Meet the Members: Adam Witchell

Adam Witchell is our second featured member in this issue. Adam has had a busy career, starting as a greenkeeper at Aberdovey Golf Club and going on to secure Head Groundsman roles at Forest Green Rovers Football Club and Calne Town FC. 

Adam has recently left his role as the Head Groundsman at Harlequins Rugby Club, while also working as a Pitch Advisor for Wiltshire FA. Here, Adam shares how an injury while training for the Royal Marines led him into greenkeeping, his thoughts on working overseas, and which songs would feature in his ultimate work playlist.

What inspired you to pursue a career in turf?

After suffering an injury whilst training to become a Royal Marine Commando, I started to work at my local golf club, Aberdovey, on the greens. I quickly discovered I loved being outside and working as part of a team—I’ve never looked back.


How did you find your current job at Harlequins?

I love it! The people at the club are such a fantastic bunch and Nurture (The Nurture Landscapes Group, Adam’s employer) have been good and very supportive, although the 2-hour commute each way can be testing at times.

Being the only natural construction left in the Premiership it has its struggles. The scrums damage at the beginning was hard to take. But I have worked hard on recording and collating all the data from testing the pitch, especially before games, to see where the sweet spot is as regards to surface hardness and soil moisture. I have a guide now to work to and we have seen a reduction in the amount of damage from scrummaging.

How do you rate apprenticeships as a pathway into turf maintenance? 

I think the pathways are becoming clearer and we’re seeing a way for younger students to start off on a career in Sports Turf.  I see a lot more courses online as well as colleges offering courses too.


Do you have an apprentice? 

Yes, Tyler.  He’s developing very well and I can see a great future for him in this industry.


Would you ever consider working overseas?

Yes, although having a young family I think I would struggle, but I do wish I did it when I was younger. I’ve read a lot about Bermuda grass and clubs abroad carrying out a transition to rye during the season, (which is) fascinating and something I would like to be involved in help out—especially seeing the results.


What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself since starting your groundskeeping journey?

I have learned how adaptable I can be and also how calm I can be in a crisis. 


If you could create the perfect playlist for a day on the job, what songs would be on it?

Hmm, I think I would have some summer tunes, maybe Summertime by Will Smith, and some upbeat motivational music when you start an early cut: Blow by Ed Sheeran, Yeah! by Usher, Lil Jon, and Ludacris, and Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger is always a winner when you’re doing match prep.


What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without, and how does it make your job easier or more enjoyable?

We have a Dennis 34R rotary and that does an incredible job at cleaning up after a match, but also, the quality of cut is impressive. We still use a couple of Hondas to clean up after matches, but for women’s matches, it’s only me. I use the 34R—carrying out a Honda on your own, I would never get home.

Adam Witchell presenting at Groundsfest 2023

What’s the most challenging weather condition you’ve faced while working in the stadium, and how did you handle it?

About 60 minutes before kick-off against Sale Sharks, we had about 40 millimeters of heavy rain in 20 minutes, which was not forecast. Luckily, the white lines held out, but we had a lot of standing water along the sides of the pitch and in front of the tunnel. I raced around with the Bowdry and had other helpers forking behind me, squeegeeing the water off while I soaked it up with the Bowdry. We got the game on, but that was a mess after the full-time whistle as the pitch has poor infiltration.


What goals and aspirations do you have for your career in turf for the long term, and how has this opportunity brought you closer to achieving them?

I generally just want to be a better Turf Manager next year than I am this year and eventually keep chasing the Turf Manager that I want to be in 10 years, always improving. I also want to help as many people along the way as I can.


What keeps you in the industry?

The work, the incredible people in this industry, and always learning new things and better techniques.


What inspiring words would you say to young greenkeepers?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing on a pitch, especially in the harsh months of winter, but also that is the best thing to do. That was the hardest lesson I learned as I always wanted to fix everything and make it better, but it just put more stress on myself and the surface and eventually just made things worse!

The Stoop, post renovations