Master Greenkeeper 86: Richard Johnstone (2021)

3 December 2021 Feature Article

In December 2021, Richard Johnstone of Nairn Dunbar Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands became the 86th BIGGA member to achieve the Master Greenkeeper certification.

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Richard Johnstone MG is course manager at Nairn Dunbar Golf Links


In the summer of 2000 I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to join the greenkeeping team at Nairn Dunbar Golf Links, straight from school.

I joined a small team of greenkeepers who had accumulated over 100 years of greenkeeping experience between them. They're a team which I am thankful to as they have trained me and encouraged me to be the best I can be.  The early years were spent completing SVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Sportsturf, PA1, PA2 and PA6 spraying certificates as part of my apprenticeship through SRUC Elmwood college.

In 2009 I met my wife Jade, who used to spend her weekends working in the bar at the club while studying for a law degree in Aberdeen. We married in Cyprus in 2018 and we enjoy travelling to explore new countries, taking in their culture, traditions and trying the local foods. Although I don’t play much golf anymore, I really enjoy playing different courses with friends and somehow still hold a handicap of 1.  

In 2010 I was rewarded for all my hard work with a promotion to deputy course manager and spent six years in the role, before being interviewed for the course manager's position in early 2016. Believing in my ability and having invested a lot of money in my training in the previous 16 years, the club gave me the opportunity to help restore the links characteristics of the 135-acre site using sustainable management practises, while raising the profile of the club.

During this time I have been committed to continuing with further career development opportunities and have now completed a list of greenkeeping qualifications that includes Level 3 irrigation, first aid, health and safety, FTMI, CMAE MDP1 and most recently with the help of The R&A scholarship, the completion of both the HNC & HND in Golf Course Management. 

One of the highlights of my career was in 2018 when I was selected as a delegate for the BIGGA Delegation with Bernhard & Company to attend the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. These opportunities provided by BIGGA have helped me grow as a person and become more confident. They have also allowed me to meet a great group of friends who I keep in touch with most days and many other like-minded professionals from all over the world who have helped me become the person I am today.

Although I have spent over 20 years working at the same club, my determination to continually develop both my practical and technical skills have seen me travel the world to volunteer as part of the tournament support teams for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the USPGA Open at Bethpage Black and The Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.

Working at Nairn Dunbar has also allowed me to gain managerial experience of prestigious tournament setup through hosting The R&A Boys Amateur Championship, The R&A Seniors Amateur Championship, The R&A Senior Home Internationals, World One-Armed Championships, Scottish Boys, Scottish Ladies, PGA Northern Open & North of Scotland Amateur Stroke-Play Championships.

Learning never stops and I am always setting myself new challenges, one of which was to complete the BIGGA Master Greenkeeper Certificate. It had always been an ambition of mine to become a Master Greenkeeper and feel so proud to have achieved it at the first attempt. The whole process from the review of golf course operations to the final examinations was extremely rewarding for both myself and the team.

I am honoured to receive this prestigious award and become only the 86th Master Greenkeeper since its inception in 1990.

I look forward to doing what I can to give back to the industry and help others reach their full potential.

Congratulations Richard on being Master Greenkeeper number 86! More information about the Master Greenkeeper Certificate is available here.


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Karl Hansell
BIGGA | Head of Marketing and Communications

Karl has been head of communications for BIGGA since March 2016. His duties include editing the monthly Greenkeeper International magazine, in addition to other communications activities for the association.


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