Campus News Campus Spotlight

Superintendent shares golf course’s importance

Scott Griffith oversees the UGA Golf Course as superintendent with the help of Birdie, a border collie specially trained to keep geese off the greens. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Spending time outside is par for the course for Scott Griffith.

He said he’s always been an outdoors person, and as the superintendent of the UGA Golf Course, he oversees approximately 270 acres.

“I see golf courses a little bit differently than most people,” he said. “I see the opportunities and how much growth potential it has.”

Before coming to UGA 13 years ago, Griffith worked at three other golf clubs in Georgia. He started working at golf courses years before as a side job. He loved it so much that it inspired him to go back to school to study turfgrass management. After that, he worked his way up from irrigation/spray technician to second assistant to first assistant before becoming superintendent.

Small details

The golf course, which opened for play on Aug. 31, 1968, was designed by Robert Trent Jones. What makes UGA’s golf course unique, according to Griffith, is that it’s a public course and has competitive pricing. And, of course, it houses practice areas and facilities for the university’s men’s and women’s golf teams.

“We push our grass to the extreme,” he said.

Griffith regularly checks the course, looking at all the small details, especially on the greens. They’re only 4 of the 125 acres of maintained turfgrass, but the staff spends roughly 60% of their labor on them.

“That’s where the game is played, and that’s where the demand is for quality,” he said. “We call it managing down the middle—the tees, fairways and greens—we take care of those first.”

Helping hands

Griffith and his team are at the mercy of the weather, but the day generally starts in the early morning. He has two assistants, but one of his biggest helpers is Birdie, a border collie specially trained to keep geese off the greens. A company in North Carolina, Flyaway Geese, trains dogs for that purpose, and Griffith entered a contest for one of their dogs at a national convention. He lost the contest, but the owner reached out and offered a good price for Birdie. She’s been with Griffith since March 2019.

“That is her job—other than making people happy,” he said.

Griffith’s staff is about 80% student workers, including some who are majoring in fields related to turfgrass.

“I love seeing them move to the next level,” he said. “That hands-on experience for them is invaluable. You’re taking what you learn in the classroom and putting it into practical applications.”

Students—and faculty members—also use the golf course for research on everything from turfgrass to business models.

“We tell all the schools and colleges at UGA that if they have anything they want to do here, this is their playground. We want you to be a part of this,” he said. “We want to and do serve a bigger purpose. It’s not just about selling tee times. We want to be a bigger part of the university.”

Griffith is working to get the course certified through Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program. That designation would recognize the environmental achievements the course has made, such as a pollinator plot and a monarch butterfly area. In addition, Griffith just finished his tenure as president of the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association and is working to get certified through the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Griffith, who plays golf when he can, also enjoys visiting national parks and traveling with his family during his time away from the course.