Profile: Wenvoe Castle’s volunteers

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 5, 2023 11:39

Wenvoe Castle in Wales relied on its volunteers to keep going at the height of the pandemic – and they were so successful that a group of volunteers now plays a key and continuing role in improving the James Braid designed course and the Grade II 18th century listed clubhouse.

Volunteers are the bedrock of almost all golf clubs, but Wenvoe Castle has taken it to a new level of organisation – complete with risk assessments and hi-vis jackets.

Those are just part of the structure of a new club volunteers’ group, as an idea which was planted out of necessity through Covid has now grown into a core part of improving the club.

Committee chair of greens and volunteers Kevin Reaney has brought a business approach to organising the volunteers, with many club members getting behind the idea and helping out in all sorts of ways.

The increased level of organised volunteering started with club captain Lesley Sherrard, who was due to hand over her duties when Covid struck and brought a delay, and with head greenkeeper Lucy Sellick also a key part of the decision-making process.

It helped the James Braid designed course and the Grade II listed clubhouse, an 18th century mansion on the site of a former castle, look in sparkling condition as it came out of Covid.

“We had lockdown, so the club and course were not open,” said Lesley. “When it was possible to work on the course again, Lucy and I had a chat and she said there was so much to do.

“It was not possible for the ground staff to even contemplate doing some of that work because they were trying to catch up with all the things which should have been done during lockdown.

“I am a first-impressions person and it had all got sloppy and untidy through lack of manpower, so I asked if anyone would be willing to do work on the peripheral areas of the course.

“Kevin responded and asked what he could do. One of the things Lucy had highlighted was painting the tee signs so he took on the job of painting all the tee signs on the back nine whilst he was working himself.

“That was the seedling, we had a group weeding the bunkers and eventually it spread from there into quite a team.

“Two of the ladies got a painting team together and they did the railings round the clubhouse, the seats round the course, it was a massive painting job.

“And then Phil Walker did a stupendous job with the courtyard doors for the greenkeeper and trolley room which were hanging on by threads, he is a very good DIY man and took on those jobs on his own.

“There were so many. We had to get the right equipment, I asked for a pink hi-vis jacket and helmet, but also glasses, gloves, whatever we needed.” Kevin was happy to donate and provide everything we needed to keep safe.

Work completed by volunteers at the club includes clearing ponds, cutting down trees, painting, reconstruction of facilities such as bunkers and tees, mowing, weeding, gardening, fixing toilet doors, painting the lounge and repairing the club benches.

The project was taken on by businessman Kevin, who added: “Away from the traditional greenkeeping there are always so many things that add to the experience of the facility.

“I run three companies with thousands of customers, so I thought that I could add something to the club from the point of view of keeping customers happy.

“I was elected to the committee and I was asked what I was interested in doing, so I suggested I take on the baton and create a proper ‘Wenvoe Castle Volunteers Group’ section.

“I will make sure everyone is safe, the correct risk assessments are put in place, method statements in place, the correct PPE at that time, hi-vis clothing, so we had all the proper things in place.

“The Wenvoe Castle clubhouse is a Grade II listed building so there is an awful lot to do. We are trying to put ourselves in the top must-play parkland courses in Wales.

“We have done so many projects now, there are numerous regular volunteers and if it is to do with the course then the head greenkeeper will show us what to do, while things like painting come under the house section.

“This year we have had a really big push on presentation, trying to increase the membership numbers and retaining the members we have got, one example is the gardening and planting group overseen by Gary Davies and his helpers, who have transformed the patio and surrounding areas, the patio area has stunning views of the course and the flower beds are a picture, it has to be one of the best places to relax and watch golf in the country.

“It is a success story, but there is always more to do. For instance, this year we are putting in place a winter route to play the course with 18 new winter tees which will be built by green staff and volunteers.

“We have tried to make it structured, and I wanted to give recognition to the people who have given so much to the golf club. Without naming everyone, on behalf of the committee and members we thank you all, a number of the committee including the captain, vice-captain, and president are also volunteers, which shows commitment from everyone across the whole club.”

While Lucy and the greens staff try to keep the course in top condition, Wenvoe Castle’s organised volunteers continue to make a big impression across Wenvoe Castle Golf Club, working as a team with staff and volunteers is the key to success and it is certainly proving to be the case.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 5, 2023 11:39
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