Noordwijkse Golf Club – Winging it!


Taking over the course manager’s role at Noordwijkse
Golf Club in Holland recently has been Richard Wing. In this
question and answer session, he charts his career journey thus far
and highlights some of the pitfalls and pleasures of working

Founded in 1913, Noordwijkse Golf Club in the town of the same
name in Holland, lies on the coast a few miles west of Amsterdam’s
Schipol Airport. It suffered from German occupation during the
second world war and moved to its present sixty hectare location in

In this question and answer session, new Course Manager Richard
Wing talks about his varied career to date and how he came to be
working at this bracing North Sea links venue.

Pitchcare: How did you get into the

Richard Wing: I have to blame my mum for getting me into the
industry. She was the Office Manager at Abbeydale Golf Club,
Sheffield (where it all began). I started with a summer job before
and after my university study to become an engineer. After the
second summer, I called an end to my engineering path and followed
my new passion, turf. I was extremely lucky to have stumbled across
such a wonderful industry and to find my ‘calling’ at a young age,
knowing that many people go through life never finding their true

What training and education did you

I completed a 3-year full-time BSc in Sportsturf Science &
Management at Myerscough College, in combination with other
industry training and qualifications. During my study, I was
selected to become part of the R&A Scholarship programme,
something that offers great benefits to help financially, but since
has offered constant education and experience opportunities. I urge
all student greenkeepers to pursue the scholarship and appreciate
what it stands for in the industry.

Mind you, my career has been one constant training programme
that has landed me in my current role. I am grateful to the
excellent mentors that I have worked under and with, Warwick
Manning, Dave Edmondson, Gordon Irvine and Richard Windows to name
a few of the important ones.

Was there one person who inspired you?

In the initial stages of my career, it was more the freedom of a
job working outside within sport and the opportunities to travel
that inspired me to pursue turf management. However, this changed
when I had the pleasure of working with Gordon Irvine. His passion
for traditional greenkeeping and managing surfaces to promote the
finer grasses completely changed my outlook on turf management,
from then on this has been a driving factor in my career. Although
I have not had the opportunity to work with Gordon since, we still
remain good friends and I have volunteered to work out at Askernish
Golf Club, one of his major projects (worth reading about).

Where did you work prior to your current position at

I worked at Abbeydale Golf Club, Sheffield during holidays and
any breaks in my study. It was a great experience for a young
greenkeeper working within a highly skilled and experienced team
that were all willing to share their knowledge in all elements of
course maintenance. I decided to work for one club, over short-term
placements at elite clubs. I felt I would learn a lot more in a
smaller team where I couldn’t hide. There were not only
opportunities but a requirement for me to perform a wide variety of
tasks and learn quickly.

After my degree, I looked into the Ohio State programme and
other opportunities, eventually deciding on a student summer job in
Belgium at Royal Ostend Golf Club; a great experience and my first
working with a team of different languages and skill levels. Within
a matter of weeks at the club, I was offered the role as Deputy
Head Greenkeeper, an opportunity I’m not sure would have happened
so fast if I hadn’t made the move abroad.

October 21st (my birthday) I was offered two jobs inside four
hours, the Head Greenkeeper role in Ostend or to become Assistant
Links Superintendent at The Island Golf Club, Dublin. As a lover of
the Irish people, their way of life and Guinness from previous
trips, there was no decision to be made. I packed up my car and
drove my life from Ostend to Dublin. It turned into a great move
for my personal life and also placed me working with Dave
Edmondson, who has been a great tutor to my development.

In 2016, I was offered a role as an agronomic consultant for
STRI, a role that, for years, had been my dream job and the
inspiration to my career and education choices. It was an
unbelievable experience, working at world renowned venues with some
of the leading faces of the agronomy and greenkeeping world… the
dream job, it appeared.

But, as I progressed into the role, the reality soon hit, many
hours sat behind a steering wheel, many nights away in hotels and
many days sat at a laptop in motorway service stations furiously
typing up reports. The job that I had held on a pedestal for years
was not how I pictured it. It started to badly affect my mental
well-being and have a large impact on my life. Eighteen months ago,
I took the decision to end my time with STRI and take a break from
the industry completely.

Earlier this year I returned, so to speak, with a short stint at
Leicester City Football Club, helping with the initial business
plans and setup for their new Sports Turf Academy, a project that
will have a tremendous positive impact on the industry.

Then Noordwijkse came up, almost twelve months after the initial
application process started (due to Covid-19). I thought to myself
how often will the chance to manage an elite links course arise. So
here we are, on my travels again on the Dutch coast about
thirty-five minutes from Amsterdam.

You have obviously moved around the UK and abroad on
several occasions but what is your overriding thoughts on the

I think it’s important for anyone looking at moving away for
work to understand that it can be extremely tough, but also
extremely rewarding. I don’t think I would be the same person I am
now had I not made those moves. I consider myself very fortunate to
have worked with some great people and made the best friends in
many different locations.

What were the reactions you got from friends and family
when you decided to move?

I’m sure that the people around me were nervous when I first
decided to move to Belgium, but I’m thankful that my friends and
family have always supported me in the moves I have made. Yes,
relationships change when you are no longer in the same place, but
you find new ways of staying in touch with people from afar.

Having spent many years away from your home, how does it
make you feel going home?

One thing everyone should know is that once you leave, the idea
of home is never really the same again. You’re now split across two
worlds or three/four in my case. There’s more than one place where
you understand how things work and there’s more than one place with
things to miss.

It’s also true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s
gone. When you move abroad and start settling into a new area, you
soon start to appreciate things at home that were part of normal
life at that time.

What is the main thing working in different countries
has taught you?

The biggest lesson has been to never forget the people you meet.
The people that are around you in both life and work are the most
important thing, no matter where you are.

We could all learn a lot more by experiencing the ways that
different cultures approach work. Even across the short span of
area that I have travelled, there are some huge differences. Each
of these have both positives and negatives, for me it’s about
pulling the positives from all of them.

Ultimately, you learn that we are all human, we all go about our
daily lives in much the same ways with meals, work and circles of
friends. Sure, there are cultural differences but, beneath it all,
we’re all human.

What is the hardest thing about living

Even though you can make it into one long, grand adventure,
living abroad is not a permanent vacation. You still have to do
those things you did at home, like work and having a social life,
except you’re in another country. It’s hard to truly travel solo
because it’s so easy to make friends on the road, but let me tell
you, it’s harder to move abroad solo; it can be lonely.

The major positive to all this is, you’ll learn how to cope
better with your emotions and let somethings go. I don’t believe
the idea of moving abroad to find yourself. You might just learn
more about yourself, faster. You’ll learn that you’re not the same
person to everyone you meet, and there are different sides of your
personality that emerge in different situations.

You’ll also learn how you personally cope with different
situations and, if you don’t like it, you’ll be able to work on
changing it. You don’t grow when you’re in your comfort zone and
moving abroad for me is one of the hardest tests.

Do you have any specific things that you

I think everyone has different triggers, but there are plenty
that are common amongst us all. It has been a learning curve and I
continue to learn about what triggers my emotions and how to accept
them and deal with them.

The first port of call is when an emotion such as loneliness
comes up, it is important to understand it and not hide away from
it. Realise the cause of the feeling and what you can do to help it
in the future. Generally, loneliness is from a lack of social
activities; we are social animals. I always look to sport to build
myself into a new area and this has been my way of dealing with the

There are plenty of things you can do to help make friends when
you move abroad, but it means finding the confidence to put
yourself out there. The easiest way to combat loneliness is to find
other expats, because outsiders like to stick together. Just don’t
let that be the only people you try and connect with. Having to put
myself out there has had a tremendous impact on my confidence in
work and general life.

Next, would be to learn to be the master of that feeling when it
arises, learn what makes it worse and what helps you. When I have
been through these emotions, I recognise my lifestyle has normally
shifted to unhealthy habits. I restrict alcohol, eat a healthy diet
and focus on exercise to keep everything else in a good shape,
making the mental state easier to deal with it.

What would you say are the major positives from being an
expat greenkeeper?

There’s so many, I’ve already spoken about the people you meet
and they are by far the highlight of working abroad. I now consider
several places home that I can return to whenever and feel part of
the community.

It’s a lot of fun… when I look at things that I have experienced
that would have never happened, had I not packed my bags aged
eighteen. I’ve partied in several European cities, attended many
leading sports events and eaten a whole array of different foods.
Everywhere I have lived, I now have the opportunity to experience
them totally as a tourist or as a local.

And, what about in the workplace; how do you find

Greenkeeping teams are similar the world over. People work hard,
they are committed to the job but also find time to get plenty of
enjoyment out of the day.

The language can be entertaining, non-more so than when I
started in Ireland, working with a guy from Drogheda. Yes, he spoke
English, but I’d say it took me a week to understand a word that
was said. The language barrier brings about some very entertaining
moments, certain words can be mis-translated quite easily with
several strange looks. One tip coming to The Netherlands, “Neuken
in de keuken” does not mean “How are you?”.

You’ve spoken about both good and bad parts of moving
abroad and looking after both your body and mind when you have
certain emotions, earlier you told us about leaving your role in
consultancy? How did that come about?

Looking back at that period in my career, brings up different
thoughts now to what I had eighteen months ago. I’m grateful that I
was given the opportunity to achieve a career goal much earlier
than expected. I’ve accepted that actually not everything works out
as planned and that’s okay.

Working in consultancy, and I’m sure the same can be said for
other technical roles within the industry, it’s certainly not for
everyone. Experiencing these roles from the inside has given me the
upmost respect for the individuals that work within the commercial
side of our industry.

Ultimately, the combination of an isolated job and living away
from homes (I consider both Sheffield and Dublin to be home now)
just wasn’t right for me. As the dynamic of the company and the
role changed, I recognised the effects on my life that the role was
having. I made a decision to walk away from my dream because it
wasn’t working for me and I’m happy with my decision.

I learnt a lot with STRI technically from my colleagues and
clients, and also a lot about myself. My dad always said to me “you
only regret what you don’t do because there are always positive
lessons to learn from doing things, even when it doesn’t work out”
and it is so true. I’m happy I experienced it and found it not be
the right path.

How did you come to the decision to walk away from STRI
and the industry, when you were in what you thought was a dream
job, with a mortgage to pay?

I have to be conscious that everybody reading this will be in
totally different situations in their lives. Yes, I had a mortgage
to pay, but my situation was helpful; I was single with no
dependants. People have said to me “that’s easy for you” but I
believe, by making the decision that was right for me, it has had a
positive impact on my relationships with the important people
around me.

I suppose, to some degree, you can be inspired to action or you
can get to such a desperate position you have to take action. So
that change was from one of a desperate position. I’m thankful to
the people that offered support to me through that time.

When we listen to our hearts, it tells us how we truly feel. By
finding my quiet space (mine happens to be with my trainers on
running), it allows us to clear the head and listen to the gut
instinct in the heart. It’s only when the head comes back in that
it will give us a hundred reason why not to do something. Follow
the heart.

What happened during the time of resigning from STRI to
now with you here in The Netherlands?

My change wasn’t made the moment I left the role, it was made
when I realised it wasn’t the right path. In my limited spare time,
I did education in different avenues, one being property. That way,
when I finished work, I had something to support myself, I was
invested in a property renovation. A change doesn’t start when you
make the action, it starts when you change your mindset.

My break had begun and well, I needed it. I spent a lot of time
evaluating my life, I leant on some of my learnings to guide the
process. I continued to read numerous mindset/psychology books,
something I’ve tried to do since I was younger, and pick out things
that were relevant to me.

One task I found beneficial was looking back at your younger
self and asking are you being true to what 10-year-old me wanted? I
was a child who loved playing team sports – cricket, football,
rounders – you name it, I probably tried it.

Also, my career highlight, working at the 2018 Open at
Carnoustie as part of the championship agronomy team, played a
vital role in my life evaluations. It really highlighted to me that
I am happiest when working as part of a team, something 10-year-old
me would be ecstatic about.

I focused my attention on education that would get me back to
within a team, that was both operational and project management.
Then things happened that were on my path, the opportunity to work
for Leicester City arose and, now I’m here, Noordwijske Golf Club,
excited for the next chapter in my life.

It must be a lot, moving to a new country, a new role and a new
language. How do you keep a clear mind?

It can be, but I try to implement everything I have spoken about
already. I find getting my trainers on and running is my place to
clear my mind. I come up with some of my best ideas and make the
clearest decisions when I run. I usually have to slow down for a
few minutes to take notes about my thoughts mid run, because they
are gone when I’m home and showered.

You seem very happy in your current role at Noordwijkse.
How is it settling in again, how is the language difference and are
you learning Dutch?

Yes, I am happy here in Noordwijkse. The team here have been
excellent, very welcoming, helpful and hard working. Likewise, the
membership and other staff have welcomed me with open arms (not
literally) and I am excited to see what we can do in the

When moving abroad, it’s not like what people say… you don’t
just “pick up” the language and you don’t just settle-in. I learnt
that from my time in Belgium. Yes, I’m trying to learn Dutch, but
it takes more than just hearing it. If you really want somewhere to
feel like home, you need to put in the effort to learn the
language. That means going out of your way to practice what you do
know (difficult at the moment), and actively try and learn

Same goes for settling in, you need to put effort in. Covid is
having a restriction on that at the moment but it won’t be forever,
and it just means I need to be creative in ways of getting to know

Is COVID-19 having a big impact over in The

In the current climate, everyone in our industry is going
through a tough period and my thoughts go out to everyone that is
suffering due to closures, cuts and furlough etc. We are lucky
that, since the end of the first lockdown, golf has been allowed
throughout with slight restrictions to 2-balls at times.

It has affected how the team here operates. Firstly, everyone
was split into shift patterns but thankfully this has now returned
to normal. We have three different bubbles with guys in two
canteens and my office. That way, if we have a positive test, the
whole team is not in isolation.

Did you ever feel undervalued or that the industry is

On a personal level, I’ve never felt undervalued or that the
turf industry is undervalued in the slightest. I think we are
valued to the output that we provide to our employers and
customers. I’m grateful to work in an industry full of good people
with very different characters.

How would you raise our profile as an

I think that an improvement the industry should make even more
proactively is the education of business and management. Turf
managers now need to be able to produce business cases and reports
to guide the decisions made by our employers, be that members of
committees or business owners. Once you can provide a detailed
rational to your proposals and suggestions, you can be happy with
whichever decision is made and not take it personally. You haven’t
offered your opinion, you have given a business case supported by

By improving this part of education, we may begin to raise our
profile amongst the competition of other industries.

What’s the biggest thing you miss about

The guys here will tell you, not Yorkshire Tea as there are 400
bags sat next to the kettle. Obviously, friends and family, but
outside of that it has to be the food. A full Sunday roast with
Yorkshire puddings, gravy and lashings of Henderson’s Relish (If
you know, you’ll know what I mean). It’s the first thing my nose is
attracted too when I’m ever back in Sheffield.

And finally …

I want to finish by saying I hope some of my experiences are
helpful to others in the industry who may be going through tough
times. We have to look out for each other. If anyone ever wants to
chat about any other struggles, feel free to drop me a message. Or,
if you want some tips on becoming an expat greenkeeper, my Twitter
handle is: @dickie_wing. Mind you, my advice will always be “make
the move; it’s the best thing I ever did!”

All images (except lighthouse) Kick Verhagen

Credit: Source link


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