dudley Golf Club finalist: Greenkeeping project of the year

Just before the pandemic, Dudley was moments away from closing and relied upon donations from members to keep it afloat.

The club has since thrived under the stewardship of the three-strong greenkeeping team, just in time for Dudley Golf Club's 130th anniversary.

The Dudley team consists of:

  • Stewart Marshall, head greenkeeper
  • Tony Salt, deputy head greenkeeper
  • Darren Povey, greenkeeper

Previously, the course was only staffed by two people, neither of whom were qualified greenkeepers, while Stewart volunteered on weekends to help them.

The club told Stewart they would love to employ him, but couldn't afford to match the salary he was earning. However, the job and the potential of the club persuaded Stewart to join the staff and he agreed to start his greenkeeping qualifications.

In May 2022, Stewart switched careers and joined the club, which at that time only had around 150 members.

"OUR MACHINERY COST HUNDREDS OF POUNDS, NOT THE USUAL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS THAT OTHER CLUBS HAVE THE LUXURY OF."

The team set about maximising the tools they had at their disposal and moving the club forward in the best way possible, knowing that every new member or visitor would attract extra revenue that could be used to purchase equipment to make the course better still.

Stewart looked for easy wins that would make a visual difference. For example, pathways were muddy and off-putting. Stewart called a local tree surgeon and asked what they did with their clippings. If they didn't want to just take them to landfill, the greenkeeping team would take them all and place them over the mud to make better pathways at no cost to the club.

Bridges and drainage was becoming unsafe and rotten, so Stewart contacted a local timber yard and asked if they had any sleepers that were imperfect and so couldn't be used for landscaping. The club purchased these at cost price and used them to replace the old bridges.

The old bridge timbers didn't go to waste either and instead were used to create a border around the putting green, where flowers were planted to help with diversity.

The remaining sleepers were used to create new tee markers, with members and local businesses asked to sponsor each hole and help raise money for additional equipment for the course.

That raised £2,600, for which Stewart shopped around and purchased second hand backpack blowers, two strimmers and a set of sarel rollers to help improve the greens.

Stewart also runs charity skittles nights in the clubhouse, which create a good atmosphere for members and families. Any money raised goes into the equipment budget, funding things such as tines for the aerator.

Greens as they were previously...

...and the same green today.

A local school was having its astroturf pitch upgraded and Stewart contacted them to ask if the club could have the old turf. They agreed and this enabled the construction of temporary tee boxes for winter at zero cost.

Other innovative improvements around the course:

  • Working alongside Friends of Rowley Hills, the club has sought to become a wildlife corridor, connecting two nature reserves either side of the course.
  • A hodgehog sanctuary now re-homes rescued animals on the course.
  • Two complete spare holes are no longer used and nature has been allowed to reclaim these. This has improved the diversity of wildlife, with deer, merlin and other birds of prey sighted.
  • A local school has helped create bug hotels.
"WE ARE TRYING TO GET THE LOCAL COMMUNITY INVOLVED WITH US HERE AS WE HAVE A VERY LARGE CATCHMENT AREA AND I HOPE EDUCATING THE CHILDREN WILL PREVENT THEM FROM COMING ONTO THE COURSE IN AN EVENING AND CAUSING DAMAGE."

The extra revenue received over the past year has been used to purchased a greens mower, fairway mower and aerator, all of which has improved the course further.

The improvements are being noticed and Dudley hosted its first ever county match, a proud moment for the club.

Stewart and the team have sought to improve the course and visitor experience with very little money spent. They have done that by interacting with members, local businesses and some out-of-the-box thinking. They have also recycled and upcycled what resources they have on site.

"I HOPE YOU CAN GAUGE THE AMOUNT OF WORK AND EFFORT THAT HAS BEEN PUT IN BY A CLUB. WE MIGHT NOT BE THE MOST WELL-KNOWN COURSE IN THE COUNTRY (ALTHOUGH WE ARE AN OLD TOM MORRIS DESIGN), BUT I REALLY BELIEVE THE RESULTS WE HAVE ACHIEVED WITH ESSENTIALLY NOTHING IS TESTAMENT TO EVERYONE HERE.
"IF WE WERE TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THIS CATEGORY IT WOULD REALLY HIGHLIGHT THE PLIGHT OF MANY CLUBS STRUGGLING LIKE WE WERE AND WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED WITH THE WILL TO GET BETTER EVERY DAY."
Course presentation has improved significantly, with no small amount of innovative thinking

GOOD LUCK TO dudley GOLF CLUB, FINALISTS IN THE GREENKEEPING project of the year AWARD