Greenkeeper

The Job and What's Involved

Golf CourseA greenkeeper is responsible for the maintenance, care and overall appearance of a golf course. It is their job to maintain a good playing surface and ensure the course offers a consistent challenge and an enjoyable experience to golfers.

There are four key areas on a golf course - tees, fairways, greens and areas of rough - each of which requires a different type of maintenance. Greenkeepers are often also responsible for the maintenance and planting of trees, shrubs and flower beds.

They tour the course at the start of the day in order to prepare the course for play. This can require very early starts to ensure the best playing surfaces are available on a daily basis. Greenkeepers also need to be constantly aware of golfers on the course, making sure their work does not interfere with play, and must keep health and safety at the forefront of all their activities.

Their work may include:

  • Mowing turf using tractors, ride-on machines and specialist hand mowers.
  • Treating turf to ensure consistent playing surfaces.
  • Using environmentally friendly treatments to control weeds, fungal diseases and pests when instructed to do so by supervisors or management.
  • Renovating and maintaining bunkers and other hazards such as water features.
  • Removing early morning dew and debris from the greens.
  • Repairing wear and tear caused by golfers and animals such as moles and rabbits.
  • Responding to enquiries and dealing with any golfers in line with current responsibilities and management guidance.
  • Attending to drainage problems.
  • Applying irrigation.
  • Cutting new holes on greens.
  • Planting and pruning trees and shrubs as required.
  • Operating and maintaining machinery and tools.

Greenkeepers are increasingly required to take into account the environmental impact of their work, especially in terms of water conservation and the use of chemicals.

Although they are part of a larger team, Greenkeepers often work on tasks alone. They often work under the supervision of a golf course manager.

The hours worked by Greenkeepers can be longer in the spring and summer months. In summer, they may start work at around 6.00am in order to complete various tasks before the course is open to golfers. As golf courses usually open seven days a week, weekend work is common. Part-time work may also be available.

Greenkeepers spend most of their time outdoors, in all weather conditions. Some time may be spent indoors repairing machinery, especially during the winter months.

Green keeping is physically active work requiring bending. Allergies, such as hay fever, could make this job difficult. Uniforms, including overalls and safety boots, are usually provided by the employer.

Apprentice Greenkeepers may start on around £10,000, rising to around £14,000 a year once qualified. Greenkeepers with a few years experience may earn up to £23,000 a year.

Some Greenkeepers may be paid an hourly rate, ranging from about £5 to £11 an hour.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 15,000 Greenkeepers working in the UK. Employers include:

  • Private golf clubs.
  • Local authority leisure departments that operate public golf courses.
  • Hotels with golf facilities.
  • Ground maintenance contractors.

There are many golf courses and driving ranges located around the country. They may be found on the outskirts of towns, in the countryside and on the coast. Although entry to this career is competitive, opportunities are available throughout the country and overseas.

Golf courses and local authorities may advertise vacancies on customer notice boards and in local newspapers. Specialist golf website's, such as www.bigga.org.uk and www.pitchcare.com, also advertise positions.

Education and Training

No formal qualifications are needed; however experience in horticulture and agriculture, and a good understanding of golf may be an advantage.

A range of qualifications are available:

  • BTEC National Awards, Certificates, Diplomas in horticulture.
  • Level 2 National Certificate in sports and amenity turf maintenance.
  • Level 3 Advanced National Certificate in sports and amenity turf management.
  • NPTC Level 3 Award in managing sports turf areas.
  • Foundation degrees and degrees in subjects such as sports turf, surf grass science and golf course management.
  • Masters degree in sports turf technology.

As a guide, minimum requirements for entry onto a BTEC National course are usually four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent; for a foundation degree the entry requirements are normally one A level and four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent; for a degree course the minimum requirements are normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually to include English and maths, or equivalent.

As entry requirements to courses are likely to vary, candidates are advised to check with individual institutions.

The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) also has a Master Greenkeeper Certification Scheme for its members.

Most courses are offered by colleges and private providers throughout the UK. It may be possible to register on courses for day or block release and to study online or via distance learning. This method of learning is becoming increasingly popular with employers and learners.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be relevant for this area of work.

It may also be possible to enter this career through completion of an Apprenticeship in amenity horticulture.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and will pay at least £95 per week from August 2009. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available on the Apprenticeship page on this website, from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually provided on the job, beginning with routine tasks and leading towards qualification in sports and amenity turf maintenance.

The Level 3 Advanced National Certificate in sports and amenity turf management includes more complex skills and supervisory responsibilities which can help to prepare Greenkeepers for promotion to management positions.

Most Greenkeepers join BIGGA, which offers subsidised training courses, scholarship opportunities and continuing professional development (CPD).

BIGGA also operates a Master Greenkeeper Certificate Scheme that recognises qualifications, skills and experience in golf course management.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A greenkeeper needs:

  • An in-depth knowledge of turf and how to maintain it.
  • Practical skills for driving and operating machinery.
  • Good stamina and physical fitness.
  • To be self-motivated and able to work on their own initiative.
  • To be able to work alone and also as part of a team.
  • Basic numeracy and literacy skills.
  • To understand and follow health and safety requirements.
  • To have good communication skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Greenkeepers with suitable qualifications and experience can move into supervisory positions and then become course managers. Some may progress to manage several courses by becoming estate managers.

An understanding of the techniques and science of different playing surfaces can lead to employment opportunities in other sports. It may also be possible to move into agronomy or golf course design.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association,
BIGGA House, Aldwark, Alne, York YO61 1UF
Tel: 01347 833800
Website: www.bigga.org.uk

Greenkeepers Training Committee (GTC),
Aldwark Manor, Aldwark, Alne, York YO61 1UF
Tel: 01347 838640
Website: www.the-gtc.co.uk

GROW your own career in Horticulture
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Website: www.growcareers.info

The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG),
28 Stratford Office Village, Walker Avenue,
Wolverton Mill East, Milton Keynes MK12 5TW
Tel: 01908 312511
Website: www.iog.org

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk and www.afuturein.com

Pitchcare.com Ltd, The Technology Centre,
Wolverhampton Science Park,
Wolverhampton WV10 9RU
Tel: 01902 440252
Website: www.pitchcare.com

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