How to Elevate the Role of Turf Equipment Managers

My gears were spinning after a recent podcast with Trent Manning, host of the Reel Turf Tech Podcast (view here).

The exodus of experienced turf equipment professionals to industries offering better pay, growth opportunities, and improved work-life balance is creating quite a stir within the golf industry. Much of our focus was on how turf equipment managers can enhance their career development skills, and how to mentor the next generation.

I realized shortly thereafter there was another key point we missed. The importance golf course superintedents play in elevating the role of their turf equipment managers.

Our team has taken on a dozen turf equipment searches over the last year, and anticipate this will continue as the demand increases. A consistent theme we hear from candidates is a lack of appreciation for the role. 

Several issues contribute to the challenges faced by turf equipment managers including increased workload, physical demands, lack of recognition, perception of the career pathway, budget constraints, supply chain issues, lack of investment in equipment and technology, and not enough young students showing a career interest.

While the primary focus of the job revolves around maintaining top-notch equipment, sustainability, and environmental stewardship, golf course superintendents must constantly create awareness, support, and ongoing advocacy to elevate the role beyond the basics.

Here are some best practices to consider: 

Create a supportive environment

First and foremost, creating an environment that recognizes and supports turf equipment managers is an absolute prerequisite. 

To elevate the performance and position of turf equipment managers, one must create a culture of respect towards the role not only externally to key stakeholders, but starting with the internal staff.

Work hand in hand with your turf equipment manager to create key results and performance indicators that contribute to the overall reputation of the golf course, operation, and organization.  

Clearly articulate the club’s vision

Communicate a clear understanding of the vision for the golf course and club.

Identify any skill gaps or areas where the turf equipment manager can enhance their contribution to align with the superintendent’s goals and the club’s vision.

Define strategic objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to equipment maintenance and management.

Training and Skill Development

Offer training programs, workshops, and resources to help acquire new skills or improve existing ones. This could include equipment-specific training online, regional workshops, or continuing certification programs offered by the GCSAA. Don’t forget the role requires a significant amount of leadership, organizational, financial management, and administrative skill sets.

Stay at the forefront of technological advancements by engaging with local industry representatives, and other professionals, and frequently consult with leading experts to help incorporate innovative technologies to improve the performance of the equipment. 

Encourage relevant certifications or qualifications in HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and carpentry to provide additional value across multiple departments.

Most importantly, and often overlooked, a great turf equipment manager reduces the risk of accidents or injuries, mitigating potential liability issues.

Provide them with a seat at the table

Foster a culture of open communication to help overcome challenges of financial constraints, weather impacts, or member expectations. 

Include your turf equipment manager in daily management meetings and planning sessions, so they do not become frustrated by having to hear second-hand. When onboarding new employees, ensure your turf equipment manager has a role in the process, and can develop rapport immediately. 

Regularly discuss equipment needs, challenges, and ideas. Collaboratively plan equipment maintenance schedules and initiatives, ensuring they align with the golf course’s overall maintenance plan.

This individual should play a key role in educating stakeholders to invest in sustainable equipment or overcoming financial limitations to maintain and upgrade machinery.  

Share the Spotlight

Lastly, it is your responsibility to highlight their accomplishments at Green Committee meetings, club communications, and out on the golf course in front of golfers. 

There may not be a bigger role within the club that impacts the bottom line more than the turf equipment manager. Whether it is preventative maintenance, cost controls, or keeping equipment operating at peak performance, the role enhances the club’s reputation and attractiveness to both members and guests.

The quality of the golfing experience depends on the dedicated professionals who maintain the equipment behind the scenes. It’s our responsibility to highlight them as a strategic partner, and not just a wrenchhead. 

Invest in your turf equipment manager, otherwise, you’ll be doing more than grinding your gears!

About The Author

Tyler Bloom is the founder of Tyler Bloom Consulting. A former golf course superintendent and turf professional, Tyler’s love of all things golf began at the age of six when he stepped onto the course for the first time. 

Tyler has an Executive Certificate in Talent Acquisition from Cornell University and a degree in Turfgrass Science from Penn State University. With 20 years of experience in the golf and turfgrass industry, Tyler has worked directly with reputable club leaders at some of the most prestigious clubs to place over 100 professionals in executive and management level positions throughout the United States.

Are you ready to build a top-performing team that drives results? Our proven framework, methodologies, and implementation is based on our personal track record of developing world-class teams. In addition to talent acquisition, we provide leadership development and ongoing consultative services for the golf course and club industry. Our team has personally coached and mentored dozens of future golf course superintendents across the United States.