A day in the life: Andy Copeland

Alistair
By Alistair April 5, 2020 07:57 Updated

The course manager at Mill Green Golf Club in Hertfordshire, an 18-hole course designed by both Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at the club 15 to 20 minutes before our scheduled start time of 7:00am in the winter and 6:00am in the summer months.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Myself, or another team member, will check the rain gauge and we will make a decision on whether the golf course is open or shut, update the trolley and buggy status and post the course status both online and to the pro shop.

This winter we have taken each day as it comes. We then have a look at the white board, which is loaded with jobs we want to complete and, given the weather conditions that day, we will work our way through it. At every dry opportunity, we have either rolled or cut the greens and set up the golf course accordingly.

How many people are there in your team and is it a fair number for your collective workload?

I have a team of six guys including myself and a mechanic. We also have ‘artisan marshalls’ who pick up smaller jobs such as emptying the bins, range ball collection and completing other details around the clubhouse.

To be honest, who would say they have enough staff?! I always try and set realistic goals and between us all, we try our best to deliver. My expectations are very high but that’s what keeps me hungry to carry on pushing myself and the team.

Do you share tasks?

I try my best to rotate all jobs on the golf course as long as the guys are trained and competent in the task required – I work on the basis that I’d rather have a team of good machine operators rather than one guy being a wizard in that particular task. Saying that – I’m very fortunate that I have five wizards!

How do you motivate your colleagues?

I talk to people how I would like to be spoken to and I will only send them out to do a job that I’d be happy to do myself. We have a good laugh both on and off the course.

I also like the guys to play as much golf as they can – one to better their knowledge and two to see the golf course from a playing perspective. I like to think that with all of that combined, they become passionate about their workplace, they take pride in the work they do and deliver over and over again.

What’s your favourite season of the year and why?

For me, it’s a warm, spring morning. You’ve just endured six or seven months of tough conditions; you have bare areas on the golf course from traffic, machinery or project work and to then watch the course transition into spring is a great feeling.

What aspects / functions of your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?

Planning a project such as greens’ maintenance. Everything from organising the machinery, sands, fertilisers and getting your staff in the right place at the right time, communicating the plans to the membership explaining how it is going to be, followed by finally executing the maintenance exactly how you want it. Sometimes you can be lucky and even have the weather for it!

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

For me it has to be going through a disciplinary process with a team member, for this reason I try my best to only recruit people who want the job as their career. It’s pointless to employ somebody who you don’t see a future with, or it’s evident that they are using the job as a steppingstone. I feel like I have failed if I have to go through this process.

Have you attended any courses recently?

Yes, I was recently at BTME and I attended four seminars. I’m also very fortunate that I work for Crown Golf that holds multiple courses around the south / south west of England and we are all part of a WhatsApp group chat and share ideas that way. I have also been fortunate enough to go to TPC Sawgrass and I met some great guys there who share an abundance of knowledge from around the country and into Europe. You can never stop learning and never be afraid to ask questions!

Do you have a feeding programme for your fairways?

Yes, we liquid feed our fairways. I use Headland Amenity’s Xtend 46-0-0 slow-release soluble fertiliser, Prilled Urea 46-0-0 if we need to aggressively push the growth, combined with Elevate Fe in the spring. I then apply a wetting agent at the back end of the summer to help water penetrate the firm surfaces, which I apply together with a seaweed-based product – this has given me great results.

Around September I re-apply the Xtend 46-0-0 to help aid summer recovery and thicken up the surfaces before the winter and worms arrive.

How do you ensure your greens have good colour?

I use a range of Headland Amenity products from seaweeds, irons, dew suppressants and penetrants. On the greens we apply the 20/20/30 tank-mix plus Mantle every four weeks to ensure we have strong, healthy plants throughout the winter months.

This year we added PPT114 to our mixes, Headland’s new manganese, zinc, copper, iron and harpin combination, which kept us in control of the disease pressure at all times. I ran two trials in the last year – one on the main course with PPT114 used alongside applications of fungicide product, and PPT114 only on my par three. With all other factors kept the same, we did have some disease out on the par three but nowhere near the amount you’d expect to see, which is very encouraging. My main course is very clean, borderline disease free. .

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

We are all great at communicating via social media, but social media is very false. I think that being able to go and visit other courses, and see how wet or dry other sites are, is a healthy thing to do. I’d like to see more ‘on the course’ seminars which would allow you to gain a real insight into each golf club and understand any relatable restraints they’re under and how they’re managing those.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not that I’m aware of, but you never know … Those stray balls were perhaps a little too far off line to be an accident … must always keep your wits about you!

Have you ever had any mishaps with lakes on the course or had to undertake a rescue of a daft golfer?

The only rescue I have had is myself! I was playing golf at Vila Sol Golf Course in Portugal, it was hot and I may have had a beer or two the night before, so we hired electric trolleys.

I’ve never had one before and I was pretty unfamiliar with the speeds, especially the on / off button. Playing a shot into a hole and I forgot to turn my trolley off and, of all the places, there was a lake straight ahead. FORE … playing in!

What is the most interesting animal you have seen on your course and how do you do support wildlife?

Last year I noticed more red kites in the sky, more than I have ever seen in the past.

They’re really lovely to see and the noise they make is amazing. We are also very lucky at Mill Green to have a couple of local kingfishers that enjoy the lakes on the course. Out in America last year we were amazed to see bald eagles – I’ve only ever seen them on TV and it was a spectacle to see them in the flesh. Their wingspan was unbelievable!

One way we support wildlife is by stacking up any logs we get from fallen trees and putting them back into our long rough areas, to create a habitat for smaller creatures. If we can do something small to help the food chain, we will do so.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

Whether it’s due to climate change, or sheer coincidence, but we definitely seem to be seeing higher rainfall quantities combined with warmer temperatures, as well as rainfall in bigger downpours instead of little and often. I read plenty of articles relating it back to climate change but we as course managers and head greenkeepers need to adjust the way we work. I don’t work by the calendar anymore; I work with the weather.

What advice would you give to a young greenkeeper starting out today?

The reasons I came into the golf industry was because I enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle; I was sporty and I was just getting interested in golf. I also had a weird obsession with mowing my parent’s lawn and creating different patterns in the turf!

Let’s be honest, the truth is we work in an industry that’s unnecessarily stressful, it can be very cold, very wet and miserable. You’re constantly thinking about different scenarios, the what ifs and buts, but if you want to succeed you have to love the job. I would advise young greenkeepers to have a connection with the industry whether you’re a keen golfer and you want to help and improve your course, or you like jobs where you can see the difference of before and after. Remember there are more months in a year than just June, July and August – it’s (unfortunately) not always sun and shorts weather!

How do you spend your leisure time?

I have three children all under the age of 10 so my wife and I spend a lot of time travelling to various activities for them. My eldest daughter is a keen ballerina, she’s in the London Royal Ballet School, Tring Park Ballet School and her local ballet school. We travel a lot to get her to these schools, as that’s her passion.

I’m also an FA qualified coach and coach my son’s football team. He also loves playing golf, which is great for me as we both can go out in the summer evenings and weekends to play. My youngest daughter is a mixed bag, she loves everything from ballet to football. Between me and my wife we devote our ‘leisure’ time to our kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Alistair
By Alistair April 5, 2020 07:57 Updated

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