Swan Hill Lawn Tennis club curator Dan Gardner also got the chance to get an inside the ropes look at preparations for this year’s Wimbledon Grand Slam.
While preparing for an article in Australian Turfgrass Management Journal last year (‘Pace and perfection’, ATM Vol 20.3), I was fortunate enough to get expert opinion from Neil Stubley, head of courts and horticulture at Wimbledon. The conversation continued and eventually the offer to come over and visit The Championships one year. This instigated a trip of a lifetime, a visit to the hallowed grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.
The plan was to spend three weeks leading into and a few days of the 2019 Championships. Not obtaining a working visa turned out to be a blessing as I was able to shadow Neil and his crew and get a rounded appreciation of the duties involved to manage an event on such a scale. There were around 30 greenskeepers from across the globe, all with impressive turf stories like Todd Darrington, that were more than willing to share their knowledge and passion.
The activities during my stay at Wimbledon could be broken up into three stages. The first week was crawling with action and contractors during the build out, where temporary shops and corporate areas were installed. The site, although almost one kilometre long, operates as a private members club for the rest of the year, and the extra space is required, thus the temporary buildings. This week was also used for any fine-tuning specific to the courts and infrastructure, like court covers and Hawkeye.
The second week, titled ‘International Week’, was where the players started to roll in and use the Aorangi practice courts and the Championship courts for official practice. This week had a nice relaxed atmosphere as the players and their teams had the grounds to themselves and the ground staff team settled into their daily routines which would continue on for The Championships.
Orignially published in Volume 21.5 Sept-Oct 2019 of the Australian Turfgrass Management Journal. To subscribe click here.