Golf Course Superintendent - Recreation Career Opportunities
CAREER PROFILE Duties: Maintains, operates, and manages a golf course
Alternate Title(s): Golf Course Manager
Salary Range: $60,000 to $125,000 and up
Employment Prospects: Fair to good
Advancement Prospects: Good
Best Geographical Location(s): All; any region where golf is played year-round or seasonally with many courses; greatest opportunities may be in warm climates
Education and Training—A two- or four-year degree in golf course management, turf grass management, or related fields
Experience—Prior golf course experience as an intern and then assistant golf course superintendent
Special Skills and Personality Traits—Knowledge of the science of golf course management; strong communication and leadership skills; extensive understanding of rules and strategies of golf
Director of Golf, Golf Courses, or Parks and Recreation; General Manager; Green Chairman; Golf Course Owner
Golf Course Superintendent
Imagine spending every day out on a golf course, making sure that the conditions are just right for playing. This is the job of a Golf Course Superintendent. These professionals maintain, operate, and manage golf courses using a combination of scientific and agricultural knowledge, communication and leadership skills, and commitment to and passion for the sport of golf.
A typical day for a Golf Course Superintendent begins as early as five a.m., when he or she checks the weather report. Arriving at the course by six, Golf Course Superintendents travel the course to see what needs to be done that day and delegates responsibilities. The greens may need to be mowed, irrigated, sprayed; sand traps may need to be raked. The Golf Course Superintendent analyzes the conditions and makes sure the work gets done.
The science of maintaining a golf course is important and involves extensive knowledge of turf grass management, agronomy, and plant science. Golf Course Superintendents need to know what pesticides to use and in what quantities in order to maintain the course. They must understand the threats to the course such as weeds, bugs, and weather and how to minimize these threats. All the while, they take into consideration environmental concerns with regard to chemical applications.
Additionally, Golf Course Superintendents oversee the golf course’s surrounding properties, which may include pools and tennis courts, wooded areas, and open spaces, as well as all golf course equipment and grounds. They are responsible for construction and capital improvements of the course. They develop plans to submit to management regarding renovation and other projects, and when these plans are approved, they supervise the construction projects, either using in-house staff or outside contractors. Golf Course Superintendents use their knowledge to determine which projects make the most sense financially and aesthetically.
As managers, Golf Course Superintendents supervise assistant superintendents as well as the maintenance staff responsible for caring for the property. Frequently, these are large staffs of 20 employees or more. They interview, hire, and train their staff and work closely as part of a team. They are responsible for scheduling and delegating responsibility. Golf Course Superintendents also prepare budgets and decide where to best allocate funds.
Additional duties include:
- overseeing inventory control
- approving spending
- keeping records of pesticide and chemical applications
- maintaining records of payroll and inventory
- understanding safety laws, rules, and regulations
- playing golf regularly
- advising management with regard to construction and improvement
- maintains course equipment
- planting shrubs and applying fertilizer
- preparing the course for tournaments
Golf Course Superintendents may work for golf courses that are part of resorts, hotels, and country clubs, private membership-based golf courses, or public golf courses that are city owned. Depending on the setting, the reporting structure varies. At a public course, they may report to a director of parks and recreation, while at a private course, they report to a green chairman.
Either way, Golf Course Superintendents can expect to play golf with management regularly. This is a way for Golf Course Superintendents and management to develop a good working relationship and communicate in a more casual setting, since golf is the game that has brought them all there. At private clubs, Golf Course Superintendents also attend green committee meetings and board meetings.
Golf Course Superintendents work long hours beginning early in the morning, especially holidays and weekends when people are apt to play golf. A typical workweek might range from 41 hours per week in the winter to 60 hours per week in the summer. They deal with demanding golfers and must meet their challenging expectations, working outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. However, for those in the field, it is a way to constantly be around the sport they love. The beautiful surroundings and the ability to be involved with golf make the work of a Golf Course Superintendent a dream for many.
According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), in 2007, the average base salary for Golf Course Superintendents was $73,766. This was a 7 percent increase over the base salary reported in 2005 and a 49.7 percent gain since 1995. In 2007, half of all Golf Course Superintendents earned $66,000 or more annually, 25 percent earned more than $87,550, and the top 10 percent earned $115,000 or more annually.
In addition to base salary, more than half of all Golf Course Superintendents receive bonuses, which increase their overall compensation. The GCSAA offers certification and states that certified Golf Course Superintendents who responded to their 2007 survey reported earning an average salary of $87,225, as compared to noncertified Golf Course Superintendents who reported earning an average salary of $68,464—a 27 percent difference.
Salary can vary based on the education and experience of the Golf Course Superintendent, as well as the facility and geographical location in which they work. Golf Course Superintendents working at $1 million typically earn in the six figures. The GCSAA states that at least 14 percent of all certified Golf Course Superintendents with a bachelor’s degree or higher earn $125,000 or more.
There is competition for Golf Course Superintendent jobs, but opportunities are available for those with the right education and experience. Those with a bachelor’s degree and internship experience will have an advantage, as the internship enables prospective applicants to network and develop relationships with potential employers. Professional associations are a good way to find out about job openings as well. The best opportunities are for those who are geographically flexible and are willing to work at different types of courses, both public and private.
Advancement prospects are good for Golf Course Superintendents. As they gain more experience, they can become eligible for voluntary certification and higher salaries. A move from a smaller course to a larger one might also be a next step. Furthermore, they may move into management in positions such as director of golf, director of parks and recreation, general manager, or green chairman.
Education and Training
While some Golf Course Superintendents have worked their way up from the maintenance crew, a minimum of a two-year degree in a related field is required. A bachelor’s degree or even a graduate degree can help create more opportunities as well as flexibility for advancement. Related fields include golf course management, turf grass management, agronomy, horticulture, and others. According to the GCSAA, in 2007, 91.8 percent of Golf Course Superintendents 34 or under earned a college degree, reflecting the need for a degree in today’s market.
The GCSAA maintains an online college guide of colleges and universities that offer two-year associate/ applied science degrees, four-year bachelor of science degree, graduate programs and certificates in golf course management, turf grass, or related fields. Search this database at www.gcsaa.org/students/CollegeGuide- Search.aspx.
Internships are an essential part of the training process, according to insiders. Spending a summer or semester working alongside Golf Course Superintendents, trying out different grasses, seeing different courses, and learning the ropes is invaluable. These programs may provide housing and additional perks, such as free golf.
Additionally, the GCSAA offers a professional certification program for Golf Course Superintendents enabling them to be recognized for their superior levels of achievement in golf course management. For more information, see www.gcsaa.org/cm/contentm/ modules/display_dynamic.ahtml?params=MSwxMTks MDAwMDQuMDAwMDU=.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Golf Course Superintendents typically begin as second or first assistants after graduation. This position builds on the basic skills they learned during their internship and they gain more exposure to supervising others, budgeting, chemical applications/managing turf, preparing for tournaments, and other key skills. Golf Course Superintendents may work as assistants for several years or longer depending on their learning curve. It is also common for them to move around to different golf courses in order to gain a broad range of experience and training.
Technical skills are required for the job in order to understand turf grass management, irrigation techniques, plant physiology, and chemical applications. As managers, Golf Course Superintendents should have excellent leadership and communication skills. They need to work with staff, management, and players. Furthermore, they need to have experience playing golf, with knowledge of the rules and strategies of the game.
Unions and Associations
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is the major professional association for Golf Course Superintendents. According to its Web site at www.gcsaa.org, GCSAA is dedicated to serving its members, advancing their profession, and enhancing the enjoyment, growth, and vitality of the game of golf. Other information is available through the United States Golf Association (USGA).
Tips for Entry
1. Explore bachelor’s degree programs in golf course management such as the ones offered by Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan (www.ferris.edu/bachelor-degree-professionalgolf- management.htm) and the State University of New York in Delhi, New York (www.delhi. edu/academics/catalog_08/bachelor_degrees/ golf_course_management_superintendent_bba. php).
2. During the job application process, make sure to target your résumé and cover letter toward each particular course and Golf Course Superintendent. Photographs of your projects can be helpful supplemental material that can demonstrate your knowledge of maintenance.
3. Get a summer job working at a golf course as soon as possible. This will give you an important background and help you to decide which position is right for you.
4. Both the GCSAA and the USGA have extensive career information on their Web sites—be sure to explore both at www.gcsaa.org and www.usga. org.
5. Search for Golf Course Superintendent jobs and career information on search engines such as Google. Much career information is out there, including “day in the life” pieces and other features.
Nice and encouraging,
would like to know if there are prospects of a career without a degree in Turf / golf course management, but if the applicant has a degree in Agricultural sciences and is currently working as an assistant Superintendent in a Golf Course.