• Celtic Manor Resort hosts prestigious awards as Rudding Park and The Wisley greenkeepers claim top prizes
A greenkeeper from Rudding Park Golf Club was celebrating for the second Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year competition in a row as Matthew Milligan secured the prestigious award at grand finals hosted at the Celtic Manor Resort.
Myerscough College student Matthew, 26, is First Assistant at Rudding Park, the same venue that Jason Norwood was employed at when he won the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award in 2019.
Joining Matthew in celebrating at the event was Rhian Barton, 22, of The Wisley Golf Club, who became the first woman to win the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Award since its inception in 2016.
This year the finals were hosted for the first time in the championship surroundings of the Celtic Manor Resort, host of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Director of Golf Courses and Estate Management Jim McKenzie MBE welcomed the finalists to the venue with a walk around the Twenty Ten course. Jim then spoke to the finalists about that experience and offered sage advice on how to develop their careers.
With the awards split into two separate categories once again, candidates for the Toro Young Student of the Year Award, who must be aged 21 and under when nominated, undertook an exam and then a hole walk with the awards judges, intended to test the finalists’ knowledge in a real world setting. The finalists in the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year main category also completed an exam but in addition were judged via a grass and seed identification challenge, by answering an essay question and by delivering an individual presentation about their careers so far.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards were introduced in 1989, with an additional ‘Young’ category introduced in 2016. The awards did not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the reintroduction in 2021 enabled David Cole to participate one final time ahead of his retirement as managing director of Reesink Turfcare in spring 2022.
David said: “We knew this year’s award was going to be special. Being back after last year’s lockdown absence with a fantastic calibre of finalists in the grand setting of Celtic Manor Resort, plus a course walk around the Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course and after-dinner speech, both by Jim McKenzie MBE, made it one to remember before we’d even conducted the finals.
“All the finalists showed how much promise there is and how much there is to celebrate in the next generation of greenkeepers. So, it is a huge achievement for the winners, Matt for the main award and Rhian for the young award, to have triumphed. I know both will make sure they maximise the opportunities presented by their educational, international prizes.
“However, the event was bittersweet for me as it is my last. I am leaving Reesink this spring, but to see two such worthwhile winners and especially to see Rhian, our first ever female young finalist let alone winner, makes it the perfect one to finish on.”
BIGGA Head of Learning and Development Sami Strutt said: “I’m delighted to be able to present these awards to Matthew and Rhian at the culmination of this year’s Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards. The competition began in March with a record-breaking number of nominations and concluded over the past two days with 12 outstanding finalists who all deserve to be applauded for their knowledge, passion and dedication to the greenkeeping profession.
“The Celtic Manor Resort provided a breathtaking venue for this year’s finals and we continue to be incredibly grateful to Toro and Reesink Turfcare for providing this career-defining opportunity for our most ambitious and talented student members.”
Winners of the main award receive a Toro Scholarship that includes a turf management study course at the University of Massachusetts, a trip to the Golf Industry Show and a visit to the Toro factory. Should coronavirus restrictions prevent this, an alternative prize of equal standing will be organised.
The Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year winner receives a two-week work placement at Vidauban Golf Club in France, plus a trip to Continue to Learn at BTME.
Prizes are also given to the winners’ endorsers and the runners-up in each category, with Craig Woodman of Broadstone Golf Club and Will Pallister of Cleckheaton & District Golf Club coming second in their respective categories. For Craig it was the second time he had finished as runner-up at the awards, having also done so in the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year category in 2017.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards will return for 2022, with nominations opening in March next year.
The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association was created in January 1987 due to an amalgamation of the British Golf Greenkeepers Association, The English and International Golf Greenkeepers Association and The Scottish and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
Today BIGGA has around 5,600 greenkeepers and turf professionals as members. BIGGA is dedicated to the continuing professional development of its members, and in serving their needs will strive through education and training for standards of excellence in golf course management throughout the greenkeeping profession.
For more about BIGGA, you can visit their website and follow them on Twitter.
• La Cala Resort Looks To The Future As Rejuventated Europa Course Reopens
With completely new greens and bunkers, the reopening of the spectacular Europa Course at La Cala Resort in southern Spain marks the completion of a final phase of golf course improvements at the renowned golfing destination. All 54 holes at La Cala have now been upgraded and improved for playability.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the last 18 months and its obvious challenges, La Cala has looked to the future and used the time advantageously to complete significant and impressive course improvements. The resort has finalised renovation works on the stunning Europa Course, as well as putting finishing touches to works on the beautiful Asia course. La Cala was delighted to announce Europa reopened for play on 6th September 2021.
The greens on the Europa course have been changed to Bermuda grass – the same process as was undertaken on the Asia course in 2019. La Cala was the first golf resort on the Costa del Sol to make the change by seeding rather than by sodding. The process on Europa was completed last August so the greens have had a full year to successfully mature and are now rolling beautifully.
One of the biggest benefits of this change of grass type is that it has made La Cala more environmentally sustainable by reducing the amount of water consumption, chemicals and fertilisers, as well as reducing the risk of grass diseases. Overall, it means better and more consistent putting surfaces all year-round.
In addition, new bunkering has been instated across the Europa Course this summer. All bunkers have been renovated or remodelled to be visually more appealing and the sand has been replaced to be consistent with that on the Asia and America courses. It’s of a far higher quality and much more pleasant and fair to play from. There have also been small design changes with some bunker sizes reduced and other unnecessary bunkers removed.
Not only do these alterations improve the aesthetics but there is also a positive environmental impact. The remodelled bunkers are more accessible for the raking machines and require less trimming. This means less machinery and fuel is required during maintenance.
“We are thrilled with the work that has been completed on the Europa Course and are excited to reopen to golfers,” says Director of La Cala Resort, Sean Corte-Real. “The last 18 months has, of course, been challenging for us as it has for so many, but we are delighted to have a positive story to tell. It has allowed us to complete a significant project and to offer a hugely enhanced golfing product. Every cloud has a silver lining.”
On top of the Europa changes, La Cala has also taken the opportunity to further improve playing surfaces on the Asia course. Refurbishments following Storm Filomena in January were completed, while rough and untidy grass areas have been replaced by wood chips and pine needles.
“It makes for a cleaner surface under the trees,” says Corte-Real. “It’s easier to find balls, but most importantly it gets rid of a lot of useless green areas that we now don´t have to mow and water. Imagine the water and fuel saved doing this! We are very conscious of sustainability at La Cala.”
The works to complete the renovations to Europa and to enhance Asia demonstrate the commitment La Cala has to continuously improve the experience for guests. This commitment was evidenced by the fact La Cala was recently ranked by Golf World as the best 4* resort in Spain, with the America and Europa layouts ranked in Spain’s top 30 courses.
Situated in the foothills of the beautiful Mijas Mountains with breath-taking views of the stunning Andalusian countryside, La Cala’s superb 54-hole resort offers an idyllic rural retreat just 20 minutes from Marbella and only 30 minutes from Malaga airport.
The three superb championship courses at La Cala - Campo America, Campo Asia and Campo Europa - each present unique challenges and slot seamlessly into a natural, undulating backdrop of trees and flowers, rich with birds and wildlife. Designed by famous golf course architect Cabell Robinson, each 18-hole layout has been created to ensure a truly exhilarating experience.
La Cala resort boasts accommodation of the highest standard, including a renovated 107-bedroom hotel, plus an on-site Real Estate project with a selection of newly built properties for sale. Residents can enjoy the luxurious spa and a selection of excellent restaurants and bars. There are also further leisure opportunities with a FIFA-standard football pitch, running circuit, gym, tennis and squash courts.
Nestled between the arresting beauty of the Sierra de Mijas Natural Park and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea, La Cala is a genuine haven of tranquillity. It’s the perfect base for exploring Andalusia and Spain’s fascinating cultural cities like Granada, Seville and Malaga.
For further information on La Cala Resort please visit www.lacala.com.
• Biggs future for Berkhamsted
Berkhamsted Golf Club, Hertfordshire, has appointed Joe Biggs as the first directly-employed Head Professional in its 130-year history.
In a double-first, it is also Biggs’s first job as a Head Pro. He joins Berkhamsted after seven years at the prestigious Roehampton Club where he was Head Assistant Professional.
Having arrived last month the 29 year old Derbyshire-born PGA Professional wasted no time in overseeing a major refurbishment of the club’s pro shop, and he has also introduced Trackman technology and Callaway Range balls for the club’s huge 350-yard grass driving range.
“I am thrilled to secure my first Head Professional job at one of England’s top 100 golf clubs,” said Biggs. “Berkhamsted is one of the true natural wonders of British golf, and I am thoroughly looking forward to helping to forge the future at a place which is so rich in history and heritage.
“I must also pay tribute to the members and staff at Roehampton Club, where I spent many happy years: I couldn’t have wished for a better place to be while I learnt my trade as a golf pro. As tends to happen in sport, I know I’ll meet the friends which I made there many times in the future, as Berkhamsted becomes the exciting new chapter in my life.”
Outside of golf, Biggs supports Manchester United while also remaining loyal to his roots by following Derby County.
Berkhamsted’s new-look pro shop now stocks Callaway, Titleist, Ping and TaylorMade golf equipment, plus Peter Millar, Galvin Green, Daily Sports, adidas, FootJoy, Skechers and G/Fore golf apparel and shoes, plus an enhanced range of Berkhamsted-branded accessories
Biggs will also be developing the club’s Ladies Academy, Junior Academy and various Senior Golf initiatives, as well as running a full lessons programme and acting as host for the club’s society and corporate bookings.
Berkhamsted‘s Club Manager, Howard Craft, explains why the club selected Joe as its new Head Professional: “Joe’s enthusiasm, drive and hunger stood out among the candidates,” he said. “He is exceptionally charismatic, and with his winning personality he has already charmed our members here! The early feedback has been fantastic.
“You can also see instantly that he is a very gifted coach, and takes great pride in the level of service he gives. We are delighted with him already.”
A scratch golfer by the age of 16, Joe Biggs reached Final Qualifying for The Open Championship in 2011 while still an amateur. He turned pro at age 19, and at Roehampton Club he carved a reputation as one of the capital city’s most popular and able young golf coaches.
“I owe a huge personal debt to James Whatley, Steve Astle and Aaron Holtom at the East Midlands Golf Academy, at Morley Hayes,” said Biggs. “They are the reason I am where I am now.
“They trained me from the age of 19, and suggested me for the Roehampton job when I was at the early stage of my career. I cannot thank them enough: they are simply the best in the business.”
The club’s popular previous long-standing Head Professional, John Clarke, whose tenure covered almost 30 years, continues to coach at Berkhamsted.
Berkhamsted Golf Club, which is rated among England’s top 100 golf courses, is laid out on common land in Hertfordshire’s largest expanse of natural gorse and heather, with over five miles of bridleways and pathways running throughout the golf course and its huge 560-acre estate, full of natural beauty.
Situated on a densely-wooded hilltop above the medieval market town of Berkhamsted, the golf club is situated north west of central London, close to the western boundary of Hertfordshire. Easily accessible from the A41, five miles west of Hemel Hempstead and just 15 minutes from M1 Junction 8 (St Albans), Berkhamsted’s unforgettable 18 holes are a magnet for golfing aficionados from across Great Britain, Ireland and Europe.
• 59club Golf Flag of Honour Marks Quality for Leading Customer Centric Properties
At a time when golf clubs might well cite the pandemic as mitigation for a drop in standards, it’s all the more creditable that so many venues across the UK, Ireland and Europe were recognised for their service quality with the annual award of 59club’s coveted ‘Golf Flag Destinations’.
Remarkably, at a virtual ceremony hosted by presenter and broadcaster Dan Walker, 13 clubs received the highest accolade, a Gold Flag – the benchmark of excellence – for standards in customer service.
Introducing the awards, Walker said: “59club’s industry benchmark of excellence, its Bronze, Silver and Gold Flags, is an annual tradition across the golf industry. They recognise commercial venues and member clubs that have achieved the required standard of customer service, as determined by 59club’s impartial mystery shopping audits, with additional recognition for providing the very finest offerings for golfers to enjoy.
“Employee qualifications, restaurant accolades, member communication, and environmental accreditation, are just some of the determining factors within the qualifying Golf Flag criteria.
“This year, we have witnessed innovation, diversity, and a determined attitude across 59club’s affiliate properties. We have seen scholars earn additional qualifications, dining experiences honoured by the finest associations, with facilities and courses positioned among some of the very best in the industry.
“Above all else, the level of engagement achieved with members and guests demonstrates a beacon of light to the future prosperity of the golf industry.”
Host, Walker then congratulated the winners of the awards before confirming the launch of a summit that will see clients from all 59club territories compete in the inaugural ‘World hospitality service excellence awards ceremony’ in 2022.
The 13 venues celebrating the ultimate Gold Flag in 2021 – and, presumably, harbouring hopes of success in next year’s new worldwide ceremony – were Celtic Manor Resort, Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Foxhills Club & Resort, Gleneagles, Gullane Golf Club, Rockliffe Hall, Stoke Park, The Belfry Hotel & Resort, and The Grove, in the UK; Mount Juliet Estate, in Ireland; Club de Golf Alcanada and Golf Son Muntaner, in Mallorca; and, from Portugal, Quinta do Lago.
The following venues were honoured with a Silver Flag designation; Burnham & Berrow GC, Farleigh GC, Frilford Heath GC, Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Le Golf National, The North Berwick GC, The Mere, and Woodhall Spa.
And finally, the properties celebrating Bronze Flag status were Harpenden GC, Kingswood GC, Ladybank GC, Long Ashton GC, Panmure GC, Porters Park GC, Royal Dornoch GC, and Slaley Hall.
The 59club industry awards signify the benchmark of excellence and can be seen proudly on display at some of the very best establishments around the world.
Starting with its mystery shopper experiences in UK golf clubs back in 2009, 59club has built a proud reputation and an enviable client list, and is no longer limited to golf clubs – or just the UK.
It remains headquartered in the UK, but now has several divisions across America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and multiple offices serving Europe. It now also has a diverse offering that has the brand firmly established in hotels, restaurants, leisure clubs and spas, in addition to its heartland of golf.
Each division is delivering market-leading performance analytics and resources to measure, train and support properties in their region, while also feeding worldwide sales and service performance data into a central database.
That vision, teamed with 59club’s expertise, is the winning formula that has been driving the hospitality industry to become more customer centric, and, ultimately, more profitable.
59club’s Golf Flag Awards Presentation is available to watch now at www.59clubuk.com