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GOLF


I like to keep the


presentation of the course as high as possible, but the





conditions do not always allow us to deliver the perfect result


A switch to the Spurs training ground and main stadium as deputy head groundsman followed in 1999, but his stay proved short- lived and he left in 2000. “I wanted to return to golf,” he explains. “There’s more variety of work, different heights of cut across the course and differing areas to manage, creating more challenges throughout the year.”


“I’m perfectly happy here,” the 48-year-old confesses. “My key target is to maintain a course free of pesticides, fungicides and insecticides.” “It’s a challenge though”, he adds, “with the move to natural organic turf management, it will take several years to begin the process of weaning off chemical application. We want to find another way of controlling disease and pests, but it takes time to evolve. We did have to spray a fungicide on the course twice in 2017, but that was all we applied. Over the first few years, the biosystem stabilised and became more self-reliant, although we still apply organic materials to keep everything ticking over.” “It’s all about improving what you have rather than spraying chemical to tackle disease,” states Gary, summing up Chingford’s environmental stance. “The aim is for the course to fight disease naturally


with help from the biological products we apply.” Last summer’s scorching heat delivered its own problems as fungal disease took hold in the prolonged dry conditions. Gary and his team placed wetting agent down to help the soil retain as much moisture as possible. Gary, accompanied by his three-strong team, runs a tight ship at Chingford and soldier on with machinery and maintenance that many a greenkeeper would baulk at. “Epping Forest is a charity and we do have a tight budget to work to. The manual pop-up irrigation system was installed more than thirty years ago, however our machinery is kept up to date with the relevant machinery checks carried out.” he says.


Machinery maintenance is addressed in-


house, with the whole team chipping in. “We’re all learning grinding skills,” Gary says, “so that there’s always someone on hand to do it.”


But back to Gary’s career path. After leaving Spurs, he joined Crewshill GC in Enfield as an assistant, where he rose to deputy then head greenkeeper. Meanwhile, he was qualifying in Level 3 Sports Turf Management at Oaklands College, St Albans. After taking up the Chingford Golf Course head greenkeeper’s post in 2010, Gary continued qualifying,


completing his PA 1 and PA 2 spray certifications, as well as those for tractor driving, loading, trenching and mini-digger operation.


He leads a small team of two


greenkeepers including Paul Routledge who joined seven months ago, arriving from council-run Picketts Lock Golf Club in the Lee Valley. “His arboricultural skills are extremely useful,” Gary notes, “he is qualified to handle a chainsaw and can help cut back overhanging trees as well as using his Level 2 greenkeeping qualifications day to day.”


“When you are such a small team, you have to mix and match duties,” Gary stresses.


Another member of the Sports Operations


Team is apprentice Tim Stone, here since October 2017, a former Royal Marine with experience of maintaining sports pitches. Doesn’t Tim fall outside the usual age-range for an apprentice? “The CoLC is an equal opportunities employer,” Gary states. “Age is not a barrier to retraining for a new career and we select the best candidate for the job from applicants. Tim is very fit, as you’d expect from his naval background and has the stamina to put in the hours.” Emphasising the skills mix required of a tight-knit team, he’s on day release to Capel


20


PC April/May 2019


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