JOB MARKET: Nurturing golf courses

GREEN KEEPERS maintain and repair golf course fairways and greens

They ensure greens are mowed regularly and irrigated when necessary. They also oversee regular raking of the bunkers, application of chemicals to control weeds and fungal diseases and check drainage.

Green keepers also need to know how to operate and maintain the machinery and tools used to maintain the golf course.

If you are interested in this career, you should be physically fit because you will have to walk long distances almost every day.

Although it is not always a requirement, being a good golfer is an added advantage - though you might not have the opportunity to play often.

Prospects are good for those with qualifications, with opportunities for promotion to management level.

John Mntambo is the green keeper at the Pretoria Country Club Golf Course. He started working on the club's bowling greens in 1970, before moving to the golf course.

"I attended all the green keeper meetings and seminars, so I learnt a lot. Chris Madgwick taught me everything about being a green keeper and At Schoeman taught me all about foreign grasses, such as Bent grass," Mntambo says.

Salary depends on the club you work for. The average is R8000 to R10000 a month and the highest is R15000.

A green keeper has to maintain the the bowling greens and dams and oversee staff.

Some of the things Mntambo does include irrigation and mowing the greens, tees and fairways.

"The pros of this job are that I enjoy planting Bent and Kikuyu grass and trees. I like working outside and I enjoy working with nature," he says.

"The cons are that this is a difficult job. I get no time to play on the golf course. I work all the time as we are very busy on public holidays and I always have to be here for tournaments and holidays," Mntambo says.

Green keepers receive on-the-job training .

Mntambo did a green keeper course at Tshwane University of Technology in 1977.

"You should do a course and learn about things from other countries. Also learn about the chemicals and procedures," he says.

Mntambo recommends matric.

"For a PGA course, I think you need more skills and education," he says.

Mntambo worked his way up.

"If you are interested in grass, being on the golf course and working outside, then this could be the career for you. But you must be knowledgeable about diseases and chemicals," he says.

In summer, Mntambo's average day starts at 5am and ends at 4pm. From 5am until 7am, he checks the greens for any diseases and holes. From 7am to 4pm, he is up and down the course, checking the greens, irrigating the course, mowing the lawn and delegating tasks to the staff.

"We irrigate and mow the grass every day. I maintain the dam once a week by checking the water levels, to see how much water we have used. On Mondays, I put down fertiliser and use chemicals, if necessary. If there is a tournament, I need to cut and roll the grass so that it's as smooth as possible," he says.

"The best thing about this job is when I get time to play golf. I love golf and enjoy the golf course," Mntambo smiles.

"The worst is the staff, who can give me big problems. Staff maintenance is difficult," Mntambo shrugs. - SA Career Focus