1996 Salary survey of golf-course personnel

Working on a golf course in the United States won't necessarily make you rich, but you can earn a comfortable living at it.

Grounds Maintenance conducted a salary survey in March 1996 to determine how salary and benefits of various grounds-care professionals have changed from levels shown in previously conducted surveys. In the 10 years between 1986 and 1996, median salary for golf-course personnel increased 45.5 percent, from $26,550 to $38,636. A 4.4-percent increase occurred between 1991-when Grounds Maintenance last surveyed its readership-and 1996, from $36,000.

Salary, of course, varied by region of the country and by education level. Those superintendents working in the Middle Atlantic region reported the highest salaries (a median average of $41,875 per year) while those in the West North Central United States reported the least ($28,333). As expected, superintendents with post-graduate-school education said they earned about $12,600 more than those with only a high-school degree ($42,667 vs. $30,000). The number of years a superintendent had been in his or her job had similar effects on salary levels. Those with less than 2 years' experience reportedly earned $30,455 compared to those with 15 years or more of experience at $42,258.

How salaries increased varied between income brackets. The smallest annual salary increase occurred for superintendents who reported earning between $50,000 and $74,999. Most of these superintendents said they received a median increase of 3.5 percent. The highest annual increase went to those earning $75,000 or more, who reportedly received 6 percent. The median for all superintendents responding to the survey was a 4-percent annual increase. Overall, 73.7 percent of respondents received a salary increase in the past year. And most respondents who said they received increases on a specific schedule (94.1 percent) received their increases annually.

In addition to salary, fringe benefits are, of course, an important incentive to any position. Most golf-course managers and superintendents (83 percent) said they received medical insurance, while 76.3 percent of all golf-course personnel respondents did. Dental insurance is a benefit for the majority of manager and superintendent respondents (56.7 percent), although less than half of all golf-course personnel (41.2 percent) responded that they received dental benefits. Other benefits received by 50 percent or more of both superintendents and golf-course personnel as a whole included paid life insurance, paid sick-leave, paid vacation, paid holidays, paid association membership dues and company-paid attendance at trade shows.

In April 1996, Grounds Maintenance conducted a survey of 2,500 readers to determine: 1) Current salary levels for key management positions critical to the grounds-care industry 2) How demographics play a part in compensation levels 3) Benefits received in the grounds-care industry.

Surveys were mailed to an equal number (500) of readers within five grounds-care categories, of which golf-course personnel was one.

By June 1996, 1,174 usable surveys were received. This corresponded to a 47.5 percent rate of response.

Unless stated otherwise, the figures in this article represent the median, which is the middle number in the survey response. This means that half the responses were above the median number and half were below this number.

In some cases, the medians are based on actual responses given by respondents, producing a true median. In other cases, however, estimated medians were calculated for "aided" questions (where respondents were provided range responses and asked to check the appropriate box). Mathematically speaking, estimated medians assume that each category reflects a normal distribution or bell-shaped curve. In other words, if you contacted category respondents and asked them their actual budget, and you averaged all the answers for that category, the average would equal the mid-point for the category, provided a normal distribution exists.

In some cases, means are reported. Means are the average of all the numbers in the group under consideration.

Percentages are given of those reporting within a category.

For a copy of the complete 1996 Grounds Maintenance Salary Survey, mail a $50 check or money order along with your shipping address to: Grounds Maintenance, Marketing Department, 9800 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS 66212-2216. For more information, call Laura Shown, marketing coordinator, at (913) 967-1959.

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