When you play a round at Secret Harbour, you may come across one of the rarest sights in golf: a woman greenskeeper.
Thirty-year-old Brody Cooper completed a four-year Sports Turf Management apprenticeship at Secret Harbour Golf Links in November and is now employed there as a fully qualified greenskeeper.
GolfWA paid a visit to Brody to find out about her career journey so far, what she loves about life on the course and why other women ought to consider following in her footsteps.
Brody, tell us a bit about how you ended up working in golf?
This is my first job in golf. I did retail management before this but got to the point when I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I’ve always had an interest in horticulture, so I did a Cert II in Horticulture and was required to do a six-month work placement as part of that.
I had never considered that golf was an option for me, but my lecturer at the time knew the Super at Secret Harbour and he sent me along here. I didn’t know what to expect, but I slotted right in and very quickly realised I loved it. I did my whole work experience here and then, within 12 months, the Super got in touch to offer me an apprenticeship, so I must have done something right!
Is there such a thing as an ‘average day’ for you?
Every single day is different! That’s one of the things I love about the job. It’s not repetitive at all and a lot depends on whether we’ve got renovations or construction work going on.
Every morning we do the basic course set-up, cutting the holes, tending bunkers, mowing and spraying. In summer irrigation is a massive thing, so there’s a lot of hand watering and unblocking sprinklers, but there’s plenty of variety. I was hired on the condition that I would be maintaining all the gardens, because that’s where my passion lies, but I do love being on the course.
There are six members of staff in the greenkeeping team and we do 5.30am-1.30pm every Monday to Thursday, 5.30am-11.30am on Fridays, and then we do one in every three weekends.
What do you enjoy most?
I love all the hedging and I do enjoy the ‘big mowing’ of the long grass when you can see where you’re going and you look back at your handiwork. I always enjoy a morning when there’s a heavy dew and you can really get your lines. For me, that’s very satisfying because I like to feel proud of the work I’ve done. I’ve also been able to bring my new puppy, Bentley, with me to work on a couple of occasions when my duties allow it. How good is that?
Do you play a bit of golf as well?
Not much. I do like playing socially, but I struggle to get club-to-ball contact! My interest is growing, and I do like the feeling of hitting a good shot on the range or joining the boys for nine holes after work, but I never take it too seriously. I mean, working here for 38 hours a week is enough, let alone coming back here after work and playing!
What are your best experiences so far?
As part of their Women in Turf program, John Deere took me and five other greenkeeping girls from WA to volunteer at Cobram Barooga GC during the TPS Murray River event (on the PGA Tour of Australasia) in January 2023. That was very cool.
They flew us there for a week and were beyond accommodating. I think at first the team at Cobram Barooga was a bit sceptical about how useful a team of girls would be, but we all got stuck in and did a great job. At the end of the week, the Super there said he’d have us on his staff any day! Overall, it was an amazing experience and I hope to get the chance to go again in future.
How common is it to encounter other women in your line of work?
Until I went to the John Deere event, In the last four years, I think I’d only met one other girl in greenkeeping in the previous four years, and that was Kasey Williams from Busselton GC, who is fantastic.
I think the six of us who attended TPS Murray River are the only six in WA, so it’s not very often you see another girl. It’s very cool when you do and it’s great to be able to hear all their stories and chat to someone who can relate to your experiences.
How physically demanding is the role?
The physical work is definitely a big part of it. I go home some days and can’t move! But you’re never going to pushed to your limit and if you physically can’t do it, you can’t do it. The boys here do all the heavy lifting because they know that I can’t do it, but there are lots of tasks that I can do just as well as they can that aren’t so draining.
It’s a lot different from the type of mental work I’ve done before, managing rosters and stock in shopping centres, but no matter what type of job you’re in, you’re usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day anyway.
Why do you think there are so few women in greenkeeping?
I feel like it’s a combination of a lack of awareness and worries about the physical demands of the job. I think it could also be pretty intimidating for women to join a shed full of blokes. I’m lucky that my whole team here is very young and we all click. There’s a lot of banter, so I’d say you definitely need to be able to take a joke, but I’ve never encountered any problems or obstacles to overcome because I’m a woman.
Everyone here has been super-accommodating and they’ve all really pushed me to thrive. You don’t need any special skills, just be present and put your hand up to say you’ll have a go. No experience is required, it’s all on-the-job training and they will not chuck you in the deep end. On machinery, it can be very daunting at first but it’s like driving a car. Once you know how it becomes second nature.
What would you recommend about a career in greenkeeping?
Being outdoors is amazing. It’s great to be finished by 1.30pm and you’re out in the sun getting a tan for free! To me, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a shopping centre. Here, I don’t have to fake smile at everyone and a lot of golfers aren’t used to seeing a woman greenkeeper, so I get a lot of positive attention and big waves from everyone. I think that helps make our members feel more positive towards all the greenskeepers, not just me.
How can interested women find out more?
There’s no central source of information for jobs like mine as far as I know. If you’re interested, just get in touch with your local club and try to get some experience or an apprenticeship. I also post a lot of videos on my TikTok account about my working life, which would be worth a look for anyone interested in becoming a greenskeeper. Overall, I’d say if I can do it, anyone can do it!