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Golf Course Management in the Motherland: Irish/Scottish Culture, Climate, and Golf Tradition by Curt Moore, Turfgrass Science Major

Posted: May 31, 2016

Never be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone, it could be one of the greatest things you could ever do for yourself.
I stand on the 8th tee box of St. Andrews New Course, Scotland

I stand on the 8th tee box of St. Andrews New Course, Scotland

From May 9th to the 17th of 2016, I was privileged to have the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland and Scotland through the Turf 499A class. Having never left the United States, I was nervous, but excited for my journey. Prior to traveling, I had been informed of many amazing sights, foods, and traditions that the United Kingdom had to offer and I was extremely eager to personally experience these ideals and form my own bona fide stances on the experience. Embarrassingly, I was worried I wouldn’t fully enjoy the food, opposite lane driving, and landscape. My biggest fear was that my trip would happen too quickly for me to even realize what happened. I had to keep making sure I lived in the moment and was conscious of my surroundings. It was the first opportunity for me to “jump” in and observe life from a perspective other than that of an American. The lessons I took from this trip allowed me to grow professionally and academically.

As a rising senior in the Turfgrass Sciences major, I am interested in career pathways that involve athletic/golf grounds maintenance. I am always willing to acquire new methods and hear other people’s theories. The main objective of the nine-day visit was to evaluate the differences in golf course design and management performed by Greenskeepers of the UK compared to Superintendents of the United States.

We toured grounds managed at varying levels of intensity while learning about Irish and Scottish culture along the way. It was the perfect chance to see how professional’s techniques in the industry can differ, yet yield equally prosperous conditions all the same. The United Kingdom’s mild climate and high chemical application restrictions make management practices considerably different from the United States. Greenskeepers here face many challenges that athletic field managers of United States are lucky to have convenient answers to.

After touring six different golf courses, and viewing breathtaking sights, we started to gain a better understanding of how the United Kingdom chooses which maintenance practices are more important than others and how they maximize efficiency with a high amount of restrictions. The most important skill that I learned while abroad was the significance of maximizing cultural and physical control practices to manage your grounds. Although the climate in which you work can distribute your focus, cultural and physical practice skills will be helpful in the future when inorganic chemical restrictions are implemented for the United States. These will help keep courses and fields looking great.

I am fortunate to be a part of the Penn State Turfgrass program and its extensive global network. This network allowed the students on the trip to obtain visits with prominent turf managers throughout Ireland and Scotland. These men and women taking the time from their busy schedules to explain their methods were greatly appreciated. A potential employer would understand the importance of making time for people, educating the future workers of the industry, and importance of creating positive environments for potential and current workers. There were many bright spots on the trip, but the highlight may have been speaking to the head greenskeeper of the Old Course at St. Andrews while getting a personal tour of its most famous holes. Many believe the Old Course is the birthplace of modern golf. The course is consistently ranked in the top 3 courses every year. This trip greatly broadened my horizons and I am extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity. Never be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone, it could be one of the greatest things you could ever do for yourself.