Published onSeptember 14 2021
As we celebrate the hard work, incredible dedication and talent of greenkeeping teams across the nation on International Thank a Greenkeeper Day, we thought we’d put together a handy guide for those interested in the profession.
Looking to re-train in a new outdoor career? Or thinking about your career path following school? Find out more about the roles, relevant training and experience in this article.
Overview of a Greenkeeper’s Typical Roles and Responsibilities
A golf greenkeeper is primarily responsible for the care and maintenance of turf across the nations’ golf courses. Their daily tasks comprise of maintaining the high quality of playing surfaces, ensuring the course is in a great condition and fit for play.
Golf greenkeepers carry out these duties using a key range of equipment and machinery, which they’ll need to use safely and competently. These tools will also need to be regularly inspected, sharpened and maintained, which will help with efficiency and precision, as they’ll be at optimum cutting quality. This will also help prolong the lifespan due to reducing the risk of components breaking down.
The fleet of machinery will depend on the type of course you're managing, but essentials will typically include:
- Ride-on mowers (Greens/tees/fairway)
- Hand mowers
- Rough mower (featuring a rotary mower in contrast to cylinders used in greens and tees)
- Bunker machine
- Hollow coring and topdressing
- Turf iron
- Hand tools such as spades/shovels
- Tractors and utility vehicles.
Other duties can include maintaining golf course furniture, developing and improving wildlife habitats, maintaining bunkers, moving tee markers, changing holes, clearly marking courses for hazards, getting involved with environmental and ecological operations and administering first aid.
Training and Apprenticeships
There are plenty of routes into a greenkeeping career depending on your circumstances and level of experience.
A fantastic starter route would be a level 2 Golf Greenkeeper apprenticeship, which is designed to equip individuals with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to the professional standard for the industry.
This is typically a two-year course which comprises of on-the job training combined with learning delivered at a local educational facility such as a land-based college. Once the individual is ready, they will be assessed during an ‘end point assessment’ to demonstrate they have the correct practical and theoretical knowledge. Other work-based qualifications include:
- Work Based Diploma Level 2 Sports Turf - SVQ Level 2 Sports Turf
- Work Based Diploma Level 3 Sports Turf - SVQ Level 3 Sports Turf
- Level 5 Golf Course Manager Apprenticeship
You can also attend a dedicated course, qualification or degree at a specialist land-based college, which can be studied either full or part time. Qualifications and further education courses currently available in the UK include:
- Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Golf Course Management
- Higher National Diploma (HND) in Golf Course Management
- Foundation Degree (FD) in Sports Turf & Golf Course Management
- BSc in Turfgrass Science
- MSc in Sports Turf Surfaces
Another route can include volunteering at your local course and gaining on-the-job experience and training, which can in turn help you land a full or part time job. Volunteering in your spare time will help you demonstrate personal and professional development, professional skills development, and an advancement in potential CPD. You can also volunteer at many amateur and professional gold tournaments across the UK to help boost your skills and experience for your CV. You can find out more about opportunities on the BIGGA website.
Considering a course or qualification at a college? Here’s a handy list of UK colleges currently running industry-specific training, find out more information and details by clicking on the links below:
- Askham Bryan College
- Berkshire College of Agriculture
- Bridgwater and Taunton College
- Capel Manor College
- Hadlow College
- Oldham College
- Pershore College (part of the WCG)
- Plumpton College
- Reaseheath College
- Sparsholt College Hampshire
- Suffolk New College
Relevant Qualifications and Training Courses
Once you’ve passed your college course or apprenticeship and are in part/full-time work, it’s vital to keep your practical qualifications and knowledge up to date with industry standards.
You can do this by completing a range of relevant training courses and refreshers at approved training Providers across the UK. Once completed, you’ll receive a certificate in that skill, allowing you to use your knowledge and practical experience in that field in your day-to-day jobs.
If your place of employment has the relevant connections, you may also be able to attend manufacturer training days or course walks at another golf course.
Relevant qualifications and courses include:
- BIGGA learning and development scheme and initiative
- Lantra groundcare maintenance suite:
- Safe Use of Pesticides
- Level 2 award in the safe use of pesticides
- Pesticide plugs
- Maintenance of small hand held engines
- Emergency first aid at work
Progressing from apprentice to golf course greenkeeper, there’s a clear development pathway for Golf Greenkeepers. With experience, you can move up into supervisory roles including Assistant Greenkeeper and First Assistant Greenkeeper.
If you want to pursue your career further, there are roles such as Deputy Course Manager/Deputy Head Greenkeeping and eventually Golf Course Manager / Head Greenkeeper.
As golf is one of the most popular sports in the UK, there are a number of golf courses and driving ranges across the nation.
While private golf clubs will most likely be your first port of call, try seeking out hotels with golf facilities, ground maintenance contractors and also local authority leisure departments.
There are many benefits to working in Greenkeeping, primarily working in an outdoor environment and with nature. You can often help improve natural habitats and encourage more wildlife on the course if that’s an area you’re keen to explore.
Another exciting benefit is the opportunity of volunteering or working at several of the larger sporting tournaments such as the Ryder cup or THE PLAYERS Championship. This can prove a fantastic experience to travel, network and gain new skills.
As you progress, you’ll also gain knowledge and experience using a variety of ever-advancing technology and machinery to help improve your course.