what does a greenskeeper do

What Does a Greenskeeper Do?

What is a Greenskeeper?

A greenskeeper is an important part of the success of a golf course. They are behind the scenes heroes that allow us to play golf on beautiful golf courses around the world.

The greenskeeper arrives to the golf course early in the morning before golf tee times begin to get the golf course ready and in great shape for the day.

They have extensive knowledge of turf science, understanding how to grow grass, how short grass can be cut without burning out from the sun, how much water to apply to the grass, and more.

The greenskeeper makes sure the fairways are cut nice, the lush green grass is grown in the rough, tee boxes are mowed tight, and most important of all, the greens are keep clean and rolled flat to make a great surface for putting on.

By definition, a greenskeeper is “a person that cares for and maintains a golf course.” The golf course maintenance is their responsibility. They report back to the head pro and owner of the golf course.

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Here are some of the tasks a greenskeeper can be expected to do:

  • Plant sod
  • Water plants, grass, and trees
  • Set up tee boxes for daily play
  • Landscaping work
  • Mowing the golf course
  • Trimming bushes
  • Removal of trees
  • Solving drainage problems when it rains and floods the course
  • Operate leaf blowers and machines to clear leaves off the golf course

Greenskeepers Fix Up Golf Courses to Look Nice Again

A greenskeeper’s job is to make repairs to the wear and tear that occurs to the golf course on a daily basis. Here are some details on a few critical tasks they do to make a golf course look nice and clean.

Fairway Divot Repair

Hundreds of golfers tear up a golf course with their clubs, taking chunks out of the ground with their divots. These divots in the fairway need to be repaired by replacing the chunk of grass so it can root back into the ground or filling it with the grass seed mixture found on in a bottle in the golf cart.

Most golfers forget to fix their divots in the fairway, however, leaving this job to the greenskeeper. They’ll drive around the golf course finding divots in the ground to fix, filling them with grass seed.

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Maintaining the Putting Greens

On the putting greens, golf balls leave divots, which are indentations in the green’s putting surface. These dents screw up the flat, smooth surface of the green. If a golfer putts the ball and it rolls overtop of the dent in the ground, it can throw the ball off it’s line.

A greenskeeper’s job is to ensure the green’s putting surface remains flat by rolling the greens each week with a heavy machine that helps flatten imperfections.

Dead grass can also be a problem on greens and tough to regrow. Greenskeeper’s keep a close eye to avoid dead grass if possible.

Watering the Golf Course

Another important job of the greenskeeper is watering the golf course with a sprinkler system to ensure the grass growth continues properly.

In the summer months, the hot sun can sometimes burn out the grass if it’s not getting enough irrigation. This occurs mostly where grass is cut shorter like on tee boxes and greens but also can occur in the fairways too.

Mowing the Golf Course

It’s not uncommon to find out a golf course closes down 1 day per week. This usually is on a Monday, after the busy weekend has taken a toll on the golf course.

This day of shutdown allows the greenskeeper and crew to get the golf course mowed, turn on the sprinklers, and all the other maintenance items listed.

Golf courses can cover several acres of land so there is lots of grass to mow! You may find the mowers out on the course during other days as well since one day may not be enough and if grass grows faster than expected, it may need cut multiple times per week.

The greens and tee boxes get mowed the most frequently since the grass on them is kept short on purpose.

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Greenskeepers Cut Hole Locations

Golf courses have schedules of when they change out the hole locations on the greens. The greenskeeper is tasked with removing the old hole, filling it in, and hiding it as if it never existed so that it doesn’t effect the putts of golfers on the green.

The greenskeeper is responsible for cutting the new hole in the green. They are assigned with selecting the location of the new hole for each green.

Since there are 18 greens on a golf course to cut holes, the greenskeeper makes sure that there is a good mix of hole locations so that greens have holes located near the front, in the center, and near the back of the green.

Certain rules are followed when choosing hole locations like how far away they must be from the edge of the green and how severe of a slope they can be placed on.

Hard hole locations will make the golf course frustrating for golfers and they might not want to come back again. But for tournament play, these hole locations can be made tricky on purpose to challenge golfers.

Greenskeepers Measure Green Speed

Green speed is how fast the golf ball rolls on the green. If you were to hit a putt with the same power on two different greens, the ball might roll farther on a green with a faster speed than the green with the slower speed.

Green speed is measured using a stimpmeter.

This measurement reading should usually be a 10 or 11 on the stimpmeter for most public golf courses. Private golf courses might roll at a speed of 11 or 12. The PGA Tour likes to roll their green speeds at 13-14.

Greens tend to be slower in the morning when they are damp from morning dew and get faster throughout the day as they dry out from the sun.

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Types of Grass

Greenskeepers also have to understand the varieties and types of grasses. This goes back to their education and turf science coursework.

Golf courses will have different types of grass depending on where they are located. Courses in the south (of the United States) will have different grass than courses up north. Desert golf courses out in Arizona and Nevada will have different makeup as well.

Grass will grow in certain directions as well. Golfers must learn how to play against the grain of grass as well as with the grain. This can effect putting speed and how the ball grabs the turf when it lands on the green from chip shots and fairway approach shots.

Maintaining Golf Bunkers

It’s also important that a greenskeeper rakes the bunkers each morning so they are fresh and ready to go before golfers hit the course to play 18.

Greenskeepers will fill in bunkers with more sand as needed and make repairs to the golf bunkers as needed from damage caused by golfers. They also must ensure grass and weeds do not grow in the sand bunkers.

Additionally, greenskeepers might be tasked with adding new golf bunkers to a golf course as the course makes changes to hole lengths and the design of the golf course.

Filling in and removing golf bunkers is also a possibility during design changes for the golf course.

Private golf clubs tend to have much nicer golf bunkers that are well maintained and hold nice course sand. Public golf courses usually lack at maintaining their bunkers, which can be frustrating for players who end up in them.

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Schedule and Planning

It’s also important to keep track of the seasons and how weather affects a golf course and plan accordingly. Certain times of the year a golf course will incur more moisture and other times of the year weather will dry it out more from the hot sun and heat. This takes planning for the irrigation to act accordingly to the weather.

Greenskeepers keep a schedule of when to apply different fertilizers, crab grass killers, grub and insect killers, etc. to the grass to ensure it stays in pristine condition throughout the year.

Keeping on top of a schedule of golf tournaments and events is important so the greenskeeper can know when to make changes to the golf course, switch hole locations, and adjust tee boxes for these different golf events.

How to Become a Greenskeeper

To become a greenskeeper you will need to contact all of the local golf courses where you live and ask them if they are in need of additional help or in need of a greenskeeper. You may start out as an assistant and work your way up to head greenskeeper.

Before applying for greenskeeper jobs, you will want to have extensive knowledge of grass, fertilizing, landscaping, water irrigation, etc. so you can handle all of the responsibilities that golf course maintenance requires.

You do not need a college degree.

But it might be helpful to enroll in courses on turfgrass management, horticulture, and landscaping.

Getting any relevant certifications may also help you build your resume so you appear a solid candidate when greenskeeper positions open up at golf courses to apply to.

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