Jim Arthur

We should all thank Jim Arthur for helping protect the character of ‘The Open’ courses against the pull of ‘Lush Target’ tendencies. Whereas the European Tour and Ryder Cup venues have succumbed, ‘The Open’ has gone on, with a brand based on ‘running-golf on firm turf ‘ and to be the biggest event in world golf.

Jim Arthur, finest courses

Jim Arthur

James Herbert Arthur (1920-2005), Britain’s leading golf course agronomist, advised on the maintenance of some 550 British golf courses during a long career; for 18 years he worked with the Royal & Ancient, helping to prepare the courses for both the Open and Amateur Championship events.

Trained as an agronomist, Arthur became interested in golf courses and the art of greenkeeping early in his career.  A traditionalist, he believed that links courses are the most challenging for the players and he deplored what he regarded as the cosmetic improvement of greens that resulted from the increasing exposure of golf on television – how a green played, not its spectacular emerald hue, was what interested him.

Thus, Arthur strove to retain the fine, bent fescue grass that is natural to links and heathland courses.  He argued against feeding with fertilisers and he discouraged heavy watering.  Instead, he prescribed regular aeration, scarification and top-dressing with 80/20 sand/fendress.

One of four sons of a chemistry teacher, he was born at Camberwell, South London, on October 15 1920.  After attending schools in London, he read Agriculture at Reading University.

jim arthur golf agronomist

Jim in uniform

The outbreak of the Second World War interrupted Arthur’s studies and he enlisted in the Army, emerging as a captain and an expert shot.  He spent most of his service training soldiers in Britain.  Towards the end of the war he was due to go to Burma but in training he leapt over a wall, fell badly and injured his ankle; as a result he was unable to go and the injury was to cause him trouble for the remainder of his life.  While stationed in Northumberland he had met Audrey Goddard and they married in 1944.

When peace came, Arthur completed his degree at Reading.  His early ambition was to be a farmer but his first job was as an advisory officer at the Bingley turf research station in Yorkshire.  He then moved to Bibby’s, the agricultural seed merchants, before setting up his own private landscaping business.  He was commissioned to carry out extensive work in the grounds of Chequers, the Prime Minister’s residence in Buckinghamshire.

jim arthur agronomist

Jim Arthur at Notts(Holinwell)

Arthur had always been interested in golf courses and from his days at Bingley had worked as a consultant agronomist at various clubs, among them Southerness, in Dumfriesshire.  His reputation grew quickly and in 1972 he was appointed by the R & A as course supervisor to the championship committee; in this role he was responsible for the condition of all courses on the championship roster.

While Arthur always worked closely with greenkeepers and course managers to ensure that courses reached peak condition at the right time, he remained a traditionalist who never modified his high standards throughout his long career.  Never afraid to air his strongly-held views, he could be a formidable opponent.

Greenkeepers in particular had cause to be grateful to him: he would fight their corners with course committees, demanding that they be given the appropriate equipment and resources.

Practical Greenkeeping by Jim Arthur

Practical Greenkeeping

In 1997 he published “Practical Greenkeeping“, still in print and regarded as a classic in its field and the bible of greenkeeping.  An entertaining writer, he also contributed regularly to “Golfing World” and “Greenkeeping International”.

He was survived by his wife and his son Richard who we thank for his help in putting aspects of this website together.

with thanks to The Daily Telegraph obituary column.

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