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The Golfdom Files: The super’s future in golf

By |  March 25, 2024 0 Comments

In the February issue of Golfdom, we introduced you to the Super-Scratch Foundation — a group looking to build interest in the career of golf course superintendent among young people. Looking back to the May 1967 issue of Golfdom, a Minnesota superintendent shares his thoughts on the “golf course superintendent supply squeeze.” Read the full article here.

The super’s future in golf

Photo: Golfdom staff

Photo: Golfdom staff

By John L. Kolb, superintendent, Minneapolis GC, St. Louis Park, Minn.

In this age of mass disobedience, let me stumble into an area where angels tremble and express a few thoughts about the mechanics of the contemporary golf club. Whether it is the curse of modern affluence or just maladjustment of a fast-changing industry which contributes to the present situation, I am not absolutely sure.

Andrew Bertoni tells the story about the newly elected club president who, meeting the golf course superintendent for the first time, asked how long he had been at the club.

“Twenty years,” was the reply.

“That’s odd,” said the club president. “I have belonged to this club for that many years, but you do not look familiar.”

This is not an isolated case. It is safe to say that at least 60 percent of the membership of the average club do not know their superintendent. The blame for this does not lie with the member nor the superintendent. The golf course superintendent is not engaged in personal contact as is the golf professional and the club manager.

Your golf course superintendent is probably a humble man, for hard work plus the uncertainties of working with nature teaches a man a measure of humility. That is not to say that he is “confused” because he very well could be the only employee on the entire staff of golf club employees with a college degree and, more than likely, it will be an agricultural Bachelor of Science degree.

Golf clubs are in a golf course superintendent supply squeeze. Most older established golf clubs are reaching maturity along with their superintendent. The rate of retiring or dismissed older superintendents is alarming and most are being replaced with very young men who have some form of college training, either the two-year associate degree or the full four-to-five-year courses leading to a B.S. degree. Besides the retiring and dismissed superintendent replacement, there is the need for more men in the 450 new courses being built annually.

What are golf courses doing to attract good men? — A report on a study of 300 of the nation’s agricultural colleges, published this year by McGraw-Hill, says: “The heads of some of the departments of horticulture, agronomy and soil science … report that they are unable to fill more than one-third of the demand … for B.S. graduates.”

Why aren’t more men zeroing in on the myriad opportunities available in agriculture in general and turf work in particular? One problem is “image.”

Turf work is associated with the term “greenkeeper” which is further associated with subservient work. Image, however, is not the only deterrent.

The bidding for graduates of agricultural colleges has not yet reached the frenzied pace set by the Green Bay Packers for football talent. However, fertilizer, chemical and allied companies are scrambling as never before to keep up with the growing need for technical personnel. The result is a rising salary scale and a wider job selection for the graduate with golf courses running a poor last in the bidding.

Professor Ralph E. Miller, Placement Director for the Institute of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota, says, “There are at least five and, most times, six jobs for every graduate of agricultural sciences.” Professor Miller also points out that recruiting and interviewing of graduates is on a year-round basis (not just spring graduates) and has increased 75 percent in the past year. Throw in the bidding of highway departments, institutions and government and the results for golf courses are inevitable.

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