Industry leader: Jim Croxton

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 25, 2017 09:19 Updated

The chief executive of the British and International Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) talks exclusively to The Golf Business about the growth of his organisation

The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association turned 30 years old this year. We’re a relatively new kid on the block in the world of golfing bodies but greenkeeping has, of course, been around for as long as the game has. Prior to 1987 the greenkeeping industry was a little disparate and we have the R&A to thank for getting the various associations that existed at the time to come together and form one united body.

The intervening three decades has witnessed extraordinary development in the quality of golf course management across the UK due, in the main, to the huge improvements in greenkeeper education in that time.

Of course this hasn’t been the only development, as the machinery and products available to today’s greenkeepers have also improved immeasurably. Combined with the increase in education, this has had an exponential effect on course condition.

The third area of our industry to have increased dramatically, and arguably the most of all, is golfer expectation.

From the early days of ‘Augusta Syndrome’ to the modern day, when relatively low budget facilities are able to produce quality surfaces some of the time, golfer expectations have always seemed to outstrip what is realistic. Managing those expectations and attempting to meet them is one of the greatest challenges our industry faces, especially when modern society is so tuned into rating experiences, particularly unsatisfactory ones, on social media and sites like Tripadvisor.

There are two keys to this, just as in any business: having a clear and consistent vision for what the product should be; and then marketing that effectively. I shall leave the marketing to other sectors of the golf industry to discuss but the course management sector has a huge part to play in the production of the golfing product.

Critical to this is clear, open discussion at senior management level that identifies what product the customers expect or want, and the provision of suitable resources to achieve that goal. Factors to consider are difficulty, playability, firmness, trueness and speed of greens, presentation, environmental sensitivity and policies on things such as course closure.

The modern day greenkeeper can produce practically any level of condition given the appropriate resources, but all too often I talk to course managers who do not have clear direction from their employers. Instead they are asked to do the best with what they have and, inevitably, such lack of coherence leads to problems.

Too often the course manager is not considered to be a part of the senior management team, a situation particularly prevalent at private members’ clubs. This is despite the course manager being responsible for the club’s prime asset and the vast majority of its expenditure.

BIGGA’s education programme is now heavily focused on management, finance and communication in order to equip our members with the skills to excel in senior management roles. I hope golf clubs continue to involve these highly skilled and passionate individuals in the key decision making process.

To find out more about the work BIGGA provides, visit www.bigga.org.uk

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 25, 2017 09:19 Updated
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