Role and Responsibilities of a Golf Course Superintendent
The golf course superintendent is the manager of the game’s most valuable resource: the golf course. The career is multi-faceted. It involves turfgrass management, environmental stewardship, research, personnel management, budget development, accounting, event management, inventory control, communications, and a variety of other tasks. The golf course superintendent manages labor, time, materials, and finances in a manner that is compatible with the environment, meets financial goals, and creates a positive experience for the golfers who frequent the course.
Golf Course Maintenance and Staff Supervision
Every day, the golf course superintendent assigns major maintenance tasks to staff in a way that minimally impacts golfers. However, minor tasks, from daily repairing of divots, ball marks, dew removal, and picking up trash, are equally important in getting the course ready for play.
In the long term, golf course superintendents must schedule seasonal/yearly watering, fertilizing, topdressing, seeding/sodding, drainage, verticutting, and other primary maintenance duties to ensure the health and beauty of the course.
When extreme weather hits — from heat and drought to torrential rains — the superintendent must decide what action to take. The cure depends on the illness and the unique conditions. Sometimes inaction — patiently giving damaged turfgrass time to heal on its own — is best. Other times, a more proactive approach — from resodding to covering greens over winter — is warranted.
A balanced approach to turf management keeps plants and players happy. Knowing when to do what comes from experience and education.
Communication and Relationship Management
The superintendent usually reports to the golf course owner, a general manager, or green chairman. When a city owns the golf course, the superintendent may report to the Director of Parks and Recreation. In addition to his or her supervisor, the superintendent must also communicate effectively with golfers, vendors, suppliers, golf professionals, golf course architects, and others in the golf industry. The superintendent may also educate community groups and the media about golf course and turfgrass management in today’s changing world. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential for golf course superintendents to successfully manage all of these relationships.
A Challenging and Rewarding Career
Being a golf course superintendent is certainly not an easy job. However, the personal and professional opportunities for growth and fulfillment, as well as the financial rewards (often in the six figures), make it a dream career for those with a passion for turf. To find out more about the golf course superintendent profession and see if this might be the career you want to pursue, contact a superintendent at a nearby golf course and consider getting an entry level job there to experience what the work is like firsthand.
Portions adapted and reprinted with permission from the GCSAA
"Attending Rutgers Turf Management School Program was a turning point [in] my career as a golf course superintendent. [Rutgers] provided me with the technical knowledge and the tools that helped me find solutions to do my job at the highest level in the industry."
Sample Golf Course Superintendent Job Description
NOTE: This example job description was pieced together from several different descriptions posted by private country clubs and municipal golf courses around the country. This is not comprehensive, nor does it reflect every job opening available. However, we hope it gives you a good idea of what a Golf Course Superintendent does on a daily and yearly basis. One thing not mentioned but worth noting: the best superintendents love golf, love to work outdoors, love plants, or all three!
Golf Course Superintendent Job Overview
The superintendent is responsible for operation and maintenance of the golf course. These responsibilities include:
- Turfgrass/plant material maintenance programs;
- Property/asset management;
- Personnel management;
- Financial management;
- Member relations;
- Scheduling/maintenance of irrigation systems;
- Pesticide applications; and
- Compliance of regulatory issues.
The Golf Course Superintendent works to create an environment where staff is involved and enthusiastic, with open communication and respect for themselves, members, guests, and the property.
- Responsible for all phases of Golf Maintenance and Agronomic operations, cost control, and personnel.
- Works closely with, advises, and coordinates with the Head Golf Professional on any issues related to golf course maintenance.
- Directs and participates in the construction and maintenance of the grounds.
- Designs landscape plans for facility grounds and implements the plans.
- Administers and enforces all Club rules, regulations, and policies for staff.
- Supports and assists with membership seminars and orientations.
- Works closely with the GM/CEO/Supervisor to operate the Golf Course in a fiscally responsible and professional manner.
- Must be able to work independently and be a self-starting problem solver.
- Oversees the care and maintenance of the turf, ornamental plants, shrubs, trees, and wetlands on the facility grounds.
- Directs and assists the staff on the planting of new vegetation; the replacement, spraying, pruning, and trimming of trees and shrubs; the preparation of soil plant beds for aesthetically pleasing arrangements; and tending to high stress areas.
- Provides detailed annual plan for the various property levels and the designated landscaping areas. Includes rotational design to provide facility with a fresh, eye-catching, interesting, and pleasant atmosphere.
- Manages an aggressive water usage tracking plan and irrigation systems and provides monthly reporting on retaining ponds, wells, and other water source usage.
- Recruits, supervises, and retains maintenance staff. Conducts employee performance evaluations and exercises disciplinary action.
- Provides technical, operational, and safety training for employees to ensure that staff is working within OSHA, club safety, state, and federal guidelines for safe working conditions.
- Oversees subordinates in proper and safe operation and maintenance of mechanical and power equipment. Plans and budgets for additional or replacement capital equipment.
- Supervises and participates in the application and recording of chemical applications (fertilizers and pesticides) on the Club’s grounds in compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations.
- Supervises and controls all maintenance expenses associated with Golf Course Operations, including payroll, supplies, chemicals, and fertilizers.
- Develops annual operating budget and plans for maintenance and capital improvement projects.
- Maintains records and completes required reporting. Orders parts, supplies, and equipment as needed.
- Schedules maintenance practices around member play and outings to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption to members.
- Coordinates snow removal and winter maintenance activities when necessary.
Knowledge and Skills Required
- Knowledge of management and maintenance of greens, fairways and roughs.
- Knowledge of use and operating standards of equipment and tools used in golf course construction and maintenance work.
- Skill in recruiting, supervising, training, monitoring, evaluating, and motivating personnel.
- Interpersonal skills to resolve conflicts and work with supervisors, officials, employees, members, and the general public.
- Knowledge of safe use, mixing, and application of chemicals and commercial products.
- Knowledge of the game of golf, golf rules, and methods of play.
- Ability to anticipate personnel, equipment, and material requirements related to golf course maintenance and repair assignments.
- Ability and knowledge to lay out irrigation patterns, drainage patterns, and construct tees and/or greens.
- 3-5 years experience as a Golf Superintendent or 1st Assistant
- 2-year Degree or Certificate in Turf Management (or related field, like agronomy, horticulture, plant science, or soil science)
- Advanced computer skills required for financial reporting and control of operations, including use of Microsoft Office Suite
- Valid Driver’s License
- Pesticide Application License
- Prefer Certification by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
- Prefer good command of Spanish language
To learn more about the salary expectations for golf course superintendents and how education level can impact a superintendent’s salary, visit our Golf Course Superintendent Salary page.
Rutgers Turf School: Educating Golf Course Superintendents for Over 50 Years
Since graduating our first class in 1962, the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School has worked tirelessly to create a world-renowned learning center for golf course superintendents, assistant superintendents, sports turf managers, and professionals in related fields. Hundreds of our graduates are currently working as golf course superintendents or assistant golf course superintendents at many of the most highly regarded courses across the United States and around the world.
Our Two-Year Certificate Program provides in-depth training over the course of two 10-week classroom sessions in New Brunswick, NJ and a 200-hour paid internship at the golf course of your choice.
Our Three-Week Preparatory Turf Course offers online convenience and a condensed format that provides students with a comprehensive overview of turfgrass science and golf course management essentials.
To learn more about our programs and how Rutgers can help you achieve your golf course superintendent career goals, please contact us. We’re here to help!
"Going to the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School was one of the best decisions I ever made. The knowledge and connections that I have gained are tremendous. Rutgers honed my skills and taught me the reasons behind the cultural practices we do and the chemicals we apply.
"After the first session, I was promoted to Assistant Superintendent at my previous golf course. As soon as I graduated, I landed a head superintendent position! I would recommend this program to anyone who loves turf management because you won't find a better group of teachers anywhere in the world."