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Standards, what standards?

This article first appeared in On Course - Issue 21

The experience of the GTC in greenkeeper education and training has been acknowledged through an R&A research questionnaire distributed to European Golf Federations.

Following the circulation of a greenkeeping questionnaire to all European Golf Associations by the R&A in 2004, it was clear through the analysis that many countries have no greenkeeper education and training systems in place.

Obviously, in countries where the game is very much in its infancy, employers rely on importing qualified staff to manage the course and often local labour is used to maintain the course.

This could also be said to be the case with British golf club employers.

While the GTC is assisting golf developing countries to establish standards of greenkeeper education it will still continue to ensure the British golf clubs and greenkeepers have access to the best possible education and training system.

A pan-European advisory group has been established to investigate the possibility of introducing a system of greenkeeper education and training which countries could support and see the benefits of improving the playing standards of golf courses on behalf of the employers and greenkeepers they represent.

This will rely on support from the countries' golf Union or Federation and the greenkeeping association who from the outset will be encouraged to work together as happens here in Britain.

The British Home Unions and BIGGA are all Board members of the GTC and with support from the R&A (also Board members) and the PGA European Tour there is a clear commitment to work together for arguably the most important aspect of the sport, the playing surfaces!

The current great debate, the sustainable golf course, instigated mainly by the R&A will only be adopted and implemented if golf clubs have a management "team" who are fully aware of the current issues facing the business.

I do not intend to go into all the details of the current issues as we all know the general topics, water, chemical use, preferred grass species etc etc. However I do encourage golf club senior officials and obviously course managers to register on where there is so much information including links to specific subject materials.

The most pleasing aspect of the first meeting of the advisory group is that many of the issues facing the game are at least pan-European if not world wide and there is a tremendous will to address them collectively.

Golf Unions, Federations and Greenkeeping Associations have all "subscribed" to this R&A website and as registrations are reaching 2000 the golf community is finally looking to support each other and this is what the pan-European greenkeeping advisory group intends to do.

There is still work to do on the proposal and when the standards are agreed it will be for each country to deliver programmes of education and training to meet the pan-European standards in a manner to suit the country.

The group recommended three levels for the occupational standards:

  • Golf Course Greenkeeper
  • Golf Course Supervisor
  • Golf Course Manager.

A list of skills with the related knowledge will now be developed for each level and the group will circulate these as a minimum standard for consultation.

It is also suggested that a certificate be issued when a student has met the European standards through their country's system of qualifications.

A rigorous quality assurance system would be established to maintain and monitor the Certification Scheme.

The advisory group suggests that there are many benefits for the greenkeeping sector to have pan-European standards not least that employers throughout Europe would know exactly what skills and knowledge any applicant for employment would have when presenting a certificate achieved through the system.

The benefits to greenkeepers would include the opportunity to move within the European greenkeeping community with certificates which are respected and understood by employers.

It is hoped that all the Golf Unions and Federations will support this initiative and with the Greenkeeping Associations, BIGGA and FEGGA already fully supporting the advisory group's work there is a great opportunity through education and training to unite even more closely the greenkeeping profession.

The R&A, the European Golf Association and the PGA European Tour are being kept fully informed of the advisory group's work as their support and endorsement for this initiative will be vital to its implementation.

Updates on this project will be posted on the GTC, BIGGA and FEGGA websites as work progresses.

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