Why are the tees in the wrong place? Who said that can happen? Why do it this way? Why are you doing that? Are some of a multitude of questions that greenkeeping teams are bombarded with by golfers and by club management on a daily basis. STRI consultant, Gwynn Davies, investigates why communication is key and how help could be at hand with a relic from a bygone era.

Communication lets us down

Workplace communication is a broad topic and one that will be debated forever. Everyone thinks they have the magic bullet for making it work, but a lot of the time things don’t go to plan. One element you can be sure of is that verbal conversations can, and will, get lost in translation or partially forgotten. Crucially it’s the finer details, those vital pieces of information that underpin the task being carried out, that will fall between the cracks, and then that’s when all the questions start.

Therefore, how do we ensure that the message being communicated is the same each time? Where can golfers go to find the information about the club’s overall stance on matters about the course itself?

It is fair to say that no single individual will have all the answers, although this often is perceived to be the head greenkeeper. However, if there was a document, available to all, that both outlines and highlights the position the
club has taken on matters regarding the golf course in their entirety, then would not life be easier? It can be, because the questions may now have a bit more substance and the way they are presented should, in an ideal world, be based on the information gathered from within such a document.

Dust off the CPD

The Course Policy Document (CPD) is often regarded as a moth-eaten antique from a pre-digital era, because they were viewed by many as “The Rules of the Course”. However, as retro items are all the rage, the CPD is beginning to show its value in the modern day.

Too many times when the original CPD is produced from out of the depths of the filing cabinet, it has not been updated since its inception however many years ago. Originally set out as a guide for the committees to follow when discussing course maintenance, set-up, changes and logistical matters, the CPD has evolved into a very important document.

Nowadays in our increasingly litigious society, having a set of agreed standards that are followed and adhered to, makes sense. It means that anyone can read through it and understand what is being done on the course and most importantly – why! This is especially important when committees need to discuss and authorise project work that includes reconstruction work, tree issues and infrastructure changes amongst others.

It doesn’t have to take the form of huge 150-page document bound in twine, there are some excellent digital document apps or software that can take care of all the hard stuff and make it easier to update the CPD regularly. Clubs are having to operate in a very competitive market and to attract new members or visiting golfers, they need to offer the best quality product they can befitting their resource availability.

Showing that they are pro-active with their approach to the maintenance of the course and the needs of the marketplace puts them in a stronger position to achieve this. Forward thinking will benefit them on many levels. A CPD underpins this philosophy because during the document’s creation and/or update the club will have laid out a vision and path it wishes to follow, supported by how they plan to achieve it.

This approach to golf course maintenance will result in a more holistic management style that considers ALL environments and more importantly their relationships with each other. For example, a measured approach to tree removal or woodland thinning can reduce the impact that shade has on the playing surfaces. This leads to an increase in light levels, raising the capability of the turf to utilise the sunlight for optimal growth. The turf therefore becomes more resilient to wear and disease pressure and will therefore perform better, thereby pleasing golfers which improves the clubs’ financial prospects.

This could be thought of as a cascade of positivity and all because a document exists that outlines and explains actions and consequences in such a way to reduce or, better still, eliminate any grey areas. The CPD could also reduce subjective opinions creating a negative atmosphere or a barrage of questions to an individual who does not have all the answers. It must be noted that whilst a CPD is not a legal document, it does illustrate the path of
management a club will be taking into the future to achieve its objectives on the golf course.


Covering every nook and cranny of a CPD, sadly isn’t something that can be crammed into one article, especially as individual clubs will require different levels of information. For the time being the main objectives should include:

  • A statement to outline the history, current objectives, future vision and aspirations of the club
  • Supporting statements surrounding the maintenance of the main playing surfaces on the course and the reasons behind each action
  • All agronomic maintenance practices should be supported with necessary resource, financial, logistical and sustainability guidelines
  • The agronomic vision for all playing surfaces should be outlined in detail, for example: “Greens should be maintained at a height of cut no lower than 3.5mm through the summer months (May to September). Through the winter months (November to March) they should be maintained at a height no lower than 5.5mm. These are subject to adjustment at the discretion of the Head Greenkeeper, depending on the time of year and consideration will be made for extreme climatic conditions. Any adjustments required should be made in increments so as not to stress the turf unnecessarily”
  • Any developmental changes that may be required to the course should be consulted on by industry professionals in line with the club’s vision and heritage
  • Everything legislative – H&S, Welfare, PPE, Chemical, SUDS and Employment law
  • Infrastructure requirements present and future that need addressing should be mentioned and if necessary caveated as a point of discussion by a certain date together with the appropriate allocation of resources