An automated greenkeeper assistant, not a replacement

Robotic maintenance an automated greenkeeper assistant, not a replacementis a topic I’m sure will spark some interesting debate within the industry and is why we opted for something a little different this month.

Despite the increase in interest in robotic mowing and automated ball management within the industry. One of the main challenges we sometimes face is trying to manage the way people perceive the automated system, in particular greenkeepers and grounds staff.

Automated maintenance a greenkeepers & groundsman assistant

The perception can sometimes be that the robots will replace them, as we have received comments in the past such as, “Not interested, they will put me out of a job”.

Our general response to this is that Greenkeeping and Grounds Staff roles acquire a much larger skill set than just grass cutting, or collecting the balls.

The majority of our sites have robots working alongside and assisting green staff with their tasks. To give greater clarity on how the robots and staff work as a team and how they handle their day to day maintenance. We asked Steven Gray, Head Greenkeeper at Melville Golf Club to share his thoughts.

What made you choose automated outfield maintenance?

Around 2 years ago myself and my managers discussed how we could improve the quality of the driving range and aesthetics of the outfield due to the weather we have up here in Scotland. We then came across the AMS website. At the time we had two older members of staff working on our range that were due to retire. We originally thought that the automated system would be the answer, the robots were going to completely replace these guys… we were even going to call the ball picker and Mowbot Robert and Andy!

All the other savings were obvious, we saved on fuel, wear and tear of machinery, manual handling e.g staff signing off with bad backs and a big one being no loss of golf balls due to plugging or cutting with mowers.

Mellville Golf Centre - Steven Gray, Head Greenkeeper - Greenkeepers & groundsman automated assistant.
Steven Gray, Head Greenkeeper at Melville Golf Centre

How has the system performed since installation?

After the system was installed in October 2018 we realised that we were saving on all the other areas but still needed staff to be there to look after them. This includes daily servicing and blockages… had a few frog issues in the pipework! Once checks like this had been complete this makes for more time that could be spent on looking after the bays, inner fences, targets, outskirts of the range, cutting estate and weedkilling. I am also now using the two replacement guys for the retirees to do bunker maintenance and course set up which totally takes the pressure of my Greenkeeping team.

We are now one team at Melville Golf Centre instead of a range team and a Greenkeeping team, which quickly became a ‘them and us’ scenario. Things are now much easier to manage and we all look after one another as a team, having the robots working alongside us wherever we need them.

What’s it like having an automated greenkeeper assistant?

“I treat my robots as I do my staff, I even turned up on Christmas morning to give them a little clean. BallPicker and BigMow have been a saving grace for us this winter with the extremely wet weather we have had. Without them running all year regular cutting with no weight on the surface, it would have meant either closure of the driving range this winter or having to buy more balls to keep us open. We probably would have had to buy another tractor and ball picker by now and the golfers would be hitting balls into a muddy field instead of the quality surface we have on our outfield mid-February.

For these reasons, I can confidently say this is the best investment we have ever made at our driving range, and my whole team agree.

In closing its fair to say based on the above feedback automated maintenance can be used as a greenkeeper assistant and not a replacement for grounds care staff. If you feel this is something that could benefit your Golf Driving Range or sports field, get in contact, we can answer any questions you have and arrange a free no-obligation site appraisal. Why not contact us or give us a call on 01462676222.