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The greenkeeping industry could be heading for crisis with a third of staff looking to leave, a major study has revealed.

Just days after Gordon McKie, the course superintendent at the Old Course, described the Open as an opportunity to “showcase greenkeeping to the world”, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) has issued a stark warning to the sector.

A study, which garnered responses from 1,300 BIGGA members across the UK, found 35% of greenkeepers are currently looking for work away from golf.

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Set against a backdrop of difficulties with recruitment and staff retention, the survey found 53% of teams are running at less than full strength while more than 83% admitted they struggle to recruit new workers.

Generally, staff numbers have increased since the post-coronavirus golf boom, with clubs employing one extra full-time greenkeeper on average than in 2019.

However, BIGGA has expressed concerns that it has not been backed up with improvements in facilities, with one in five clubs still not offering single-sex changing or toilet facilities for female employees and nearly half not offering internet connectivity in greenkeeping facilities despite increasing reliance on technology.

“I’m pleased to be able to present robust data to the wider golfing industry that lays bare some fairly frightening statistics on the challenges that exist within our profession,” said BIGGA chief executive Jim Croxton.

“We know anecdotally that there are major challenges regarding the recruitment and retention of staff and also that pay, conditions and welfare are major contributors, but to see in black and white that nearly 35% of greenkeepers are looking for work outside the industry is truly a concern.

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“Equally, finding out that only one in five facilities are equipped for female staff members shows that the sport’s laudable ambitions to improve equality and diversity are not translating into our side of the game.

“But the key question is what does the game of golf does with this information? It is widely known that there is currently a general challenge in recruiting and retaining staff across society. In order to continue functioning, many sectors have responded with significant pay increases and improvement in working conditions.

“Golf requires an integrated approach by the entire sport to overcome the challenges laid out by this survey. This approach will need to clearly lay out the challenges, create targets and devise plans to achieve our ambitions.”

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