One greenkeeper's journey to the other side of the world

15 March 2021 Feature Article
Cameron spent time working at Royal Bled in Slovenia

 

Cameron Campbell is a second‑generation greenkeeper, with his father Andy a former chairman of BIGGA. In this feature Cameron looks at how he’s taken that experience to the other side of the world and is now encouraging other ambitious greenkeepers to do the same.

Growing up in a golfing industry family, it is not surprising that my career has always been in golf.

My father has always been involved in the golf industry across several different disciplines and during his career we moved from Cheshire to St Andrews, on to Ireland and then back to St Andrews.

Coincidentally, my mother works for The R&A, so I was always destined for a career in golf!

I started off down the competitive playing route and achieved a level that allowed me to play international age group events in Europe and South Africa.

This was a fantastic experience, but as it became evident I was not going to make it as a career player I decided to explore other avenues in golf.

That led me to studying golf management at Scottish Rural University College. I was fortunate enough to secure an R&A Scholarship, which opened up a whole new range of opportunities, events and connections.

One of those led to me moving to Slovenia, where I worked at Royal Bled Golf Club. During my five months there I was working and living in a totally new country, continuing my studies and learning a lot.

During this time I also received my Continuing Professional Development award through BIGGA. CPD is something I have tried to keep active within as I feel it is really important to always be learning.

Returning home through Europe was another fantastic experience and by the time I got back to St Andrews in winter, I realised I had the travel bug,

During the winter Cameron worked in his home town of St Andrews

 

While waiting for another opportunity to come up, I started doing some volunteer work at The Castle Course in St Andrews, which then led to the superintendent offering me a position for the summer. I had a great summer at home but I knew I didn’t want to do another winter in St Andrews, so I thought about travelling to South East Asia. But after speaking to my parents, they convinced me that wasn’t a great idea as it wasn’t going to help my career or earn me any money over the winter, so my dad suggested I go to Australia instead. This would allow me to not only fulfil my desire to travel, but would also allow me to continue my career and earn some money along the way.

I set about looking for roles in Australia and deciding where I wanted to live for the next six months as this was the time-frame I planned to be away for. After speaking to a few people, they mentioned to me that six months wasn’t long enough and that I would get out here and want to stay for good, which is what has happened.

I called Lee Strutt as he had helped me out in the past and I asked him if he knew of any seasonal roles out in Australia. He put me in touch with the assistant superintendent at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney and after having a chat with him I was offered a position.

I then had to organise my visa, flights, accommodation, bank account, tax file number and an Australian phone number. Coming out to Australia works slightly different to working in Europe as golf courses in Australia don’t often help with accommodation and all the logistics – in my experience anyway. I found this element the most challenging.

Cameron with his mum Claire and dad Andy

 

I arrived in Australia on 17 September and I was set to start work on 23 October but due to not being able to sort accommodation before arriving in Australia I had to stay in a hostel that was pretty far from the golf course. I ended up starting work a week later, which actually suited the golf course.

I was working at The Lakes, which is a private members club located 10 minutes south of Sydney’s Central Business District. It has held the Australian Open a number of times, the last being in 2018.

The golf course has Kikuyu fairways and Bent greens, which was good for me to get some experience with warm season grasses.

It was a challenging year for all golf courses in Australia and I experienced events that I would never have experienced in the UK.

My first week was busy, with it being the last week of renovations, so I was put into the scarifying team. I was hand scarifying tees, which was tough in 30‑degree heat. I was surprised at the heat considering it wasn’t even summer yet!

The first week in December came and I started to get a taste for how greenkeeping is in Australia in summer. With the bushfires starting and Australia going through one of the toughest droughts it has had in years, water restrictions were very tight. I was » working long hours, hand watering and trying to keep the greens alive. We completely stopped watering everything apart from greens.

Cameron has since worked at courses in Australia

 

At the Lakes we didn’t have a borehole so our water came down from Centennial Park, which is located around 3km from the golf course, and the water from the park filled the lakes surrounding the golf course. At one point we had around nine days left of water before we would need to stop watering the greens and let the course pretty much dry out.

We had ash falling from the sky when the fires were at their worst and we were sent home early on a number of occasions.

Luckily in January we had one of the biggest downpours recorded. Over 300mm fell in just over three days, which was a relief not only for The Lakes but for the whole of Australia as it put out the fires that caused nightmares all summer.

After I finished at The Lakes I had six months left on my visa. The Austrlian visa system means you can only work with one employer for six months then have to move on to another. You have the option of working on a farm for 88 days to gain a second‑year visa, so that’s what I did.

I did my farm work in a place called Coffs Harbour, which is situated around six hours north of Sydney. I was blueberry picking, which as you can imagine wasn’t the most entertaining job I have ever had, but if it got me another year in this great country then it would all be worth it.

After completing my farm work I was going to go back to Sydney to work another summer on a golf course, but then I was offered the opportunity to work for a golf recruitment company specialising in recruiting greenkeepers from overseas and domestically in the Australian golf market. The reason I was excited about working for this company was that I have always been interested in business and combining that with golf was a career path I would like to take, only opportunities hadn’t come up. This role also kept me in contact with the greenkeeping industry that has given me so many opportunities.

The company is called EnvoyGolf » and we organise everything from when the candidate gets in touch with us, to being offered a position, to then arriving in Australia. This includes assistance with visas, flights, accommodation and phone plans. If I had arranged to work on a golf course through EnvoyGolf, the transition would have been much easier for me.

This year is slightly different, with us not being able to recruit any qualified people from overseas to work in Australia.

We have been placing backpackers and students as a back‑up plan as golf courses still need the extra pair of hands during the summer months. The candidates we have placed have turned out really well and are now considering greenkeeping as a long‑term career.

We have recently entered into discussions regarding partnerships with SRUC (Elmwood) and the African Turf Academy in South Africa to present Australia as an option for candidates to further their career. We have also launched a campaign to advertise for full‑time qualified greenkeepers, not only within Australia but worldwide. The response from golf clubs has been really positive about the launch of this campaign and hopefully we can help clubs change the way they recruit as we are approaching it from a different angle.

I can’t recommend working abroad enough. It’s great to not only work on different golf courses around the world but also to experience new lifestyles and meet new people.

Golf courses in different countries also operate completely differently, whether that be day‑to‑day tasks or the environment you are working in.

Continue the conversation: You can contact Cameron on Twitter using @cjcampbell12 or on LinkedIn at Cameron Campbell

Cameron was writing for Greenkeeper International and has won himself a £100 Continue to Learn voucher. He will also be entered into a draw to win £750 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida, when restrictions allow. If you'd like to get involved, email GI editor Karl Hansell on karl@bigga.co.uk

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Cameron Campbell

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