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Golf Course Superintendents

At a Glance

  • Manage greens, employees, and facilities
  • Work outdoors and indoors
  • May work on weekends
  • May have a two- or four-year degree

Career summary

Golf course superintendents manage and maintain golf courses.

#Put some info into bulleted lists to match other aspect of NWOIS reformatting for 2013, 8/6/13 cj, deleted superfluous text, checked, few changes 2/17/15 lh

Golf course superintendents, sometimes called golf course turf managers, have a wide array of duties and responsibilities. This makes it necessary for superintendents to have skills and knowledge in many different areas including:

The main duty of a golf course superintendent is to ensure the grass playing surfaces called greens and fairways, and the course as a whole, are properly maintained. Depending on the grass type, superintendents must know how and when to apply the correct amounts of fertilizer, water, and pesticides to keep the grass healthy without harming the environment. They must also know when to cut, thatch, and aerate turf to keep the greens in top condition.

Golf courses also contain areas, called hazards, which serve to increase the challenge to golfers. Hazards commonly found on courses are pits of sand, called bunkers or sand traps, or pools of water. Superintendents ensure these are kept in good condition.

Improvement to the golf course is important to keep the course interesting and in line with current standards. Working with general management, they develop projects and budgets to improve the golf course using long-range plans and standards.

Superintendents also manage sod farms and nurseries that supply turf and bedding plants for the golf course. They also maintain the grounds and landscaping around the clubhouse. In some facilities, they may also maintain other recreational areas such as tennis courts and swimming pools.

Superintendents must have highly detailed technical knowledge about the course they manage and the game of golf in general. They may be called upon to answer questions about rules of play, golf etiquette, golf cart rules, frost delays, or other issues that affect players.

Superintendents also have administrative duties such as purchasing supplies and equipment, hiring and supervising employees, and creating and managing budgets. Depending on the size of the course, they may supervise one or more assistants and additional workers including irrigation technicians, equipment mechanics, and greens keepers.

Superintendents usually report to one person. This might be the owner, chairperson of the greens committee, general manager, or public administrator.

Related careers

This career is part of the Hospitality and Tourism cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to golf course superintendents.

Common work activities

Golf course superintendents perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, golf course superintendents:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Golf course superintendents frequently:

It is important for golf course superintendents to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for golf course superintendents to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Golf course superintendents need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a golf course superintendent, you must:

Formal education

A two- or four-year degree in agronomy, turfgrass science, landscape architecture, or horticulture is the most common route to this occupation. Continuing education has become a requirement for superintendents as turfgrass management becomes more technical and environmental issues of pesticides, wildlife conservation, and water conservation increase in importance.

Work experience

Most golf course superintendents begin as assistant superintendents mentored by an experienced manager. The average time spent as an assistant ranges from three to five years.

On-the-job training

Few golf course superintendents receive training on the job. Employers hire experienced, proven workers or promote experienced lower-level assistants.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (PDF file) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (PDF file).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities, you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community are here (PDF file).

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire golf course superintendents who have prior experience managing golf courses. Employers look for a knowledge of turf management, accounting and bookkeeping, and time management skills. They also seek workers who are up to date on federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding the management of golf course operations.


An internship on a golf course provides valuable experience. Keeping abreast of changes in water, vegetation, and wildlife conservation practices on golf courses is also helpful.

#Tip comment added from Greener Greens article, Subaru Drive Magazine, Spring 2014, 3/31/14 cj.

Costs to workers

Golf course superintendents who apply pesticides must obtain a license from the State Department of Agriculture. There is an annual fee. Superintendents may also pay dues to a state or national association, or pay for educational materials and testing to become nationally certified. They may also pay to attend continuing education classes or take classes online to keep up with changes in the field.


Golf course superintendents often obtain licenses for specific tasks such as pesticide application. Licensing divisions within the Washington State Department of Agriculture at 360.902.1800 can provide specific information or through their website:

http://agr.wa.gov/Portals/PF/ (external link)

National certification is also available from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). Contact information for the association is listed in the Other Resources section of this description.

#fine 3/26/13 lh


Currently, there is no specific statewide wage information available for golf course superintendents.

#No ES wage info available 7.13 ss

Pay varies with the employer's size and location. Pay also depends on the worker's education, experience, and responsibility. Superintendents managing larger, 18-hole courses earn more than superintendents of smaller courses. Nationally, the average base salary for golf course superintendents in 2017 was $89,189 per year.

#Updated national average for 2015 from https://www.gcsaa.org/career/compensation-report 3/23/17 lh. Updated wage from 2017 Compensation and Benefits report by the Golf Course Superintendents Association 4/2/18 cj.

Superintendents usually receive benefits. Common benefits include paid vacation, health and dental insurance, and a retirement plan. Many superintendents also receive a bonus in addition to their base compensation.

Employment and outlook

Washington employment

Currently, there is no specific statewide employment information available for golf course superintendents.

#No employment info available 7.13 ss

There are about 327 courses in Washington. Most are located in cities or small towns.

#Source for number of public and private courses updated 3/17/14 cj: http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/state.aspx?state=WA (external link), no change 2/17/15 lh

National outlook

Currently, there is no specific statewide outlook information available for golf course superintendents.

#No outlook info available 7.13 ss

The outlook for golf superintendents depends on the continued popularity of the game, increase in the number of golfers playing, the amount of income available for recreation, and the construction of new golf courses. Some job openings will also occur as superintendents retire or move to other occupations.

Other resources

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (external link)
1421 Research Park Drive
Lawrence, KS 66049
National Recreation and Park Association (external link)
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, VA 20148
Professional Golf Association (external link)
100 Avenue of the Champions
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
Professional Grounds Management Society (external link)
9 Newport Drive, Suite 200
Forest Hill, MD 21050
Sports Turf Managers Association (external link)
805 New Hampshire, Ste. E
Lawrence, KS 66044
Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association (external link)
1377 Aaron Ave NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
What Does a Golf Course Superintendent Do? (Rutgers University) (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net job zones (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters