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5 Minutes With... Ben Tilley

Tuesday 10, Nov 2020

The Australian Sports Turf Managers Association has created a segment to help the turf industry stay connected.  With many events postponed due to current challenges, the opportunity to meet new and catch up with familiar friends and peers across the turf industry is limited, so we’re keeping connected and to ensure that turf managers can get to know members from other areas of the industry, other States and other countries, to help promote the professionals and the hard work put into the industry.


Today we spend 5 minutes with... Ben Tilley, Superintendent, Headlands Golf Club, QLD.  Tilley has been superintendent at Headland since 2007 and prior to that was an assistant at Twin Waters Golf Club and superintendent at Beerwah Golf Club. Tilley is a multiple award winner, having collected the 2000 AGCSA Claude Crockford Environment Award during his tenure at Beerwah, as well as the AGCSA Excellence in Golf Course Management Award in 2012 for his work at Headland.  He also serves as director on the board of The ASTMA. 


Provide a quick overview of your facility (staff, turf varieties managed, current role and length of time at your club/facility).

Faciltiy: Headland Golf Club, Buderim, Sunshine Coast Qld has 1,000 full members 70 restricted, 30 on waiting list.

Staff: 9 permanent & 1 casual (3 days/week) all year round

Turf Varieties: 328 hybrid couch on greens with Tifeagle putting green. Greenlees park couch on fairways. Tees combinations of couch varieties as well as Zoysia.

Current Role: Course Superintendent since 2007.


2020 has been one out of the box especially in light of the global pandemic – how have your operations had to change and adapt from past years and what has been the most challenging aspect for your as a superintendent/sports turf manager?

We have been very fortunate in Queensland to be able to continue to keep the course open albeit with a covid plan in place.  The club took a safety first approach during the early stages and we had a 3 week closure standing down all but 3 staff but since that point in time we have continued to manage just as many rounds through covid as we were doing before the pandemic.  Competition rounds are up but social rounds are down mainly due to a members only policy for our competitions.  An exception to our pre covid operation has been the concertina effect of pushing all our major honour board events towards the end of the year which required the suspension of our major course renovations in October.  We normally do two a year and so we will be taking a little and often approach to our major practices of grooming coring and dusting until February 2021 when we will renovate Greens Tees & Fairways properly.


Best piece of advice you have received about the turf management profession and who gave it to you?

Graham Hayes who was the assistant superintendent at Darwin Golf club when I first started in the industry told me one day when we were changing holes to “Concentrate on quality control & the one percenters” or words to that effect.


Talk about a recent or current project you have undertaken at your facility and what it means for the club.

We have recently completed the installation of cart paths around the course.  We still have some minor connections to complete but they will be delayed until we can tie them into some tee complexes that will be reconstructed in early 2021.  With the amount of rain we receive during the year (1533mm ytd) the course can become quite saturated at times and having cart path access around all 18 holes allows members to play if they choose to do so.  With 36 club carts and 300 + members carts the paths certainly help protect the course from cart damage.


Tell us one thing about yourself that your fellow turf practitioners might now know about you (eg: hobbies/achievements in sport etc).

While I was travelling the United States after working at Deere Run for the 2013 John Deere Classic I was in Vegas with my wife Katie and I went to a David Copperfield magic show at the MGM Grand. Somehow I ended up on stage and am still baffled by how he made a vintage 1929 Lincoln convertible “appear” above my head.


What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Take each and every opportunity to learn from your successes and your mistakes.  Always ask questions and educate yourself as much as you can be that through volunteering at tournaments, playing other golf courses, joining ASTMA or reading industry related books & magazines.


What do you like doing in your spare time?

I used to play drums as my release and have played with Phil Emmanuel, Kevin Borich and also Wilber Wilde as my claim to fame but not so much now.  I enjoy travelling with my wife Katie and experiencing new cultures but with covid putting the brakes on that I am reduced to drive in concerts, canoeing, crabbing, fishing and hoping Carlton will win another premiership in the next 20 years !!!!!!!!!!


Thanks for taking 5 minutes with us Ben!