Disaster can strike even with the most cautious and experienced of greenkeeping and grounds maintenance teams and their managers and over the years Noel MacKenzie has seen more than a few!

Expected Events - Noel MacKenzie has worked with many sites that place enormous demands on their grounds where as well as providing sports pitches they also have major events such as concerts, marquee events, barbeques, firework displays, car boot sales/ used for car parking, dog shows, funfairs, caravan rallies, etc.  These are what we refer to as “expected events”, they can be planned for in advance and mitigating measures put in place to maximise turf and soil recovery from damage.


When the party's over...

Unexpected Events – as a boy scout Noel MacKenzie was taught “Be Prepared” and while that is easier to apply to the pre-planned events the unexpected event brings up challenges that may not have been experienced or anticipated therefore it is very hard for a Grounds Manager or Course Manager/Head Greenkeeper to know what to do for the best if they have not experienced the challenge before, or not on the scale they are faced with.  Unexpected events can include:

  • Vandalism events e.g. car set on fire on a golf green, course driven over and ripped up, poisoned/contaminated soil,
  • Horse escape – horses galloping over turf can do a lot of damage
  • Chemical application mistakes – probably the most common widespread damage problem.
  • Unobserved Irrigation failures.
  • Mass movement events e.g. Landslip, sinkholes, etc
  • Flooding and the aftermath.
  • Unexpected helicopter or plane landings.
  • Water main or other services failure/bursts,

Some of these unexpected events are “internally created” home grown disasters and others are external.  Internal maintenance mistakes by the maintenance team are the toughest to swallow – it hurts pride and reputation, can be immensely upsetting and it takes a big personality to say “hey – I got it wrong” (especially when fearing for their employment and career!).

Unfortunately in most instances of disaster the maintenance teams have tried the best they know how to address the problem and that has often exacerbated the initial problem making it harder to deal with than the original issue.  This happens because there is a desire to make things right again and doing so “in house” takes responsibility for finding the solution and making good on the mistake – which is laudable.  However, the nature and scale of the problem is usually well beyond that which a greenkeeping team will encounter therefore the average Course Manager/Head Greenkeeper or Head Grounds Person/Manager seldom has the experience and knowledge set to solve the problems.  As a result the solution may not give the result anticipated and the problem then spirals even further downward, often with terrible consequences for people’s careers and employment as well as being damaging for the club/client involved…  Eventually, sometimes months later, a phone call comes through with a voice on the other end of the line explaining that there has been “a bit of an accident” before going on to explain “what they tried” before waving the white flag of defeat and saying “when can you come, is tomorrow possible??”.


Click to scroll images below to see before, during and after...

Solving the Problem – Proactive Turf First Aid and Recovery

Accidents can and will happen and according to Sod’s Law they will happen at the most inconvenient moment and often occur when we are stressed or distracted.  All mechanical systems can fail unexpectedly for a host of reasons, worn hoses, damaged irrigation lines, inexperienced operators or carelessness.  Laws such as the Health and Safety Act (1974) and all the other relevant legislation (RIDDOR and COSHH) will hopefully already be in action at the site which will help to minimise risk.  We stress we are not Health and Safety advisors and we will also fulfil our duty of care if we spot something during a visit. Nevertheless, things happen… So what to do when things go wrong? There are some key things to do or ask oneself:

  1. Stop!
  2. Do you understand what the problem is or what it has been caused by.
  3. Do you have experience of handling or dealing with this “disaster”.
  4. Check yourself - are you emotionally upset or distressed and, if so, recognise this could impact on your judgement.
  5. Ask yourself if you need help at any level? Emotional/mental, technical, physically completing remedial works, etc.
  6. Do you have a plan?
  7. Do you have a plan B if Plan A doesn’t work?
  8. Are there resources for the plans you have? What happens if results are not good enough?
  9. Does your employer or you have insurance support in the event of professional misadventure?
  10. Is there anyone who can help you and take the worry and responsibility for the solution off your shoulders and support your employer or club?

Whatever the answers to the above know that help is at hand and Noel MacKenzie brings is a wealth of experience dealing with accidents where the turf suffers or dies.  So what to do when there is a problem?

  1. We don’t attach blame to the problem solving process – it is counterproductive.
  2. We stress that staff should be taken care of when they have made a mistake – seriously, it is turf and it regrows, so it is not worth anyone suffering major depression or taking their life over.  We encourage counselling support in the worst cases.
  3. We assess the nature of the damage.
  4. We develop advice and solutions to address the problem.
  5. We address members and managers concerns, offer reassurance and crucially, manage expectations for restoration of surfaces.
  6. We will work to provide information for insurance claims.
  7. We try to support staff and clients in finding their way back, often improving their facilities in the process.

So if you have an accident or mishap and it has gone wrong badly then please, contact us, we are here to help and avoid a delay in restoring your golf course or sports facility.  Insurers like our input as it is specialist and gives them confidence they are not being taken advantage of.

Ideally do contact us before taking action on the problem event as soon as possible.

If you would like to discuss your individual requirements please contact Noel MacKenzie for further information.

Sports Turf Assessment, Planning, Maintenance and Management