While nearly everyone else is vying for spots in top engineering or finance degree programs, there is a growing number of students who are considering careers in turf management and are enrolling in turf grass science programs at some of the nation’s most respected universities. Turf managers are the people that are responsible for ground maintenance for areas like golf courses. The reasons that people choose this career option varies. For example, some people simply want a job where they can work outdoors, and others like the perks of free golf on the courses for which they help to maintain. Here is an overview of the history of the turf grass management academic discipline, the types of courses offered within many turf grass management degree programs, typical job options for turf managers and professional issues to consider when becoming a turf manager.
Turf Grass Management As An Academic Discipline
According to a U.S. News and World Report article, the academic discipline of turf grass science is not new. Schools like Pennsylvania State University have been issuing degrees for this concentration area under the agronomy major since the 1920s. The demand for turf science graduates who are trained in soil science, pest control, irrigation, weed control and sport field design is steady. Because of the career oriented nature of the discipline, many degree programs include internships at sporting fields, country club styled golf courses and parks.
Courses in Turf Grass Management
Students who major in turf grass science take a variety of courses that relate to plant biology, chemistry, business management and communication. For example, some course topics include turf grass varieties and breeds, plant nutrition and soil fertility. Business courses in management, accounting, business law and human resources prepare graduates for leadership roles within the profession. Also, classes that emphasize the development of good written and verbal communication skills help future turf managers to convey both technical and practical concepts of turf management to a variety of stakeholders.
Career Options for Turf Managers
A turf grass management degree opens up doors in careers like golf course superintendent, grounds maintenance supervisor and professional tree trimmer. Golf course superintendents are responsible for all aspects of the operations and maintenance of golf courses. Their duties include installation and maintenance of turf, managing property assets, controlling budgets and overseeing people. Turf science degree courses can also be used as educational credits towards the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s certification for golf course superintendents. Grounds maintenance supervisors oversee the sowing of sod, decorative plants, trees and shrubs for businesses and private residences. They also are employed with cities and counties for the maintenance of public parks. After some years of hands on experience working within the industry, many turf science graduates can start their own lawn care maintenance or tree trimming businesses.
Issues Faced by Turf Managers
A significant issue faced by turf managers and their work crews is the exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers. While these chemicals result in pristine landscapes when applied properly, they also can cause health issues for workers and negatively impact the surrounding environment. However, there are turf science programs that expose students to organic turf grass management techniques and low impact pesticide use like Tufts University and Rutgers University respectively.
Ideal turf managers have mastered the science behind grass growth, cutting and landscape pruning, but they also have an understanding of how the turf is supposed to be used. For example, those who play golf and understand the technical side of how the golf course’s grass is supposed to be maintained can determine any modifications that are needed to turf management activities when the turf does not support optimal sport performance.