A day in the life: George Stephens

By Alistair February 28, 2020 09:56 Updated

The course manager at Tiverton Golf Club – a Devon venue that features a stunning 18-hole course originally designed by James Braid – takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at 6am.

Can you describe your morning routine?

I’ll write up the day’s plan on the whiteboard in the crib room ready for when the team gets in at 6:30am. We’ll then allocate the jobs, check everyone understands the task for the day ahead and ask / answer any questions. Once I know I haven’t missed anything, I’ll then crack on with my own tasks which could be raking bunkers, mowing or spraying.

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

We have six full-time greens’ staff, including an apprentice, which at the moment is the perfect number for us to maintain the golf course and surrounding gardens.

Do you share tasks?

Yes we always share tasks to ensure that nobody gets bored. It is also nice to have a fresh face with fresh ideas looking at different tasks every so often.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

We’re fortunate to have a really great bunch of lads, a good mix of ages, so the ‘work banter’ normally does the job. They also appreciate that while we work for the club, we work together for each other, so this normally provides the motivation they need.

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

My favourite is spring because it’s when you start to see the golf course coming to life.

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

I enjoy a lot of the communication elements involved with being a course manager. I enjoy speaking with the members, carrying out course walks and hosting course forums.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

Working on a parkland course, the worst bit is the dreaded three months spent clearing up leaves. You go home on the Tuesday after spending eight hours tidying the course up, come in on the Wednesday morning and see it covered in leaves again!

Have you attended any courses recently?

I try and get to some of the local BIGGA events. They are always good networking opportunities and it’s always good to hear other greenkeeper’s stories – you realise we’re all in the same boat!

What seed mixtures and / or cultivars do you use for your greens, tees, fairways and roughs?

We use Johnsons Sports Seed mixtures and these work really well for us. Our greens are oversown J All Bent – Arrowtown and Manor browntop bents. Our fairways and tees are predominately ryegrass and this year we’ve used Johnsons J 4Turf on these.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

I’m not sure how we can do it, but more time needs to be spent educating golfers on what we do.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

Not so far … but if they ever did, they would know about it!

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

Not here, but at a previous course I worked at we had a golfer who had walked out into the estuary to find his ball and got stuck up to his waist in mud. It then took three staff and half a day to rescue him!

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

Owls, which I always find fascinating. We have built our own owl boxes and have put them up around the golf course to encourage more of them.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

When I first started working in the industry 17 years ago, I could quite easily tell you that February to April was spring time; June to August was summer; September to November was autumn and December to February was winter. However, the last five years in particular have been different, and you can no longer define the seasons by month. Now spring is when the leaves come out on the trees and autumn is when they fall, summer is in between this and everything else is winter! So yes, I think climate change is impacting us all in some way.

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

Greenkeeping is a lifestyle; enjoy it and embrace it. How much you put into the job will determine how much you will get out of it.

How do you spend your leisure time?

My leisure time is spent with my wife and children, enjoying days out as a family.

I enjoy watching all kinds of sport and am partial to the odd round of golf when I find the time. Recently I’ve also taken up squash, which is great for fitness.


By Alistair February 28, 2020 09:56 Updated

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