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Mark Jones: Greenskeeper, Piney Branch Golf Club


Jones became hooked on golf while playing with his family at a young age.

Destined for Golf

Rutgers Turf Management Program Alumni Mark Jones works at Piney Branch Golf Club

The 18th hole at Piney Branch Golf Club in Hampstead, Maryland. Jones has worked at the Club since he was 16 years old.

In Mark Jones' family, golf is not just a hobby: it’s a way of life. With an entire family of enthusiasts and two relatives who are professionals, Jones says it was "inevitable" that he would play, too. Jones' father taught him to play at Piney Branch Golf Club in Hampstead, Maryland, when he was 12 years old, but when his dad could no longer get to the club to play, he decided to end their membership. Jones knew that if he wanted to continue to play, he needed to find a way to go to the Club without being a member. Since he was already interested in landscaping, he got a summer maintenance job at Piney Branch at age 16.

Turning a Hobby into a Career

Jones enjoyed his summer job at Piney Branch even more than he had anticipated. When the summer ended and school came again, Jones knew he would be back the following year. "I thought, 'I want to do that again. That was a lot of fun,'" Jones recalls. The next summer, having told his boss he wanted to get into landscaping, Jones worked alongside an ornamental landscaper, planting flowers and pulling weeds—and he hated it. "That drove me nuts," he says. "I told my boss, I need to mow and do everything else," so he changed to turf maintenance and it suited him right away.

Jones went back to Piney Branch the summer after graduating from high school, and he decided to stay at the course full-time for the rest of the year. "It was really cool," he remembers. "I got to see every stage of everything that went on." Jones was having a wonderful time turning his passion into a job, but what he really wanted was a career. His full-time experience at the Club made him realize he needed to get his turf management certification. He explains, "I was starting to get serious about it, and my boss said, 'Well, if you’re going to get into it, you should go to Rutgers.'"

Learning to be a Professional

Jones earned Rutgers' Three Week Golf Turf Management Certificate in January 2009. The Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School, offered by Rutgers University's Office of Continuing Professional Education, runs both Three-Week and Two-Year Turf Management Certificate Courses. The three-week course teaches the science behind the practices used by golf course superintendents and the technical skills needed for a golf course turf management job. As Jones explains, "The three-week course is definitely a good way to figure out if you want to get into turf management." The course is designed to teach only the most practical skills and information you will be able to use on the job.

Though he knew he liked his job at Piney Branch before he went to Rutgers, completing the three-week course and receiving his Golf Course Turf Management Certificate made Jones more confident about his career path and his desire to work his way up to superintendent. "The three-week course is a good sample of what you might get, and if you love that and you're craving more, then there you go," Jones says. "That's what happened to me. I was like, 'I have to have more.'"

Learning all he did in Rutgers' three-week course has only increased Jones enthusiasm for his career. "I can't think of one thing from the course that would not help me in my job," he says. "I could do all the physical work, but now I actually know why we do it." After such a great experience in the three week course, Jones already has his eye on the two-year course next year; he hopes that, after earning his Two-Year Golf Course Turf Management Certificate, he will be promoted from greenskeeper and be on his way to the top spot: superintendent.

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Piney Branch Golf Club is located in Hampstead, Maryland. For information about reservations, memberships, or weddings, call 410.239.7114 or visit www.pineybranchgolf.com.

“I started to get serious about [turf], and my boss said, ‘Well, if you’re going to get into it, you should go to Rutgers.’”
- Mark Jones
“The three-week course is definitely a good way to figure out if you want to get into turf management.”
- Mark Jones
Attending the Three-Week Preparatory Short Course made Jones even more confident about his career choice.
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