“I have worked at Cowdray for 22 years, 20 of those as the Golf Course Manager. It has been a fantastic and rewarding job, and I take great pride in ensuring that the golf course is immaculately maintained. I love that Cowdray Park Golf Course is playable all year round due to its sandy soil.”
Jonathan Smith, Course Manager at Cowdray Park Golf Club
- How long have you worked at Cowdray and what were you doing prior to becoming the Course Manager?
I have been a greenkeeper all my life. After leaving school, I did my apprentice greenkeeper training while working at Bognor Regis Golf Club and after that I came to Cowdray. I started as Deputy Course Manager in 2000 and two years later I was promoted to Course Manager.
I have worked at Cowdray for 22 years and live in Midhurst. It has been a fantastic and rewarding job, and I take great pride in ensuring that the golf course is immaculately maintained. I love that the course is playable all year round due to its sandy soil.
2. Can you describe your role as Course Manager at Cowdray Park Golf Club?
My job is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the golf course. It is like having two different jobs as the summer and winter season is so different.
I am also in charge of resource management which includes ensuring we have enough seed ordered, fuel to power the machines and checking the machines are serviced.
I am a very hands-on course manager – there’s nothing that I would expect my team to do that I wouldn’t get stuck in doing too.
3. What does the summer season comprise of?
The summer season runs from about May to October with the focus being on grass cutting as well as fertiliser and irrigation management.
In the summer months there is constant mowing. With the first tee time at 7.30am, we can often be working by 5am or sometimes early to get everything ready for the golfing day ahead. Once the golf course is busy it’s much harder to do the maintenance.
There are multiple surfaces to cut including the tees, fairways, greens, approaches, and the rough grasses. Each surface has a different technique – the greens and the fairways are intensely managed, the rough grasses not so much.
4. And the winter season?
From October/ November to April we decommission the irrigation system. In the autumn and winter, we undertake various construction projects including new bunkers, tees and pathways around the golf course. And there is a lot of tree work, including clearing any debris from the course which definitely includes leaf blowing!
5. What are the challenges that you face?
Coping with the extreme weather is certainly my main challenge. Through climate change we now have much dryer summers and wetter winters.
This summer has been incredibly challenging with the scorching heat and temperatures reaching 40 degrees in July. Throughout August we have also been dealing with extreme heat. This summer has been one of the driest on record.
However, we do have a very comprehensive automatic irrigation system aligned with fantastic technology and we adjust our work schedule accordingly. On hot days the team start early and finish earlier, and I make sure they stay hydrated and have suntan lotion as they are working outside.
6. Can you describe the 18-hole Championship golf course at Cowdray?
The Cowdray Golf Course is 260 acres and is a downland style course set within the rolling hills of the South Downs. It has 18 holes, putting green, 5-hole academy and a driving range.
We are already recognised as one of the best courses in West Sussex, but we want to elevate our standing on a national level. We have exciting future development plans which we are in the process of finalising.
7. Can you also describe the team that you work with?
We have six full time greenkeepers – seven if you include me! We are very good at Cowdray at supporting those starting off in the workplace particularly through apprentice schemes.
8. Which hole is your favourite?
My favourite hole is definitely the 5th with views overlooking the North side of the Downs.
9. And do you have a favourite piece of machinery?
We have state-of-the art equipment at Cowdray with various machines for every surface. My favourite piece of equipment is the golf greens iron roller which smoothes the surface and increases the green speed.
10. Are you a keen golfer, and what do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a keen golfer – I have played since I was 12 years old and still play in my spare time. I have travelled all over the country and abroad to various golf courses and have a handicap of 8.
11. Where is your favourite place on the Estate?
A picnic at Benbow Pond.
12. Pub supper or cooking at home?
Cooking at home. I enjoy making a homemade curry.
13. Favourite place to go on holiday.
14. And finally, what can’t you live without?
My daughter, who is 7 years old.
Written by Matilda ReidBack to News