Trends in Compensation

Every other year, GCSAA conducts a comprehensive study of the compensation, benefits and operations of its superintendent members.  In 2009, a total of 4,676 superintendents participated in the 2009 Compensation, Benefits and Operations Survey.  The data presented in this report is based on trends observed through these surveys, which are conducted by third-party survey companies.

Facility types

Superintendents who completed the survey were employed in a wide variety of situations – from working at nine-hole municipal courses with annual maintenance budgets of $100,000, to managing 45-hole private resorts with annual budgets of more than $2 million. More than 71 percent of all superintendents responding to the 2009 survey worked at 18-hole facilities, with the following breakdown of facility types:

  • Private facilities — 44 percent
  • Daily-fee courses — 25 percent
  • Semi-private facilities— 18 percent
  • Municipal facilities — 13 percent


Superintendent salaries

Average SalaryIn 2009, the average base salary for golf course superintendents rose to $78,898, a 6.9 percent increase over the base salary reported in 2007. This increase represents a 60.1 percent gain since 1995, or an increase of $29,629 in 13 years.

In 2009, half of all superintendents earned $70,000 or more annually, 25 percent of all superintendents earned more than $93,000, and the top 10 percent earned $125,000 or more annually.


Reporting structure

Reporting Structure

Golf course superintendents most often reported to general managers (35 percent), green committee/board of directors (16 percent), followed by owners (16 percent) and directors of golf (7 percent). The remaining responses were grouped into the "other" category.

In 2009, 18 percent of superintendents responded that they worked either for a management or maintenance management company, an increase from 15 percent reported in 2007.

Employment profile & career path

Benefits Paid by Employers
GCSAA membership 97%
Chapter dues 96%
Medical insurance 87%
Travel to the GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show 70%
Registration to the GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show 74%
Seminar/tuition reimbursement 89%

The 2009 Compensation, Benefits and Operations Report states that member superintendents:

  • Average 44 years of age
  • Average 13.5 years as a superintendent
  • Have held their current position for an average of 8.5 years
  • Manage an average crew size of 24
  • Feel secure in their positions -- 61 percent rated their job security as high, indicating they think they will be in their current position as long as they perform well and choose to remain in it
  • On average, plan to retire by the age of 64
  • Seasonally, work an average of 54 hours in the spring, 57 hours in the summer, 51 hours in the fall, and 45 hours in the winter
  • Receive an average of 17 paid vacation days, six paid holidays and seven sick days

When asked about alternative career paths, more reported an interest in becoming a general manager (18 percent), followed by regional agronomy management (17 percent) and owner (11 percent).


Experience & education

Average Salary by Education Level

The results of the 2009 survey compared with findings in previous years indicate experience and education continue to be significant factors driving salary increases. Of those who responded to the 2009 survey, 26.3 percent were certified superintendents. Experienced certified superintendents continued to command significant average salary increases during the reporting period. The statistics from those who have demonstrated their experience and education through the certification process include the following:

  • Eleven (10.79) years = average tenure (stay at one facility)
  • $120,500 = the median (midpoint) salary for those at 18-hole facilities, managing budgets of $1 million or more
  • $94,944 = the median (midpoint) salary for those with at least a bachelor’s degree


Compensation for certified golf course superintendents (CGCSs)

Compensation for GCGSCertified golf course superintendents who responded to the 2009 survey reported earning an average salary of $93,414, compared to non-certified golf course superintendents who reported earning an average salary of $73,809, a 27 percent difference. In 2007, certified golf course superintendents reported earning an average salary of $87,225 vs. non-certified golf course superintendents who reported an average salary of $68,464. Overall, certified superintendent average salaries increased 7 percent from 2007 to 2009.


Compensation boosted by bonuses

About 56 percent of all GCSAA superintendents surveyed receive a bonus in addition to base compensation. The 2009 report indicates top criteria for bonuses were:

  • merit and performance on the job (64 percent)
  • profitability of the overall operation (44 percent)
  • staying under budget (37 percent)

The average annual bonus for all superintendents in 2009 was $7,477.


Average and Median Based Salaries of
Golf Course Superintendents
  Count Average Median
Facility type
Private 2,071 $94,743 $87,000
Daily Fee/public 1,183 $66,387 $60,000
Semi-private 833 $67,606 $60,600
Municipal 589 $64,287 $62,090
Number of holes
9 holes 268 $51,678 $48,940
18 holes 3,365 $77,508 $70,000
27 holes 399 $79,404 $72,000
36 holes 373 $91,075 $83,000
45 + holes 108 $107,910 $99,600
Annual maintenance budget
Less than $100,000 282 $48,908 $45,000
$100,000 to $249,999 1,074 $60,472 $58,000
$250,000 to $499,999 1,440 $78,253 $73,000
$500,000 to $749,999 674 $93,779 $88,000
$750,000 to $999,999 257 $97,289 $92,000
$1,000,000 to $149,999,999 191 $104,286 $95,000
$1.5 million or more 160 $111,625 $105,500

Other budgetary information

In the 2009 survey, the budget for a facility was broken down separately into maintenance, capital, water and payroll to better compare each of the budget items. Using this breakdown, the overall median budgets managed by golf course superintendents were $336,770 for maintenance, $25,750 for water, $70,000 for capital and $350,000 for payroll.

Because median budgets represent a wide variety of facility types, acreage, geographical region and other factors, they represent a broad view.


Crew salaries and benefits

Assistant superintendent salaries increased from $37,032 in 2007 to $39,200 in 2009, a 5.8 percent increase. Superintendents overwhelmingly indicated that assistant superintendents are salaried rather than hourly employees. All hourly wages for crew positions increased, with horticulturist hourly pay increasing the most since 2007.

In 2009, the average size of a crew managed by golf course superintendents was 24, up from 2007 when a crew size of 21 was reported. Average hourly wages and trends for select crew members are illustrated below:

National Average Hourly Wages
POSITION 2005 2007 2009
Horticulturist $12.56 $13.39 $15.55
Office assistant $11.57 $13.06 $13.82
Foreman $12.35 $12.84 $13.95
Asst. equipment manager $12.06 $12.85 $13.59
Irrigation specialist $12.17 $12.95 $13.82


Reprints of this analysis or copies of the complete 2009, 2007 and 2005 Compensation and Benefits reports are available for purchase from GCSAA by calling 800-472-7878.