Greenstaff battling to get the job done with ever tighter resources
Peter Byrne and his crew at Balbriggan, like golf course staff nationwide, are busier than ever beforeThe early birds haven’t left their nests in search of worms by the time Peter Byrne, the golf course superintendent, is on the job each day at Balbriggan Golf Club. In summer time, he is on the course for 5am; these days, there is a bit of a lie-in ’til 7am. He has a lot of duties to perform in the time that daylight affords him and his crew.
Byrne – who has been in greenkeeping for over 30 years, including positions at Citywest (where he was part of the grow-in team) and Howth Golf Club – is among an army of greenstaff at courses around the country who must get the job done with ever tighter resources.
In what he calls “the boom times”, a not so distant memory, Byrne was part of a team of seven greenkeepers – augmented by a further two or three temporary staff in the summer months – who tended Balbriggan. “That’s gone,” he says of those times, his crew reduced to five staff. And, yet, he’ll tell you he is “lucky” on a number of fronts: one, that the course continues to use their own greenstaff rather than bring in contractors; two, that they have a good fleet of machinery which was included as part of the development plan when the course was modernised in 2009.
There is a mantra which Byrne adopts, and it is that “the course is the product”. It is his job – and that of his team – to ensure it is in the best condition possible, even with tighter budgets. “Tight, but workable,” he observes of the budgetary constraints. “Our budgets were cut last year, you have to work within that. It’s a reality and you have to deal with it. What I try to do is prioritise the greens, the tees, to keep them good. Everything else falls into place.”
Byrne is not a man for taking short cuts. When you broach the possibility of clubs sharing machinery, he is adamant it won’t happen on his watch.
“I totally object to it myself. It doesn’t work. How do you bring machines between two clubs? If it is brought to your neighbouring club and somebody breaks it, who is responsible? We have good machines and good staff to maintain the machines. Why send good machines to a lad down the road who hasn’t a clue?
“We’re very lucky in the lads we have. Everyone’s responsible for everything, but you take specific responsibility for the machine you drive. Signing off, dipping oil, the lads are very good. I give them time to do it, but it pays off. Our machines are like new still. Even five-year-old machinery is new looking. The lads take pride in it. I looked into that sharing, even buying chemicals together. It doesn’t work. No two greenkeepers maintain a course the same. There are products lads might use that I wouldn’t allow in the gate.”