An Interview with…
Daniel Miles, a greenkeeper
The average golf course is around 150 acres. About 74 acres of that is maintained turf, with the rest taken up by a mixture of water, bunkers, and club buildings. So, how do the professionals make sure this turf stays in top condition every day of the week? We spoke to Daniel Miles, greenkeeper at Ashford Kent Golf club, to find out more about his role.
1. From your Twitter it looks like there’s a lot of early mornings in your job, what are the typical working hours for a greenkeeper?
In the summer, we work from 6am – 2:30pm and in the winter, a little bit later from 7am – 3:30pm. On weekends, we can start even earlier to get out before the golfers.
2. What sort of daily tasks does your role entail, and which is your least favourite?
Not every day is the same as a greenkeeper. Normally I'm mowing surrounds, tees, greens, and the rough or rolling the greens. Then of course there’s raking the bunkers. I do get to do some course construction, as well as repairing irrigation or some machinery maintenance. I get to do such a variety of jobs that you never really know what you’re going to do for the day. My least favourite job (but I don't really mind it) is strimming the stream banks.
3. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of the job is being able to please everyone, from the pro golfer to the amateur. From pin positions or green speed to the amount of sand in the bunker, we have to find an average balance. What we strive for the club to be known for is true, quick greens.
4. What’s the most satisfying aspect of your role?
The most satisfying part of the role is when you look back and can admire your hard work – seeing the course all tidy, striped up, and perfectly untouched.
5. How is it working at Ashford Kent golf club? What’s your favourite part of the course?
Working at Ashford Kent golf club is a dream job! It's like no other job I've done. There is so much variety day-to-day that you never get bored. You're outside in the fresh air, enjoying life with a smile. My favourite part of the course has to be the 12th – it’s a lovely par four with an angulated fairway which is tree lined, leading to a raised green with big drop offs.
6. What sort of relationship do you have with Club Members, and how does that affect your role?
I have a good relationship with the members. I always get a wave or smile. They often want a chat to see what we are working on that week. Generally, it doesn't really effect what I do in my job but I try and stay out of the way if I know that a big group are playing down the front nine.
7. How do you work with other members of staff at Ashford to ensure the green is in top condition?
We all work as a team at Ashford on the many elements that help keep the greens up to scratch. We can all do the same jobs and use the same machines so we often mix up the roles just to keep a rotation of different tasks. For example, on the greens one will brush, then one will mow, then someone else rolls the greens.
It's not just these day-to-day jobs that you have to do on the greens either – we do a lot of work to maintain the health and quality of the greens, too. The greenkeeping/golf industry is always improving its techniques and adopting new technology, so we are always learning new ways of doing things better and more efficiently.
8. How did you become a greenkeeper and when? What sort of training and qualifications do you need?
I became a greenkeeper when my closest friend who works at Ashford asked me if I fancied a change in career. I was working as a sound/video technician at the time so it was a big change. I was just getting into golf and I love being outside, so it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I jumped at the chance and I'm so happy I did as I’ve now been a greenkeeper for seven brilliant years.
To qualify for the role, you need an NVQ level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Sports and Amenity Turf Maintenance and most courses also like you to have spraying qualifications, too. I went to college to obtain these while working at Ashwood.
9. How often do you get to play golf yourself? What do you love most about the game?
I'm lucky I get to play at least once a week on the weekend, with the odd mid-week game too. I love playing golf, all aspects of it. The clothing and the tech, the challenge of the courses and trying to lower my score. Sometimes just walking round the course, playing golf with my friends and family makes nothing else matter for those few hours.
10. What’s your favourite golfing memory?
My favourite golf memory has to be the round I played on my 30th birthday, at one of my favourite courses: Tudor Park Maidstone. I was playing with my dad and uncle and it was amazingly good fun, with lots of antics and great shots. I can't remember the score, just the fun we had and that's the most important part of the game, enjoying it. Another great memory was when I went to the British Masters at the Grove in 2016 and bumped into Lee Westwood in the hotel, which was cool.
11. What tips would you give for anyone looking into a career as a greenkeeper?
If you are looking to get into greenkeeping I would recommend looking at www.bigga.org.uk for information on events, news and qualifications. Jobs are advertised on the site too. You could also write to your local club with your C.V. and ask about any opportunities.
Be prepared to work hard in all weathers. It is a challenging job but a great one. You have to be able to work in a small team and be willing to learn a lot to do the job well. Having people skills will help and a love for golf is a great advantage.
Find out more about the role of a greenkeeper at the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association and keep up to date with Daniel’s work at Ashwood by following him on Twitter @Miles_gkeeper.