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 firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject title History of Greenkeepers' Associations.
A South Coast Section of the British Golf Greenkeepers' Association (BGGA) was formed, covering Dorset, Hampshire and West Sussex.
Arguments ensued as to where the national tournament should be held each year. It was eventually proposed that whichever section was asked to run the tournament should be given full authority to find a venue, but they were advised that a seaside course was preferable. This may have caused a problem for sections in the middle of the country!
Following a letter sent to the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) regarding greenkeepers being allowed free entry to PGA tournaments, the PGA secretary replied: “The PGA will be delighted to see greenkeeper members of the BGGA at their tournaments although they, as are PGA members, are not guaranteed entry at every event. However, your members should be welcome to 95% of the events.” I wonder if this still holds good today or was it rescinded at some later date?
The Superintendents Association of Ireland (SAI) intimated it would not run the Greenkeeper of the Year Award again, but would present a trophy to be played for at the Scottish tournament.
A trophy sent to Scottish Golf Greenkeepers' Association (SGGA) from the Golf Course Superintendents' Association of America (GCSAA) was being held at customs and would require £20 to clear it. Sections were to be asked to contribute to this sum.
A meeting was held with a trade union representative to explore the possibilities of joining a union, but it was decided not to pursue the matter.
Stan Morton who, along with Henry Longhurst, helped set up the matches against Oxford and Campbridge universities, retired after 55 years of greenkeeping.
Subscriptions this year were: head greenkeepers, £2; first assistant, £1.50; assistant, £1; greenkeeper/professional, £2; honorary, £2.50.
The Joint Council for Golf Greenkeeper Apprenticeships (JCGGA) let it be known that they were deeply disappointed that only 70 apprentices had been registered from 1,500 courses.
In June this year Willie Bradford – formerly head greenkeeper at Buchanan Castle Golf Club in Scotland and a former decretary and chairman of the SGGA, died. As chairman he had developed details of a scheme to encourage apprentices into greenkeeping in Scotland and it was from the basis of this scheme that the one administered by the JCGGA was based.
The first Ransomes gold watches presented to winners of section tournaments around the country started in 1971.
In an editorial in the BGGA magazine, F W Hawtree made serious comment on the problems facing golf and noted that more and more courses were being encouraged by the Golf Development Council, the Golf Foundation was doing its utmost to produce more golfers, the golf unions were really only interested in championships and international teams and it was only greenkeepers’ associations that were trying to do something about the recruitment of greenkeepers.
At the SGGA AGM in December a letter was read out from the International Greenkeepers Association (IGA), which was started in Europe by the well-known course architect Donald Harradine. The letter asked if the IGA could be affiliated to the SGGA. This was agreed on and if agreeable, the association’s name would be changed to the Scottish and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (SIGGA).
A golf match was held during the year against the secretaries’ association. This was the first match between the two associations and it is still played every year.
Worries about the financial position of SGGA led to suggestions that golf club members be asked to donated 5p per head or golf clubs be asked to donate £10 per club to help the association. Once again the association was struggling financially, but was not completely down and out.
In another article Hawtree pointed out that The R&A had only done one thing for greenkeepers in the past and that was the formation of the Board of Golf Research (BOGR) in 1929.
Further to these articles, Hawtree pointed out in April that there was a great need for training and research and that the golf industry’s investment in this amounted to 0.00065% of total investment in the sport. This was a shaming indictment of the failure of the golfing authorities and golf industry to look after what were their greatest assets – their golf courses and greenkeepers.
The wage scale was set at: head greenkeepers, £30-£34 plus accommodation; first assistants, £23-£26; assistants, £19-£22. It was also noted that there was still a regular call on the benevolent fund during the past year.
At the AGM a proposal was made by Mr Sargent that the title of greenkeeper should be changed to superintendent. On a vote, 23 were for the proposal and 24 were against, with the rest abstaining.
The IGA replied favourably to the SGGA’s suggestion and at the AGM in December it was agreed to change the name to the Scottish and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
Cecil George attended an international conference in Switzerland on behalf of SIGGA.
A letter sent to clubs by SIGGA asking for donations showed a return of £105 from 21 clubs. The usual story – 21 clubs out of many hundred, offering just £5 per club.
Another meeting was held between SIGGA, the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and Association of Golf Course Superintendents (AGCS) regarding wages and conditions.
At the SIGGA AGM in December the membership was listed as 97 in the East, 80 in the North and unknown in the West. It was decided to have a membership for the trade.
Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, membership of SGGA had fluctuated from year to year, but always around the 200 mark and the association appeared to be struggling to make any headway. At this time in the early ‘70s some younger members of the West Section were unhappy at the lack of progress. This is a regular complaint by members of any association, but these forward-thinking men stood up to be counted and went on committee in order to bring about progress. The changes they started to make were, I believe, just the beginning of a more fruitful period for SIGGA. More organisation was the first priority, then better communications with other organisations, colleges and the trade. Members were also encouraged to be more professional in their outlook and standard of dress were insisted upon at all events.
After many comments that the last wage scale was not enough, a new scale was announced in May. This was now as follows: head greenkeeper, £2,000 pa plus accommodation and four weeks’ holiday; first assistant, £1,500 pa plus three weeks’ holiday; assistants, £1,300 pa plus three weeks’ holiday.
Subscriptions to the association would be: head greenkeepers, £4; first assistants, £3; assistants, £2; greenkeeper/professionals, £4.
The membership was now 990, an increase of 100 over the previous year.
There was an attack on Vic Smith of Handsworth Golf Club, with details in the October edition of the journal.
The first British Greenkeepers’ Symposium was held in Ipswich in October in conjunction with the first Ransomes International Golf Tournament, which brought together teams from all four home countries plus Canada, Europe and the USA. At this time the Golf Course Superintendents' Association of America (GCSAA) presented the BGGA with a trophy in the shape of a golden hold cup and the Japanese association, though not present, sent a trophy in the style of a Japanese headdress, which is to this day located in the lobby of BIGGA House.
Featured in the November issue of the magazine was a copy of a letter sent by Jonathon Franks of Twyford Seeds to Golf Illustrated on the serious shortage of greenkeepers, suggesting a levy of 50p per head on all golfers would raise £250,000 per year to set up college courses. Another good and simple idea, but there was no follow up.
After 17 years as editor of the BGGA magazine, F W Hawtree gave notice of his resignation. This was a sad time for the association as since F G Hawtree started the association in 1912 there had been a Hawtree involved in some capacity. Mr D R B Hopkins, the publisher of the magazine, had agreed to take on the duties of editor.
In 1974 the Golf Development Council recognised there was a shortage of well-qualified greenkeepers and this was adversely affecting the game. In 1975 a standing conference for golf greenkeeping was formed, its aim to “achieve a fully-qualified greenkeepers service in the future, to standardise the training of greenkeepers and to establish a register of qualified greenkeepers, but this would only be possible with the full co-operation of all clubs.” It took them long enough to recognise this problem – the greenkeeper associations had been shouting about it for over 20 years!
C H Dix, the honorary secretory of the association, retired after 14 years. He would be succeeded by Walter Heeles who was the secretary of the Northern Section.
In August, greenkeepers at Grange Park Golf Club in St Helens went on strike because of the terrible conditions they had to work in. The club then sacked them, but unfortunately there was no follow up on this story to show us what happened in the end.
A public house opened at the entrance to Thorpe Wood Golf Club in Peterborough and named The Greenkeeper. Today it goes by the name Woodman.
April brought news of the death of BGGA president Carl Bretherton at 84 years of age. Bretherton was a top-class amateur golfer who had won the Irish Open in 1919 and represented England from 1922 to 1925. He was then non-playing captain of England from 1932 to 1934. He was an advisor to local authorities on their municipal courses, the vice president of the National Association of Public Golf Courses, president of Warwick County Union for 40 years and president of Handsworth Golf Club from 1936 to 1976. He played a part in the formation of the BOGR in 1929 and was on the board of the BOGR and Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) for the rest of his life. In short, he was a man devoted to golf and was one of those few individuals who realised and appreciated the role the greenkeeper played in golf. He was very much a hands-on president of the BGGA for most of his term as president, from 1955 and 1976 and attended most AGMs and tournaments while he still had his health.
The new president of the BGGA was Tom Scott, editor of the Golf Illustrated magazine.
Toro presented a trophy, to be played for at the national tournament, and it was decided that it should replace the News of the World trophy for the best scratch scores.
During this year the East Midland Section decided to withdraw from the BGGA. However, almost immediately a new section was formed as the East Anglian Section.
Another section was formed in Kent. Gradually more sections were being formed to take cognisance of their areas. In many cases this broke down the larger sections and how far members would have to travel, reducing costs. Most of these sections held regular monthly lecture evenings through the winter and two or three golf events during the spring, summer and autumn. Quite a few also held dinner dances around Christmas.
A meeting was held with the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA), but no details given.
The Sussex Section of the BGGA was formed.
During this year a proposal was put forward by Derek Gould and Ray Tempest of the Southern Section that the BGGA should have a permanent headquarters. This was to include an 18-hole golf course, training school and hostel, trial grounds and exhibition grounds. A site near Tunbridge Wells in Kent was suggested. It was decided that forms would be sent out to all members, with the proposals asking for their thoughts.
In 1976 Elmwood College formed a conference to provide a link between colleges and the industry. This was still not just golf greenkeeping as it included groundsmen representatives as well. In 1977 the standing conference was changed to become The Greenkeepers Training Committee (GTC). In his final remarks, the chairman of the standing conference stated: “It is clear that although there is a hard core of dedicated greenkeepers, the turnover of staff is very high. It also emerged that a very large number of clubs have shown little interest in the training of the greenkeeping staff.”
In January 1978 The GTC came into being and appointed as administrator and secretary Nick Bissett, who was born in Fife and educated at Madras College in St Andrews. He had worked at STRI for nine years and was now tutor on greenkeeping at Askham Bryan College in Yorkshire. The committee was composed of representatives from all the four home unions, the BGGA, SIGGA, Irish Golf Greenkeepers Association, the secretaries’ association and the Golf Development Council. Their first problem was trying to allow more greenkeeping input as they were still horticulturally-based. However, in Scotland a government decision that all courses would be run by Scotec and not City and Guilds meant SIGGA and The GTC had more say in the course content.
The February issue of the magazine included a letter from Derek Gould, thanking the 28 people who had bothered to reply to the suggestion of acquiring a headquarters, out of the 1,500 forms sent out. Members either did not think too much of the proposals or it was just the usual apathy. One reply was from a member who joined the association in 1913 and said a similar idea had been suggested in 1952.
The Northern Section invited two union representatives to speak to their members on the benefits of joining a union. The BGGA Executive stated that their feedback from members was that the majority had no wish to join a union.
Membership at the end of 1978 was 1,025.
In February the last issue of the BGGA magazine was published in its current form and title. From the March issue, the title was changed to Golf Greenkeeping and Course Maintenance. Even then it wasn’t smooth sailing as it changed publishers three times in three years before settling down.
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