Practical Greenkeeping, written by Jim Arthur, is the one book on turf management and greenkeeping every serious golf course architecture geek or greens committee member should read. The introductory comments describe the book as 'an invaluable guide for enthusiasts of traditional golf, especially those whose concern is the care, maintenance, management and long-term welfare of golf courses.'
Who is Jim Arthur?
Jim Arthur knew more about greenkeeping than anyone else. His career spanned six decades and advised more than 550 golf clubs in the UK and Europe. He was also the consulting agronomist to the Championship Committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. He was responsible for ensuring host venue for The Open was worthy of the honour and in the best possible condition.
When one looks at historic footage of the Open Championships from the 1970s to the 1990s it was Jim Arthur who was ensuring The Open would be played in the best possible condition. The goal was to produce firm and fast conditions where bents and fescues could flourish. Who wouldn't want more of that!
Jim Arthur was called 'invariably controversial, but infuriatingly nearly always right' by Sir Michael Bonallack. Jim Arthur was a straight shooter and that tone comes through in the writing. Straightforward and sometimes blunt, it is a joy to read the book and see the personality of the author come through.
After the Introduction, there are sixteen chapters followed by a Bibliography and a Recommended Reading List. Chapter 3, entitled the 'Basic Principles of Greenkeeping', lays the foundation for what is to come. Arthur argues that the intrinsic principles established by trial and error over decades provide the basis for methods today.
Contents & Tone
Chapter 4 discusses Soil. In a very down to earth manner, soil analysis, particle sphericity and shapes are explained and connections made to their direct impact on playing conditions. If you think it would be better to stab your eyes out with a divot repair tool than read about soil, I am with you... however, I can admit being pleasantly surprised at how interesting and easy to understand it all is! Fertilisers and Lime, Top Dressing, Aeration, Mowing, Irrigation all follow a similar pattern and are covered in subsequent chapters.
Chapter 10 through 12 cover Turf Grasses, Diseases and Controlling Pests. Chapters 13 to 16 discuss the important matters of Drainage, Golf Course Construction, Health and Safety and Conservation. It was quite revealing that although I'd consider myself to be more architecturally inclined, theses chapters were less appealing than the previous ones on greenkeeping!
Practical Greenkeeping by Jim Arthur explains the tries and tested methods of greenkeeping. Of course, technology has moved on and best practice has been updated. By and large, the insight is still current and it pulls back the overhead door of the greenkeepers shed! If you've ever wondered why you see slits and holes in the course, why course managers like to show you root samples and why they spread sand, you'll know after this. It should be standard issue for all green committee members along with the rest of the golf course architecture sacred texts.
Should You Buy It?
If you are into your turf science, you'll probably know of the book and it may already grace your shelf. If you're a keen golf course architecture geek its worth the price as it'll round out knowledge of greenkeeping and how it relates to architecture and design. What's more, you'll probably enjoy it!
Beware, there is nothing more dangerous than a little bit of knowledge. You'll feel clever after reading this book, but what you should take away is a newfound respect for your Course Manager.
I never met the man, but from Jim Arthur's writing, he is the type of man you would love to have a beer with. No doubt a man with definite views who called a spade a spade, he was a pillar of the game who left behind an astonishing legacy and with this book, his wisdom and insight.
"Ask a farmer what to do and go and do exactly the opposite."
"Golf is not a water sport."
"Nice and green is a contradiction in terms."
"If in doubt don’t water and even then, sparingly."
"The poorest clubs have the best courses."
"Golf is not played on colour but on true surfaces."