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Where the grass IS greener

Yorkshire golf clubs are working with Shipley College’s Apprenticeship Team to recruit and retain a motivated and knowledgeable greenkeeping workforce.

Open to anyone aged 16 and over, greenkeeper apprenticeships are attracting both keen horticulturalists and those with an interest in golf.

These training partnerships are helping to keep courses in peak condition as well as delivering Government approved golf greenkeeper qualifications that been written and developed by the Greenkeepers’ Training Committee (GTC).

Kyran Lilley, head greenkeeper at Horsforth Golf Club, would recommend taking on apprentices and praised the recruitment process. “Taking them onboard was really easy. First, we emailed Shipley College to see what courses were available and what the course entailed.

“We have used Shipley College before and it worked very well. The apprentices have improved our course in the year or so they have been with us. It has helped to have new skills and new ideas coming in which has built a better team,” he added.

Kyran rated the “good communication” with Shipley College. “When there has been a problem they have rung up and the college tutors have been good at keeping us in the loop which is important because we are a business and we need to know what’s going on with our staff and it has worked out well.”

Apprentice Andrew, who previously worked as a lithographer for 24 years before looking for a change of career said: “I enjoy being outdoors and I am a golfer as well, so it did tie in to me wanting to see ‘the other side of the fence’ sort of speak. I enjoy working and learning. I can bring back new things from college like the legislation we have to keep up with.”

Apprentice Josh, based at Otley Golf Club, is enjoying the whole experience and looking forward to learning how to operate bigger equipment like fairway and semi rough mowers. He added “I have always liked doing practical things and being outdoors and I would like it to lead to a job and hopefully go on to a Level 3 qualification.”

Will, also an apprentice at Otley, was drawn to the role from his interest in golf and his favourite part so far has been getting to know how everything works.

“It’s a great place to work. Just getting out there and trying new things and learning about the machinery and different plants and trees has been really good”, said Will. He also wants to develop his career in greenkeeping.

Head Greenkeeper Steve Heaton would recommend apprenticeships as a route to “getting extra pairs of hands”. He acknowledges that finding their way around the course can be one of the challenges that apprentices face, for example finding a particular green or hole.

The new 2-year apprenticeship standard which Shipley College offers covers maintaining a good quality playing surface, as well as environmental and ecological operations, bunker maintenance, laying turf, planting trees and shrubs plus developing wildlife habitats.

Apprentices also learn about the preparation of the golf course for play using specialist equipment to maintain and renovate turf surfaces, applying turf treatments and controlling weeds, fungal diseases, pests and turf disorders plus maintaining drainage and irrigation systems.

John Baker, Head of Horticulture at Shipley College recognises that the relationship between the college and the individual clubs is key. He added: “This new type of apprenticeship is heavily dependent upon a good working relationship between the head greenkeeper and the Shipley College team. Regular reviews will take place with all parties involved, the college, the club and the apprentice. Progress is reported and any gaps in training are discussed.

“The new End Point Assessment test will be critical to the success of the new standards. When the college and the head greenkeeper are in agreement that the apprentice is ready, the apprentice will be put forward to be assessed at the golf club by an independent City & Guilds assessor, who could be a head greenkeeper at another course. Both practical elements and the theory behind these will be tested.”

For further information contact the Business Development Team at Shipley College on 01274 327390 or email

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