Anna Nilsson earns Belfry promotion

Anna Nilsson

Sweden’s Anna Nilsson has become the first female to manage four-time Ryder Cup venue the Belfry after her elevation to deputy head greenkeeper of the Brabazon course.

Nilsson previously served as senior greenkeeper after joining in 2019, when she moved from her native country, where she maintained various courses which included working with snowy conditions and repairing moose and wild boar damage.

Nilsson will take on turf management, people management and will maintain the course to tournament standard for all players, with the May 5-8 British Masters hosted by 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett on the horizon.

“I am proud to have been given this opportunity and to be able to work alongside such a fantastic, knowledgeable, and inspiring team every day. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them,” said Nilsson.

“I am very excited to continue share my passion and knowledge and I hope that my story will continue to inspire more women to join this incredible industry.”

Angus Macleod, Director of Golf Courses and Estates at The Belfry Hotel & Resort, added: “Anna is extremely dedicated and continues to show great passion in everything she does. I hope that Anna’s success will continue to unite the industry and raise interest in golf amongst women, which I hope leads to more women choosing to pursue a career in greenkeeping.”

Women making strides forward in turf

Last year Lara Arias was named best superintendent in Italy and this month Devon Carroll’s inspiring story was featured on the Fried Egg podcast.

In the 30-minute interview with Andy Johnson, Carroll said joining the industry was far from straightforward to begin with.

“My first day at classes (at Penn State University) I’m the only girl in the room, everyone’s kind of looking at me like ‘Did you find the right classroom?’”

Carroll added the university has one of the more widely-attended turfgrass conferences every year with about 300 professionals – at one point she found herself the only woman in the room. 

“Overall I’ve had a positive experience but there have been some challenges,” added Carroll, who has worked at four Masters tournaments at Augusta including a career highlight in 2019 when Tiger Woods ended an 11-year major drought in thrilling fashion.

“People always want to know your story which can be overwhelming. It’s great to promote women in turf but when people point out I’m a woman I say I’m just a person in turf. 

“The grass doesn’t know if a man or a woman’s mowing it, I just like grass and I’m taking care of it.

“For me one of the big issues is inappropriate conduct by others. It should be a professional setting, I’m here to work, I’m here to learn. Some external commentary sometimes makes things really uncomfortable.”

Carroll added being asked if she would like to wear a female-sized polo – instead of having to wear a men’s shirt – had encouraged her to stay in the industry, when a couple of times she questioned her future.

“I’ve been fortunate that now Women in Turf is a movement, it’s happening. There’s slowly more women coming into the industry and we’re forming more of a support group.”