chart of all the skills that are needed to excel at your job. You may be looking at other jobs which require slightly different skills so with a little thought, forward planning, and (honest) analysis you can really start to focus your efforts.  For example - computer skills are a must for every Course Manager. But you need to be selective about what you try to learn. It has to be relevant to what you are trying to do. It is not much use understanding string codes and computer programming when what you actually need to do is understand how Spreadsheets and Databases work and more importantly what you can do with them.

CPD-active greenkeepers get involved with the education process

Analytical skills are vital. You have to be able to back up ideas and proposals with hard data – e.g. how much will this project cost in the long term? How much investment is required at the outset? What labour will be required and will this be constant throughout the life of the project, or will it reduce as the project proceeds? What are the alternatives? Data-driven strategies are always the best. Learn how to construct them!

You also need good communication and presentation skills. You have to be able to sell an idea to your audience – be they colleagues, peers, company directors, or your club members. Good people skills are taught, and not bestowed upon us at birth. And believe me, if I can do it.... anyone can!  Greenkeepers and Course Managers must be Leaders in the club. Officials come and go, but we tend to be the constants... the guiding hands which help the club navigate the difficult times and flourish in the good. We cannot expect to be taken seriously without a solid education and continuing learning.
The Course Manager has to be capable of filtering all the inputs which come from members, staff, visitors and Committee etc. He needs to be a “Broker of Good Ideas” being able to interpret what is going on in the industry, match this against business requirements and apply the best innovations to the business of his club. Don’t confuse this with the need to be an expert at absolutely everything...this is highly unlikely and frankly not necessary. You need to have learnt to be able to rely on others. This requires a degree of Management Training because good managers are trained and not born.

It was only when putting this article together I realised exactly why greenkeepers need to convert into modern-day Managers.

Tool-box talks with your staff, communication with your customers, negotiations with Trading Partners, the exchange of ideas with your peers, gathering information and seeking out the results of trials and new product technology – all these are vital issues which contribute to the big picture.

One thing is for certain – the rate of change and development is unlikely to diminish and time soon, and modern technology is here to stay. Embrace them or perish!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not, necessarily, those of The R&A.