Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program

TAP Photo Medley

What is TAP?

UW Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program Brochure

The UW-Madison Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program (TAP) is a 2-step program:

  • a 12-week, in-person educational bootcamp held in Madison, WI.
  • a field-based apprenticeship at a golf course, athletic complex, or other turf facility of the student’s choosing.

TAP Students Walking into Garage Bay

Watch a short video to hear from former TAP students. Video will open in a new tab.

+Click to read a transcript of the first video.

Doug Soldat, Turfgrass Extension Specialist and Professor, UW-Madison:

The Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program is separate from our four-year degree program at the university.

The apprenticeship was developed in collaboration with the Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendant’s Association.  A subcommittee got together and came up with a list of all the different things they expect in assistant golf course superintendant to know.

It’s much more than just agronomy and turfgrass management.  It has a lot of the people skills, and the program and project management skills.  There’s 75 different tasks, so it’s a really comprehensive, skills-based apprenticeship.

We meet for six weeks in the fall.  We start in early November and we go right to the end of December.

The program runs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10:00am to 3pm.

Adam Lois, TAP Program Student, Oconomowoc Golf Club:

The really nice part is that’s only three days a week, so Monday and Fridays I can work at a course, I can take what I’m learning today, I can talk with my boss on it on Friday, and talk with him again on it on Monday.  See what kinda translates over from that.

Doug Soldat, Turfgrass Extension Specialist and Professor, UW-Madison:

It’s just a wonderful opportunity for our students to see things that go on at the golf course.  We spend a lot of time in the classroom, but we also like to get out to the real world and have students interact with practitioners.

The students have come from mostly Wisconsin, but also surrounding states – Minnesota, Illinois.

Brad Young, TAP Program Student, West Bend Country Club:

I heard about the program, a couple times at some seminars they would talk about it, but then I really got into it talking with my boss.  He’s on the board, and he worked tightly with them, and he thought it would be a good idea to send me through this instead of going to get a turf degree, because he knows I already did my formal education, a four-year bachelors.

Doug Soldat, Turfgrass Extension Specialist and Professor, UW-Madison:

The Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program doesn’t grant a degree.  We grant a certificate that represents 144 hours of classroom training.  And then there’s an apprenticeship program, where they link up with an apprenticeship director, who is usually their employer.  They work through a list of skills, competencies and tasks.

Garrett Luck, Golf Course Superintendent, Hidden Glen Golf Club:

Prior to the TAPS program, while Ethan was employed here, he was able to get the first-hand knowledge of chemical applications, fertilizer applications, budgeting, a process that I would share with him.

While attending the TAPS program, he was able to actually do that work himself, and meet with other superintendents and see how they do it.

Ethan Bublitz, Assistant Golf Superintendent, Hidden Glen Golf Club: 

It’s a great opportunity if you’re looking into the golf superintendent industry.

It’s a great time to come in.  People are leaving the business, not a lot of people are coming into it.

The game of golf itself is just growing, it’s booming right now.

Brad Young, TAP Program Student, West Bend Country Club:

It’s kind of like an apprenticeship for an electrician, or construction, how they send them through there.  Plumbing.

Now this is kind of the same for the turfgrass industry.

Doug Soldat, Turfgrass Extension Specialist and Professor, UW-Madison:

It’s really fun to see how people who are passionate about turfgrass management start to get the education about the fundamentals, and watch them get promoted and move up.  It’s a great program for somebody that’s looking to take the next step in turfgrass management, and we hope you consider checking it out.

 

TAP Students listening to lecture.

Watch a second short video to hear from former TAP students. Video will open in a new tab.

+Click to read a transcript of the second video.

Adam Lois, TAP Program Student, Oconomowoc Golf Club

The TAP program, it’s a 12-week program, six before Christmas and six after Christmas, the really nice part is that’s only six days a week. Mondays and Fridays I can work at a course, I can take what I’m learning today and then I can talk with my boss on it on Friday, and talk with him again on Monday and see what kinda translates over from that.

Brad Young, TAP Program Student, West Bend Country Club

I mean I never really had any of the formal education we get with the TAP program, it’s here you learn the sciences, you learn the grasses, you learn the soils, you learn practices, and it all kinda just seems to me overemphasizing why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Jacob Anderson, TAP Program Student, Cog Hill Golf and Country Club

How I heard about the TAP program was I was looking for a schooling option to further advance my career in the turfgrass industry, and there was a variety of different selections that you could make of, I know the Rutgers program, but specifically the UW TAP program was one that I wanted to go to because it was in person, I really wanted that hands-on experience, instead of, you know, something that’s more impersonal online.

Arianna Roquemore, TAP Program Student, Sand Valley

My friends at the job I work at now that actually did this program last year where they told me all about it, and how it was a great program, how they enjoyed going through all of the teachings that Doug and Paul had given and everything. So I was thinking to myself, “Well, if they liked it, and there’s three other guys that also did it from where my course is, I think it would be a good fit.” And it takes less time too, we’re trying to move, being a women in this industry, I’m definitely trying to move up as fast as I can.”

Adam Lois, TAP Program Student, Oconomowoc Golf Club

The other thing I like is to isolate the shop talks, not just sitting in a lecture hall, and just hearing someone say the same thing over and over again, and then you just write it down and memorize it by Thursday, or something like that. You’re getting to ask the people that you want to be in their shoes one day of how to get to that position and then, once you’re in that position what do you do.

Brad Young, TAP Program Student, West Bend Country Club

But you can only learn so much watching, and you can only see what your course does, so this is good to see other courses, talk to their supers, talk to mechanics, talk to other prospective young people that we’re here with.

Jacob Anderson, TAP Program Student, Cog Hill Golf and Country Club

I love the in-person aspect, meeting some good people, meeting a lot of different faces in the industry as well, whether it be golf course superintendants, Doug and Paul have been great as well, very informative. I’m learning a lot, and then also, you know, I’m taking that next step in my career.

Brad Young, TAP Program Student, West Bend Country Club

It’s kind of like an apprenticeship for an electrician, or construction, how they send them through there, plumbing. Now this is kind of the same for the turfgrass industry.

Jacob Anderson, TAP Program Student, Cog Hill Golf and Country Club

You know it’s extremely fun so far, it’s been a great opportunity. You know I’m really thankful to be a part of something, and have such an affordable option, but then as well something that you’re going to get a lot of baseline knowledge from, and you know, you’ll really be able to progress your career.

Benefits of TAP

The program provides participants with the hands-on, real-world experience needed to succeed in the turfgrass industry.

Speed

In just 12 weeks, you’ll be ready to put your experience to work.

Cost

A shorter curriculum means a smaller financial commitment – tuition for the bootcamp costs just $4,000.

Small Class Size

With a smaller class size, you’ll have more access to our instructors and gain hands-on experience with machinery, irrigation, and developing nutrient and pest management plans.

Our class sizes are limited to the first 22 students who register.  Additional students who register will be placed on a wait list.

Real-World Experts

In addition to learning from our faculty, you’ll take “shop talk” field trips to meet with and learn from people currently working in various areas of turfgrass management.

View a slideshow showing TAP students learning in the field and in the classroom.  (opens in a new browser tab)

Learn About Dillon Nelson, a Recent TAP Graduate

Read this UW article to learn why Dillon Nelson chose the TAP program to advance his career in the golf course industry.

Isaac Herr, left, and fellow Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program students study turfgrass specimens during an identification challenge at D.C. Smith Greenhouse at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Isaac Herr, left, and fellow Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program students study turfgrass specimens during an identification challenge at D.C. Smith Greenhouse at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Who Teaches TAP?

UW-Madison professors Doug Soldat and Paul Koch – click their names to read their profiles:

Doug Soldat

Dr. Doug Soldat

Department of Soil Science
263A Soil Science
1525 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI  53706
djsoldat@wisc.edu

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Prof. Paul Koch

Dr. Paul Koch

Department Plant Pathology
Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI  53706
608-576-2673
plkoch@wisc.edu

Plant pathology associate professor Paul Koch works with Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program students on turf species identification at D.C. Smith Greenhouse at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. - Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS
Plant Pathology Associate Professor Paul Koch works with Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program students on turf species identification at D.C. Smith Greenhouse at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

What Courses Will I Take in TAP?

The educational bootcamp includes the following four courses:

  • Intro to Turfgrass Management (Fall Semester)
  • Intro to Turfgrass Soils, Irrigation and Drainage (Fall Semester)
  • Nutrient Management (Winter Semester)
  • Integrated Pest Management (Winter Semester)

What Types of Jobs Can I Get After I Complete TAP?

Graduates of the program will be qualified for positions such as golf course superintendent, assistant sports turf manager, sod production manager, or an equivalent position in the turfgrass industry.

Dillon Nelson, a student in UW–Madison’s Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program, and an assistant in training at The Lido, one of Sand Valley’s golf courses near Nekoosa, Wis., mows a fairway on the course early Friday morning, May 12, 2023. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS
Dillon Nelson, a student in UW–Madison’s Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program, and an assistant in training at The Lido, one of Sand Valley’s golf courses near Nekoosa, Wis., mows a fairway on the course early Friday morning, May 12, 2023.

Learn About the Program Details

Click the boxes below to learn about:

+Educational Bootcamp

The educational bootcamp is a 12-week, in-person program offering an applied turfgrass education in a compressed period without compromising the quality of the course content.

Location

The majority of classes will take place at the OJ Noer Turfgrass Research Facility on the west side of Madison, WI.  In addition, regular ‘shop talk’ visits will be made to local turfgrass facilities to gain hands-on education on a range of topics from practicing turfgrass professionals.

The bootcamp will take place over two 6-week terms during the late fall and winter that allows for working students to complete seasonal tasks in the field prior to starting class in the fall, and to complete classes in the winter prior to the start of the following growing season.

Can I Take Just One Part of the Program?

You must complete both the bootcamp and the apprenticeship successfully to earn the Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program Certificate.

Is the Bootcamp Offered Online?

The Bootcamp portion of the program is hands-on and there is currently no online version offered.

When is the Program Offered?

The fall term starts in early November and ends in mid-December.

The winter term starts in early January and ends in mid-February.

What is the Schedule for the Bootcamp?

Each week will have class on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 AM until 3 PM CST with a 1-hour break for lunch.

Typically, one class taught by one professor will be offered from 10 until 12 and then another class will be taught by another professor from 1 until 3.

This compressed schedule allows those that don’t want to commute daily to book housing for only 2 nights per week.

There will be no class during the week of Thanksgiving in the fall term and during the GCSAA Conference in the winter term.

2024-2025 UW-Madison Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program

Term Class Time (CST) Primary Instructor Start Date End Date
Fall Introduction to Turfgrass Management 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Paul Koch Nov 6 Dec 19
Fall Introduction to Turfgrass Soils, Irrigation, and Drainage 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Doug Soldat Nov 6 Dec 19
Spring  Nutrient Management 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Doug Soldat Jan 7 Feb 20
Spring  Integrated Pest  Management 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Paul Koch Jan 7 Feb 20

Expectations of Students

TAP is graded!  Regular attendance and completion of quizzes, projects, and exams will be required to complete the program.

 

 

+Field-based Apprenticeship

Students in the TAP will also be required to complete a field-based apprenticeship at a golf course, athletic complex, or other turf management facility of their choosing.

Apprenticeship Task Books

Each student will complete a list of tasks in one of three areas based on their desired turf sector – golf, lawn care, and sod production.

An apprenticeship book for sports turf is currently in development.

The checklists were developed in cooperation with associations in the turfgrass industry and can be viewed below.

The student’s field supervisor (superintendent, grounds manager, etc.) will sign off on the assigned tasks once they deem the student proficient at the task.

There is no time limit on completing the task booklets.

After completing all assigned tasks, students will be graduate from the program and be ready for employment in the turfgrass industry!

+Tuition and Housing

How Much Does TAP Cost?

Tuition for the 2024-2025 educational bootcamp will be $4000 for the entire 12-week program.  A $100 non-refundable fee is due upon enrollment and will be deducted from your tuition costs.

  • Cost is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.
  • Contact Dr. Paul Koch or Dr. Doug Soldat for questions about program costs and payments.

Tuition Payment Options

TAP tuition can be paid by:

  • one lump sum at the beginning of the program in mid-November
    • pay by:
      • check – make payable to ‘Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program’ and either mail it to Paul Koch’s office or bring it to class
      • credit card (2% surcharge applies)
  • in 4 monthly installments in November, December, January, and February
    • pay by:
      • check – make payable to ‘Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program’ and either mail it to Paul Koch’s office or bring it to class
      • credit card only (2% surcharge applies)
    • Installment payments are due Nov. 15th, Dec. 15th, Jan. 15th, and Feb. 15th.

Refunds

  • Tuition – full refunds, minus the enrollment fee, will be offered to any student that withdraws by the end of the second week of class.
  • Enrollment Fee – the $100 enrollment fee is not refundable.

Does Tuition Include Housing?

Housing is not provided by UW-Madison during the educational bootcamp, but hotel blocks with discounted rates will be set up near the OJ Noer Turfgrass Research Facility so that all students who wish to stay in Madison can stay in the same hotel.

We anticipate hotel costs for two nights per week during the 12-week program will be less than $2000.  Those costs will decrease considerably for those students interested in a roommate.

More information on housing will be included in the monthly TAP email updates.

+Scholarships

Do You Provide Financial Assistance?

Yes we do.  Over $13,000 in scholarship money is available to support student tuition and housing costs from a variety of turfgrass associations, including:

  • Wisconsin Turfgrass Association
  • Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendents Association
  • Wisconsin Sports Turf Managers Association
  • Wisconsin Sod Producers Association
  • Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association

Many state and regional turfgrass associations outside of Wisconsin and Minnesota also provide scholarship support.  You are encouraged to explore other scholarship offerings from your local turfgrass associations.

How to Apply

To apply for a TAP scholarship please click here to fill out the form.

TAP Scholarship Timeline

Scholarship application deadline is earlier so that TAP students receive their awards BEFORE classes start.

Step Deadline
Applicant completes online scholarship application form. September 1st
TAP program mails scholarship award letter to recipients. Letter shows:
– amount of scholarship(s)
– any tuition remainder the applicant must pay
October 1st
Applicant completes online enrollment form and pays:
– enrollment fee
– any tuition remainder stated in the scholarship award letter
October 15th

Note: scholarship winners will not receive checks.  Instead, the scholarship award amount(s) will be deducted from their tuition.

For More Information

More information on scholarships and how to apply for them will be provided in the monthly TAP email updates.

Please contact Dr. Paul Koch or Dr. Doug Soldat for questions related to potential scholarship support.

Learn What Past Graduates Think of TAP