The Golfdom Files: A New York super gives his take on the greenkeeper title in this 1969 issue

By |  April 9, 2024 0 Comments
Photo: Golfdom staff

Photo: Golfdom staff

Superintendent, greenkeeper, the guy who puts holes in the green. The men and women who take care of golf courses go by many names. Looking back to the April 1969 issue of Golfdom, a New York superintendent gives his take on why the greenkeeper title was still popular in the ’60s, years after the GCSAA rebranded. To read the full article, visit

Superintendent or Greenkeeper?

Although golf course superintendent is officially the title, the term greenkeeper still persists …

By Bill Smart, superintendent, The Powelton Club, Newburgh, N.Y.

Illustration: Art Sudduth

Illustration: Art Sudduth

A few years before World War II, the National Association of Greenkeepers changed its name to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, thus changing the title of everyone in the trade from greenkeeper to golf course superintendent.

In spite of the passage of over 20 years, the old title still persists, to the delight of a few and the dismay of many. Why has greenkeeper persisted instead of fading into the past along with the village blacksmith and the automobile crank?

First and foremost, it continues because it is in both the written and the spoken language of the country. Any writer will admit that greenkeeper taps out on the keys more easily and naturally than golf course superintendent — especially when it’s coupled with an association’s name such as Golf Course Superintendents Association of America or even my affiliate, the Hudson Valley Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Illustration: Art Sudduth

Illustration: Art Sudduth

By the same token, say the word greenkeeper in place of golf course superintendent and notice how lightly it trips off the tongue. Its use, therefore, is encouraged in everyday conversation because it’s just easier to say.

I have no doubt that if a nationwide poll of superintendents were taken today, 90 percent would be in favor of the title golf course superintendent, but for the wrong reason. As one widely-read golf writer put it, “Greenkeeper, they feel, connotes a rumpled little man in baggy overalls who darts about the fairways getting dirt under his fingernails.”

This description in fact did fit many of the pre-World War II turfmen and even some of today’s. Perhaps in that 90 percent are those who feel that a more imposing title would un-rumple the man (past and present) from the baggy overalls to a gray flannel suit and manicured nails.

Then there are those who have struggled and sweated through two to four years of turf school, most getting rumpled, baggy and dirty on seasonal course jobs and who will settle for nothing less than golf course superintendent as their right and proper title. One super that I know discards, unopened, any mail addressed to him as greenkeeper.

The remaining 10 percent who like the old term and the many who don’t object to it have a broader view: Fundamentally the job has remained unchanged during the last half century — they are still the Keeper O’ the Green (green meaning the whole course.)

While it may be true that supers must be more proficient in wider areas than the old-timers, basically the job functions are the same and have not disappeared as has the auto crank, or changed as the smithy was forced to do.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in From the Magazine, The Golfdom Files

Post a Comment