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Labor and Financial Concerns for Golf: 2016 State of the Industry

271_Golf.jpgGolf Course Industry magazine recently released its “2016 State of the Industry Report,” which includes golf superintendent surveys results that point to major trends in the game and its operations. Below are financial and labor findings from the report.


Golf facility profits regressed slightly in 2015 compared to 2014. Last year 69 percent of golf superintendents said their facilities generated a profit or broke even, while in 2014 that number was 71 percent. Broken down, the number of facilities that earned a profit actually rebounded in 2015, as 45 percent of respondents said that they generated a profit last year compared to just 39 percent the year before.

Although the Great Recession has ended and the country is in a state of recovery, the impact of the economic downturn is still being felt. Forty-five percent of respondents said the industry is “seriously” or “somewhat” struggling compared to just slightly more than a quarter (26%) who believe it is improving.


Golf superintendents experienced several key maintenance staffing issues in 2015, and the economic recovery has not offered much assistance. In fact, 73 percent of superintendents said that staffing positions with qualified personnel is more difficult than it was in 2012, while just 3 percent said it was easier.

The most difficult golf course maintenance jobs to fill are general labor positions. Seventy-two percent of superintendents expressed that they have had difficulty finding candidates for these roles. Unfortunately general labor represents the largest portion of the golf course maintenance workforce. However, the report shows that when superintendents have needed to reduce their labor force, general labor positions were the ones most likely to be terminated.

After general labor, the role of mechanic is the most difficult golf course maintenance job to fill, as 32 percent of superintendents said that they have had difficulty finding staff for the role. Next are irrigation technician (28%) and spray technician (28%), then first assistant (25%) and second assistant (22%).

Interestingly, despite the difficulty in filling positions, the size of maintenance staffs increased from 2014 to 2015 by one employee. On average, full-time staff also increased by the same amount during that time. This may be explained by a dramatic decrease in seasonal workers hired at golf facilities, which dropped from 16 employees in 2014 to nine in 2015.

The 2016 State of the Industry Report also surveyed superintendents about their own jobs. Perhaps surprising to some, superintendents generally have long tenures at their facilities. The average superintendent has been in his or her role for 12.2 years. Seventeen percent have been in their role for at least 20 years and a third have been in their position for 15 years or more. And despite myths from those outside the industry, superintendents are often too busy to play golf.  Almost half (48%) play golf monthly or less than that.