When a typical golfer steps up to his ball, chances are he's thinking about the configuration of the fairway ahead of him, or how far he is from the green, or where the pin has been placed that day. He may never even consider the people who maintain the green and fairway, or who move the hole to different locations on the green. But good golf course managers undoubtedly respect the work that groundskeepers do to maintain their courses in peak playing condition.
Grass and Ground Maintenance
Grass is, obviously, a key foundational element of any golf course. Grass on the tee area, fairway, green and rough must all be kept healthy and maintained at the correct height. The green is a particular challenge, as the short, firm grass must be kept perfectly weed-free. Groundskeepers not only cut and trim the grass, but apply pesticides, weed prevention chemicals and the proper amount of irrigation to make sure the grass thrives. They also repair areas where the ground has been damaged, so they must know how to prepare soil and seed it, or how to lay new sod. Groundskeepers also change the hole locations on the greens periodically.
A variety of machines are required to maintain a golf course’s grass. Groundskeepers must know how to operate different types of mowers and trimmers, and learn the proper procedures for trimming around areas such as bunkers, cart paths, fences and trees. Additionally, groundskeepers must know how to maintain and repair the equipment, requiring mechanical knowledge of items such as diesel and gas engines.
Very early in the morning -- before play begins for the day -- groundskeepers are typically hard at work. They may also work after dark, once the players have left the course. During peak playing hours they may perform repairs or routine maintenance on their equipment or on the course's facilities. Groundskeepers also walk the course to pick up trash or add water to the ball washers.
Groundskeepers may have to deal with wild animals, particularly burrowing animals that can damage the course. At the Medal of Honor Golf Course at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, for example, groundhogs burrowing near the 18th hole have been a problem. Despite their access to weaponry, the Marines did not resort to explosives -- as the Bill Murray character Carl Spackler did when faced with gophers in the film Caddyshack. "We try not to be cruel," said course superintendent Mike Morgan in 2011, noting that the groundskeepers set traps for the animals, then release them at another part of the base.