BTME 2022 rallied for golf club staff as it asked the industry to reinvest in greenkeepers by managing their working conditions and wellbeing.
Having had to postpone from a January slot due to covid, BTME 2022 returned in March and saw 2,577 unique visitors attend the trade show, which represents a drop of around 40% on 2020. Over 70% of the visitors to the show were in senior ‘decision making’ roles, such as course managers and head greenkeepers.
Although numbers were down, the event was enjoyed by those in attendance with many exhibitors reporting valuable business done, as echoed by Jimmy Sandison Regional Golf Sales Manager at Rainbird who was there to introduce CIRRUSPRO, Rain Bird’s new Central Control platform.
“Whilst the visitor numbers were perhaps lower than what we would usually expect for BTME the quality and value of your visits were high,” he said soon after the event.
A common topic of discussion in the halls, conferences and social interactions was the challenges currently facing the industry, as noted by BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton.
“When the pandemic hit, the industry came together to form a ‘wartime cabinet’ that supported the game through extremis,” he says. “With fewer high-profile crises facing the sport, the emergency footing has abated. However, there remain a number of serious challenges, such as the supply chain issues for machinery and equipment and the cost and availability of water, fuel and raw materials such as fertilisers and sands. The labour crisis is another major issue that we simply must address to keep the sport healthy.
“For many years the main focus of the game has been growing the number of people playing golf. The pandemic effectively gave us 2 million extra golfers in the UK and that has brought significant additional revenue into the game. It’s now time for clubs to focus on the importance of their workforce, without whom the sport would wither on the vine.
Reinvest in golf club staff
And now as the UK golfing industry prepares itself for another bumper summer, Jim issued a rallying cry at BTME for the game to reinvest in golf club staff who make the game possible.
“The success of this year’s Continue to Learn education programme at BTME has proved once again that BIGGA members continue to rise to the challenge that managing a golf course in the 21st Century brings. Today’s greenkeepers are better educated than ever before, overcoming the challenges they face each day to present stunning golf courses for their members to enjoy. Greenkeepers have held up their end of the bargain and now it is time for the golf industry to do the same,” he says.
Among key areas of concern for Jim and the BIGGA team are the conditions that greenkeepers are expected to work in. While some forward-thinking clubs now provided modern, clean and comfortable facilities for their greenkeeping teams, many still force their team to use outdated facilities that are no longer fit for purpose.
Other significant areas of concern are salaries, particularly for entry level staff and those making their way through the ranks. Additionally, the incredibly-high expectations placed upon greenkeepers to present golf courses despite the often limited resources made available to them, which can cause significant stress and mental health problems.
“Greenkeeping is a wonderful profession with many physical and mental health benefits and a wide range of career opportunities. It’s time for golf clubs to put their staff first, invest in their wellbeing and for a framework to be put in place that ensures every facility in the country treats their staff in a respectful and appropriate manner,” concludes Jim.