The Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations (FEGGA) recently held their annual conference in Portugal on the 21st to the 23rd of February 2023. Due to popular demand the participants once again converged at the Hotel Quinta da Marinha Resort in beautiful Cascais just outside of Lisbon.
A strong group of delegates from FEGGA’s 21 membership Countries of European greenkeeper associations came together with Patrons and industry partners to hear, share, and talk about some of the toughest challenges the European Golf Industry faces: post pandemic labour shortages and the proposed EU regulation on the use of pesticides.
The first morning kicked off with the now familiar speed dating networking session where greenkeeper association delegates and patrons networked in small sessions over a 2-hour session. This was a great way for everyone to get to know each other and mutually share information and general thoughts about industry trends and challenges.
It was now time to head down to Cascais Marina for lunch, and why travel by bus, when it can be done by bicycles, yes, all 70 delegates taking a fun bicycle ride around the neighborhood and coastline before lunch at a local seafood restaurant by the Cascais harbour. Although cycling is not an everyday mean of transport for most of the participants everyone remained safe and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Although good data exists in European golf on players participation coupled with the economic impact, little is known about the labour force and the impact golf has on the environment. FEGGA’s Chairman Joel Nunes of Portugal presented together with Professor Joaquim Contreiras of the University of Algarve on their result from a greenkeeper survey made in Portugal during 2022. Portugal is experiencing serious issues with labour shortages and one very clear conclusion was that the base salary for greenkeeper assistants was so low, that it simply didn’t made golf an attractive job. I think this is certainly not just a trend in Portugal, but many Countries can draw comparisons. What is evident though, is that data makes it much more real and much easier to communicate the message with real facts.
Following a day packed with networking and some really major challenges facing our industry, it was now time for the FEGGA members to come together for their AGM. With this, FEGGA are delighted to welcome three new Board Members, these being; Yavor Atanasov (Bulgaria), Haukur Jonsson (Iceland), and Duncan Bruce (Norway).
An early 8:30 start was made on the second day with the Education session led by Koert Donkers. Kelli Jerome was really helpful getting the schedule back on track. Kelli of GEO presented on Europe’s BMP´s. Her worries on the amount of attendees was unfounded, because at 8:30 the conference room was packed and ready to learn all about the GEO developments and how they promote and make visual Best Management Practices all around Europe.
Aquatrols “Fairway Foundation” presented a great insight into the opportunities that are available through this global initiative, followed by Rhett Evans of the GCSAA who provided an update of how the now global thank a Greenkeeper” day went in 2022 and how we will continue to improve it for the 2023 campaign.
Bianca Mignon Pronk and Pepe Jimeno Fernandez was next, presentating on their FEGGA Scholarship adventures and projects at Kristianstad Golf course in Sweden. In their introduction the session leader Koer Donkers reminded everybody how special he thought it was that FEGGA has been supporting students from all over Europe for over 20 more years now. He himself was a FEGGA student at the Ryder cup 2001 at the Belfry already for Bevan Tattersall. Bevan is now again inviting students over to his golf course in Sweden for the 2023 FEGGA programme. They gave an excellent presentation on their projects showed how much they have learned at Kristianstad and how they had grown as a person during this scholarship. A scholarship that resulted for Bianca a new job at Kristianstad. Pepe who showed us a really impressive CO2 meter programme which had developed during his scholarship is now working as a Head groundman at Malaga CF.
Maria Viking, Mathia Damberg and Par Forsman (Husqvarna AB) Presented about their latest developments on Robotics. Their presentation; Robotics and how they can enhance the future of Golf Course Management. Underlining that the world of golf is changing Erwan Lecocq Course Manager at Winston Golf Club, Germany presented in a very interesting and jaw dropping presentation on how he works with 40+ robots at his golf course Winston Golf. His presentation was called Robotics How they have benefitted my Golf Course Management Programme. After the break Martin Nilsson introduced Lara Arias. Lara is the Golf Course Superintendent and Agronomist at Marco Simone Golf course in Italy. In her presentation called The Development of Marco Simone into a Ryder Cup venue, she took the delegates through all the challenges they are facing in creating a top facility which can hold the Ryder Cup. Every single part of the golf facility gets renewed and improved to host the biggest golf team event in the world even the roads leading up to the golf course have been widened for all the spectators, trucks, media etc.
The final session of this year’s conference dealt with a very serious challenge facing the industry, the proposed EU regulation on a ban of the use of pesticides in 2024. Multiple speakers addressed this issue which first came to the attention of the whole industry last summer. Niels Dokkuma, normally with the Dutch Golf Federation, but now working and representing the European Golf Association on this case, Simon Elsworth from Syngenta, Rhett Evans from the GCSAA, Bárbara Oliveira from the Portuguese environmental Agency, Eugenio Rezola and Frank Schäfer representing the Spanish and German Greenkeepers Association respectively all gave their insights on how they perceive the regulation will affect the golf industry and what reasonable outcome could come out of the negotiations with the EU. The proposed ban of pesticides or something pretty close makes for a worry time for greenkeepers and the wider industry and the impact it could have. There is no doubt that more and better coordinated turfgrass research, a continued development of education of greenkeepers, serious data collection and better communication to golfers are all very much needed.
In concluding FEGGA would like to thank its Key Main sponsors John Deere, Husqvarna and Toro for their loyal Support, along with all its Member Associations, Patrons and Partners. Some 48 organisations were represented at the Conference, which really enabled serious discussions and debates from every aspect of the Turf industry.
Next FEGGA conference is scheduled for March 2024 in Madrid, Spain.