The green-fingered Hearach who’s the big cheese at the Belfry

A golden German Shepherd called Alba was a common sight for years at the Belfry golf courses near Birmingham as he lay patiently on an elevated slope which gave him a perfect view across the manicured greens and fairways, where his owner is director of golf courses and estate.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 2:11 pm
Angus and Alvin, his new black lab, on the famous course
Angus and Alvin, his new black lab, on the famous course

The Gaelic name gave a clue to the background of the man who has made sure for the last decade that the world-famous course is in perfect condition for the PGA golfers, members and thousands of guests who make the pilgrimage to play the Brabazon, the only course to have hosted the Ryder Cup four times.

Angus MacLeod, who spent most childhood holidays with his grandparents Angus and Rachel MacLeod in their home at Ardhasaig in Harris, left school at 15 without any qualifications. However, his potential was spotted by the head greenkeeper at Inverness golf course, Jim Tuckwood, and he was offered a traineeship. The grounding at Culcabock has served him well.

After a few years in Inverness, Angus moved south to Newport Golf Club in South Wales where he spent 12 happy years. It was here that Angus realised the growing importance of advanced qualifications if he was to further his career, and at the age of 39 he enrolled for a course in Soil and Agronomic Science at Pencoed College.

Sign up to our daily Stornoway Gazette Today newsletter

Next stop was Belton Woods in Lincolnshire, which boasts an academy and two 18-hole courses, including the Championship Lakes course, home to the oldest PGA competition in the world, the Midlands PGA Championship.

It was here that Angus spotted the opportunity at the Belfry and if his recently acquired qualification was important in his decision to apply for the job so was the early influence of his Tolsta-born mother.

Angus explained: “My mother had instilled a discipline in me to always have a go. What’s the worst thing that can happen she’d ask me – that you fail?”

He didn’t fail and has been working at the Belfry since August 2012. Angus is on first name terms with legends of the British game like Tony Jacklin and Sam Torrance.

Many of the current crop of Tour golfers visit regularly to hone their skills and this year he’s collaborating with Danny Willet, the ambassador for the 2022 British Masters to be held there in May.

In addition to around 200 corporate days per annum, Angus has worked closely with the European Tour, now the DP World Tour, to finesse the course layout for competitions. Attention to detail is forensic, from the speed or stimp rating of greens to the width of fairways and the height of the rough.

Amazingly Angus had been working as a greenkeeper for ten years before he started swinging a club himself. Modestly, he says that he’s “not very good” but still manages to boast a single figure handicap.

When he was about to turn 50 his wife asked what he wanted to do to commemorate this milestone. “I want to go home” he said, which meant the Isle of Harris where his first cousin John “Brownie” Morrison still runs a shop in Tarbert.

Angus loves the Isle of Harris course at Scarista and the shipping container that has been converted into a changing room and members area. It is a long way from the facilities at the Belfry, but he feels completely at home when he visits the island.

He told me: “I’ve said to my cousins that I’ll move to Harris to look after the course for nothing when I retire, as long as they promise to feed me.”

Sadly, Alba has now completed his final round at the Belfry. Angus made sure his faithful dog was buried at one of his favourite spots on the course, behind the green on the 17th hole.

Islanders know how to look after their animals, in life and death.

(Cluinnear Iain Moireasdan air Spòrs na Seachdain gach madainn Disathairne air Radio nan Gàidheal.)