Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School:
History of the Superintendent Profession

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The first written reference to the modern game of golf was in Scotland around the 15th century. Initially, golf was repeatedly banned because it distracted men from military training and was deemed an "unprofitable sport." But subsequent royal endorsement helped to raise the game's status and popularity.

The First Golf Course

Golf was played on barren land referred to as links. Coastal sand blew into dunes and was covered by grass, resulting in terrain with the appearance of wavelike outlines and sandy soil.

These areas were unpopulated by people, and generally used by sheep for grazing. The animals would huddle together on the side of bumps and ridges, rubbing themselves into the sandy soil to escape the wind. This action made sandy hollows, which formed natural bunkers. The game was played on the land as they found it.

A hole would be placed at some distance from the previous one and a flattish piece of land would be made into a green. The players, rules and equipment all had to adapt to fit the existing conditions.

With the introduction of inland courses, machinery was used to create the banks, hollows and lakes found on modern courses. As the popularity of the game increased, the rules became more formalized and maintenance of the course became a necessity.

The First Golf Course Superintendents

Just as the game itself changed, so did the role of those in charge of the playing field. By the 1850s, newly created private clubs had hired "greenkeepers" to care for their golf courses. Often these individuals also would help design and build courses, teach golf lessons, make balls and clubs, and repair or improvise available equipment.

While the golf course superintendent profession has changed over time, it is still largely a combination of science and art.

Become a Golf Course Superintendent

Do you want to become part of the long legacy of professional "greenkeepers?" Then add a Rutgers Golf Turf Management Certificate to your resume. This respected credential can help open doors!

  • Attend our three-week course (held every January) to learn more about the profession or to jump-start your career if time is tight.
  • Apply to our two-year program if you are ready to invest serious time in your education with more in-depth training and professional experience through an internship.


History adapted and reprinted by permission from the GCSAA.