Superintendent Salaries Don’t Match Today’s Mega Purses


The numbers just don’t add up. The increased rate of prize money for professional golfers has experienced a meteoric rise, while many of us in the golf business have had the “pleasure” of gutting operating budgets over the last six years just to keep courses afloat and prices stable. There are a handful of operations that have pumped cash into their courses, but overall, budgets have not willingly increased. The costs of labor, fuel, insurance, parts, pesticides and fertilizers have all gone up every year, and the shell game of covering these increases has hit the wall. Cutting back on labor and/or not fertilizing your course in an effort to hit the budget is not an option any more. You should call your Superintendent “Superman” for keeping your course in the best possible condition given their resource restrictions. They need more money.

According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Compensation and Benefits Report, “Employers of GCSAA superintendents continue to reinforce the value they place in these golf course managers as the average salary for the profession in 2013 climbed to more than $82,500 annually.

The $82,573 average for all head superintendents (Classes A and SM) is an increase of $1,529 (1.9 percent) over 2011 salaries, and continues the trend of increases every year since GCSAA began tracking such data in 1993. The 1993 average was $44,500, meaning the 2013 figure is an 86 percent increase.

Certified golf course superintendents (CGCSs) are those who have achieved the highest level of recognition through education, service and experience. Their average salary of $98,187 in 2013 is a 3.1 percent increase over the 2011 average of $95,264.”

The yearly salary ranges for superintendents that host a professional event are from $125,000 to $400,000, according to It’s a huge range and the operating budgets are all over the place.

An increase of 86 percent in twenty years sounds good but doesn’t even come close to the increases in prize money for a professional golfer to pocket for just four days of work on your course. I have been a part of thirteen televised golf championships in the last twenty years, and have tracked superintendent salaries and budgets, as well as player prize money. I remember the days when the PGA TOUR actually paid the host Club a site fee of $250,000. Today, the PGA TOUR wants the Club to donate $250,000 to them for the privilege of hosting the event. It will cost a sponsor anywhere from $4.5 million to $8.0 million to get their name in lights for a PGA TOUR event. Pretty crazy isn’t it? Some of the money that is generated from the event does go to charity however, the majority of the money goes home with the players.

Here are the break downs of just how fast and big the some of the purses have grown.

The Ford Championship at Doral
2004 Craig Parry Australia 271 (-17) $900,000
Total purse $5,000,000
A year later at Doral.
2005 Tiger Woods (1) United States 264 (-24) $990,000
Total purse $5,500,000

I ran the 2004 and 2005 Ford Championship Tournaments at Doral (I also ran the 2006 tournament) and I can assure you neither my budget nor my salary increased at all from 2004 to 2005. On the contrary, we cut expenses by 15%. I had to work three months straight without a day off, and guess what my prize was? A cool picture with Tiger on the #18 green.

Tiger Woods won this year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and took home $1,400,000.
Total purse of $8,750,000

The US Open is right around the corner and the money purse is bigger then ever.

2013 June 13–16 Merion Golf Club, East Course Ardmore, Pennsylvania Winner $1,520,000
Total purse projected to be over $8,000,000

2003 Jim Furyk Olympia Fields Country Club, North Course Olympia Fields, Illinois 272 (−8) $1,080,000
Total purse $6,000,000

The US Open will reflect a $2,000,000 increase over the last ten years; a difference for the winner of an additional $444,000.

Oh by the way, if you win the US Open, you are pretty much set for life.

Superintendents that are in the spotlight should be paid accordingly. Putting in long hours away from families, battling mother nature, managing golfers expectations, massaging tight budgets, combined with expanding job responsibilities and tournament stress, should equal more of that mega prize money hitting their, and the crew’s, paychecks.

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Blowing Up The Blue Monster

The Blue Monster has been changed forever. Construction is well under way and Trump is taking things to a whole new level at Doral. The entire Resort in being upgraded. Hotel rooms, lobby, entrance way, meeting rooms, and restaurants are all getting a much needed infusion of cash from Mr. Trump.

These pictures where taken from the TV tower on #16 green. Elevated tees and more water will be in play for the resort golfer and the PGA Tour players.

This is the new lake being dug on hole #15. This will be a tough par 3 for sure. I can’t wait the see the end product later this year. I will keep you updated.

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New Streamsong Resort In Florida Makes A Big Statement

Streamsong, a new 36-hole resort project in Polk County, Florida, is open for business. The resort is owned and operated by the Mosaic Company. Streamsong is located between Tampa and Orlando. Three big time architects got the tap for this job. Tom Doak designed 18 holes called Streamsong Blue, and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore designed the other 18 holes called Streamsong Red.

With this powerful design team at the helm, this project was guaranteed for greatness. The designers had an absolute one-of-a-kind piece of land to work with.

Streamsong Resort under construction
The two courses are built on a 16,000 acre site formerly mined for phosphate.

The resort is slated to have 140 guest rooms and a spa with enough land to build more rooms and golf courses if needed. The Walking Rate for 18 holes is $175 and for Florida Resident’s the rate is $135.00.

I can’t wait to see how the project turns out longterm.

I feel these two courses will receive great reviews in the 2013 rankings.
Let me know what you think.

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Giant African Land Snails Invade South Florida

Photo Credit: Andrew Derksen, Florida Cooperative Pest Survey Program

First we had snowbirds and alligators, then nematodes and mole crickets, followed by grubs and white flies and now giant african snails. Yes, that is right, snails. And they are eating everything in sight. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has positively identified a population of Giant African land snails in Miami-Dade County. The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.

The Giant African snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. When fully grown, the snail’s brownish shell consists of seven to nine whorls (spirals) that cover at least half the length of its long and greatly swollen body. They can live as long as nine years and contain both female and male reproductive organs. After a single mating session, each snail can produce 100 to 400 eggs. In a typical year, every mated adult lays about 1,200 eggs.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says, “Enlisting the help of the public in the early detection of these pests and diseases is critical to containing and ultimately eradicating them in our state.” Anyone who believes they may have seen a Giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services toll-free at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected. To preserve the snail sample, Floridians should use gloves to put the snail in a zip lock bag, seal it and place it in a bucket or plastic container. They are advised not to release or give these samples away.

Keep your eyes open for the African Snail and if you find one call the toll-free number.

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Five Gift Ideas For Your Golf Course Superintendent

All you Green Committee Chairmen need to listen up. You need to take care of the most important person at your Country Club, and not with a $5 dollar tip. The Golf Course Superintendent works day and night to make sure your course is perfect and on the right path. He deals with everything that no one else wants to deal with. Weather, employees, construction, inspectors, contractors, budgets, members, insects and the list goes on. Here are a few ideas for you to take care of your number one guy.

1. The keys to your apartment in New York City for the weekend.
2. Dump 50,000 AMEX Rewards points into his account so he can use them to travel.
3. A gift card to Sunglass Hut or Capital Grille.
4. Hook him up with your college roommate, that is a member at Cypress Point, for a round of golf.
5. Tell him thank you for everything he does and buy the entire maintenance staff breakfast at a nice place in town.

Any one of these ideas would be a big hit. So go out there and do the right thing.

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Helminthosporium Pays Us A Visit Again

Leaf Spot by Eric von Hofen
Almost over night we see the results of Helminthosporium on our TifEagle greens. This is the first time in a year we have seen any signs from our little friend here in Miami. I wrote a similar post on this disease almost a year ago to date. Last year we had record cold temps that brought on the signs of the disease. This year we have had a month of well above temps with light rains that have kept the soil around 80 degrees. This was just enough to increase the pressure of the disease and for us to see the damage. I have started a program of applying fungicides on a 14 to 21 day rotation. I will use Fore, Insigna and Daconil for control and prevention of the leaf spot this winter. It has been 16 days since my last fungicide application so I’m not surprised to see the spots pop up. I spray my greens every friday with a light Harrells fertilizer package so adding fungicides will be easy to do. I will keep you updated this winter on the progress on the control of Helminthosporium. I see a connection between the amount of sun, rain fall and soil temps when the Helminthosporium shows up. Let me know what your seeing on your golf course.

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Prep for overseeding in the Desert
During the month of October, golf courses in the sunbelt areas of the country are faced with a huge task. Overseed, yes overseed. This process is different in each region and requires a ton of work for it to be successful. In the desert regions, winter nighttime temps drop into the 30’s and 40’s and warm up into the 70’s during the day. These temp changes make the Bermudagrass go dormant and turns it brown. Overseed is a must during the winter months when golf demand is at highest point of the year. The goal with a desert overseed is to completely cover the bermudagrass with ryegrass. Period. Any areas of bermudagrass still thriving in the fresh new ryegrass stand will stick out like a sore thumb in December. These courses will be growing this new crop for the next 7 months then they flip the switch and grow bermudagrass for the rest of the year. I wish it was that easy. These superintendents work magic during this process.
Verticut prep of fairways for overseed
In Florida, I call this seeding process interseeding. The goal here is to have 60% stand of bermudagrass and a 40% stand of ryegrass. Only areas in north Florida have nighttime temps in the 30’s and the rates might be higher. South Florida has only a hand full of cold days a year that knock back the bermudagrass and seed is not needed. With seed comes the stripes. Many clubs that push for green at any cost want to see a bang for their buck. “Hey Sup stripe it up baby”. Somehow they think that your growing bentgrass and they want the place to look like their club up north. Just relax and play it as it lies.

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Chelsea Piers -“THE” place to putt and drive in New York City

Golf Club at Chelsea Piers New York City
Chelsea Piers is a series of historic piers on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City that was a passenger ship terminal in the early 1900s. It is located in the Chelsea neighborhood, on the northern edge of Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District.

The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers offers a year-round outdoor golf driving range, a teaching academy, two full-swing simulators and two private event rooms. The driving range has four tiers, is weather protected and heated and utilizes a Japanese-technology automated ball tee-up system. Each floor has 12 bays on it. On some days you better be ready to wait. You have to make a tee time on the weekends.
Chelsea piers in New York City

The piers are currently used by the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex. The new complex includes film and television production facilities, including those for CBS College Sports Network and Food Network, a health club, a day spa, the city’s largest training center for gymnastics, two basketball courts, playing fields for indoor lacrosse and soccer, batting cages, a rock climbing wall and dance studios. In addition there is an AMF Bowling center, and two full sized ice rinks for skating.

This place has something for everyone. This HD video shows you the only place to putt and drive in New York City.

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Hurricane Irene track
Just what you want to see on your computer screen on a monday morning, your course is in the cone of death. That’s right a hurricane might be headed your way. After a look at the computer models and a peak at the ocean water temps map, you have to start to make some decisions. Living in South Florida, you have to become some what of a meteorologist and keep your day job as a golf course superintendent. I have gone through at least five major hurricanes and over a dozen tropical storms in the last eighteen years. I have put together a plan and procedure booklet that lays out what to do to protect the course and employees while a hurricane is headed your way.
High ocean water temps feed hurricanes
Phase 1 – Hurricane Watch means a disturbance is approximately 24 hours away. This is used with the understanding that hurricanes are quite unpredictable and forward movement can drastically change.
– The superintendent must commence the collection and place indoors all lose objects such as trash cans, benches, flags, tee markers, etc.
– Check trees and shrubbery and remove limbs which may damage utility wires or other property.
– Remove coconuts from trees.
– Top off main fuel storage tanks.
– Fill all mowers and carts with fuel.
– Turn off all power supplies to pump stations.
– Back up the irrigation programs from your computer and take it with you.
– Go over generators and start them.
– Update your employee contact information and explain that you will call them when to report to work. Let them take care of their families and homes and you will have a better chance of them coming to work when you need them. Send them home early.
– Assist the clubhouse staff with the installation of shutters over the windows.
– Take a video of your maintenance building and each hole of the golf course. I did this at Doral, when we had hurricanes Wilma and Katrina headed our way, and the videos turned out to be worth a few million dollars. Doral lost thousands of trees and the videos showed what we lost.
– Check your chainsaws and have extra blades.
– Have your outside tree crews on stand by and expect them charge full price. They have been waiting for this storm all year.
– Make sure you have a cell phone charger for your car or truck. Cell phone towers work 8 hours on batteries, so if the storm is that bad you only have a few hours to call staff and tell loved ones that you are alive. Even if you phone is charged, it will not work them those towers shut down.
Phase 2 – Go home and take care of your family and home. If a Cat 3 or more is coming your way, send the wife and kids out of town. You will lose power for days or even weeks. They don’t need to deal with that and your attitude that the golf course is being blown apart.
Phase 3 – Comunicate with staff and members during the storm and after the storm moves through. Your clubhouse will become a safe haven for members and staff to get there life together and take a warm shower. Use Twitter to do this and get the word out if you can open the clubhouse.
Phase 4 – After the storm, take video, count the trees down, and don’t turn on your pump station. You will burn it up because the power supply will be dirty. Wait a few days to turn it on. Review the course and reach out to staff and start the clean up.

Good luck and let’s hope you don’t need to use my plan in your career.

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Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #14 bunkers

Looking at the numbers of projects going on in the state paints an interesting picture.
There are only three new course construction projects under way in Florida: Streamsong Resort, Bonifay at The Villages and Ocala Meadows.

Streamsong Resort under construction
Streamsong, a 36-hole resort project in Polk County owned by Mosaic, is a 16,000 acre site formerly mined for phosphate. Streamsong is located between Tampa and Orlando. Three big time architects got the tap for this job. Tom Doak is designing 18 holes, and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore are designing the other 18 holes. With this powerful design team at the helm, I can’t wait to see how the project turns out.

The resort is slated to have 140 guest rooms and a spa with enough land to build more rooms if needed.

Bonifay at The Villages, also in Central Florida, is adding 27 holes to their portfolio. This project will be part of their “Play for Life” membership program.

Not too far down the street is an 18-hole project called Ocala Meadows. This course is scheduled to open in the fall.

Renovation’s are picking up however, are still down from last year. 25 to 30 courses are doing touch ups to their tracks this summer.

Tom Fazio has been busy redesigning Emerald Dunes and The Floridian. Jim Fazio is doing work at Boca Grove and Trump International. Bobby Weed has blown up Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in Tampa and, from what I hear, has put a new face on the course. Many courses are re-grassing fairways, greens or tees. The trend continues with courses changing greens to a new ultra dwarf bermudagrass such as mini-verde and tif-eagle. A few courses are installing tif-grand on their tees and I must say, after having this grass for the last two years, I understand why…It performs. Fairways are being converted at a record pace to celebration bermudagrass, with many clubs using the no till method with great success.

New palms on the golf course
Bunker projects are still going on and a few new irrigation systems will be wrapping up by September. I just finished the first phase of my master planned landscape project this week. We did our bunkers last summer and added a few new tees the summer before. Just enough work to keep the members excited about the course that they play every day.

Let’s see what happens in the summer of 2012. If I missed one, please let me know.

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