26 Feb For Love of the Greens
Few things are better than watching the sunrise over a beautifully manicured green. The sun, slowly creeping into the sky, starts to burn off the haze, as you finish cutting the 18th green. The world is perfectly still. You sit in your cart and listen to the sound of silence. No one else is awake. This is a perfection that few people will ever experience; for greenskeepers around the country, this moment of pristine beauty is what makes it all worth it. Golf is a crazy game. You have millions of people spending billions of dollars on the latest and greatest clubs. Do these irons help me hit the ball straighter? Did you see this new training aid and will help with your slice? There are endless forums and numerous companies that help feed the insatiable appetite of all things golf that golfers need. To a true golfer, they can spend hours talking about a round they played, or their favorite club manufacturer. However, few will take that love beyond the weekend rounds and occasional golf vacations, to work in the golf industry. And still even fewer, are crazy enough, in love with the game enough to become a greenskeeper.
This special breed of people in the game of golf, the people that wake up at 4:30am, the people that work 100 hour weeks, the people that haven’t had a full weekend off all year, the people that get paid nothing, and still can’t imagine doing anything else, tend to be truly captivated with the game. Golfers rarely think of the work we do. Like a good offensive lineman, a good greenskeeper is rarely mentioned. We are the special forces of the golf world, getting in early, and leaving without a trace. There is no glory, not even at a PGA event, and yet we keep coming back for more. This magnetism to golf is what keeps us coming back for more. How else do you convince grown men to perform manual labor, day in and day out, walking the equivalent of several marathons over the course of a week, if not for the love of the game?
Greenskeeping is the most satisfying job in all of golf at the end of the day though. Like a baker, or chef eating a meal prepared from scratch, it is that much more satisfying; playing on a course where you have done all the work is the ultimate expression of love towards the game. You begin to learn the curves of every green by walk mowing them every day. One learns where the dry spots are by staying late and hand watering the grass that is wilting. You literally put your sweat and blood into those 18 holes that you become very protective of them. You grow to hate geese and bugs, and obsess over the weather. It’s a labor of love, and when you’re finished you get to play it how you like. If I want a flag stick back left, I’ll put the flagstick back left. I don’t care who doesn’t like it. Finally getting to play the course you’re devoted to caring is the same as opening the door to a house built with your own hands, and few people will ever know that joy.
On the rainy days, or the days when a pipe cracks, or the days when it’s over 100°, or you’re hauling 50 pound packs of fertilizer, and you’re questioning why you decided to even work this job in the first place, all you have to do is stop and look around. Even the worst golf course is better than an office job. In some cases the pitted courses are the best. They take more work. In the game of golf course upkeep, there is a direct relationship between input and output. The more you care for the course the greater the course will look, and the more satisfied you’ll feel when you place a tee into the teebox on the first hole.
Greenskeeping is not for everyone. The mornings are hard, the hours are long, and the pay is minimal, but you have the keys to the entire course. People come to the course to play on the greens you maintain, not to gawk at the clubhouse, or take pictures of the locker rooms. Greenskeepers are the stewards of the game, not the pros, or the club manufacturers. Golf will continue to thrive, as long as there are people like myself that love the game so much that they dedicate tremendous amounts of hard work and time to protecting and seeing that golf courses are maintained for people to continue to use. If that is not the ultimate golf love story, than I don’t know what is. And don’t even get me started on those of us that “volunteer” to do it for free at PGA tour events, it only gets crazier.
Eric MacPherson knows a lot about golf, but even more about grass. Having worked in golf for what seems like forever, and going on to graduate school in turfgrass, he’s able to walk mow a green, and change the shaft in your favorite driver. He’s worked on some of the east coast’s primer golf clubs doing everything from washing carts to building brand new putting greens. He’s also volunteered at several high profile Tour events including a major and the President’s Cup. The only thing he likes more than pushing a walk mower on a beautiful crisp morning, would be teeing it off instead. Shoot Eric a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.