HCS Alumni Spotlight: Nate McKinniss

Sep. 15, 2023
Nate McKinniss with HCS Professor Karl Danneberger

Meet Nate McKinniss | OSU HCS Alumnus Class of 2017

Nate McKinniss is currently the Golf Course Superintendent for Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, NC. He received his Bachelor of Science (2017) in Turfgrass Science

Currently a major focus of Nate's "is to help those pursuing a career in the turf industry, focusing on advice I was given or wish I had. Ultimately for those considering this industry, it is a much larger industry than most realize and while the results of your work are immediately seen, what is unseen is the opportunities of where this profession can take you, which are limitless."

Fortunately, Nate had the time to elaborate on what working on a golf course is like + some further advice for students considering studying turf:

How’d you initially become interested in turf?

Growing up, my uncle would take my brother and me to his work. He was a golf course superintendent, and we would help with small/miscellaneous tasks which then turned into beginning our first summer job working on the golf course. I admired the variety of tasks and the instant reward you could see upon completion; furthermore, working outside was a bonus for me.

How did your time at HCS help prepare you for your career?

The biggest takeaway I learned from the HCS program at Ohio State is the importance of involvement within the industry. Truly I was not as aware of it at the time, but the faculty and staff did a tremendous job in providing opportunities for students to engage and begin networking within the turfgrass community. The connections with Ohio State and industry professionals offers many ways to step out of the comfort zone in order to build the base for willing students’ career development.

What’s the rough career path that brought you to being the Golf Course Superintendent at Carolina Golf Club?

The rough career path that got me to where I am today starts with my first job on the golf course working amongst family. That resulted in pursuing a degree at the Ohio State University specializing in Turfgrass Science. The internships at Brookside Golf and Country Club as well as County Louth Golf Club in Ireland were invaluable and I credit the Program Manager of The Ohio Program, Mike O’Keeffe, for presenting the opportunity to partner with TurfNet for the experiences. Upon graduation I began working full-time at Muirfield Village Golf Club as an Assistant-in-training and progressed to Course Superintendent. After nearly 7 years at MVGC, the position at Carolina Golf Club opened up which I applied and am very fortunate to have been hired for this role. 

What’s a normal day look like for you?

A normal day starts with checking the forecasted weather and current course conditions in the early morning and evaluating if plans made the night before are still in place or if we need to make adjustments. I work with the assistant to ensure all plans for the daily operation will achieve our goal of providing an exceptional product. Together, we ensure that all employees equip themselves with the proper tools before leaving the shop as they depart to their starting points. As the crew begins their tasks, I check with staff that all assignments are understood and go behind to make sure nothing was missed. We then plan for transitions of other tasks needed to be completed for the remainder of the day and follow up at the end to ensure goals were met and create and plan for the next day.

What have been a few highlights of your time so far in the turf industry?

The most impactful highlights so far have been the people I met, and the relationships made. That is a long list and I look forward to the future to see how much that grows. As far as it relates to the golf course, 2020 was the biggest year so far as our team at Muirfield Village GC hosted back-to-back tournaments immediately followed by a full-scale renovation.

What advice would you give a student considering a turf career?

While pursuing this career, keep your eyes set on your goals down the road. Challenge yourself with learning and experiencing things you think that you may not be comfortable with. If you need to stop, make sure it is only to smell the roses, do not stop when things are difficult because any person within this industry will be there to support you. This industry is amazing in the fact that each professional wants to see everyone succeed being that we are not just here to grow grass but more importantly, grow people.

Today, we have a wide variety of academic paths for you to choose from to help you pursue a career in the turf industry…