The Parks

NICK AND EDDIE PARK – A LIFETIME OF CAMPAIGNING FOR THE RECREATIONAL GOLFER  by Malcolm Peake  

 

Nick Park and his father Eddie were both deeply involved in campaigning for the recreational golfer for over 70 years. Eddie died at the age of 62 in 1989 and now Nick has sadly died at the same age in March this year, 2014.

Eddie played competitive golf in the 1950’s and 60’s, giving him a keen sense of the conditions which made for good and enjoyable golf. But years before that he was put in charge of his school’s nine-hole golf course at the age of just 16 – mainly because he was then studying natural science, botany, ecology and soil science – and on a limited budget he soon learnt to work with nature not against it. 

Eddie and Nick served on the Green Committee at Lindrick for more than thirteen years and this created a connection to Jim Arthur who became a close friend to both of them. 

Jim Arthur,  had a career spanning six decades and was consultant agronomist to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews Championship Committee, the body responsible for The Open Championship courses. 

Eddie developed a keen interest in golf course management, instinctively supporting a ‘firm’ approach to sound greenkeeping principles and with Jim he was soon invited to write occasional articles under the title ‘Committee Comment’ in the newly published Greenkeeper magazine, and these articles continued for many years. 

nick park, nick and eddie park,

Nick Park

Nick, growing up with Eddie and Jim as mentors, avidly learnt about golf course management and visited over 500 golf courses, continually talking and learning from greenkeepers all through the 1970s and early 80s. He was invited to give talks around the U.K. and U.S.A. focussing on the logic behind sound British greenkeeping practice, but which would also apply to so many other parts of the world. 

In the mid 1980s Nick and Eddie were invited by the editor of Golf Monthly, Malcolm Campbell, to write a series of articles on traditional British golf and golf courses. The writings are as fresh and relevant today as the day they were written, and nearly 30 years on, every word still applies, even if not enough clubs follow these common sense, logical views. 

So many courses take the route to lush, soft turf which discourages the traditional game of playing the ball more on the ground than through the air, and it is a style which can be played in so many parts of the globe, as long as the courses are managed correctly. 

The Parks clearly showed that the majority of golf courses in the UK and Ireland were not designed to be played to the American target-style formula, and were able to prove that maintaining a course artificially, using excessive amounts of water and fertilisers, which then encouraged disease and required extensive use of pesticides, was a very expensive, and often short-sighted, path to choose. 

The Parks always encouraged all year round golf on fine firm turf, which gives superb playing surfaces, and which works in harmony with nature, and simultaneously means that clubs are using economically sound management practises. 

Nick Park often suggested that if golfers were truly interested in the health of their golf course, they only needed to look at the balance sheet. The facts are sometimes hidden, but ask the question, how much does your club spend on irrigation water, fertilisers, and pesticides? The figures can often be surprising and can lead to other expenditure which directly affects the price of subscriptions and green fees. 

In the mid 1980s Nick was invited to join the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews Greenkeeping Panel. He was deeply involved with Jim Arthur and Keith Almond, then Secretary of Sunningdale GC, in the production of ‘The Way Forward’,  a discussion document of British golf course management and club structure, which gave a direction to the more progressive golf clubs. Unfortunately because club structures and committees are ever-changing not enough golfers have seen this illuminating document. 

real golf by eddie nancie nick park

Real Golf edited by Nancie Park

In March 1989 Eddie Park died during a visit to Pott Shrigley Golf Club in Cheshire. As a tribute, his wife Nancie decided to publish a collection of the articles written by Eddie and Nick, in a book called ‘Real Golf’ which became a must read for all followers of British and Irish course management. 

Dr Peter Hayes, director of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), and Jim Arthur wrote that “These articles deserve to be preserved for future generations of golfers and greenkeepers, and to be widely read by all concerned in golf-course upkeep, including green committees and even players.” 

Many of these articles published in Golf Monthly, are still available and relevant, particularly a series on the history and politics around ball manufacture and the increasing distance that they are being hit. 

Soon after Nick’s death, Megan Cushnahan, Agronomist and Business Development Manager for New Zealand Sports Turf, wrote “As you know Nick was a great influence on me. My colleague David Howard introduced me to Nick and Eddie’s work early in my career and I am so thankful for their insight into agronomy and particularly what playing quality and the game of golf really is about. Rest assured that Nick and Eddie’s legacy will continue in this part of the world; my copy of Real Golf is well thumbed and regularly borrowed by my students and colleagues.” 

Practical Greenkeeping book jim arthurWhile on The R&A Golf Course Advisory Panel, Nick Park was very involved with others in the R&A publishing of the definitive book of traditional British greenkeeping ‘Practical Greenkeeping’, Jim Arthur’s masterpiece that was published in 1997. 

In the Preface to Practical Greenkeeping, Sir Michael Bonallack, Secretary of the R&A wrote “Invariably controversial, but infuriatingly nearly always right, Jim Arthur’s knowledge about courses and greenkeeping is probably second to none.” 

Nick, both a keen golfer and an enthusiastic field botanist, had a long stint as Chairman of Green at Lindrick GC, and was also trained as an engineer, before qualifying in the medical profession and running a Sheffield-based dentistry practice. This discipline made him aware of the importance of correct diagnosis and the means of measuring progress. This was something that in terms of performance of greens before the 2010 was very subjective. 

The R&A Golf Course Advisory Panel, with Nick as a member, helped fund the STRI to recently develop the Firmness, Moisture, and Trueness meters that precisely measure the organic content and putting performance of playing surfaces. These have all become essential tools for measuring the quality of golf greens and are used by STRI agronomists on annual visits to some 600 Great Britain & Ireland courses. 

Nevertheless, most clubs cannot afford all of this equipment, and Nick realised that an annual STRI visit did not really give an effective picture over a full year. He felt that clubs needed an affordable tool which could measure the consistency of golf greens on a more regular basis.

He started by using a Stimpmeter which is designed for taking green speeds, and tried to use it to test green reliability, but found this tool to be inaccurate. He then trialled a Peltzmeter, but eventually decided a specific tool needed to be designed. 

Malcolm Peake testing the Greenstester at FineGolf's Enjoyment Day

With the help of Fintan Brennan (course manager at Portmarnock Hotel and Links) the Greenstester came into being, and is now being used around the world to measure the reliability of greens and to accurately measure their speed (Click Greenstester  and  www.greenstester.com for the complete story). 

Nick understood the art of traditional greenkeeping but he wanted Course Managers to have the tools to collect data and to be able to measure progress. The Greenstester enables CMs to show to committees and golfers accurate green speeds and the greens’ reliability. Such tools can prove that greens are being managed on the correct lines in an objective rather than a subjective way. 

The Parks’ arguments are convincing and irrefutable – and the results are there for all to see, not only at very many of our finest British and Irish courses. The same ethos, of working with nature, is upheld by many people in golf course management around the world to this day. 

In America, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, there are examples of clubs encouraging this more ecologically sound, cost-effective and conservationist style of management. Many agronomists and greenkeepers are in sympathy with this approach, and the golfer who only judges a golf course on its superficial appearance, speed of its greens, or looks only for knee-jerk quick fix solutions, ignores the situation at their peril. 

A quote from Donald Steel sums up what Eddie and Nick worked for all their lives. “Britain gave golf and golf course architecture to the world and we have a duty to continue promoting and preserving the principles that make our courses the best, the most varied and most enjoyable.”

This can only happen if we follow the principles that Eddie and Nick Park laid down and play our beloved game on firm, fine, indigenous browntop bent and red fescue grasses. 

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