GBGR Head Chef Sylvain Gatay

“The job is very rewarding” – Damien Coleman, Course Superintendent at Galway Bay Golf Resort

In the latest edition of the Connacht Hospitality Group ‘Employee Stories’ series, we chatted with Damien Coleman to hear all about his experience as Course Superintendent at Galway Bay Golf Resort.

Green Shoots

Damien’s journey all started when his brother Paul, who’s also a Course Superintendent at Dromoland Castle, gave him his first insight into the world of golf course maintenance. Having been bitten by the bug, a scholarship from the R&A opened the chance to study Turfgrass Science for four years. During this time, Damien did a placement of 18 months at the K Club which served him incredibly well for the start of his professional career.

Three days after finishing his last exam, Damien had already started working at Galway Bay Golf Resort. He hasn’t looked back since that first day in 2008 and has achieved a lot since – including being selected to attend the 2016 Rio Olympics as a golf course greenkeeper and even serving as President of The Greenkeepers Association of Ireland for two years.

“You need to be used to working in the elements, especially in Ireland, you need to be used to the wet, cold, heat and wind, everything you can think of.

“Once you can put up with that, the three or four months of good weather we get in the summertime makes up for the six or seven months of bad weather. Honestly, it’s an amazing job to be out in the sunshine as part of your job,” Damien says.

Keeping with the Times

Today, Damien is the Course Superintendent, overseeing every inch of Galway Bay Golf Resort’s 200 acres.

“The job is very rewarding because you see the changes that you make. It’s almost like a canvas that you work with and you’re just improving it all the time, you know, it’s never a finished article. It’s never going to be a finished piece; if you’re lucky you’re always improving it,” Damien explains.

As Damien himself says, he is always working to be “sympathetic” to Christy O’ Connor Jr.’s vision. It’s a tricky balance to get right, but Damien does a splendid job – as anyone who’s ever visited the course will attest.

“There are definitely characteristics on the golf course that are what you could call a ‘Christy design’. When you go to other golf courses that he’s designed, which there are a lot of, you can see the same characteristics. Galway Bay is a really good example of all of them.”

Adopting New Approaches

As Course Superintendent, Damien has studied how turfgrass reacts to pressure such as drought, disease, and traffic; how it can evolve in response to those pressures; and what it takes to adapt to new ways of doing his job. One of the big considerations today is obviously a shift towards more environmentally conscious methods.

“In the industry at the moment, the tools we have to fight disease pressure, especially in terms of chemicals, are being taken off the market. So, as Turfgrass Managers now, we’re having to adapt our practices to be able to fight these diseases with the restricted use of chemicals.

“When I started 16 years ago, we were applying 14 fungicides a year, which is a chemical used in the battle against disease pressure. Whereas now we applied just four this year. So, we’ve weaned that plant off the need for this fungicide.”

Clearly, Damien is very passionate about his job – and that dedication informs his innovation. He mentions two more eco-friendly projects that he is hoping to tackle in the future: using the 200 acres of grass to offset carbon emissions – and researching a new method of carbon sequestration by using basalt to fill in bunkers. Blending science with hands-on field-work, Damien’s role at Galway Bay Golf Resort is a very unique and important one, and it’s fascinating to hear all about what goes into his role to help keep the playing surfaces at their optimum level all year round.

Interested in joining Damien at Galway Bay Golf Resort? Check out the Connacht Hospitality Group’s Careers webpage here to see if there are any openings right now.