St. Andrews hosts Scotland’s first-ever First Green event

By |  July 8, 2024 0 Comments
(Photo: St. Andrews)

(Photo: St. Andrews)

St. Andrews Links recently hosted local primary school students as it became the first venue in Scotland to host a First Green field trip.

Held at the St. Andrews Links Golf Academy adjacent to the Old Course, the event brought 23 students from Canongate, a local St Andrews primary school, to the course for a day of interactive activities and practical learning. Students participated in three hands-on, outdoor learning stations that showcased a variety of skills that are utilized by professional greenkeepers each day.

Staff from across the Links introduced the pupils to irrigation, bunkering, wildlife conservation, soil management, greenkeeping tools and machinery, including the Stimpmeter used by greenkeepers to measure the speed of the greens. Students were then able to put their learnings to the test with a putting competition led by Rachel Knight, Golf Academy Operations manager at St. Andrews Links Trust.

The First Green initiative, run by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), aims to introduce young people to the career opportunities that are available in golf and showcase the skills required for these roles.

First Green was introduced in the U.S. in 1997 and was recently adopted by BIGGA. The UK’s inaugural event took place at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2023.

“We are delighted to have held Scotland’s first First Green event here at the Home of Golf. Greenkeeping is often an overlooked industry with many people lacking an understanding of what goes into looking after a golf course,” Gordon McKie, greenkeeping operations manager at St. Andrews Links Trust, said. “The First Green initiative allows us to engage with young people at primary school age who may go on to consider greenkeeping as a future career. Our first event was a great success, and we hope to host similar events annually at St. Andrews Links, or even more frequently if we can. We would encourage other schools and golf courses in Scotland to get involved and to start engaging with young people who may go on to become the next generation of greenkeepers.”

BIGGA designed a set of 13 lesson plans to guide greenkeepers on how to run STEM-based sessions for young people aged 9 to 14 years of age. The lesson plans highlight the work of greenkeepers and their important role in maintaining a golf course in good condition for golfers while also helping to protect the environment. Host greenkeeping staff are encouraged to utilize these lesson plans and will typically coordinate a two- or three-hour showcase of their greenkeeping skills.

“First Green is a flagship initiative that we are extremely proud of at BIGGA because it helps golf clubs connect with their communities in a really meaningful way,” Jenny Bledge, workforce project manager at BIGGA, said. “By using STEM principles, participants — like the pupils who attended the event at St. Andrews Links — get to have fun while learning practical skills outdoors in a real-world workplace setting. This not only raises awareness about golf courses and their role in the environment, but also puts a big emphasis on sustainability while helping to promote greenkeeping as a STEM career.”

Three UK courses have now hosted First Green events thus far: Royal Liverpool, the Bedfordshire and St. Andrews Links, with events planned at Clevedon, Dudley, Woburn and a return to Royal Liverpool.

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