From the green to the fairway, from hazards to bunkers, golf courses require specialized upkeep if they’re to remain fit for purpose. As such, most clubs have a dedicated greenkeeper, who plays an essential role in maintaining the course year-round. Marc Charrel, greenkeeper at Switzerland’s historic Golf Club Montreux, tells us more about golf course maintenance, as well as the issues it’s currently facing.
Hello Marc. Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your career?
I’m 54 years old, and I’ve worked in landscaping for the last 30 years. I initially trained as a landscape gardener, before heading to Montpellier to study at the world-famous Massane golf course and training school. I then spent some time abroad in England, where I obtained my greenkeeper’s diploma.
Why did you decide to become a greenkeeper?
I first became interested in golf when I was working as a ski instructor and mountain guide. I traded in my ice pick for a golf club one summer, and it came from there. I realised very quickly that I wanted to combine my day job and my passion of golf. As a landscape gardener, it was relatively easy for me to begin to specialize in golf course maintenance alongside my regular duties.
What are the main problems in golf course maintenance today?
Like dozens of other industries, we’re struggling to keep up with the impact of climate change. The consequences of global warming on the environment mean we have to constantly adapt the ways we take care of our golf courses. Heatwaves, flooding… we’re very much at the mercy of weather conditions.
For example, climate change has forced greenkeepers to look at the way we water and fertilise the grass on our greens and fairways, particularly in areas prone to drought or where water restrictions are enforced. Certain lawn diseases are also becoming more resistant to traditional methods of treatment. Finally, we’ve had to keep up with changing legislation relating to pesticide use, which can involve working with laboratories and industry specialists. It’s also worth noting that nowadays, golfers have increasingly high expectations when heading out onto the green. What’s more, they’re not always aware of the environmental issues at stake.
How will the industry evolve over the next few years?
We need to keep questioning current practice if we want the best for our golf clubs, particularly when it comes to maintaining institutions and heritage sites, such as Golf Club Montreux. The industry is becoming fraught with challenges: we have fewer means at our disposal when it comes to upkeep, but golfers still expect the very best when out on the course. It’s important that we stay on top of product development, particularly alternatives to traditional pesticides, as well as water management.
What about innovation?
Global warming is forcing the industry to look at new ways of innovating. Climate change legislation has led to many businesses offering new, greener products and equipment, such as new types of fertilizers and alternatives to pesticides. We have a great network of partners and service providers at Golf Club Montreux, which in turn allows us to do our job to the best of our ability.
What stood out during your visit to Paysalia’s 2017 exhibition?
The Wellgreen Day – a day of activities devoted to sports fields and golf courses – gave us the chance to visit the Groupama Stadium. This was a fascinating experience, as maintaining a golf course has several key things in common with maintaining a large stadium – not least the environmental impact! Upkeep on this scale, whether a football pitch, a rugby pitch, or a golf course, requires careful thought and planning from everyone concerned, so that the industry can evolve while keeping the environment in mind.
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This was our team’s third time visiting the Paysalia fair. The event is an important moment in our yearly calendar – we always come away having learned something new about the industry! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other landscaping professionals, particularly those concerned with upkeep and maintenance.
Environmental issues are continuing to impact golf course maintenance, presenting a host of new challenges for even the most well-seasoned greenkeeper. Interested in finding out more? Take a look at our expert advice on minimizing your golf course’s environmental footprint!
Our thanks to Marc Charrel.
Photo credit: Pexels / designpicspremium