“My name is Ben Evans and I am the Head Greenkeeper here at Shrigley Hall Hotel. What started out as a simple summer job for me working on the gardens, soon turned into a permanent position when a member of the course maintenance team left. Since then, I haven’t looked back!
A few years ago, I headed out to the US to gain experience and qualifications – the highlight being a role with the greens team at TPC Scottsdale during the Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour. To be involved in an event that regularly attracts over half a million fans during tournament week was something else.
A typical day for me here at Shrigley kicks off at 5.45am – nice and early! Starting off, I always check over the first green to make sure all is in order before I plan and start the jobs for the day. Then, it’s on to helping with whatever task may need doing. The course is always prepared and maintained following a daily, weekly and monthly cycle, but occasionally things crop up that throw a spanner in the works, for example, bad weather or issues with machinery. After lunch, at this time of year due, to reducing daylight hours, it’s usually a case of working through admin and planning. One of the greatest things about this job and Shrigley Hall in general, is that no two shifts are ever the same. There is always something different that needs attending to and it always varies from day to day.
The best of my job is definitely being able to work outdoors on the grounds, seeing the fruits of our labour as the seasons pass. The views from the estate, the sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife, the herd of deer…it’s a really special place. Undoubtedly, the worst part has to be the good old English weather, especially during a harsh winter, where up here at Shrigley, it can be particularly brutal! When the course is covered in snow, most of my time is spent either sat on a snow plough making sure the hotel is accessible, or on a gritter, to ensure it is safe!
If I had to pick one thing to choose from my achievements during my time here, I would have to say seeing the improvements myself and the team have made across all aspects of the course. The facility really has come on a huge amount over the past few years, feedback from both our supportive members and visiting parties is proof of this, and something of which we are obviously very proud. In addition, the development of an enthusiastic, hard-working team, who take real pride in all aspects of their work, is particularly pleasing for me. There is no doubt that pre-pandemic, participation levels in golf within the UK were on the slide. However, due to lockdown and people’s realisation as to how important fresh air, exercise and spending time with friends is, it has been great to see the sport enjoy a mini boom following re-opening. Golf has certainly benefitted.
Changes to greenkeeping in the future? Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant reduction in the chemicals available to control pests and disease, meaning an increase in these problems. This has, and will, make it very difficult to maintain turf quality especially throughout the winter months. A reduction in these pesticides, coupled with the need to maintain courses in a more environmentally aware way, will mean a less “manicured” golf course will become a more common sight. Areas that are out of play will be less intensively managed. However, on the plus side, this will increase the range of flora and fauna.
Plans for the winter months? It’s a time to take stock and plan for the following season. The playing characteristics of a golf course are hugely influenced by the hard work that took place during the previous winter, so as always, a lot is planned. Along with regular aeration of playing surfaces, irrigation to tees, lots of tree maintenance, plus clearing out, tidying up and improving the quality of our water hazards, will improve the aesthetics, but also, the biodiversity of these areas.
I have a great team with me. Hard working, enthusiastic and this includes my right-hand man Freddie. He’s a Boston Terrier, loves helping out on the grounds, watching and meeting the golfers and seems to be a great hit with everyone, the team here at the Hotel, our members and visitors”