This document is intended to be a living history of greenkeepers' associations in the United Kingdom. If you have any information or photographs that you would like to add, email info@bigga.co.uk and use the subject title History of Greenkeepers' Associations.

 

1950-1959

 

1950

A proposal by Mr McGregor was again made to change the Scottish Golf Greenkeepers' Association’s (SGGA) name to a ‘superintendents’ association. It was defeated again but has never truly gone away in both England and Scotland. 

A decision was made that all members serving in His Majesty’s forces should have free membership during their service.

1951

A new section of the British Golf Greenkeepers' Association (BGGA) was formed in Nottingham.

A letter was received from the South African Professional Golfers Association, which was hoping to form a greenkeepers’ association and was asking for advice on formation rules and regulations. It was agreed that all assistance should be made available to them. 

By 1951 the membership of the SGGA was 218. 

1952

The death of a member made it clear the benevolent fund was still operating as it was agreed that the sum of £5 should be paid to the widow and a further payment to be sent if necessary. 

The old argument about the position of greenkeeper-professionals was still being tossed about and after taking advice from The R&A, the executive decided that they should be allowed full membership. However, progress in both the greenkeeping and professional sides of golf meant the gradual disappearance of the joint greenkeeper-professional role.

The SGGA treasurer reported there was only £4-12/6 in the funds and only that as the retiring treasurer had foregone his honorarium. 

1953

At the SGGA AGM in September there were not enough people present to make a quorum. It was also noted in this year that Mr Simpson, secretary of what was now the North and Midland Section, had died. 

1954

Only five years after being formed, the Northern Ireland Section was in trouble through a lack of interest. With no one willing to act as secretary, the national secretary was instructed to make further enquiries and help if possible.

A Northern Section member who had been dismissed as not being fit for work after receiving an eye injury during the course of his work was considering using the association’s solicitors to appeal. 

Greenkeepers were making a lot of noise about the poor wages and conditions all over Scotland and at a meeting in May a proposal was made that the SGGA should approach the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) regarding raising the status of greenkeepers. A meeting with the SGU took place in November, where the SGGA put forward three points that they wished the SGU to bring to the attention of golf clubs:

  1. A form of superannuation
  2. Wages of £7-10/- for first assistants and £7 for assistants
  3. A form of apprenticeship

The SGU replied at a later date saying it could not intervene between club and employee. This seemed to be the SGU’s attitude for many years.

It was then proposed that greenkeepers should join a union. This is another subject that has been broached on numerous occasions over the years, but greenkeepers seem to have an aversion to unions.

A note in the minutes that year stated the SGGA was indebted to the national press in putting forward the greenkeepers’ case for better wages and conditions. Reports from some greenkeepers seemed to suggest that some wages had improved, especially in the West.

During 1954 over 50 enquiries were received by the employment secretary of the SGGA for Scottish greenkeepers. These enquiries came from all over the world, as well as the UK. This kind of enquiry was repeated annually during the ‘50s and showed the high esteem that there was for Scottish greenkeepers. This never seemed to cut much ice with the golfing authorities in Scotland as SGGA were constantly battling to improve wages and conditions. Obviously, other countries appreciated the skills of Scottish greenkeepers far more than clubs in Scotland did.

1955

During the 1950s, wages and conditions for greenkeepers were very poor and the association tried to make representation to the various bodies in golf to improve this state of affairs with little result. This year the executive decided to write to every club with regards wages and conditions of employment. Included in this would be a request that a rate of £10 per person be included for protective clothing. It would be many years before most clubs included this kind of payment and greenkeepers just had to wear what they had. Old waterproof jackets and trousers discarded by members were one source of protection but they usually did not last long as they had been well worn by their previous owners.

At the AGM in August, F G Hawtree resigned as president due to doctor’s orders. Mr Carl Brethereton was installed as president and both F G Hawtree and his son F W Hawtree were both appointed vice presidents.

F G Hawtree died on 2 October 1955.

In 1955 the SGGA membership was 187.

One very interesting proposal made this year was made by Willie Bradford, the head greenkeeper at Buchanan Castle. He proposed that SGGA should press for 1% of all prize money from professional tournaments held in Scotland to go to the SGGA to assist with the education and training of greenkeepers. Just imagine if that idea had succeeded – how much would greenkeepers have benefitted from all the tournaments held in Scotland over the years? Well, it was worth a try Willie, but as we all know, the only people who have helped greenkeepers have been the greenkeepers themselves.

At the SGGA AGM this year only 15 people attended. 

1956

The secretary wrote to the English Golf Union (EGU) asking for Mr F W Hawtree to take the place of his lately deceased father as the BGGA representative.

Details of a pension scheme were considered by the Northern Section and the secretary was asked to meet with the insurance company regarding this scheme covering all members.

It was agreed that the secretary’s honorarium should rise from £125 up to £150 per annum.

A decision was made to raise funds for a Hawtree Memorial Fund to be used as a trust fund to send one or more greenkeepers to Bingley each year.

At a finance meeting it was agreed to restore the benevolent fund

The president suggested that there was too much money lying idle and that a great part of the balance should be invested. At a later meeting it was decided that £800 be invested from the general fund and £200 from the forthcoming Christmas draw should also be invested. The benevolent fund had been restored and £500 from this would be invested as well.

Alec Pringle, the recently retired secretary of the SGGA, donated the St Mungo Trophy for competition between sections. This is still played for today at the national tournament. 

A proposal was made that the SGGA should have a permanent secretary, but it was felt they were not strong enough yet. 

S McKinlay, a journalist in Glasgow who held the position of president of the SGGA for some years drafted a letter for the association to send to clubs appealing for funds.

Proposed wages by the SGGA at this time were: head greenkeeper and house, £12; head greenkeeper with no house, £14; first assistant, £10.10/-; assistants, £9.10/-.

1957

It was advised that F G Hawtree had left £100 to the association.

The North East Section had been registered as defunct, but was also noted that a golf tournament was held under the banner of BGGA North East Section so there is some confusion as to this. 

The honorary secretary intimated that he was giving one year’s notice of his resignation. However, at a later meeting he said he had reconsidered and would carry on with the proviso that “any complaints about his conduct of association affairs should be made to the president and chairman and not through the BGGA journal”.

An unusual perk for greenkeepers came for those attending the annual tournament in Dublin this year when the Gaumont Cinema offered free entry to BGGA members playing in the tournament. 

At the AGM it was announced that over £500 had been donated to the Hawtree Memorial Fund and that three members would be selected to attend the Bingley courses in the spring of 1958. It was also noted that some members were still receiving grants from the benevolent fund. 

Another meeting was held between the SGGA and the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) regarding wages and an apprenticeship scheme. At the October AGM great discontent was shown at the level of wages and the conditions greenkeepers were being asked to work under. It was noted how ineffective the SGU were in trying to assist.

1958

In January the SGGA tried a different tack at a meeting with the Association of Golf Club Secretaries (AGCS) to discuss wages, conditions, apprenticeship schemes and superannuation. Mr Dakers of the AGCS said he thought the superannuation idea would be possible if the large firms in the golf trade donated £4-5,000 to start off the fund, as they had done for the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA). Even though these companies, golf unions and secretaries’ associations made their living off the hard work done by greenkeepers, none of them were prepared to help. 

The secretaries replied at the meeting that the only thing they agreed with was the apprenticeship scheme, but they would come back later to discuss. Months later it was noted that there had been no word from them and they were clearly evading the issue.

In the BGGA magazine of February the average wage carried in adverts for head greenkeepers was £9 plus accommodation. 

In July the announcement was made of the death of Mr G A Philpot, the editor and publisher of the first BGGA magazine in 1936 and who had continued to be so until shortly before his role. A new editor was appointed but his tenure was short and F W Hawtree came to the rescue, taking over the reins as editor. 

The death of Mr Norman Hackett was also intimated this year. Hackett will be remembered for his interest in agronomy, especially regarding golf courses. In 1927 he had asked the GGA to help in setting up an advisory body, which was turned down and he went his own way. In 1929 he became the first secretary of the Board of Golf Research (BOGR), the predecessor to the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

The North West congratulated one of its members, Edwin Walsh, who was picked to play for England against Scotland in a youths international, before finishing fifth in the British Youths’ Championship. 

Tom Craddock, chairman of the Eire Section, added to his many honours by winning the Irish Championship when he beat the illustrious Joe Carr by one stroke.

The draw for the national tournament showed that a three-ball starting at 9am was due on the tee for its second round at 1pm. Eighteen holes and lunch within four hours – that’s how the game should be played. 

The main topic of discussion in most committee meetings was of the concern in the industry regarding the lack of people coming into the trade and the loss of many youngsters to other jobs. The reason was always poor wages and working conditions. There were many examples quoted of lads leaving the industry to go into better paid jobs.

During this period and into the 1960s, both BGGA and the SGGA were constantly trying to get golf unions and secretaries’ associations to advance the case for better wages and conditions at clubs, but were constantly rebuffed. 

Strangely enough, the most support for the greenkeepers’ associations came from the press, both in England Scotland. Golf writers who attended tournaments could see what was happening and articles, such as one written in the Nottingham Evening News by Bill Withers under the title ‘Unsung Heroes’ warned golf’s powers that be that unless they got their act together and treated greenkeepers as tradesmen of the highest quality, there was going to be an even more serious shortage of greenkeepers. 

Many head greenkeepers were reaching retirement and although they had been loyal and faithful servants to clubs, many for 40 or 50 years, the younger generation was not prepared to suffer the same conditions and poor wages. 

1959

An interesting article was published in the March issue of the journal, comparing the effect of different golf shoes on putting surfaces. The experiment was carried out in America and compared spiked, cleated and ripple sole shoes. “The result of these tests showed that there would appear to be no basis for discriminating against ripple sole shoes and every reason to hope spikes will grow no longer”. As a teenager at that time I can only remember players with spikes in this country.

An article by Stan Morton in the November issue of the magazine confirmed that matches were played in the 1930s between the Golf Greenkeepers' Association and both Oxford and Cambridge universities. Henry Longhurst has assisted in setting up these matches.

At the AGM, membership was confirmed as 506.

In the December issue of the magazine, an article about J J O’Gorman, head greenkeeper at the Glamorganshire Golf Club, mentioned the fact that he had shot holes-in-one in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – a feat quite possibly never to be repeated.

 

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