Diary of a course employee: I broke something expensive!

James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

So I took a job for the summer at the local course and thought it might be fun to detail my experiences as they happen. I’ve never worked at a golf course and know nothing... so here we go.

I’m making local minimum wage and am a foreigner, whose local language skills are sub-par.

Day 1 monday: I show up to the course at 7.00 as instructed and am issued my gear at the maintenance barn. Hi-vis coveralls are the uniform, as are ear muffs.
My first job? Pick range balls. I have a partner and we take turns driving the picker and feeding the balls into the washer. Our range has a lesson studio and they use white ProV practice balls; the rest of the range is yellow, so we have to separate the balls. A high school has reserved the range at 8.30, so we hustle to fill the ball machines for them. I managed to beach the picker in gravel on my first attempt at trying to start it from gravel, and turned too tightly and cut a nice rut out there. Lesson learned.

Range prepared we then change the divot bottle sand and collect the trash from the clubhouse area. We jockey pull-carts into position and otherwise tidy up.

The rest of the day is spent moving tees around to spread wear around. The thing about this job is if something needs to be done it generally needs to done 18 times, so the process takes forever. Once the tees are moved, the day is pretty much done...

That’s it for the day one recap, I won’t go day by day but I’ll try to provide any funny stories I can along the way. I also get free golf so not all bad. Until next time!

Golfing in Finland!
Post edited by James the Hogan Fan on
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Comments

  • bwantlandbwantland Members Posts: 27 ✭✭

    James, thanks for sharing this and look forward to hearing more as you get further along. If your language is at all close to your writing, I can assure you that it's not at all sub-par. Please share any funny anecdotes or lessons learned along the way, as I definitely know I take for granted everything that happens to get a course into operating shape.

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    @bwantland said:
    James, thanks for sharing this and look forward to hearing more as you get further along. If your language is at all close to your writing, I can assure you that it's not at all sub-par. Please share any funny anecdotes or lessons learned along the way, as I definitely know I take for granted everything that happens to get a course into operating shape.

    Well I started that post last Monday and fell asleep while writing it. So I put it on the back burner until now. I can go through the week, and we did have some funny stuff.

    But first I want to elaborate— I’m bot worried about my English, I’m a native speaker. But I’m in a non-English speaking country and wanted to dance around it because there are few-enough courses here that someone might be able to figure out where and who I am. (Which may or may not matter in the end, but you know, keep work at work and all.)

    On tuesday I got to be a useless periphery for 3 hours, (short shift because of University lectures earlier in the day) trying to find something useful to do while not knowing how to do anything. But I did know how to use a walk-behind fertilizer spreader so I was given one and off I went. Calcium in this case, I think. Did that for a bit and emptied some trash bins. Not much there.

    Wednesday I learned how to drive a Toro Sand Pro with a green grooming brush attachment and drove around sweeping the fertilizer of the previous day. Our greens had significant die off from winter and are still recovering. So we have to seed them, while prepping them for play. The process goes like this:

    1. A small seeder makes passes through bare spots, it cuts grooves in the ground and drops seeds into them. Our #2 has this job.
    2. After this, a large tractor does the same with a larger seeder/scarifier. The Super himself drives this. Oddly enough the machine is not heavy enough to properly prepare our ground; someone has to stand on it while it goes around. New Guy is the winner of the hang-off-the-back-of-tractor sweepstakes.
    3. I get on the sweeper and sweep the green, hopefully knocking the seed into the holes/grooves.
    4. A topdresser sprays sand everywhere (not thickly)
    5. The roller comes through
    6. Sometime in this process the hole might be changed depending on the green.
      It’s not hard, but you do have to concentrate and play your part. If you’re slow, everyone is slow so there is a bit of pressure.

    That also takes the entire day, so going home happened once it was done.

    Golfing in Finland!
  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    On Thursday the biggest and funniest event thus far was learning how to operate the sprinkler system. It’s controlled by an app on a phone. The superintendent (greenkeeper, however) is showing me how to operate the sprinklers on the empty second green. He presses some buttons and nothing happens. A few seconds later sprinklers pop up— on the 4th green... where there are golfers... who are taking cover. “Oh f***!” Says the greenkeeper. He turns off the sprinklers and we high-tail it out of there and he says “if anyone asks it was a computer glitch!”

    Today, Friday I got to practice greensmowing, spread fertilizer, and collect range balls again. Once again I managed to beach the picker in the gravel... twice.

    All caught up! I’m going in tomorrow as well on Saturday so lets see how it goes!

    Golfing in Finland!
  • Big A HGBig A HG Members Posts: 547 ✭✭

    A few seconds later sprinklers pop up— on the 4th green... where there are golfers... who are taking cover. “Oh f***!” Says the greenkeeper. He turns off the sprinklers and we high-tail it out of there and he says “if anyone asks it was a computer glitch!”

    LOLOL! :D

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    One of the things about course maintenance is not everything has to be done on a given day, tasks rotate daily (empty trash, arrange pull carts, range balls); every other day (mowing of areas); every 200 rounds (move tees/change holes) weekly (bunkers); monthly (seeding); quarterly (aeration). On a weekend there’s only 2 or 3 at the course to carry out whichever of the dailies happen to line up with that day. Today that meant changing holes and doing bunkers. My partner for the day Dan changed the front 9 holes and dealt with the clubhouse area, freeing me up to do all the greenside bunkers on the course. (We have a lot of them).

    As far as choosing daily hole location, unless there is a competition the hole location is chosen by whoever is doing it. I tried to balance fair areas of the green with healthy grass and rotation of zones. There is one hole I made brutal (par 3 tight to water) but everything else was fair and open. (Coincidentally if the golf shop predicts a slow day they’ll direct us to move the flags to the easiest of locations to speed up play.)

    The hole cutter is really heavy and a pain to lug around. We have a hook to pull the liner out and a setter to set it the 1” below green level. It’s hard to keep vertical but the hardest thing is to get the old plug to set flush in the new hole... Also remember to change the flag Red/Yellow/Black= F/M/B to match the new location. Took me about an hour to change the 9 holes.

    Bunkers are a PIA and of all my tasks this week are the early candidate for work I hate. We have only a couple of bunkers big enough for this guy:

    So a lot of it is hand work. Raking and raking. It rained last night so the sand needed to be fluffed up. Here is the finished product:

    My last task was to leave out a key for the general manager to borrow a course trailer so he could do some gardening at home. Yay? Then I left for the day. Just another day of hard work, but I really enjoy being on the golf course.

    Golfing in Finland!
  • bulls9999bulls9999 Members Posts: 696 ✭✭
    edited May 11, 2019 2:03pm #7

    I'll tell you what you can do to make the golfers 'happy' (that is not done at our course and pisses me off).

    1. Club (iron) washer stanchions on the driving range....keep them filled with water/wash solution. Ours are often empty; finish with an iron and turn to swipe it through the brush/liquid cleaner thing and it's empty. I had a habit of getting an extra water cup from the club house just to pour into ours. I mentioned this at a golf member-business meeting and was not met with the expected "oh yes, we'll have the golf ball picker crew attend to that", seemed like my comment was more of a pain to listen to (?) by management.

    2. Ball washers distributed along the course. Keep them with solution or fix the broken ones. Can't tell you how many consecutive ones I run into on our course are empty or the pull up handle thing is broken. Should be an easy thing to check by the guy that replaces the water jugs out on the course.

    3. Water jugs out on the course. Nothing like empty ones, or several in a row when it's hot outside...argghhhhh.

    4. Golf carts (not) stocked up with score cards, pencils, manual divot sand containers that are EMPTY. Our course sets up golf carts for members to take-grab, lined up along the pro shop. Can't tell you how many times we get into one, drive away and there's No score card, no pencil, and no divot sand in the empty containers....and worse, run out of energy (electric) by the 6th hole!! Argghhhhhh.

    5. Summer time, hosing down the greens. Now, I've seen this everywhere and the same fix would be a fix everywhere. Why can't the guy who does this go backwards, from hole 18 -> 17 -> 16 , etc. If he did that, he'd only interfere with any group just once. We seemingly get the same guy watering greens on one hole, then during our approach shots on the next hole, he's there again and we wait, and then on the next hole guess what? If he went backwards, it would be once-and-done. Easy peasy, but must be a difficult concept for some reason.

    GHIN Index 13.8
  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭

    I can't use that sand pro. My legs are so long I'd have to sit behind the seat to fit. So it saved me from doing bunkers.

    We use that same hole cutter. If you use the same cutter on each hole as the guy did before you the plug should fit perfectly each time. I've done thousands of them. And yes, that thing is a pain in the a** to carry around. We change 9 holes and move 4 sets of markers on reach hole. It takes me about 55 minutes for the 9 holes. You'll get faster as you learn.
    We changed the holes and markers in the mornings and then I was the rough mower. I can tell some stories. I've hung the mower from a tree, I've slid it into many ponds, been stuck 100s of times, and the list goes on and on.
    Golf maintenance was great fun. Enjoy!

  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭
    edited May 11, 2019 2:52pm #9

    I just noticed from your picture. You are missing the flange on the hole cutter. The flange allowed the cutter to the same depth each time. Cut all the way down to the flange, pull it out, put it in the old hole, done! The flange is set at the cut depth with the 1" set.

  • Roadking2003Roadking2003 AustinMembers Posts: 5,272 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan said:
    As far as choosing daily hole location, unless there is a competition the hole location is chosen by whoever is doing it. I tried to balance fair areas of the green with healthy grass and rotation of zones. There is one hole I made brutal (par 3 tight to water) but everything else was fair and open. (Coincidentally if the golf shop predicts a slow day they’ll direct us to move the flags to the easiest of locations to speed up play.)

    Interesting thread.
    The only issue I have with some of our guys is they put pins in very sloped places. They violate the USGA guidelines; "USGA rules state that the pin must be placed in an area where the ground is as level as possible with a uniform grade." and this " Holes should not be placed in "tricky" parts of the green or on extreme slopes where the ball would gain speed. Course superintendents choose a hole location so that no matter where the golfer is putting from, it's possible for him to hit the ball and have it stop within 2 feet of the hole. "

    BTW, this site has some good info on pin placement; https://livehealthy.chron.com/pga-tour-rules-pin-placement-8748.html

  • BNGLBNGL Members Posts: 1,597 ✭✭

    Congrats on the gig glad you’re enjoying it looks great man!

  • GolfnuckGolfnuck Members Posts: 590 ✭✭

    I always thought that every day:
    Holes are changed.
    Tee markers are changed.
    Greens and fairways are cut.
    And all bunkers are raked.

  • BNGLBNGL Members Posts: 1,597 ✭✭

    @Golfnuck said:
    I always thought that every day:
    Holes are changed.
    Tee markers are changed.
    Greens and fairways are cut.
    And all bunkers are raked.

    Not to hijack but that would be atypical for most facilities. Generally the only thing mowed every day would be greens, but even then that’s not guaranteed (weather and seasons definitely play a role in that decision, sometimes a roll only will suffice). Just using my club as an example, if we aren’t in peak season yet (Mid October to before thanksgiving or winding down Easter through 1 June when we close) and there was less than 15 players we won’t move cups unless it’s damaged and only spot rake bunkers just to ease up on the crew a bit. Well mow the course out three days a week (MWF), unless there’s a tournament an then we’ll mow it all out everyday including practice rounds. With one caveat that doesn’t normally include roughs.

    When I was Orlando and the tour came through we mowed everything everyday for nearly two weeks. But we had the manpower and equipment to make that happen. If I remember correctly we had 6 fairway units (3 first 9 and 3 second 9 with two in reserve), one cutting the walkouts and step cuts 1 forward, 6 tee mowers plus 2 on triplexes mowing the alternate, three greens rollers (1 first 9, 1 second 9, 1 for the practice area), 6 guys mowing the approaches and collars (3&3), an army on bunkers, 4 on tow behind blowers following behind the fairway units, 4 teams of two on hoses for greens, and two doing setup with a tour rep. That’s a small army...further complicated by the fact that the whole mowing process in the morning is typically done again in the evening after play has concluded.
    That was just for a regular PGA Event, multiply that by 10 for a US Open or Ryder Cup.

    While Orlando was an extreme example, and I’m definitely on the spoiled end of budget and labor still in Jupiter, most places simply can not afford to mow everything (if I mow this what am I skipping) everyday or don’t have the equipment necessary.

  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭

    Wow, that's a lot of equipment and manpower. We care for 27 holes with a staff of 9 guys. The average would be over 20 for that many holes. We see about 65000 rounds of golf each year.

    With 2 fill time guys on rough mowers it takes 3 days to cut it all. Greens are mowed everyday. Fairways every 2 days because it takes that long to more them all and then they start over. Tees and approaches are done 3 days a week. It takes 3 guys 3 hours to mow them.

    All this has to be done before golf starts for the most part. First tee times are 7:30am and it's crowded the rest of the day so work goes to a crawl.

    Cups and markers are done 4 days a week. We start work at 5am to get it all done by 7am. Chipping and putting greens are done 3x a week before 7am.

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    @Golfnuck said:
    I always thought that every day:
    Holes are changed.
    Tee markers are changed.
    Greens and fairways are cut.
    And all bunkers are raked.

    We are way up north and the grass is barely coming out of dormancy. Greens are being cut every 3rd day, tees every 3rd day and fairways every 3rd day. Roughs are being cut weekly if at all. Holes and tees are moved in accordance with local association policy, every 200 rounds give or take. (Sometimes for this reason in summer, I’ve been told we will move them more than once a day, sometimes they will stay put a few days.)

    Bunkers are raked once or twice a week, with one day per week being “bunker day” where the whole crew is on bunkers.

    Today a local firm had reserved the range and requested pyramids. The pyramids look nice but are honestly a waste of time for maintenance.

    By the way, I understand when I’m driving the picker I’m fair game, that’s fine and fun. There’s a reason for the armor. When I’m parked emptying the picker or doing other tasks off to the side though, do not hit at me, please!

    We also have one green that has not recovered from winter kill, but needs to be open by friday for the Owner’s 60th Birthday party. We are going to cut, roll, and spraypaint green if we have to...

    Golfing in Finland!
  • Ping's DuckPing's Duck Members Posts: 59 ✭✭

    Keep those cards and letters coming James, enjoyable diary!

  • NCLancerNCLancer from Northern New York to The Triangle Members Posts: 195 ✭✭

    I'm just a golf course user (abuser?) and I have learned many things from this thread. Keep up the good work James and we look forward to many more stories. What may seem everyday to you is news to us!!

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    On Tuesdays I have University classes from 9-12 in the morning, which cuts into the usual 6-14 shift pretty well in the middle. Fortunately there is always something needing to be done, and that includes from 13-18 in the afternoon.

    Because of our winter kill and not-insignificant bare spots on our greens, the greens are in a continuous process of being re-seeded. Seeds need to be kept moist all the time while they are growing, so someone has to come out and run the sprinklers after everyone has gone home. We could do it remotely, but we’d run the risk of drenching someone playing the course, and since we are so far north, we have golfers on the course right now from 4:30-22:00 each day.

    So I went around to places on the course where large numbers of holes could be seen, and when groups weren’t playing, used a phone app to run the sprinklers for a few minutes on each green. On my last green before I could leave, a group of four older golfers took 20 minutes to play the hole, during which time I: explained to a gentleman the new in-course OB that had been put up this year, retrieved a club left behind by a member on another hole, and sat waiting an unreasonable time while sitting with the power to drop hundreds of gallons per minute on the world’s slowest golfers. (Another thing, I address all golfers as sir or ma’am while on the course. I’m not sure how the others do it but I do. As such I’ll use golfer, lady, gentleman here as well).

    I also fertilized the green surrounds with lime and brushed in some topdress sand.

    Golfing in Finland!
  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭
    edited May 16, 2019 4:01pm #19


    Today I had the task of cutting fairways. It is by far the most miserable job I've done so far. You're on a big 5 blade gang mower and you need to go straight back and forth and back and forth. You can't zone out because you need to go straight and keep your lines. You want to zone out because it's hours in the sun on a tractor. It's funny though, I'd never been on a reelmaster before, I was told how to start it and they said go out and do it. So I did.

    You're supposed to pic an object on the horizon and aim at to keep your lines. That's well and good but our grass is so burned out in places you can't always see where you have been before. The grass is pushed over by the mower, so it looks like this: //////// and in a mowing stripe, -- This is the light side ->//// <-and this is the dark, when you get to the end of a stripe you are looking at the darks... which at our course you can't see. So you guess about a mower width, mow the other way, and hope at the end the line is acceptable...

    So what did I manage to break?

    You are looking at what used to be part of the bedknife of the center cutting unit of the above reelmaster. I clipped a drain at an awkward angle and heard a sickening thwack and then tingtingting as the reel started impacting the mangled bedknife. A 90 minute bedknife change and I was back at it. (Learned how to change a bedknife on a Toro!) But it kept me at the course for a 10 hour shift.

    I had a partner also cutting fairways. He cut 13 to my 5. That's the problem with not having experience: you take longer to do an inferior job. The good news is the mechanic didn't blame me for the bedknife, apparently that drain has been fixed and re-fixed multiple times and keeps being a menace to mower navigation. Now I'm just going to relax with a cold adult beverage and hit it tomorrow.

    Golfing in Finland!
  • Roadking2003Roadking2003 AustinMembers Posts: 5,272 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan said:
    You're supposed to pic an object on the horizon and aim at to keep your lines. That's well and good but our grass is so burned out in places you can't always see where you have been before. The grass is pushed over by the mower, so it looks like this: //////// and in a mowing stripe, -- This is the light side ->//// <-and this is the dark, when you get to the end of a stripe you are looking at the darks... which at our course you can't see. So you guess about a mower width, mow the other way, and hope at the end the line is acceptable...

    Where's the grass?????????

  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭

    You did a great job on that bed knife. :)
    We've all done it a bunch of times. Just wait, it'll get worse. Our new rough mowers had the over head roll bar that you could not see while cutting grass. I approached a tree limb that was low enough that it caught under the bar and all of a sudden my mower was off the ground hanging from the tree!!
    Try calling into the shop for help and trying to explain that you were on a mower in a tree 😂

  • mallratmallrat Members Posts: 2,912 ✭✭

    Maybe a little tip but when you make your turn on the fairway mower, go through the rough, if it’s hard to see, pic an off colored spot or something you can use to start the edge of the reel and then look up for where your tire came through the rough. Hope that helps.

    Also, not me but stuff happens

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    @596 said:
    You did a great job on that bed knife. :)
    We've all done it a bunch of times. Just wait, it'll get worse. Our new rough mowers had the over head roll bar that you could not see while cutting grass. I approached a tree limb that was low enough that it caught under the bar and all of a sudden my mower was off the ground hanging from the tree!!
    Try calling into the shop for help and trying to explain that you were on a mower in a tree 😂

    It got worse the next day...

    Again not my fault, exactly... but I called that back to the barn and the response was ”why is everything f*** falling the f*** apart?!?!?”

    Golfing in Finland!
  • JAMH03JAMH03 Members Posts: 434 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan said:
    On Thursday the biggest and funniest event thus far was learning how to operate the sprinkler system. It’s controlled by an app on a phone. The superintendent (greenkeeper, however) is showing me how to operate the sprinklers on the empty second green. He presses some buttons and nothing happens. A few seconds later sprinklers pop up— on the 4th green... where there are golfers... who are taking cover. “Oh f***!” Says the greenkeeper. He turns off the sprinklers and we high-tail it out of there and he says “if anyone asks it was a computer glitch!”

    Today, Friday I got to practice greensmowing, spread fertilizer, and collect range balls again. Once again I managed to beach the picker in the gravel... twice.

    All caught up! I’m going in tomorrow as well on Saturday so lets see how it goes!

    Wider turns! Doing good otherwise thx 4 writing.

    Comparisons are odious.

  • JAMH03JAMH03 Members Posts: 434 ✭✭
    edited May 18, 2019 9:50pm #25

    @Golfnuck said:
    I always thought that every day:
    Holes are changed.
    Tee markers are changed.
    Greens and fairways are cut.
    And all bunkers are raked.

    Depends. Fairways everyday? Egads!

    Comparisons are odious.

  • JAMH03JAMH03 Members Posts: 434 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan said:
    On Tuesdays I have University classes from 9-12 in the morning, which cuts into the usual 6-14 shift pretty well in the middle. Fortunately there is always something needing to be done, and that includes from 13-18 in the afternoon.

    Because of our winter kill and not-insignificant bare spots on our greens, the greens are in a continuous process of being re-seeded. Seeds need to be kept moist all the time while they are growing, so someone has to come out and run the sprinklers after everyone has gone home. We could do it remotely, but we’d run the risk of drenching someone playing the course, and since we are so far north, we have golfers on the course right now from 4:30-22:00 each day.

    So I went around to places on the course where large numbers of holes could be seen, and when groups weren’t playing, used a phone app to run the sprinklers for a few minutes on each green. On my last green before I could leave, a group of four older golfers took 20 minutes to play the hole, during which time I: explained to a gentleman the new in-course OB that had been put up this year, retrieved a club left behind by a member on another hole, and sat waiting an unreasonable time while sitting with the power to drop hundreds of gallons per minute on the world’s slowest golfers. (Another thing, I address all golfers as sir or ma’am while on the course. I’m not sure how the others do it but I do. As such I’ll use golfer, lady, gentleman here as well).

    I also fertilized the green surrounds with lime and brushed in some topdress sand.

    Good day thats good work!

    Comparisons are odious.

  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan said:

    @596 said:
    You did a great job on that bed knife. :)
    We've all done it a bunch of times. Just wait, it'll get worse. Our new rough mowers had the over head roll bar that you could not see while cutting grass. I approached a tree limb that was low enough that it caught under the bar and all of a sudden my mower was off the ground hanging from the tree!!
    Try calling into the shop for help and trying to explain that you were on a mower in a tree 😂

    It got worse the next day...

    Again not my fault, exactly... but I called that back to the barn and the response was ”why is everything f*** falling the f*** apart?!?!?”

    That's awesome!!! :) I've been there too. Things happen in threes. You've had 2..... Expect one more. Seems like something funny happens everyday to at least one guy on the staff.... You pray it's not you too often.

  • mallratmallrat Members Posts: 2,912 ✭✭

    So far my worst is having a stick get stuck between the rear roller and bedknife on the center reel. That was a nice 30 ft gouge. Had the wheels fall down on the roller mid-pass, luckily it just bruised the turf. Best was getting the Pro-Toro stuck and high centered while cleaning up cores during aerification.

  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    @JAMH03 said:

    @Golfnuck said:
    I always thought that every day:
    Holes are changed.
    Tee markers are changed.
    Greens and fairways are cut.
    And all bunkers are raked.

    Depends. Fairways everyday? Egads!

    Yikes! On fairway day we have two guys climb on mowers at 6:00 and are lucky if they are done at 2:00! If we did it every day...

    Golfing in Finland!
  • JAMH03JAMH03 Members Posts: 434 ✭✭

    @James the Hogan Fan Yeah so many things become clearer once you see it from that side.

    Someone mentioned to me that at Pebble they have 3 crews and each set 6 holes everyday. So they all get off at about the same time.

    Moreover one of my favorite local courses cuts their rough on a schedule where they only got 16-17 holes done a week.

    I thought that was a pretty good way to save time if they needed to.

    Comparisons are odious.

  • 596596 Lakeland, FLMembers Posts: 3,617 ✭✭

    It takes nearly 24 man-hours to cut our fairways and nearly 80 manhours to cut all the rough. We have 27 holes but it's still a lot for a crew of 9.

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