Talking Turf – Education, ecology, budgeting and more…

Head Greenkeeper at The Downs Course (Golf At Goodwood), Rob Dyer has started to incorporate education days into his schedule.

Rob talked us through how education has helped him to learn about ecology, budgeting and much more…

How important is education in the turf industry?

Education is highly important – if it is relevant and up to date. With intensive research from universities and fertiliser companies, we are now able to understand products and new techniques to aid in agronomy decisions. We are extremely lucky to work in an industry which shares ideas, as well as being open and willing to help.

In terms of budgeting and finances, how has education helped you and your club?

When Education Officer for BIGGA Essex section Tom Stidder visited, we looked at the quality of the cut, plus wear and tear on the cutting units. After a few adjustments with bedknife angles, aggression and clip rate, we improved the quality of cut and longevity of the reels with them staying on the cut for longer. This has now saved us money on replacing reels and mechanic hours.

We also looked at rotary blades and when to sharpen, how to sharpen correctly or when to replace them. This has a massive saving on fuel if the rotary blade is cutting correctly, compared to a blunt blade, which can run into hundreds of pounds worth of savings on running costs and emissions. With sustainability in mind, this is a no-brainer.

Rob Dyer, Head Greenkeeper, The Downs Course
3rd green

Should sustainability and ecology/wildlife be implemented more in turf education?

At Goodwood, we have an ecology policy in place to allow a good balance between playability and ecological value. Over the past five years, I have seen a massive change in how sustainability is looked upon and it is trending in the right direction. I think it would be a good idea to incorporate a sustainability module in every qualification.

How has your course management approach changed since the training?

We have changed our course management by increasing the height of cuts to get a more even cut within the multicultural grass species we have on-site. With the HOC slightly increased, this also allows us to use less water and the plant has more surface area for photosynthesis.

Any further courses planned?

I think any education which benefits your development and knowledge is vital to progress – not only in your career, but in your job role. Last year, I found content on TikTok for how to present to a group of people; it turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. Anything can help from learning Microsoft Excel to local beekeeping courses.

Would you recommend others to attend education days, regardless of how much experience they might already have?

Yes, without a doubt. In the past, I didn’t attend courses as I thought it wasn’t relevant, however with age I am more open-minded. In every course I have been on, I have taken something away to use in one way or another.

Regarding budgeting, is this something your club has found challenging in the past?

I think if you ask any head greenkeeper about budgets, they will always come back with the same answer…. I need more for consumables and resources; this is because most of us always want what’s best for our golf course. What is going on with the world has had a big impact on budgets and, with some fertilisers doubling in price, it has become important to use your resources carefully and efficiently.

Will you attend more education events in the future?

BTME is always a must for me. It is a hugely beneficial week and so much knowledge is shared and gained – not only on the courses provided, but in networking with like-minded people in the industry. I am extremely lucky to work for a company that develops people. They are very open-minded in what we request – as long as there is value in it, either for the golf course or personal development. A few years back we were lucky enough to visit three courses in Denmark. The trip gave us a great insight into non-chemical disease prevention and communication with members in regards to the control measures used.

In addition…

Personally, I think we should be showcasing all the good and fun things we do as a profession. Not many people really know what a groundsperson or greenkeeper does, and it’s not advertised in schools for the younger generation to learn about. Most of us enjoy sports and, with less than 1% making it in professional sports, what other way can you share the hallowed turf of stadiums with these idols?

Tom Stidder, BIGGA Regional Patron and owner of TCS Turfcare Equipment

Cutting unit set up guidance

BIGGA Regional Patron, Tom Stidder, gives comment on cutting unit set up and how this can help greenkeepers to enhance the work they are doing.

During the last twenty-seven years of working in the machinery side of the industry, I have been fortunate enough to learn a great deal through working as a mechanic, service manager and manufacturer technical rep.

It’s only in the last six years of working for my independent company that I have really learnt about cutting unit set up and the benefits of having the correct specification, optimal geometry set up and, most importantly, the knowledge of the person deciding the heights of cut setting.

I have learnt through many trials around the world that it is so important to understand how the cutting unit interacts with your local turf species and agronomic conditions.

The initial specification selection, and then the geometry set up, will determine the parameters at which the cutting unit is ‘happy’, or operating within its designed parameters.

The benefits of a ‘happy’ cutting unit can be incredible – with the main one being the unit will stay ‘on cut’ for longer. This directly equates to less adjusting of the shear point contact, less sharpening, a longer interval between bed knife (or bottom blade) replacement and the reel (cylinder) too. Over a large fleet, this can equate to a substantial saving over the year.

Added to this benefit is also the improvement to quality of cut by having the optimal geometry set up. This can include shear point position or bed knife attitude, clip rate and much more.

I agree with Rob that we should be showcasing all the opportunities that our industry has to offer and, from my point of view, in particular the technical side.

Article by James Kimmings

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