Doug Soldat

Dr. Doug Soldat

Department of Soil Science
245 King Hall
1525 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI  53706

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Paul Koch

Dr. Paul Koch

Department Plant Pathology
Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI  53706

UW Madison Turfgrass Educational Options

Why Wisconsin?



Is a career in Turf and Grounds Management right for you? Choosing an enjoyable and rewarding career is a difficult decision. The following questions should help you decide if a career in Turf and Grounds Management would be to your liking:

  • Are you prepared to continue your study of the basic sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology for example) to gain knowledge of soil science, horticulture, agronomy, plant pathology and agricultural engineering as they apply to turf and grounds management?
  • Are you willing to undertake field training while attending college?
  • Are you interested in continuing education necessary in a changing technical field?
  • Do you receive personal gratification from physical labor and accomplishments that you can see?
  • Do you enjoy working outdoors in all types of weather and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings?
  • Are you willing to work as many hours per day as it takes to get a job done?
  • Are you willing to assume a variety of responsibilities that range from record keeping and budgeting to equipment repair and tree pruning?
  • Do you desire leadership and supervisory responsibilities?
  • Do you enjoy working with people as well as equipment?
  • Are you self-motivated?

If you answered “yes” to most, if not all these questions, chances are excellent that you are up to the challenges of a career in turf and grounds management.

Across all our turfgrass educational offerings, a strong emphasis is placed on professional work experience. Students gain knowledge of equipment operation, landscape construction, drainage, pesticide use and application, irrigation, fertilization and other crucial practices. Students usually work full-time in the summer and part-time during the school year. Placement for summer employment is virtually guaranteed thanks to support from the program’s alumni. Alumni include a network of golf course superintendents, lawn care managers, landscape managers, and sales personnel for companies specializing in turf products. Additionally, faculty are able to place students through other professional contacts across the nation and internationally.

The cornerstone of the UW-Madison Turfgrass Educational Programs is the O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility. The facility is adjacent to UW’s championship golf course-University Ridge. Proximity to the UW-Madison campus provides students full access to both facilities and the opportunity to significantly enhance the quality of their educational experience. The Noer facility has research and demonstration plots that are used for teaching purposes, as well as a fully video-equipped classroom. Turfgrass laboratories are held at the Facility to conduct hands-on exercises that stress understanding of the latest turfgrass technology.


Education in Turf and Grounds Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an opportunity to get involved in a lucrative and highly respected profession. The program offers a unique opportunity for students who want a broad education as well as a specialty. Turf and Grounds Management incorporates the principles embodied in soil science, horticulture, plant pathology, entomology, landscape architecture, ecology, business management and public relations to prepare you for a highly successful career.  Graduates have little difficultly obtaining positions as golf course superintendents, assistant golf course superintendents, lawn care specialists, turf product sales personnel, institution grounds supervisors, athletic field managers and landscape specialists. We over several different educational options to help you achieve your specific career goals.

Click the boxes below to learn more about the options:

+Four-Year Degree

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Why pursue a four-year degree? The answer to this question lies in the broad-based, highly-respected education that a four-year degree offers. Many two-year schools offer excellent technical training in turf and grounds management. However, they lack the additional two years of education that provide a well rounded education. Four-year college students first receive a strong background in the social, mathematical, communication, physical and biological sciences. This is the foundation which students use to progress to advanced courses related to turfgrass management.Since the four-year degree is so widely recognized, the graduate has a variety of options for employment, increased flexibility to change careers or to pursue advanced degrees and further expand employment opportunities. Four years of college education provides even footing with other professionals in our society. Golf course superintendents who wish to become certified by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) are required to have four years of college education.

+One-Year and Two-Year Certificates

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Students interested in an education in turfgrass management but without the resources or interest in a four-year degree have the opportunity to pursue a one-year or two-year certificate in Turfgrass Management at the University of Wisconsin. These certificates are offered through the University’s Farm and Industry Short Course, a historic program that has been going strong for over 130 years.  The certificate offers education in a compressed period without compromising the quality of the instructors or the course content.  The faculty teaching the turfgrass courses in the certificate program are the same as those in the four-year program.

The turfgrass certificate courses are offered over two 8-week periods, early-October through mid-December, and mid-January through mid-March. This timing works well for prospective students who already work in the turf industry and want to augment their work experience with their education. It also allows those in the two-year program to complete an extended internship (late March – October). These certificates are attractive to students from three main areas: 1) high school graduates interested in a career in turfgrass management, but without the means or desire to complete a four-year degree, 2) working turfgrass professionals interested in a certificate for career advancement, and 3) students that have earned a degree in a different field, but wish to switch careers.

The two-year certificate curriculum offers courses in introductory soil science and turfgrass management and a focus on communications, human resources, and the business side of the industry in year one, and specialized courses in turfgrass management in year two (Table 1). For students with good foundational education, we offer a fast-tracked one-year certificate (Table 2). This option is best for students with previous secondary education or who have been working in the industry for some time. We prefer all recent high school graduates to pursue the two-year certificate option.

Table 1. Curriculum for the two-year certificate in Turfgrass Management at University of Wisconsin.

Year 1 Courses Year 2 Courses
Introduction to Soils (2 cr.) Turfgrass Nutrient Management (2 cr.)
Agribusiness Communications (2 cr.) Precision Agriculture (2 cr.)
Plant Science (2 cr.) Turfgrass Irrigation and Drainage (1 cr.)
Agricultural Safety (1 cr.) Farm Power (2 cr.)
Weather and Climate (1 cr.) Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides (1 cr.)
Business Principles (1 cr.) Turfgrass Integrated Pest Management (2 cr.)
Agricultural Human Resources Management (1 cr.) + Electives
Turfgrass Management (2 cr.)  
+ Electives  
Total: 12 or more credits Total: 12 or more credits


Table 2. Curriculum for the one-year certificate in Turfgrass Management at University of Wisconsin.

Year 1 (mid-October through mid-March)
Turfgrass Management (2 cr.)
Turfgrass Nutrient Management (2 cr.)
Turfgrass Irrigation and Drainage (1 cr.)
Turfgrass Integrated Pest Management (2 cr.)
Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides (1 cr.)
Weather and Climate (1 cr.)
Farm Power (2 cr.)
+ Electives
Total: 12 or more credits


+Graduate Education (Master's and Doctorate)

Research assistantships are available to qualified students. These assistantships offer financial support while students pursue their degree. Funding for the assistantships is provided by organizations such as the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association, the United States Golf Association and the O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research Foundation.The UW Turfgrass program is currently working to establish graduate fellowships in the five departments that make up the Turfgrass Program. In the summer of 2000 the first fellowship was dedicated to Dr. Wayne Kussow at Summer Field Day. Contact Dr. Soldat or Dr. Koch to see if graduate education is right for you.