Driving Change… with Joe Micklethwaite, Director of Golf at Gillyflower Golf Club.

Posted on: 22 June 2022

‘Driving Change’ features people within Golf who are doing exactly that – driving change, being innovative and adopting new ways of working to better the Golf industry. Hear from Joe Micklethwaite, Director of Golf at Gillyflower Golf Club on his role, his passion for golf and the renowned ‘edible golf course. With every hole themed with an unusual crop of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, Gillyflower is a thriving pantry nestled within one of the best golf courses in Cornwall.

Could you tell us about the journey in arriving at your current job role?

I kind of fell into my job by chance. I was playing professional golf as a touring pro and was asked if I could meet the owners of the club while the course was being developed to talk golf and see what I thought of the progress. I picked up a bit of an injury and said I would be available to help out more if needed, and the more I got into the project the more I wanted to do. The course was where I learnt to play as a kid and that has been a huge motivation for wanting to do as much as I could for the project and the local area.

What made you choose the golf industry?

Its something that has been a big part of my life since I was about 10, and the idea of having a job in effectively what is my hobby seemed like the best idea ever. I have been told by so many people to get a job in something you love, so it was an easy decision.

What is your favourite part of your job?

At the moment it is seeing the old members get to play the course again. The course had been closed for 8 years, and a lot of them never thought they would get to play the course again. It has been made even more of amazing experience due to all the hard work the team have put it, especially the greens keepers Rob and Kev. The course is in amazing condition, something that the course in its previous life wasn’t know for. So having people get to play their favourite course, in the best condition they have seen it makes all the hard work worthwhile, and my job is a lot easier dealing with very happy members.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is looking to follow a similar path in the golf industry what would it be?

A good understanding of business and finance is a solid foundation for my role from a practical sense, but I think you have to be a bit of a people person. You deal with so many different types of people, members, staff, visitors and on our site we see a lot of non-golfing locals. So in a day I might have to talk golf with members, discuss plans with staff then talk to a local who might want to talk about anything and everything. Enjoying these interactions makes the day much more fun and productive.

What improvements would you like to see in the golf industry?

I would love to see more courses engage and look at golf more sustainably, I think this movement is happening slowly, but a bigger push from more clubs would be amazing. I find there is a feeling that becoming more sustainable would make the golf course not as high quality and possibly even messy, but from our project its completely rejuvenated and transformed a normal course to a fantastic one.

You are clearly making history with your new ‘edible golf course’, tell us more about that, what sparked the idea of this?

The project was thought up my Sir Tim Smit and his son Alex Smit. They have been at the forefront of environmental and sustainable projects. Their best-known ones to date are The Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Being so experienced with big projects that involve the environment and sustainability, they saw an amazing piece of land and began to build The Gillyflower Project. Because the course had lost some of its holes to housing before Tim and Alex took on the project, they made a great choice to turn the course into 9 holes and turning the rest of the land into a beautiful orchard and potager garden. They carried this idea over to the course and have used their experience to create something so unique.

A lot of hard work, time and effort has gone into creating Gillyflower golf course, what advice would you give others who would like to kick start a more holistic approach to their green?

Be patient. Some of the projects we have undertaken take time, and you don’t see the results straight away. There is no instant gratification, but as time passes and things begin to flourish you get to see all the hard work pay off.

What’s next for Gillyflower?

We have lots more of environment projects and planting plans for the future, we close on the 31st of October this year so they will start straight away, as for the course we will always keep pushing to make it better and better, so as the season progresses, we will make a plan for the closure.

And finally, if you weren’t in the golf industry, what would your dream job be?

I would love to do something with art as it’s my favourite pastime. I would love to be a writer or painter, maybe play guitar in a band and travel the world.

Thank you to Joe for taking part and passing on your story, advice and insight into the golfing world.

If you enjoyed this feature you can read more Driving Change articles here.

If you are driving change within golf and would like to submit your story, you can do so here.

Image credit: Joe Micklethwaite, the director of golf at Gillyflower, plays one of the holes at revamped golf course in Losthwithiel, Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian