Finding and retaining labor continues to be a recurring problem for golf course superintendents across the country. With the U.S. economy slowly improving in some sectors, other industries are competing with the golf market for labor resources by offering less strenuous, higher-paying jobs that are more enticing to potential employees. To accommodate rising labor costs, many golf courses have had to increase operating budgets. However, many golf courses still are unable to compete with higher wages being offered by industries like lawn care, construction, gas and oil, etc. The typical U.S. golf course pays an hourly employee approximately $10.64[i] per hour, which is hardly competitive with other industries (Graph 1). Additionally, new home construction is on the rise, further depleting the applicant pool for golf courses.
The factors that are making it difficult for golf course superintendents to locate, hire and retain a strong team of employees are complex. In addition to an improving economy that is luring potential applicants away from golf to higher-paying positions in other industries, factors like work visas, health care legislation, a younger demographic and high employee turnover also contribute to labor issues. While H-2B visas allow more nonimmigrant laborers to work in the U.S. and E-Verify allows employers to quickly and easily check an applicant’s employment eligibility, employees carrying these legal documents often demand higher wages than some golf courses are able to pay. Additionally, while the Affordable Care Act has provided many Americans access to health care, some golf courses that employ seasonal employees are struggling with the financial impact of the new law.