Ask a Greenkeeper with Jim McKenzie MBE
Jim McKenzie MBE has over 40 years of experience in the greenkeeping industry. He is the Director of Golf Courses and Estate Management for The Celtic Manor Collection. Jim led a team of 110 greenkeepers, support staff, and volunteers at Celtic Manor during the 2010 Ryder Cup, ensuring play was able to finish after torrential rainfall caused hours of delays. In 2011 Jim was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for his tremendous efforts at 2010's unforgettable Ryder Cup and for his incredible dedication to the greenkeeping industry.
We asked Jim 5 questions to help inspire others to start a career within the greenkeeping industry.
Question 1: How long have you been greenkeeping?
‘’I have been greenkeeping since 1979.’’
- Director of Golf Courses and Estates Management – Celtic Manor Collection
- 1990 – 93 – Head Greenkeeper – Wentworth Club
- 1988 – 90 – Head Greenkeeper – Renfrew Golf Club
- 1985 – 88 – Head Greenkeeper, Keir Course, Cawder Golf Club
- 1979 – 85 – Apprentice Greenkeeper, Greenkeeper – Haggs Castle Golf Club, Glasgow.
Question 2: What made you want to become a Greenkeeper?
‘’I wanted to work in the forestry commission and unfortunately, my father died when I was only 16 – as the elder of my 2 brothers, I did not want to leave home at that point as working in forestry at that time would have required.
I saw a job advertised for an Apprentice Greenkeeper at Haggs Castle and as I played a bit of golf I applied and was successful.
I had no career ambitions to be a greenkeeper but fell into it by accident and have done nothing else since.’’
Question 3: What is the best part of your job?
‘’I have been involved in full golf courses construction multiple times as well as significant re modelling both of which I very much enjoy.
I have been responsible for course presentation for over 20 live televised golf events, including The 2010 Ryder Cup and many more before I became manager and that has played a major role in my career.
I enjoy the fact that no 2 days are the same - keeping the job fresh.
I get tremendous satisfaction from the number of ex-team members who have gone on to be very successful in the industry - managing their own facilities both home and abroad.’’
Question 4: Tell us about a defining moment in your career?
‘’The defining moment of my career was breaking my leg in a non-work accident back around 1982.
The club at that time had a policy of letting the most recently qualified apprentice go.
During my months off work recovering the other apprentice who had started after me completed his apprenticeship first and as a result was let go.
I was able to stay, complete my apprenticeship late and get to experience European Tour events at Haggs Castle in 1993 and 94 – and I have been involved in tournament golf to this day.
I often wonder where I would be if that car had not hit me!’’
Question 5: Do you have any advice for someone trying to become a Greenkeeper?
‘’The more of yourself you invest in your career the more you will generally get out of it.
Opportunities locally are often limited and thus be prepared to relocate as part of this investment.
Many successful people in all trades have had to do this.
Go abroad given the chance and learn a new language.’’