ON THE GREEN
WORDS Kim Newth PHOTO Sarah Rowlands
Taking care of Canterbury’s oldest golf course – Hagley Golf Club in North Hagley Park – is a big responsibility for one of the country’s youngest greenkeepers, but 23-year-old Troy Hale is already a seasoned hand when it comes to maintaining fairways and greens.
Blenheim-born Troy started learning the finer points of greenkeeping six years ago as an assistant on home turf at Marlborough’s Rarangi Golf Club, where he also took up golf clubs for the first time a decade ago.
“My uncle, Murray Hale, first got me into golf and I loved it so when a job came up at the club I thought, why not? School wasn’t for me. I spent a year being mentored and trained by Rarangi’s greenkeeper, Pip Looker, before moving to Christchurch in 2013 to do an apprenticeship in sports turf management at Clearwater.”
A sporty kid by inclination, Troy grew up playing rugby and cricket but golf was the game that really fired his enthusiasm. Before taking up his apprenticeship, he was a junior golf rep for Marlborough.
“It is just such a challenging game. Like other greenkeepers, I have a passion for the game itself along with the course I’m looking after; it’s a job you do because you love it.”
After his apprenticeship, Troy worked as a second-in-charge keeper at Bottle Lake Golf Club for 18 months before being appointed as Hagley Golf Club’s sole greenkeeper. Maintaining a 12-hole course with a heritage dating back to 1873 was part of the attraction of this current role for Troy, who also enjoys being involved with a small and friendly club.
“I couldn’t do it all on my own but I get a lot of volunteer help from the club’s members … it’s not like a modern course built to particular specifications – this would have been mown out of a paddock in the 1800s. You can’t change that but you can look at ways to improve the quality of the turf and greens.”
Since he started, the club has invested in new machinery and equipment to support Troy. The course is benefitting as a result, with everything restored to a well-maintained playable condition.
For Troy, another real pleasure of the course is its location in North Hagley Park.
“It’s a very lovely place, especially in summer. There’s always something going on around here and while we’re a bit separate from the Botanic Gardens, we work together with their staff and often help each other out.”
At this time of year, grass growth really starts taking off with rough areas needing to be mown twice-weekly and the rest of the course three times a week. Over summer, it takes 55 to 60 hours a week of mowing to keep the course in tip top shape, with volunteers helping to shoulder the workload.
“What I love is that reward at the end of the day when you turn back and see how good it all looks … the golf course really does become your baby.”
For Troy, the ultimate dream would be to work on one of the world’s top courses. For now, though, he’s proud to be keeping the greens of Hagley to a standard befitting a 145-year-old golfing legacy.