University of Maryland turfgrass

College and University Turfgrass Programs: University of Maryland

The following is the next in our series delving into colleges and universities that offer programs devoted to turfgrass management, turfgrass science, and related disciplines. In this edition, we examine the turfgrass program at the University of Maryland.

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland (UMD) offers a four-year bachelor’s degree, as well as a two-year program through the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The four-year Plant Sciences degree with a concentration on Turf and Golf Course Management combines science courses with applied technical classes to prepare students for careers in the field. The goal at UMD is to research and advance integrated pest management strategies that reduce water, fertilizer and pesticide inputs while promoting healthy and environmentally beneficial turfgrass stands.

The two-year IAA program features three tracks – sports turf management, golf course management, and general turfgrass management.

According to Geoffrey Rinehart, lecturer, Turfgrass Management, IAA, University of Maryland, enrollment between the two- and four-year programs is currently in the low teens.

University of Maryland turfgrass

“The majority of our students are from Maryland, but we get a good mix of students who just graduated from high school and students who have been working in the industry for a few years,” said Rinehart.

As for the three tracks in the IAA program, the general turfgrass track isn’t as academically rigorous, because there are more electives, said Rinehart.

“I think that was originally established for those who wanted to go into landscape management and build their own business. But I use that for students who maybe went to another college and already have 15 or 20 credits and a lot of those transfer since they have a lot of electives.”

Rinehart added that the sports turf management and golf course management tracks don’t have a lot of electives, so a lot of those credits don’t transfer. Also, there is not much delineation between the sports turf and golf tracks, as students in those two tracks take many of the same courses.

“Obviously, with sports turf, you’re dealing with infield mixes and some other unique things that golf course managers don’t have to worry about,” he said. Otherwise, the freshman and sophomore course schedules in the two-year program are very similar.

University of Maryland turfgrass

The two-year program at University of Maryland is an academic certificate program.

“What we offer is closer to an associate degree,” said Rinehart. “But it’s the law in Maryland that a four-year institution cannot offer an associate degree. So people go to community colleges in the area and get their associate degree, but you can’t get that at the University of Maryland.”

According to Rinehart, the University of Maryland Turf Management program is hands on and very lab and field oriented. “We feel like that’s a great benefit for our students.”

Rinehart added that students go into the field to isolate pathogens and look at them under the microscope.

“We walk around the turf research farm and look at different plant diseases. For my advanced turf management program, we’re currently doing sand labs where we do tests and look at physical characteristics for different sands.”

Rinehart added that there are also opportunities for students to work with the varsity athletics department. “We have a wonderful relationship with the athletic department,” said Rinehart. “I talk to Alex Steinman, the head groundskeeper, every week. I had a golf student work for him just to broaden his horizons. I think that’s beneficial for golf students just so they can work with infield mixes since they don’t have that in golf.”

According to Rinehart, students get to do surveying work, an HDPE lab, build small-zone irrigation, and partake in field trips. The University of Maryland is within a half hour of five professional stadiums.

“We have Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, and FedEx Field, Nationals Park and Audi Field in the D.C. area,” said Rinehart. “It’s nice when those field managers want to have the students out there. We can make that decision on the fly.”

University of Maryland turfgrass

Added Rinehart, “We’re pretty proud of our internship program. Most of our students are golf, but we’ve had students intern at some pretty prominent places. We’ve had people go to high-level professional stadiums and top-200 clubs. There are wonderful opportunities nationwide. You can pretty much write your own ticket as an intern.”

When it comes to attracting high school students to the program, the area near University of Maryland is fairly urban, but Rinehart said the IAA has relationships with rural high schools that have agriculture departments. He pitches high school teachers on the idea of a field trip to the university turfgrass farm to show the high school students how STEM applies to turfgrass management. The field trip has various stations, different grasses, mowers and more, and students are able to collect data and learn about the program and careers in turfgrass management. They also have a chance to visit the athletic fields and facilities on campus.

According to Rinehart, field trips are a great way to show high school students that they can be involved with elite-level sports even if they are not playing.

Rinehart said he is proud of the students in his program. “We’ve done well with the SFMA Student Challenge and the GCSAA Golf Turf Bowl,” he said. “We’ve held our own in these national competitions.”

For more information about the UMD Plant Sciences bachelor’s degree program, visit