BTME 2019 report

Added on February 17th, 2019 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General, Greenkeeping, TV Coverage


FineGolf reports from the 2019 BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME), the greenkeepers’ trade show and notes that:

it is “running-golf“, not “links-golf”, that makes the connection to enjoyment for the majority of golfers.


FineGolf’s vision that the sport we all love can be made more appealing to both player and spectator alike is wrapped up with the bringing of like-minded golfers and greenkeepers together for golf’s successful future.

A slide from a BTME presentation. Click to enlarge

Unfortunately the golfers’ usual view of greenkeepers is one that sees gentlemen who get up early to just cut any old grass, while the greenkeepers’ view is one that if they do their hands-on job well, golfers will be appreciative and all will be well, but both these old fashioned views are out of date.

Norbert Lischka’s logo

How to foster greater mutual respect is a multi-faceted objective but at the end of the day the breakthrough will only happen with the help of television coverage that enhances the image of greenkeeping.

This is certainly a big mountain to climb but it is achievable within GB&I if ‘golf’ stops being defensive of a status quo that is driven by short-term vested interests and instead uses the fact that wider society wants to take a more conservationist route.

To make the conservationist connection ‘golf’ must instead start focusing on what brings most enjoyment to golfers. Stewardship of the environment is important but the core of enjoyment is playing on firm, perennial fine grasses.

The conservationism that wider society demands of golf is directly in line with the low inputs of water, fertiliser and pesticides that perennial fine grasses need, rather than the high inputs required by annual weed grasses (Poa annua).


Who is going to lead this approach? Are golfers too self-centred to do it? Perhaps, but if their playing instincts for enjoyment are stimulated they will inevitably follow. It has to be up to greenkeepers to raise their game, take the lead and communicate for an improved future.

Well, there is some good news! Perhaps the corner is being turned;

not only are there an increasing number of inland clubs wanting to return to having fast running firm conditions with lower inputs but following FineGolf‘s past criticisms, we can now report that the “Continue to learn” educational aspect of the annual greenkeepers’ trade show at Harrogate contained a number of seminars this year that actually talked about the advantages of fine grasses.

Of course, as we expected, the show continues to be dominated by sales reps selling the latest chemical products that will magically help better manage annual meadow weed grass (Poa annua) but there was one whole afternoon given over to a new educational initiative which was well organised and chaired by Dr Paul Miller of SRUC Elmwood Campus. Here, the audience in a packed room of experienced greenkeepers heard seven ‘experts’ talking about different aspects of maintaining fine grassed courses.

Ian McClements

The following spoke: Allan Patterson of Trump Turnberry (60% browntop bent, 35% Poa, 5% fescues in his Ailsa greens) giving details about his high budget in contrast to Stuart Imeson’s low budget at Dunstanburgh Castle; Richard Whyman of Burnham & Berrow on their fifteen-year journey to attain 80% fescue/browntop bent greens; course designer Martin Ebert on the new holes at Royal Portrush being readied for the 2019 Open Championship; Dr Mike Richardson of Arkansas University on soil surfactants and how they do not cure localised dry spot disease; Chris ‘Mr fescue’ Haskell on Coul Links and Dr Ian McClements with an update on the STRI’s ten year programme that proves with objective measurement of many hundreds of inland and seaside greens, how fine grassed greens out-perform Poa annua greens in smoothness, trueness and firmness all year round. It is good to see the STRI banging the drum again on this after being quiet for a couple of years and even publishing a cynical article mentioning a particular website that is keen on fine grasses!

It was all good stuff even if sadly clashing on the same afternoon with The R&A’s launch of ‘Golf course 2030’, an initiative heralded by Steve Isaac with the words “…The golf course is the sport’s foundation and without conditioning and playability that appeals to golfers, the game will not thrive”. A similar sentiment to FineGolf’s .

Nevertheless, and as usual FineGolf finds something to criticise, and that was the inappropriateness of calling the afternoon the “Links Forum”.

Using the ‘links’ word immediately banishes the powerful concept of “running-golf on perennial fine firm turf “ to an enjoyment for the golfer merely playing near the sea.

All greenkeepers should be thinking about how they can improve golfers’ enjoyment with conservationist greenkeeping and most of them do not work anywhere near the sea. The vast majority of golfers play at inland courses and the issue should be how to develop perennial fine grasses to provide ‘running-golf’ wherever the course is. Why only invite experts from seaside courses? Notts(Hollinwell)  with its fine grasses programme helping it become arguably the finest inland course in GB&I, for example could give excellent advice.

Television coverage that enhances the greenkeeper image will only be attained when greenkeepers relate to golfers as how they see it and that is through improving enjoyment.

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