This summer offered the return of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Nothing epitomizes international competition and camaraderie like the Olympics, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase an international greenkeeper.
I first met Lee Strutt, MG, CGCS, MS in San Antonio at the 2015 Golf Industry Show. We had a mutual friend in his wife, known to the greenkeeping world as Sami from BIGGA. Lee is the grow-in superintendent and estates manager at Les Bordes Golf Club in Saint-Laurent-Nouan, France, about 60 miles south of Paris.
Lee is a past board member of BIGGA, a mentor for the Future Turf Managers Initiative, an experienced inspector and examiner for the Master Greenkeeper certificate. He also holds the distinction of being the only superintendent to hold industry designations from BIGGA, GCSAA, Canadian GSA and Australian STMA.
One quick note before we get going: this conversation has been edited for length. Visit golfcourseindustry.com for the full version.
Why do you love greenkeeping and what makes you proud to be a greenkeeper?
When I first started in the industry, it was all about being outside. The freedom, the landscape, the countryside and the diversity of tasks have always been an allure to me. Watching the seasons change and working in challenging weather conditions never deterred me either. The beauty of working outside is tolerating bad weather and then appreciating the good weather that comes, and seeing the sun rise in the early morning never disappoints. As my career progressed, it has been the people that have drawn me to different projects large and small. People in this industry are passionate and endeavour to deliver a great daily service to make customers happy, often going beyond the call of duty to make this happen. This passion in people is infectious and makes this industry unique and rewarding.
How would you describe the style of the golf courses at Les Bordes and what is their claim to fame?
I have two courses that I manage. One is a 1980s parkland-style designed by the legendary Robert Von Hagge. This is very much an American style with mounding on either side of the golf holes set into a woodland estate. The area of Les Bordes has many lakes, some of which were excavated to create many of the golf holes, so water can come into play on many holes making the course very strategic but also aesthetically pleasing. My second course is designed by Gil Hanse and opens this year. The New course is worlds apart in both design, strategy and backdrop to the Old. The New course has a heavy influence of heather and broom surrounded by fescue. The course is designed to fit very naturally into the landscape and feels like there are no boundaries, so golf morphs seamlessly into the surroundings.
Without a doubt, the claim to fame about Les Bordes is the original owners. Baron Marcel Bich, the inventor of the Bic manufacturing brand, and businessman Yoshiaki Sakurai. They were two friends who decided to create Les Bordes for their own pleasure, they wanted the course to be of international quality and scale. Start of a legendary and unique course and experience for anyone lucky to play it.
How does greenkeeping in France vary from other parts of the world?
Every country has its own setup and influences. A lot of turf management is taken from the U.S. but is restricted by French and European regulations, making direct applications impossible or difficult to implement. The French work system is very strict and heavily enforces its work hours — 35 hours per week, including weekends. There is flexibility within the team to work longer hours to fit in with competitions and maintenance practices, but the hours must balance out at the end of the year, meaning staff can finish their annual work time allowance in early December, making winter programs challenging.
Is there a tip you have learned during your time at Les Bordes you would share with other greenkeepers?
Particularly with the language barrier, I have learned to listen and understand more than to assume and react. I have learned I do not necessarily have to respond to a situation or issue immediately. Thinking of others, How and why were decisions made? Talking with understanding has made me a better communicator and a better manager as well as a team player, not just a team leader.