For many, a career in the golf industry is a lifelong dream, and for others, it’s a path that takes a few detours before finding its way. In this interview, we chat with Forrest Smith, a seasoned golf course superintendent, about his journey into the world of turfgrass management and the twists and turns that led him there.
Forrest’s story began in the summer of 1979 when he embarked on a high school summer job. What started as a way to make some extra pocket money turned into a lifelong passion. He worked diligently on golf courses throughout his college years but didn’t initially pursue a degree in turfgrass management. After a stint in banking, a burning desire to follow his true calling prompted him to return to college in 1988. He enrolled in Penn State’s prestigious Turfgrass program and, in 1992, graduated with the knowledge and skills needed for a successful career in the industry.
Pipestem Resort State Park – A Golfing Gem
Forrest currently serves as one of the golf course superintendents at Pipestem Resort State Park, a hidden gem nestled in the late 60’s Cornish design that officially opened its doors in 1971. The facility boasts 27 holes of golf, with Forrest overseeing the par 3 course and managing the spray program for both courses, as well as interior insect control. Pipestem Resort State Park holds a special place in his heart, and he takes pride in maintaining its rich history and lush greens.
The Signature, The Nasty, and The Favorite Holes
Every golf course has its standout holes, and Pipestem is no exception. Forrest highlights three holes that stand out for various reasons. The championship course’s “#3” is the “Signature Hole,” a short par 3 with a classic ravine and bunker guarding the green. His personal favorite is the challenging “#8” at the Par 3 course, which features a treacherous ravine and an elevated green. And when it comes to pure enjoyment, even Forrest enjoys a round of putt putt golf.
Mentorship in the World of Golf
Early in his career, Forrest had the privilege of being mentored by Bob Bennett, a highly respected superintendent from Canaan Valley Resort. Bennett’s guidance was instrumental in shaping Forrest’s career, as he patiently taught the basics of golf course management in a language that a young, enthusiastic Forrest could understand. The kindness and knowledge imparted by his mentor left a lasting impression and fueled Forrest’s passion for the industry.
Looking to the Future
When asked about plans for renovations at Pipestem Resort State Park, Forrest indicates that there are no major projects on the horizon. The course is well-maintained and continues to offer an exceptional golfing experience to its patrons.
The Superintendent’s Toolkit
In the world of turfgrass management, equipment is essential. Forrest shares his favorite pieces of equipment, highlighting the aerator and leaf blower for their roles in maintaining turf health and marking the changing seasons. Additionally, he values the rotary triplex (Sidewinder) and greens mower for their reliability and the opportunity they afford him to inspect the course’s conditions up close.
The Best and Most Challenging Aspects of the Job
As with any career, there are highs and lows. Forrest’s favorite part of his job has always been the people he encounters—vivid characters who enrich his journey through life. On the flip side, staffing issues, equipment breakdowns, and dealing with forgettable individuals rank among his least favorite aspects of the job.
Upcoming Golf Tournaments
Looking ahead, Pipestem Resort State Park is gearing up for an exciting event in the spring, an opener featuring a local college. It’s an opportunity for golf enthusiasts to enjoy the course and for Forrest and his team to showcase their dedication to maintaining a top-notch golfing experience.
Life Beyond the Greens
Outside of work, Forrest’s life revolves around family and a myriad of activities. He’s married to Ramona and has two children, Allison and Ethan. The family juggles the demands of school, band, church functions, and the daily rhythms of life. In his spare time, Forrest enjoys music, where he can often be found strumming his guitar with a friend, exploring technology, and delving into the world of epoxy forming—a testament to his ever-evolving interests and pursuits.
In closing, Forrest’s journey in the golf industry is a testament to following one’s passion and the profound impact of mentorship. His commitment to maintaining the beauty and playability of Pipestem Resort State Park’s golf courses shines through, and his enthusiasm for life beyond the greens is equally inspiring.