A successful secretary retires

Added on April 21st, 2020 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General, Greenkeepers, Greenkeeping, Hickories
The administration of golf clubs has changed drastically over the years and seldom these days do we see the Lt. Colonel secretary holding up the bar talking to members and visitors. The change is epitomised by the amount of technical advice and health & safety stuff contained in the excellent Golf Club Secretary Newsletter edited by the indomitable Michael Coffey.
Every now and again one comes across secretaries who still find some time for the front of house role, persuading members to accept the utmost importance of supporting their greenkeepers as they forge down the fine grasses route. Martyn Bonner MBE at Notts (Hollinwell) comes to mind.
Scott Ballentine is another, who has just retired from Royal Worlington & Newmarket GC after fourteen incredible years of success. He has guided that famous nine-holer Club from being a target-golf lush parkland course with a well-worn clubhouse, back to having some of the finest fescue/browntop bent greens anywhere and a rejuvenated and modernised clubhouse internals, all in its own inimitable style.
RW&NGC has enormous heritage, based predominantly on it having been home to the Cambridge Varsity golf team since the 1890s, all of this so well recorded by one of the finest golf club centenary books “The Sacred Nine“ by John Gillum.
Scott and the Green Committee appointed a young, inexperienced but enthusiastic Jonathan Kitchen as head greenkeeper and then appointed Gordon Irvine MG, as their greenkeeping consultant from whom Jonathan just sucked up like a sponge the openly offered advice as to how to turn the soft receptive annual meadow grass (Poa annua) greens back to fescue/bent perennial firm turf.
The whole course is now in good nick, especially the well cut aprons and run-offs with their consistent bounce that is so vital for the ‘running-game’.
Playing this March in a British Golf Collectors Society hickory match, one recognised that there is an extra hill to climb for those golfers who are used to one colour, lush, fertilised, annual weed grass, in getting their heads around the erratically coloured red and blue hues of the different perennial grasses to obtain their putting confidence. For me my confidence and enjoyment soars as the smoothness and trueness of these glorious grasses cut at 5mm and running at an ideal speed of around nine foot allows one to seek out and conquer the subtle borrows.
Firstly, the ladies changing area was extended and refurbished, then the clubhouse entrance hall, with its space around the walls for standing golf bags, and living room were opened up to the light, with an open fire and leather sofas next to the bar-hatch all giving an impetus to social mixing.
Today the cramped men’s changing rooms have been transformed into modern facilities with a wide open room and without light oak lockers!
Lastly but perhaps most significantly, the green staff have been given new accommodation that respects the importance of their profession in the eyes of the officials and members of the Club.
The character of RW&NGC has not been changed and much of this good result is down to the Club leadership, based on sound financial acumen over many years, coupled with well-informed, diligent  Committee’s, who I am sure join FineGolf in thanking Scott Ballentine for co-ordinating the upgrading and wishing him well in his retirement.
No report from here would be complete without mentioning the succulent home cooked food, with the gammon and the bread-and-butter pudding being my favourites; an attraction which will bring one back year after year.

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