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Who mows the lawn? The invisible golf course worker

David Brancaccio Nov 12, 2013
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A groundskeeper waters flowers.
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The golf course business in the U.S. would nearly collapse without low-wage work, according to a new investigative series in Golf Digest.

The series documents how most of the maintenance work on golf courses across the country is now done by immigrants.

“Like most low-wage workplaces, there’s a good number of undocumented immigrants,” says Gabriel Thompson, a reporter for Golf Digest and author of “The Care Takers,” a four-part series on Latinos and golf, which hit newstands today. “But there’s also a number of Latino immigrants who are legal residents or U.S. citizens.” 

Golf courses are extremely labor intensive, nearly $6 out of every $10 goes to maintenance work on the course. That work employs 180,000 people in the U.S., including mechanics, irrigators, pesticide applicators, and landscapers.

These landscapers mow the fairways and rough, cut the greens, rake bunkers, change cups and make sure trees and flowers look pristine.

Despite how critical these landscapers and operators are, the job pays on average $10 to $11 per hour.

“Think about the ideal golf course worker: The ideal is to be invisible,” says Thompson. “You arrive early and then once people show up, you are quiet, you are behind-the-scenes.”

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