There are large areas of turf that need maintaining in public areas. Public turf management jobs may thus vary from mostly mowing, to very sophisticated, highly technical work required to maintain high quality turf on greens or playing fields used by professional sportsmen.
Scope of Work
There are large areas of turf that need maintaining in public areas. They are often on land owned by government, but they can also be on land owned by sporting clubs or other enterprises, that are principally set up to provide turf facilities used by the public. These can include: bowling greens, lawn tennis courts, golf courses, turf wickets, playing fields, public parks, roadside verges, traffic islands, lawns surrounding public buildings, schoolgrounds, showgrounds, cemeteries and other places. Even grass covered areas on rural or undeveloped sites may need routine cutting by a public authority, for fire prevention or other reasons.
Public turf management jobs may thus vary from mostly mowing, to very sophisticated, highly technical work required to maintain high quality turf on greens or playing fields used by professional sportsmen.
What You Need to Learn
Turf science - Biology, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition of turf grasses
Soils - Soil structure, chemistry, management techniques (e.g. improving soils, aeration)
Drainage - Surface, subsurface, flood mitigation
Irrigation - Equipment selection, installation, use
Taxonomy - Turf species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, and weed species
Health management - Turf pests, diseases and disorders
Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, correct operation & use, maintenance & repair of tools
Cultural management techniques - Cutting heights, watering frequency & duration, how to repair & renovate turf
Sports turf - Layout and marking of different sports pitches, mowing heights & techniques, rolling & aerating methods, watering, cleaning, drying
Starting a Career
There are many points of entry into this line of work. Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a labourer, assisting a mowing contractor, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. Without training, this path can be slow though, and there may be gaps in knowledge that can lead to mistakes, damaging turf, and restricting career progress.
Some formal learning in at least key areas listed above will help a career move faster and minimise the risk of career or business mistakes. The more you learn early in your career, the further you may potentially go.
Because initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on, and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience; it is very important that your initial training is from instructors who have a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin turf management - and that the course you study is delivered in a way that does not just present and test you quickly, but takes time to revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of turf management into your long term memory.
People who take short cuts to getting started can succeed; but people who lay a stronger foundation are more likely to be more capable, and that generally tends to lead to higher earnings and more long-term career success.
Common ways to get started are:
Volunteering at a local sporting club (e.g. football or cricket, tennis, golf or bowls). Many such clubs depend on volunteers to help their greens staff care for turf, particularly amateur clubs in rural areas.
Getting a Job and a little experience with someone else (e.g. a mowing contractor, or mower shop).
Starting as a greenkeeper’s assistant, learning then progressing.
Progressing a Career
You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience.
Those who have had little formal study may find gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled and this knowledge may be slow to come when working alongside someone and facing similar challenges each week. They may do well to seek out study courses which address those needs. In particular, they should focus on addressing the areas listed under ‘what you need to learn’ above.
Larger enterprises such as large municipal authorities or major league sports facilities, will offer better career progression (and potentially more money). Often as a person’s career progresses and their expertise grows, they may move from amateur to elite facilities. Others may progress their careers by moving into allied areas of employment.
A career that starts in public turf care can often take a path that moves into broader public parks management or into commercial allied trades, or perhaps teaching, consulting or research. Some of these opportunities may require significant additional learning – formal or informal. Other career paths may depend more on experience, attitude and perhaps communication skills than on higher technical expertise.