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University of Massachusetts Winter School for Turf Managers

Program Background

The UMass Winter School for Turf Managers is an intensive, 110+ hour certificate program designed to convey concepts essential to producing and maintaining high performance turf, with emphasis on environmental stewardship, input reduction, efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. This comprehensive, dynamic short course is geared to professionals associated with the management of fine lawns and landscapes; golf courses; sports surfaces; parks; municipal, institutional, or private grounds; or sales and support to these industry segments.

Winter School is an excellent choice for turf managers who seek to expand their knowledge and practical skills.  The program is uniquely suited for experienced professionals who want to take the next step in their career, but lack formal education in turf science, and for whom a two- or four-year degree program is not the best choice at this time.  For those who may aspire to an advanced degree in the future, Winter School is an great first step.  The course is also often a good fit for motivated career changers who want to establish a solid foundation for entering the field of turf management.

A Distinguished History

The 'Massachusetts Agricultural College Winter Greenkeepers Class' circa 1930

The 'Massachusetts Agricultural College Winter Greenkeepers Class' circa 1930

Professor Lawrence S. Dickinson established the 'Winter School for Greenkeepers at Massachusetts Agricultural College' in 1927. The University of Massachusetts Winter School for Turf Managers, as the program is now known, was the first program of its kind and has run continuously with the exception of a three-year hiatus during World War II. The program remains to this day a top source for turf industry professionals, and many among the thousands of UMass Winter School graduates hold positions of responsibility and prestige throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Current Course Format

Prior to the 2021 session, a typical Turf Winter School was a full-time, in-person program held on the UMass Amherst campus in Amherst, MA for 6 weeks in January and February, with approximately 32 hours of instruction each week. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Winter School was re-invented as a completely online program for the 2021 session.

The upcoming Winter School in 2024 will once again be an entirely online, 110+ hour course taught by UMass Extension Specialists, UMass faculty, and distinguished guest instructors. Virtual instruction offers appealing benefits, including registration cost savings due to reduced overhead, savings on time and travel expenses, and opportunity for those who have previously been unable to attend due to other commitments, travel restrictions or distance the ability to participate from the convenience of their own homes and offices.

With the above said, we continue to learn and adapt and the specific format for future sessions is yet to be determined.

For a more introductory, less in-depth, and less intensive turf management certificate course, please take a look at UMass Extension's Green School.  Note that Green School is offered only in alternating years; the next session is scheduled for the fall of 2024. Also note that the curriculum for the 60+ hour Green School is especially oriented to the care of landscape turf on lawns and grounds, whereas Winter School is more comprehensive and a better choice for advanced lawn care study as well those working with more intensively-managed turf such as that found on golf courses and higher-end athletic fields.

Click to expand the headings below for complete course information and application instructions.


Through a rigorous combination of virtual classroom, self-paced, and discussion activities, students can expect to gain detailed understanding and working knowledge of the items described below for each topic module. Each topic module is led by an individual instructor, and each brings their own approach and style appropriate for the material. All students attend all topic modules and are responsible for completing all assignments and graded assessments in a timely fashion.

Core Modules:

  • Fundamentals of Turf Management – Essential principles of responsible and effective turf management: basic growth and development of the turfgrass plant and its component parts; climatic and environmental adaptation; management & performance; turfgrass selection & use; establishment practices; nutrition & fertility; and cultural practices including mowing, irrigation, cultivation, and topdressing... as well as cultural tools including biostimulants, plant growth regulators, and wetting agents.
  • Soil Science and Management - In-depth study of the nature and properties of soils as related to the culture and management of fine turf.
  • Turf Pathology - Causes and identification of diseases, including how they begin and environmental conditions that lead to infection and turf damage; examination of cultural practices and management materials that reduce and prevent diseases.
  • Turf Entomology - Discussion of turf damaging insects including: life cycles; identification; Integrated Pest Management strategies; biological & chemical management; and cultural methods for reducing injury.
  • Weed Management - Principles of weed management: weed biology & life cycles; weed management strategies, including Integrated Pest Management strategies; techniques for effective weed control with reduced pesticide use.

Special Topics

  • Advanced Topics in Turf – Turfgrass physiology and biological processes; environmental stress resistance and tolerance; competition in turfgrass communities.
  • Irrigation and Equipment Management - Principles of hydraulics; precipitation rates; irrigation system components & system design; troubleshooting & retrofitting.
  • Arboriculture - Special considerations for maintenance of trees and shrubs in conjunction with turf areas.

Core Faculty

  • Michelle DaCosta, Ph.D., Professor - University of Massachusetts
  • Deborah Henson, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer - University of Massachusetts
  • Geunhwa Jung, Ph.D., Professor - University of Massachusetts
  • Olga Kostromytska, Ph.D., Extension Assistant Professor - University of Massachusetts
  • Jason Lanier, M.S., Extension Specialist & Team Leader - University of Massachusetts
  • Angela Madeiras, Ph.D., Extension Educator & Diagnostician, UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab - University of Massachusetts
  • James Poro, M.S., Superintendent, Joseph Troll Turf Research Center - University of Massachusetts
  • Randall Prostak, M.S., Extension Weed Specialist - University of Massachusetts

Program Fees & Options for Tuition Assistance

2024 Program Fees

University registration fee = $50

CEU fee = $50

Tuition = $2754


TOTAL = $2854

Tuition includes all course materials necessary to be successful in the course.  While there is a list of suggested textbooks, all textbooks are currently optional.  A book list will be provided upon acceptance.

Cancellation policy: refunds of $2754 (program fee only; $50 registration fee and $50 CEU fee are non-refundable) are available for cancellation requests received prior to midnight on January 2, 2024, which is the first scheduled class day.

Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Express Grant Program

For eligible Massachusetts employers, the UMass Turf Winter School program fee for employee training may be partially or fully reimbursed through the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Express Grant Program. Employers should submit an online application to the Express Grant Program at least 4 weeks in advance of the Winter School starting date (so by December 1, 2023). Note that this program only applies to Massachusetts-based employers with fewer than 100 employees, and that the maximum total reimbursement per business is $20,000 per calendar year. To find out if you qualify and to apply for benefits, go to  The following info is needed for an Express Grant application:

Course number: 1147943

Course name: Winter School for Turf Managers 2024

Cost covered by Express Grant: $2754/per person (note that there is an additional $100 in UMass fees that is not eligible for reimbursement)

Other states may have similar programs... check with your local or state workforce development agency.

Student Loans

Several lenders offer loan programs designed for certificate programs like the UMass Winter School for Turf Managers.  At the following link, for your convenience, is our current alternative educational loans list. Telephone numbers and links to websites maintained by these lenders are provided. Please note that UMass is not responsible for the availability of specific loans, content, or accuracy of materials on third party websites. Please contact providers to verify eligibility and carefully review final loan agreements, disclosures or promissory notes and understand their repayment terms and other obligations.


Prospective participants must apply and be accepted into the program.  We have reached our application limit for the 2024 course and the enrollment period is now closed.

Questions can be directed to Jason Lanier, Academic Coordinator, at or 413-545-2965.

How Does a Virtual Winter School for Turf Managers Work?

Mode of instruction: Instruction in 2024 will be 100% virtual, providing attendees with online lectures, activities, and resources via an online learning management system called Canvas. Most class sessions are delivered synchronously (live) via Zoom, although a smaller portion of content is pre-recorded. All synchronous material is recorded for later on-demand viewing. Handouts, polls, surveys, assigned readings and guided discussion/Q&A opportunities complement class instruction.

Schedule: The 2024 course period will be 9 full weeks, from 1/2/2024 to 3/1/2024. The main course schedule is built around a 4.5 hour block of time on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons during each course week, with scheduled class time from 1:00-3:00 and 3:30-5:30 on a typical class day.  Successful applicants will be provided with a detailed schedule of lectures and instructors prior to the start of the course.  Please note that the program reserves the right to make schedule and instructor changes when necessary.

Assessments & grading: Regular graded activities are assigned consistently throughout the course to assess mastery of the material and to keep students progressing appropriately. Generally, each class/topic will have an associated quiz (most often) or alternative format assignment. For maximum flexibility, each assessment after it opens can be completed within a multi-day window as opposed to a specific date and time. Generally, access to assessments opens at 6:00 PM on each class day, and closes the following Monday at 9:00 PM before the next class week begins.

Please note that appreciable time outside of class is necessary for study and completion of assignments… the specific amount of working time needed will vary by individual.

Geographic disclaimer: While attendees from far and wide are welcome to join us for this virtual course, please note that much of the information presented will have a geographic focus on Massachusetts and New England (and cool-season C3 grasses), and therefore will be most applicable to those locations. Scheduled class times are also listed in Eastern Time. Please contact us if you wish to discuss these aspects further.

Online Course Requirements

  • Computer access - Regular, reliable access to a computer or other device and the internet is a must!  Delivery of lectures, outlines, supplemental materials, and quizzes are all online.
  • UMass network credentials – Successful applicants will be issued a UMass NetID, which is needed to pay your bill, to gain access to the Canvas learning management system and view all course materials, to view live and recorded lectures, and to complete assignments.
  • A device capable of connecting to the internet - (e.g., desktop or laptop computer, tablet, smartphone; these are listed in the order of preference/convenience for remote instruction) with audio capability. A microphone is also necessary, and having a webcam is encouraged and will enhance the interactive experience. While a smartphone may be used to access Canvas and attend lectures, it is not recommended as a standalone solution on account of small screen size.
  • A fast and reliable internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G, 4G/LTE or 5G). The following page has detailed information that will help you to determine bandwidth requirements for Zoom:
  • The ability to print is recommended. Students are encouraged to make a copies of lecture outlines to take notes on during each lecture.  Please note however that printing of resources can carry significant costs on the student side in the way of ink, paper, etc.
  • Cursory familiarity with Zoom - If you are a new user of the Zoom web-conferencing platform, consider practicing with family or friends. There are also a variety of YouTube videos that can be helpful.
  • Cursory Familiarity with Canvas – Canvas is the Learning Management System at UMass Amherst currently used for this course:
  • Attendance at a virtual orientation session prior to the start of class - These are typically scheduled in mid-December, and successful applicants will receive information on these sessions upon acceptance.

Certification & Professional Licensure

A Certificate of Completion is awarded to those who satisfactorily complete the prescribed Winter School program requirements. This certificate, held by individuals numbering in the thousands, carries weight in the industry and has the reputation of the University of Massachusetts and a century-long legacy behind it.

Note that while Winter School is a college-level course, it is a non-credit offering, meaning that no college credits are currently available for participation in the program.

Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available.

The UMass Winter School for Turf Managers offers pesticide recertification contact hours which meet continuing education requirements for pesticide applicators licensed in categories 37 (Turf) and 000 (Applicator’s License) by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), Division of Crop & Pest Services: Pesticide Program. A reciprocity agreement certifies that contact hours approved by MDAR are valid for recertification in equivalent license categories in all New England states (MA, NH, VT, ME, CT, RI). The contact information for pesticide regulatory agencies in New England, New York and New Jersey can be found here:

This course may also satisfy or enhance study or continuing education requirements for various professional certification programs, but that has not been determined. Contact us (see information below) or the coordinator of your certification program of interest for more information.


Jason Lanier
Extension Turf Specialist & Academic Coordinator, UMass Winter School for Turf Managers