Vital Skill Sets: The Golf Course Superintendent

This month I would like to talk more about some of the vital skill sets in the golf industry starting with the Golf Course Superintendent. This is not the golf course construction superintendent who manages the design implementation, earthmoving, drainage and construction of the golf course but the caretaker of the core asset of your facility – the golf course. The Turfgrass Encyclopedia (2005) defines the golf course superintendent as, “a professional agronomist who has direct supervision and responsibility for the maintenance of a golf course including the turf, trees, shrubs and flowers, bunkers, water features, drainage, irrigation and most importantly emphasis on the presentation of the turf grass playing surfaces. “

In other words, this is the person responsible for providing the playability of the sporting field for the game of golf at your facility. Yes, that is right, a golf course is a sporting field… it is not a garden, tree farm or a place wet enough to grow lilies.  The Superintendent needs skills in soil science, plant pathology, horticulture, irrigation systems and scheduling techniques, drainage, insect and weed pest management methods, computer applications, rules of golf and good interpersonal relationship skills when dealing with staff, members, owners or green committees.

It has been my experience that many golfers, committee members, owners and others related to game of golf do not have a clear enough idea of what a professional golf course superintendnet must do to create and maintain a golf course to high standards.

In his role, as can be seen above, there are many professional skills required to maintain a golf course. Hence,  it would only make sense that one would need to be competent in all the areas above and not only some to be an effective golf course superintendent.  He would also need to know the theory and practical application of each of these skills, and that comes with a good apprenticeship and time.

One of the things required to become great in this field is commitment. Most golf course superintendents that I know devote themselves completely to his trade more as a passion than as a job.  This is not always easy in many areas when Mother Nature is often trying to return the golf course back to jungle.  Add to this the fact that the superintendent must plan around periods of heat, cold, insect invasions, diseases, floods and droughts to provide a good golfing experience for his members or guests at the golf club.

So next time you see your golf course Superintendnet give him a wave and a smile for his dedication to provide you, as a golfer and captain of industry,  a nice place to recreate amid nature and fine turf, flowering trees and with your family and friends!

Feedback and comments are valued!


Tony Taylor                                                                                              GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent

25 Years On… what have we learned?

Golf continues to expand in Asia at a rate faster than almost any other region in the world from golf course design, construction and the maintenance perspective.

Learning from those here who have gained from both successes and failures and learning from what has been done in developed golf nations would surely benefit the greater good of our industry in Asia.

From my years of experience I have seen set backs which resulted from the lack of educational infrastructure for the local people to succeed in keeping up with the rapid golf growth. There are not enough universities in the region offering landscape architecture, turf grass programs, general manager training programs to qualify a person in all aspects of the clubs they are managing. Hence, there are not enough trained professional managers running the golf operations at golf clubs. Most importantly not many owners recognize the need for training to develop the professional skill sets of the local staff within our industry. These are all necessary actions to protect the substantial investments made in golf long into the future. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and PGA cannot understand or manage how to expand in Asia. Fortunately, we do have the AGIF (Asian Golf Industry Federation) moving forward with programs designed to fill this educational gap for the first time with great success.

What are the answers and more importantly what is the solution to create more successful golf projects?

To answer this question in a few words – ‘professional skill sets’ are desperately needed. Experience tells us that in each area of a golf course operation it must start with hiring the right professionals to do each and every job needed. These people are highly skilled in their profession from many projects and past experiences in the Asia region, which they can refer to when working on your golf course. These are called “Best Practices”. Meaning those that are tried and have shown great success.

The following skill sets associated with the golf business do take many years of education, examinations, on the job training and mentorship from other experts to be proficient in any single skill. The key skills start with: financial feasibility, master planning, golf course architecture, clubhouse design, landscape design, civil engineering, irrigation design, construction management, golf course superintendent, golf professional, general management, human resources, real estate, hotel and resort operations, food and beverage, sales and marketing, and customer service expertise to list a few. Look carefully successful projects within the SE Asia region and you will find they have hired such professionals to work with the team to do the job that shows positive financial results to the owner.  As we all know, owners what to see a positive ROI for their money invested. If you look at any failed projects we can identify exactly which one or more of the professional skill sets were left out!

All of this is leading up to Exceptional Golf Course Conditions.

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