Daniel Lüttger vom GC St. Leon-Rot

GC St. Leon-Rot: Innovative against greenkeeper shortage

Labour shortage – in the greenkeeping sector, the topic has been a perennial issue for years. At the German St. Leon-Rot Golf Club, site of the Solheim Cup and several European Tour tournaments, Managing Director Eicko Schulz-Hanssen has solved the problem innovatively and turned the golf facility into a training facility itself in cooperation with the renowned Elmwood College from Scotland. The reason: In Germany, greenkeeper as a job is not offered as an apprenticeship; there are only advanced training modules for greenkeepers for other apprenticeships, such as gardeners or farmers.

High quality requires trained personnel

“We’ve been feeling this shortage of skilled workers for 10 to 15 years,” Schulz-Hanssen says, explaining his motivation to break new ground. “If you’ve reached a certain level as a facility and you want to maintain it, then we just need qualified greenkeepers with in-depth training.”

2017 introduced by the Head-Greenkeeper Craig Cameron, now Head-Greenkeeper Daniel Lüttger guides two to three trainees per year. Instructional materials for the SVO Level II Sport Turf Management course are provided by Elmwood College. The theoretical training is possible online. To solve the language barrier, the material is completely translated from English into German at the GC St. Leon-Rot. Complementing the instructional materials from Elmwood College is on-site training, whether it’s grass or machinery knowledge, maintenance practices or safety topics. Here, Lüttger, the workshop manager or the club’s safety officer take over the training.

The entire project is designed as a dual training program. Trainees work 30 hours a week on a paid basis at the St. Leon-Rot GC, with ten hours set aside as learning time. The complete training fees for the Elmwood College are paid by the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club as well as the costs for the instructors.

“These people have a great mindset”.

An investment for the business, no question, Schulz-Hanssen notes. But one that pays off. “These people are eager to learn, have a great mindset, so they’re a real asset even in training.” The St. Leon-Rot GC has now completed training nine greenkeepers in conjunction with Elmwood College, and six more are currently in their first or second year of the program. Five of the previously trained greenkeepers are still employed on site. “We are very satisfied with the takeover rate overall,” notes the managing director. Of course, every now and then a greenkeeper changes to another club or even leaves the profession. Basically, however, the issue of labour shortages at the St. Leon-Rot GC has calmed down considerably for the time being as a result of the initiative.

Incidentally, Elmwood College in Scotland responded very positively to the German club’s request in 2016. Schulz-Hanssen is pleased to note that the company is accustomed to providing training throughout Europe. Since 2016 also at the GC St. Leon-Rot.