Meet the course manager: Overstone Park’s Lawrence Ryan

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 22, 2018 17:23 Updated

At the end of last year the Northants club was sold, and the new owner has pledged to invest considerably into what is already a major golf resort. Here, course manager Lawrence Ryan talks about forthcoming changes and why it’s beneficial to be a three handicap greenkeeper.

Set in 193 acres of Victorian countryside, the 18-hole Overstone Park Resort in Northamptonshire was opened in 1992 by Sharron Davies MBE. Within 20 years it was the host venue for the 2012 NGU Ladies and Gents County Championships, and the following year hosted the 2013 County Higgs Bowl, which it hosted again this year.

We caught up with its course manager, Lawrence Ryan, to find out how his team maintains the venue.

“I started greenkeeping at the age of 16 after starting as a bunker raker at weekends and school holidays at a course I learnt to play golf,” he said.

“After finishing school, I quickly learnt that working outdoors in an industry that combines physical and intellectual tests was what I wanted to do – and decided to get a good trade behind me.

“I was promptly sent to Moulton College to complete my NVQ2 and NVQ3 complete with spraying and chainsaw certificates to give me a good foundation of knowledge to develop as a greenkeeper.

“At the age of 20 I decided I wanted to learn at Moreton Morrell under Andy Turnbull, my club supported me in doing a foundation degree knowing the advantages in knowledge and experience I would gain. These were very long days as I would start at 6am and not finish college often until 8pm having work again the following day. Knowing the advantages and what good stead gaining this qualification would have, I passed with a distinction after a lot of hard work.

“I have been course manager at Overstone Park now for two years which was a fantastic opportunity to further my career and again grow as a greenkeeper.”

A new owner, Kirk Andrews, recently bought the club   and he, along with resort director, Neil Campbell, is keen to invest and improve the product. There are therefore plans for major investment towards the course, gym, swimming pool, hotel and restaurant.

“Since having a new owner and resort director, their direction and ambition for the business to drive the club forward is fantastic, they are very keen to invest in the right areas and drive the reputation and product of the course forward,” he explained.

On the course, Ryan and his team are going to be removing around six bunkers from the 40 in a bid to focus on the playability, drainage and consistency of the existing bunkers.

Trees, irrigation and fertilisers are other issues.

“We currently prune and crown raise trees as part of our winter schedule, something myself and deputy Craig were very keen to implement,” he said. “We have many trees with Tree Preservation Orders [TPOs], which we must go through council applications to do work on.

“For irrigation, this year we invested £15,000 in a new tank and pumps, increasing the efficiency and reliability which is so key when trying to manage moisture levels. We try to hand-water as much as possible the hot spots in a bid to keep the recommended levels for our USGA spec greens.

“We use Headland Amenity predominantly for all our fertilisers, wetting agents and fungicides, using a programme specifically for our needs.

“I have used them for several years and feel very confident in the service, products and results I get, and the in-depth analysis and support Andy Lane at Headland Amenity gives us.”

There’s also a piece of kit that Ryan finds particularly effective.

“Our SISIS Flexibrush is attached to our new John Deere tractor, which we tow behind to remove the dew / worm casts, stand the grass up and increase the after appearance of a cut. It has hydraulic floating arms which is perfect for moving around our course and is so easy to fit on and off. We use it once a week for different reasons depending on the time of year, the width makes its such an easy piece to use – and the time effectiveness of it. It is very easy to maintain and is very noticeable the difference the brush makes in the consistency of the fairways and their health and playability.”

Ryan also has a forward-thinking approach to education and training for him and his staff.

“We have a training budget at Overstone Park as investing in staff is very important,” he detailed. “We have apprentices as well as having one person doing their NVQ level 3. This is all done through Myerscough College by a former greenkeeper, Simon Dadge; he does regular work-based learning where I have the opportunity to get involved in the development.

“I think having a solid base of qualifications and working experience at private members’ clubs and municipal courses has stood me in good stead for career progression.

“Accompanied with my experience as a good golfer helps me communicate to members and to see the course through their eyes is a huge advantage, even communicating to them for instance helps improve their knowledge and understanding in a way that is not too technical.

“I also have a good team around me which is paramount to everything we do in making sure everything is involved in what we offer and develop going forward.”

As implied, Ryan has a handicap of three and feels that this benefits his role of being a greenkeeper.

“I play golf two or three times a week during the summer in scratch team matches, competitions and invitationals, this gives me a good benchmark to determine how we are performing against some of our local courses.

“This also gives me the chance to see our course as a member and to understand some of the criticism every greenkeeper, although not always just, receives, through their eyes.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 22, 2018 17:23 Updated
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