A day in the life: Steve Harvey

By Alistair June 14, 2021 06:29

The head greenkeeper at Stourbridge Golf Club in the West Midlands – an 18 hole parkland course established in 1892 – takes us through his average day.

What time do you arrive at the club?

I arrive at 6am in the summer and half an hour before first light during the winter months.

Can you describe your morning routine?

Myself and my deputy are normally the first ones in, half an hour before the rest of the team so that we can plan the day ahead and get the machines out prior to the rest of the staff arriving. This is something we introduced during Covid to stop a congregation in the mornings. We’ll then go on to update the website, read any emails and make a note of the weather readings. Then I’m not far behind the rest of the team getting out on the course.

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

I supervise four lads, giving us a team of five currently, which is one part-time member short of what we had pre-Covid. Ideally, I would like to increase the number to six and will push for this as we return to a point where locking down is a thing of the past and the membership numbers have settled.

Do you share tasks?

We are a small team and there is a vast gap within the team in regard to experience, though the new lads jumped in and learnt very quickly. I think it’s a must for the team to be trained in as many disciplines as possible – it helps you to see the course as a whole picture and this was proven correct when the team was affected by the furlough scheme this last year. Additionally, varied days are always far more enjoyable.

How do you motivate your colleagues?

Things have changed a little due to the current social climate. We are a team that enjoys playing golf together, having a drink after work or a breakfast take-out during a break time. I’m sure this will come again. I’m not someone that rules with an iron fist, we have a good working relationship based on support – I support the lads and expect the same in return.

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

Season?! Around the month of May is when I’m happiest. The plant is strong and can grow happily away from any pests and diseases, greens maintenance is a distant memory, and we are settled into the new playing season. I do also enjoy starting construction work in the autumn months, but this season is ruined by falling leaves, haha!

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

I enjoy planning and working towards a target whether that be summer tournaments or winter construction – seeing everything come together and realising you have done the very best you can. In regard to construction, we have undertaken a full renovation of all bunkers in-house and great pride has been taken from transforming what was a very poor aspect of the course.

And what part of it gives you the least satisfaction?

The desire for the modern golfer to now want to know every in-and-out step in golf course management, especially through social media formats (which I believe creates far too much negative chat, that is unfortunately only getting louder). Don’t get me wrong, I agree with providing a little information on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’, but we risk going too far with the details and oversaturating people who have little to no understanding of greenkeeping.

Have you attended any courses recently?

To be honest time has not allowed me to invest too much in personal education recently, but I do continue to read as much as I can and keep updated with everything through many different formats. This is something that, again, we will be looking to address soon. The club has always invested in staff education and it has become even more important in recent years to provide training to new members of staff.

Do you have a feeding programme for your fairways? How do you ensure your greens have good colour?

Yes, both wetter and fertiliser programmes are in place for the fairways. The majority of products we use are from Headland Amenity, with our strength and protection coming from their tank-mixes which keep us drip-fed through the year. In addition, we use their C-Complex range as a starter for the season and for recovery around maintenance.

How would you improve the greenkeeping industry?

Pay is a problem; we lose good guys from not being able to offer enough wages. Minimum wage, although a good idea, has squeezed the gap between trained and untrained staff and it only seems to be getting worse annually. I work hard to address this, but budgets are being squeezed from the competitive nature of memberships and green fees.

Has a golfer ever deliberately directed a ball at you?

I don’t think anyone has purposely hit a ball at a specific individual, but there have been cases every year when a ball has landed on the green whilst the greenkeeper has the flag on his lap cutting greens – thankfully the support of the committee always seek a meeting with the individuals involved. It is a reflection that the golfer does not like to wait, but unfortunately at times, it is unavoidable.

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

We’ve not had to rescue anyone at Stourbridge to date, but in my previous role at Wharton Park we were forever being called to pull buggies out of ditches and streams… it was the nature of having 40-plus buggies on an undulating course I suppose!

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

We have a family of muntjac deer. They tend to keep themselves to themselves but went missing in the lockdowns when the course was invaded by dog walkers, but they have now returned along with the golf. Regarding supporting wildlife, we have and continue to place nesting boxes and we’ve been introducing hay meadow areas on previously out of play areas.

Are you seeing any evidence of climate change?

The old adage ‘if you don’t like the weather in England, wait five minutes’ has gone! Our weather patterns stick now, it’s days of wind, weeks of drought, months of rain meaning the timings of our input and maintenance routines are vastly different year to year. Having product on the shelf gives us the ability to react, rather than plan.

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

Ask questions about anything and everything, show desire to be involved in all tasks and always be the first one to pick up a shovel. Oh, and never let anyone see you on your phone… except for taking photos – take as many as you can!

How do you spend your leisure time?

My wife, four-year-old son and dog have the biggest positive time of my social calendar, and as a family we enjoy walking and generally being outdoors. I enjoy sports. I was a keen golfer, although this has taken a little bit of a back seat lately, same with skiing / snowboarding. I think I’m also maybe a little old now to dig out the Villa strip and football boots?!


By Alistair June 14, 2021 06:29

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