The Groundsman

June 2013

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 23 the Groundsman June 2013 Of course Neil doesn't maintain 30 grass courts on his own. "I rely heavily on the team and especially Laurence, that's why the IOG Award is clear recognition for everyone here. We all share it." Committed to catch-up Neil says maintaining standards and meeting players' expectations is perhaps the biggest challenge at the club, alongside helping to keep the team involved and motivated. "We're playing 'catch up' after the dreadful winter we've had; the courts opened on May 1 and we reckon our schedule is about three weeks behind because of retarded growth. That said, the team is committed to getting everything up to standard (weather permitting) and we're always looking to make improvements – we constantly strive to take things to the next level. I enjoy these challenges. But I'm really lucky; I don't mind getting up early and sometimes working silly hours to arrive home completely shattered. But that's the job, and I love it." l The Hurlingham Club's groundsteam "We all share a vision of improving the playing surfaces" Qualifications help raise industry's professional image Hurlingham's sporting history In 1867, Frank Heathcote promoted pigeon shooting matches at Hurlingham and soon after formed The Hurlingham Club, originally for this purpose and as an agreeable country resort. Pigeon shooting at the club ended in 1906. Polo was brought to England in 1869 and the game was established at Hurlingham in 1874. The club then became, and remained until the Word War II, the headquarters of polo for the British Empire and was the scene of many major competitions. Tennis began in 1877 with a lawn racquet ground and the first All England (Wimbledon) tournament, and croquet was introduced around 1900. The end of polo at Hurlingham stimulated other activities. Tennis had flourished and the first of the annual ILTC (eve of Wimbledon) Receptions was held in 1946. The cricket field, formerly the pony exercise track, was opened in 1951. The Croquet Association had its headquarters at the club from 1959 to 2002 and topranking international competitions are regularly held on the lawns. The World Croquet Federation held its first World Association Croquet Championship tournament at the club in 1989. During the Word War II, 450 officers and men of the Army and Royal Air Force were quartered at Hurlingham, together with an antiaircraft battery and balloon barrage unit. The main polo ground was turned into allotments for growing vegetables. The estate withstood 27 bombs and a landmine, with serious damage to both ends of the clubhouse, including the destruction of the magnificent crystal dome that crowned the East Wing. However, with much-reduced activities and a liberal admissions policy, the club carried on in wartime London. After the war, the polo grounds were compulsorily purchased by the London County Council and became respectively a recreation ground – Hurlingham Park – which included a school and council flats. The club was left with the residue of the estate (about 42 acres) as it is today. Neil Harvey is adamant that groundscare qualifications are increasingly important in today's workplace. "They're expected nowadays," he says, "employers look for them and in turn they help present groundsmen and women in a much more professional light. "When I went to college, to study a greenkeeping and sports turf course, I was the only groundsman there; everyone else were trainee greenkeepers. That picture has changed over the past 10-15 years and it continues to improve, thanks to the attitude of employers and grounds managers in terms of employee training and development as well as to the efforts of organisations like the IOG. Not only does the IOG lead the way with a myriad of training courses but it has also done much in recent years to promote the image and standing of groundsmanship. "We are strong on training here; for example, one of our team, Chris Stevens, has just completed his IOG Apprenticeship. That said, I'm certain that a lot of youngsters still don't realise there is a career path within this industry." Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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