The all new Midlands Golfer also has an all new team of local greenkeepers (The Sodfathers) who will be contributing a regular monthly page in the magazine and here too in feature length all about their roles and the trials and tribulations that only this most vital of golf related roles can face them with.
We’ll have detailed and seasonal analysis about the on course work that goes on daily, the challenges that this ever changing profession provides and not to mention the vagaries that the weather throws up too and how our guys cope with that.
We’ll make it a mixture of educational and informative pieces but with a little light heartedness thrown in too, it’s a job that needs a little fun and banter going on for sure. The Midlands has a thriving and close knit greenkeeping community mostly via social media channels, we’re inviting all of them to contribute their thoughts and latest on course work to this section going forward.
We also want reader and follower involvement too, if you’re reading this and have a GK related question for our Sodfathers relating to their work, please feel free to ask away and they will answer any queries you have.
For now here is brief profile for each of our five guys who make up our Board of Greenkeeping Governors, the MG Sodfathers, complete with their Twitter handles.
Dave (@greenkeeperdave) Collins – Lickey Hills Golf Course
No of years in profession – 35
Brief career details and quals – 6 year apprenticeship at Handsworth GC, also attending Askham Bryan College in York on a C&G in golf course Turf Management. Deputy Greenkeeper at Widney Manor then a long time at Lickey Hills.
Qualifications in spraying, chainsaw, IOSH in Health & Safety. I visited Sawgrass as part of a Greenkeeper delegation and also visited Pebble Beach whilst on holiday
Time at current club – 24 years
No of staff – (Including myself) Two full time – Two part time
Biggest on course challenge at your club – Dealing with big shade issues and continuing our quest to look after a golf course naturally and sustainably on a small budget
Favourite part of job – The challenge and the location and the way greenkeepers will all work together for a common goal
Talent at golf and best achievement – Bloody awful but I’ll always have a go and enjoy a smile and a giggle whilst playing.
Favourite football or sporting team – Aston Villa FC where I work part time on matchdays on the pitch
Hobbies – Acting in murder mysteries and very occasionally on stage, my agent says I have a chance of playing Bond one day – Brooke Bond!
Favourite food – Lovely warm homemade crusty bread or the stuff you buy in Morrisons cus it’s quicker. Also anything Italian, or Chinese or Indian. If you’ve seen me you’ll see I like anything! Oh, and cake.
Malcolm (@scottspop1802) Mitchell – The Astbury Golf Club
In the greenkeeping industry since 1992.
1992-1997…The Shropshire Golf Club
1997-2000…Patshull Park Golf Club (assistant)
2000-2002…Working at a John Deere dealership
2004-2020. Patshull Park 2004-2012 as Deputy Head GK, then 2012-2020 Head GK until it closed.
Aug 2020-Apr 2021.Mawley Hall Country Estate.
Apr 2021- Deputy Head Greenkeeper at The Astbury.
Staff….Three full time, two seasonal and one gardener.
Biggest challenge…Adapting to working without the chemicals that have been banned over the past few years.
Favourite part of job – The job!!
8 handicap golfer, best achievement was winning the scratch knock out at The Shropshire (1993 I think.)
Favourite golfing achievement was winning a pairs competition with my dad back in the day at Oswestry (Dad since passed away.)
Support – Liverpool FC.
Hobbies – Golf, cinema, eating out and photography.
Favourite food – has to be Chinese
Greenkeepers are up with the lark every day as we know. Not easy, but they do get access to the best light conditions of a golfing day, weather permitting.
Therefore the turfies take the finest course shots it’s possible to find, day in, day out. MG scrolls through social media regularly to find the best ones, from the Midlands, and beyond too. Below are a few examples.
Jon (@J_Merchant1) Merchant – Willesley Park Golf Club
No of years in profession – 28
Brief career details and quals – Assistant Greenkeeper at Dartmouth Golf Club in West Bromwich for 6 years. Moved to Walsall Golf Club as an Assistant Greenkeeper where I moved up through the ranks to Deputy Course Manager then Course Manager. I did seven years as CM and after 22 years at the club decided to move on, currently at Willesley Park as first Assistant Greenkeeper. I have an NVQ 3 in turfgrass and spraying certificates.
Time at current club – Since 21st June
No of staff – five
Biggest on course challenge at your club – Too early to say at the moment!
Favourite part of job – I enjoy most things really, that’s what I enjoy about the job is the variation in tasks, everyday is different. But if I had to choose I would probably go for tractor mounted spraying but also enjoy the data collection and analysis side of things.
Talent at golf and best golfing achievement – I was a decent standard back in my youth playing to a handicap of 4, won a few junior opens and club competitions. I’ve not played much in recent years, I need to change that.
Fav football or sporting team – West Brom
Hobbies – Running, cycling, socialising.
Fav food – Italian and Indian.
Dale (@GolfGeek6) Housden – Course Manager, Drayton Park Golf Club
No of years in profession – 24
Brief career details and quals – Level 4 qualified with all spraying and chainsaw licence. Part of 30 support teams for European / PGA tour events.
Time at current club – 2.5 years.
No of staff – 6
Biggest on course challenge at your club – Dealing with different personalities. The grass management is easy!
Favourite part of the job – Anything to do with the greens. I don’t take my eye off them… could be hand cutting, spraying or hole changing.
Talent at golf and best golfing achievement – I played off scratch or better for 20 years. Took the game up late at 16 years old and reached scratch in four years. Maintained a scratch or better handicap for 20 years which I’m very proud of considering I don’t get chance to practice much. Though off +1.3 now, I don’t win much!
Fav football or sporting team – Watford FC for my sins.
Hobbies – It’s all about spending time with my wife and family. I have two beautiful daughters who keep me on my toes.
Favourite food. Steak and red wine.
James (@wilsoncleaver) Cleaver – Stratford Oaks Golf Club
Just under 10 years in the industry, followed my father into it so have been around it all of my life, often going in to work with dad during school holidays.
I started off at Stratford Oaks as an apprentice and after a year I left to join The Belfry to finish my L2 and also do my L3 in greenkeeping. At The Belfry I started out as Assistant Greenkeeper and moved up to Senior Greenkeeper and for a short while I was shadowing their irrigation and project manager. I then moved back to Stratford Oaks as Deputy Course Manager before taking over last June as Course Manager.
Current club – 2.5 years
Currently we have five staff but we should have six and hoping to get back up to six staff soon.
Biggest on course challenge – Managing tees and approaches without irrigation. Particularly tees as they see the most wear and tear from golfers. In dry warm periods there is no recovery of divots and the turf wilts and suffers on its own regardless of heights of cut. The same with the approaches as golfers like a nice tight well presented approach to play from.
Favourite part of the job – Difficult as I don’t see my job as a job. I really enjoy what I do it’s like a hobby I’m lucky to be paid for. That’s not too say there aren’t days that I pull my hair out. I guess I really enjoy projects so rebuilding tees or like we have just done, upgrading the irrigation system in house. Seeing a project from planning to completion is satisfying.
I currently play off 0.5 but that’s down to the world handicapping system dropping it from 5. I need more cards!
Biggest achievement – would be getting to the clubs matchplay final. Lost unfortunately but it was great to get that far. I’ve won other medals but this one was over five games so it was great to reach the final.
I’m a Leicester City supporter so have seen some big lows but some amazing highs over the last few years.
Hobbies would be golf, and I’m partial to some basic carpentry. I made our dining room table during last year’s lockdown.
Favourite food – Easily a roast dinner, it’s a guarantee of being able to sit down with the family together.