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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Trump Continues to Mix it up at Doral

New Trump fountain at Doral Resort in Miami
Donald Trump wasted no time installing his signature fountain at Doral Resort in Miami. Mr. Trump purchased Doral back in February for $150 million dollars and started renovations to the entire property almost immediately. Team Trump has installed two new irrigation systems on the Red and Gold courses, purchased over $4 million dollars of turf equipment, hired a new team of turf professionals to manage the place, and reportedly spent $150,000 on this new fountain.

Here is a picture of the old fountain behind the putting green at Doral. This fountain was first built for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The former Doral owners, Al and Doris Kaskel, bought the famous fountain, shipped it to Miami and installed it for the world to see. If you look closely in this picture you can see a bust of Al Kaskel. The Kaskel’s travelled around the world purchasing art work and statues. They spread these treasures around the Doral property for their guests to enjoy. Today many of these art works are gone. I hope Mr. Trump brings them back and keeps some of the Doral history.
1964 World's Fair Fountain at Doral Resort in Miami, Florida
Trump will tackle the Blue Monster, with golf course designer Gil Hanse, after the 2013 PGA TOUR World Golf Championship. Many of the common areas and hotel rooms are receiving a face lift as we speak. I can’t wait to see these much needed improvements to this historical resort over the next year.

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Fieldscout Meter by Eric J. von Hofen
Over the last few weeks, I have had the chance to ride shotgun with a few PGA TOUR Agronomists during PGA events and I have to say I’m very impressed. Bland Cooper, CGCS and PGA TOUR Agronomist, took me through the steps on how the TOUR has taken tournament preparation and hosting to a whole new level. They have put every new tech gadget available on the market to use and have built a sound agronomic plan around them.
Eric J. von Hofen in Mexico

During advance week the data collection and charting begins. They first look at height of cut on the greens and the speeds that are produced in the AM and PM. Morning and afternoon soil moisture readings are collected and then plugged into another chart. This data is collected using the FieldScout TDR probe. The probes are an inch and a half long and easily pierce the turf with no problem. Within seconds the data pops up on the screen and after three sites are probed, a average is displayed on the screen.
By Eric J. von Hofen

The superintendent and PGA TOUR Agronomist both have their own FieldScout probes. They walk each green in a grid-like pattern mapping and collecting the soil moisture data. During this process the data is averaged and areas in need of water are located. This need of water could be 30 seconds to 3 minutes with a hose. Overhead irrigation is not used at all.

All of this is happening while there is yet another series of data collection occurring. Firmness, yes firmness is measured. This too is collected in the AM and PM. This is the missing piece to the puzzle. When this information is charted and overlaid with Stimpmeter and moisture readings, it shows where the performance of the greens is headed for the week. Basically the height of cut did not change for the entire two weeks. Green speed was increased by decreasing the moisture and pure rolling. When the greens moisture read around 25% to 30%, it made for the best conditions after rolling. The TOUR does not want the greens dried out below these levels.
eric von hofen

Next time you are watching a PGA TOUR event on TV, just think what goes on behind the scenes to make those greens so good. It takes a sound plan in place and a year worth of work to get things right. These PGA TOUR Agronomists really know their stuff. The saying should be “TOUR Agronomy, These guys are good”.

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A Flyover Of The Legendary Blue Monster At Doral In Miami, Florida

This video was shot and edited by Turfundeground’s Eric J. von Hofen. It shows the layout of the legendary Blue Monster golf course during the 2005 PGA TOUR Ford Championship. Doral has been hosting a PGA Event every year since 1962. Doral will be hosting the PGA Tour in March during the WGC event.  The world will be watching again in two weeks.

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College Roommates Prep Courses For Back To Back PGA TOUR Events

Ten years ago, Kurt von Hofen and Lukus Harvey were sitting next to each other in Turfgrass Management class at The Ohio State University. This month they are competing again, now on a national stage. Kurt, Golf Course Superintendent at El Camaleon, will be hosting the PGA TOUR’S Mayakoba Golf Classic on February 21, 2011, in Riviera Maya-Cancun Playa del Carmen, Mexico. On February 28, 2011, Lukus, Director of Agronomy at PGA National Resort & Spa, will be hosting The Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Kurt von Hofen at the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico

Kurt von Hofen at Mayakoba

Both Kurt and Lukus took similar but different paths to get where they are today. They both graduated from The Ohio State University, moved to Florida, worked hard and took some chances.  Kurt built his experience while holding the following positions:  2007-2010, Golf Course Superintendent, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2002-2007, Assistant Superintendent, The Bear’s Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2001, Intern, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio. His pervious tournament preparation consists  of  the 2008 Florida State Golf Association 91st Amateur Championship, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2007-2008 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier, Jupiter Hills Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2001 Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio.

Lukus Harvey, Seve Ballesteros and Eric von Hofen at Doral

Lukus Harvey, Seve Ballesteros and Eric von Hofen at Doral

Lukus built his background while holding the following positions: 2005-2010, Golf & Grounds Superintendent, The Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Jupiter, Fla.; 2003-2005, Golf Course Superintendent, Doral Resort & Spa (Blue Course), Miami, Fla.; 2002- 2003, Assistant Superintendent, John’s Island Club (West Course), Vero Beach, Fla.; 2001-2002, Assistant Superintendent, Calusa Pines Golf Club, Naples, Fla.; 2000, Intern, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.; 1994- 1999, Intern/Crew, Walden Golf & Tennis Club, Aurora, Ohio.  His previous tournament preparation consists of the 2004-2005 Ford Championship, Doral Resort & Spa, Miami, Fla.
The world will be watching, so I hope these two guys take some time to smell the roses and realize just how far and fast they have travelled together.  Best of luck boys and I will see you both at your events.

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Turfunderground’s Top Five Public Courses In Naples

Tiburon and Shark Shootout
Heading to Naples, Florida this winter for some sun, relaxation, and golf? Naples is the spot, it has the highest number of courses per capita in the country. You better do your homework if you want to play some golf. Just like Palm Beach Country, many courses in Naples are private and you can’t get through the gates. So if you are lucky enough to have a wealthy uncle or friend from college that lives in the one the gated golf course communities, you will be hard pressed to find a game.

You can experience some of the best public golf in Naples if you follow my list.
1. Tiburon Golf Club designed by Greg Norman. Home to the PGA TOUR Shark Shootout.
2. Naples Grande Golf Club designed by Rees Jones.
3. The Rookery at Marco designed by Bob Cupp.
4. Lely Resort Golf & Country Club designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Lee Trevino.
5. Old Corkscrew Golf Club designed by Jack Nicklaus

While in Naples you better eat dinner early, like before 9 pm, after that many places shut down for the night. Also do not drink and drive. This is very little crime and the police would just love to meet you while you in town.

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Mayakoba Golf Classic Sets New Guinness World Record

most people taking a golf lesson at one time
Today the Mayakoba Golf Classic made it into the Guinness Book of World Records™ by hosting the largest ever golf lesson on the grounds of El Camaleón Golf Club in PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mèxico.

Today’s impressive attendance of 1,073 people, witnessed by officials from Guinness, surpassed the old record of 1,032 people recognized by Guinness World Records™ which occurred on October 9 of 2010 at Pine Valley, Beijing, China.
Most people ever taking a golf lesson
It took over three hours to set up for the event and the course had to borrow a few hundred golf clubs from other local golf courses in order to pull off the world record. Some participants traveled over 45 minutes to be a part of history. Once the people arrived at El Camaleon, they were checked in, received a number and a white shirt so officials could track who was participating. The 30 minute lesson was conducted by PGA TOUR player Esteban Toledo. According to the Mayakoba Classic officials, Esteban Toledo said, “This was one of the most incredible things I have participated in my career. I have given golf clinics before to maybe 400 people. But never in front of over a thousand people. At one point, I was a little bit nervous because I wanted to make sure we broke the record but also learned something as well.”
The Mayakoba Golf Classic is celebrating its fifth year on the PGA TOUR. Past champions are: Fred Funk, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson and Cameron Beckman. The Classic will be played on February 23 -27, 2011.

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Turfunderground’s Top 5 Golf Predictions for 2011

I gave this a ton of thought and really think I hit the mark.  You probably thought I was going to predict easy stuff,  like who was going to win the Open or the Master’s.  Well not today.   Today I went after bigger targets, and below are my top 5 predictions sure to take place in 2011.

1. Tiger Woods takes over for David Fay at the USGA. He moves the USGA headquarters to Jupiter, Florida.
2. The PGA of America announces that they will hold the 2017 PGA Championship in the State of Florida. They will move the event to mid April, so it will not be during hurricane season.
3. More golf courses are opened rather than closed in the United States.
4. Titleist is purchased by Dubai World. Headquarters is moved to Abu Dhabi and all golf balls will have a picture of The Burj Khalifa on them, the tallest building in the world.
5. The PGA TOUR drops it’s no camera and cell phone policy for patrons and players. They just request you turn off the flash. Tour players Daly, Casey, Westwood, Mahan, McDowell, Watson, Cink and Poulter all love the change and tweet their entire rounds. They each pick up 1,000,000 followers on Twitter the first day.

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Actor Kyle MacLachlan talks with Turfunderground’s Eric von Hofen

I had the pleasure of spending some time on the golf course with Desperate Housewives star Kyle MacLachlan. This die hard golfer explained to me just how hooked on golf he really is. I asked him, when do you have time to play any golf? Kyle loves to get out and hit the links when he is not working on a TV or movie set. He has been in the movie business since 1984, starring in movies like Blue Velvet, with Dennis Hopper, Showgirls and in Oliver Stone’s movie, The Doors. His TV show resume is pretty strong as well. Kyle starred in 30 episodes of Twin Peaks in 1990-1991, 23 episodes of Sex in the City and 92 episodes of Desperate Housewives. Not to mention a handful of other TV shows and smaller movies over the years. Kyle and Eric taking a ride in the Ryder Cup Cart Kyle holds a low handicap and plays whenever he gets a chance in Los Angles or near his home in New York City. He works with a golf instructor on both coasts and it shows. Kyle plays in the PGA TOUR’S Bob Hope Classic in LaQuinta, California, which I had the pleasure of hosting at PGA WEST back in the late 1990’s. He plays across the pond in Scotland and gets a few rounds in at the Dunhill Matches. Not bad for a guy who is this busy. When he is not acting, being a husband and father, or golfing, he is out doing charity work for the Women’s Cancer Initiative, Eva’s Heroes, Live Earth and the Humane Society. As you can see in this picture, Kyle has a great setup and swing. He is truly a first-class guy and fun to be around. He is nothing like Orson Hodge. Kyle, thanks for your time and best of luck on the links.

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The Eagles Concert in Miami

Just another night in South Florida. I was at The Eagles concert and I just happened to bump into Mr. Nick Price enjoying the show. He said he loved the Eagles and they were putting on a hell of a performance. Nick knows everything about putting on a show for the PGA TOUR and now the Champions Tour. Nick is was great to see you and I wish you well in the upcoming season.

The concert was great. All the boys were there playing their hearts out. Glenn Fry, Don Henley, Tim Schmit and Joe Walsh who stole the show. Each of them played their hit songs from over the years. The show started at 8:15 pm and ended at 11:42 pm. They took a 20 minute break and that was it. Well worth the money. You name it and they played it.

I ran some video so you could see the Band. Enjoy. These guys are true legends and professionals.

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