English and International Golf Greenkeepers Association


The formation of the English and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (EIGGA) came about through the dissatisfaction of a number of members of British Golf Greenkeepers Association (BGGA) with the running of their association. 

Their main concern was that the BGGA was not promoting enough education and training and the importance of professionalism. Instead they believed it was more or less a golfing society.

With the immediate past chairman of the BGGA, David Jones from Purdis Heath and past BGGA Board member Hugh MacGillivray from Worthing leading the way, a new association was formed. They were encouraged by well-known greenkeepers like Jack McMillan of Sunningdale, Bill Lawson of Heswall, David McIndoe of West Herts and others. 

After informal meetings held in the autumn of 1982 an official meeting was held in London in December 1982 and an agreement was reached to form the new association from January 1983.

Supporting this group was Michael Coffey, who published a magazine called Greenkeeping, which he had started in 1981 and which the Scottish and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (SIGGA) adopted as its official publication in July 1982. The EIGGA then adopted this magazine as its official publication in January 1983.

There was obviously a lot of hard feelings through the BGGA as many members and even whole sections decided to move to this new association. The EIGGA was accused of poaching members from BGGA and attending BGGA section meetings to entice people to join them. In an editorial by Michael Coffey and an open letter from David Jones, these accusations were refuted, stating that they had only attended meetings to which they had been invited. They also stated that they were not necessarily taking members away from BGGA as there was nothing to stop people being members of both associations.

It was an exciting period for some greenkeepers in England with the start of a new association, but it was a serious problem for the BGGA, which had been in existence for 70 years. Membership of the BGGA in England and Wales, according to the latest figures, was 1,378 working greenkeepers. It would have been a shame if the BGGA was to be replaced by the new association as, regardless of the feelings of the new generation of greenkeepers who felt the BGGA or perhaps the Executive Board were too firmly rooted in the past, a great number of people had put a lot of effort into starting the GGA and BGGA. They had worked through those 70 years to improve the standing of the greenkeeper in the game of golf. However, after years of fighting against authority it appears complacency had set in.

Hopefully BIGGA will never fall into this pattern and will be blessed with people with vision and foresight to keep things fresh.

The EIGGA came into being as from January 1983 and there was no hanging about with these guys. Danielle Jones, wife of David, was appointed interim administrator and plans were set in motion for an education conference and the first AGM, to be held in April. 

In the meantime, membership was offered and taken up, not just individually but also some sections of the BGGA held meetings and decided to move en bloc to the EIGGA. Jim Arthur noted in an article that “it was gratifying to see that in the applications for membership of EIGGA as many came from the North as the South and that many were not already members of any association”. In spite of these words there was a distinct feel of a north, south divide as while most of the people in the south favoured EIGGA, there was still a diehard core of BGGA supporters in the north.  

In April, EIGGA held its first education conference over a weekend at Brighton, where over 100 delegates attended.

The EIGGA also held its first AGM, at which Jack McMillan was elected president, Denis Ayling as vice president and David Jones, Hugh MacGillivray and Michael Coffee as trustees. Kevin Munt was elected as chairman. It was also decided that Dr Peter Hayes and Jim Arthur be elected honorary members in recognition for their support for greenkeepers in general.

Danielle Jones, now the general administrator, reported that the membership was increasing steadily and that the association was on a sound footing with over £3,000 of cash and stocks.

Membership subscriptions would be £12 for a full member, £9 for an apprentice member and £16 for a trade member.

On the Monday the inaugural EIGGA tournament was held at Worthing Golf Club and played over 36 holes.

And so, the new association was well and truly up and running with membership growing, new branches forming all over the country and in July the administrator gave a six months’ report stating that membership was over 500 and blazers and pullovers with the EIGGA logo were available, so the future was looking good. North West and South Wales branches had been formed, so there was movement other than in the South.

However, perhaps Michael Coffey was a bit over the top when he commented in an editorial that “more had been achieved by and for greenkeepers in six short months through EIGGA than in the previous 70 years”. As mentioned earlier, many good men had tried their best over the last 70 years to improve the lot of the greenkeeper, through much harder times, including two world wars, and without modern communications or transportation, now available to the men from EIGGA.

The first year of EIGGA ended with membership at almost 700. The North West branch, from a start with six greenkeepers in June, now totalled 80 in December. Branches existed in Surrey, Sussex, Kent, East Anglia, London, South Wales, North West and East of England.

However, an interesting development took place with a meeting at Scotsturf in Edinburgh in November between SIGGA and the EIGGA. Afterwards a press release was issued by SIGGA stating ‘the SIGGA is convening a meeting early in the New Year to which representatives of the EIGGA and BGGA have been invited. The purpose is to discuss matters of common interest and benefit to the greenkeeping profession and to explore the possibility of a British association. Each association would retain its own identity, but would speak with one voice on matters such as training and other important areas of concern.”

It may have been the formation of the EIGGA was the catalyst that was needed to bring all the associations together.

That meeting was held at Haggs Castle Golf Club in Glasgow on 25 January 1984, Burns Day. The timing was appropriate as to quote from one of Burns' most famous poems “that man to man the world o’er, shall brothers be for a’ that”. Could the greenkeepers be prepared to join forces to speak with one voice?

The meeting was held in an amicable fashion and was called to discuss matters of common interest between the associations. Delegations returned to report to their committees and the dialogue would continue for a more unified future.

In April the second AGM of EIGGA was held, at which Peter Wisbey of North Foreland Golf Club was elected chairman.

The general administrator reported that there were over 760 members and applications were still coming in. The association’s finances were in a healthy state and the subscriptions for the new year would be £18 for head greenkeepers, £12 for apprentices and £20 for trade. A comprehensive educational programme to course manager level was being prepared, to be ready for the new academic year.

A conference under the title Golf Course '84 was held in April and had included speakers from all aspects of golf courses. These included architects, constructors, irrigation experts and representatives of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), SIGGA and EIGGA. This had been a resounding success.

Later this year it was announced that the associations representing the golf course industry would hold a Golf Course '85 conference in April 1985, but that the BGGA had declined an invitation and that EIGGA were to hold their own conference at about the same time.

At the Institute of Groundsmanship’s (IOG) exhibition at Windsor, EIGGA had a caravan next to the Greenkeeper magazine stand and it was extremely busy. Also at Windsor was Eddie Park, representing his son Nick, who had written a series of articles for Golf Monthly to try and awaken the interest of golf club members in the work of the greenkeeper. Eddie presented Nick’s fee from these articles jointly to SIGGA and EIGGA to further greenkeeping education.

1984 had been another successful year for EIGGA. Although the chain of events and growth of the first year had been fast and furious but satisfying, the second year had been slower, but the association was maturing. A new branch in Berks, Bucks and Oxon had been formed to add to the list.

At the AGM in 1985 disappointment regarding the exceptionally poor attendance at the EIGGA conference held in March was aired. A proposal to raise subscriptions to £50 to fund a full-time administrator was ruled out as not appropriate at this time. Membership was now 847 and still growing. Jack MacMillan stood down as president, to be succeeded by Denis Ayling, with David Jones moving from trustee to vice president. Kevin Munt was appointed as trustee in David’s place and Bill Lawson was elected as chairman.

The 1985 Open Championship held at Royal St George’s and saw the EIGGA carry on from SIGGA at St Andrews in 1984, as hosts in the greenkeepers’ hospitality marquee. Board members greeted members, non-members and many guests through the week.

During the week at The Open, the PGA approached the EIGGA with proposals to form a new greenkeeping association, to be known as the Golf Greenkeepers Association and based at the Belfry. The board advised that discussions were taking place regarding this proposal and also noted that similar proposals have been made to SIGGA and the BGGA and a joint meeting was planned for November at the Belfry.

In his chairman’s message at the end of the year, Bill Lawson spoke of his joy at listening to younger members of EIGGA delivering papers of a high standard at the conference and also of his disappointment at the poor attendance. He commented on the success of the marquee at The Open, manned by board of management members, and how the visitor’s book looked like a who’s who of golf. He was delighted that greenkeeper training was moving forward and also that he, along with Peter Wisbey, now had a seat on the Greenkeeper Training Committee (GTC) representing EIGGA.

The association had been part of the English team playing in the fifth Ransomes International at St Andrews, with Kevin Munt and Terry Adamson joining Jimmy Richardson and Gordon Payne from the BGGA in the team. At the SIGGA conference, held in conjunction with the tournament, David Jones had represented EIGGA with a paper on heathland management. Finally, he reported that meetings had been held with the PGA about a possible joint organisation, but this development had been shelved for the time being. However, talks were still being held with representatives from the BGGA, SIGGA and EIGGA and also from The Royal & Ancient (R&A) and the English Golf Union (EGU) about a possible greenkeeping federation operating from a central office. All in all, he felt the EIGGA had had another successful year.

Into 1986 subscriptions this year would be £20 for full members and apprentices would remain at £12.

The 1986 EIGGA conference was held again at Warwick and was attended by over 100 delegates. Once again the standard of presentation of papers was complimented as being of a very high standard, especially those from some of the younger greenkeepers.

Dennis Ayling, president of EIGGA, congratulated everyone on the great success, saying that on the strength of what he had seen during the weekend, EIGGA could only go from strength to strength.

At the fourth AGM David Low of Hartsbourne Golf Club took over from Bill Lawson as chairman.

As the year progressed and talks continued between the three associations about amalgamation, the EIGGA was still looking to the future, just in case, and was planning a conference for 1987 and branches were still organising golf days and educational events. However, the end was in sight and in the 1986 November/December issue of the Greenkeeper, Danielle Jones, the general administrator for EIGGA over the last four years, confirmed that the EIGGA would be amalgamating with the other two associations to make one British association from 1 January 1987. Jones stated that she thought the right decision had been made and with one association there should be enormous potential for improvement and progress.

31 December 1986 saw the end of EIGGA and the beginning of a new era in greenkeeping. The future would be bright if the spirit that motivated EIGGA was carried into the new association. The EIGGA’s lifespan, from 1 January 1983 to 31 December 1986, had been “short but highly productive”, according to South Wales branch administrater Raymond Hunt. 

The EIGGA had provided the motivation English greenkeepers needed to follow their Scottish greenkeepers to take strides forward in education and training and to make the associations more professional. 



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