The Guardians of the Green

Interview with Christian Engelmann, Managing Director of Engelmann Turf Care GmbH

Christian Engelmann, Managing Director of Engelmann Turf Care GmbH
Christian Engelmann, Managing Director of Engelmann Turf Care GmbH

The ball rolls smoothly and without jarring, just like on a carpet. And that's what the perfectly maintained greens of numerous golf courses look like, thanks to the expertise of Engelmann Turf Care GmbH. The company, founded in 1996, sees itself as a partner to its customers in the maintenance of sports turf. And that's across Europe. Managing Director Christian Engelmann talks about the diverse challenges of a business where automation isn't everything and idealism means a lot.

Manfred Brinkmann (Business Forum): Mr. Engelmann, does one actually have to play golf themselves to become a good greenkeeper?

Christian Engelmann: Indeed, greenkeeping is not a profession that fits into a 40-hour scheme. That is why it is not so easy to find good specialists in our field, because greenkeeping is a job that primarily needs to be done on weekends and is moreover summer work. For many workers today, this is not necessarily attractive. Although there is quite a lot happening in terms of automation in our market right now, especially in the maintenance of football and tennis courts, where we are also active. But especially when working on the golf course, there are many things that really require humans. Above all, those who are willing to engage with the nature and golf materials. A lot of idealism is asked for - and yes, in the best case, of course, an interest in playing golf!

Manfred Brinkmann (Business Forum): As Engelmann Turf Care GmbH, you are, as you said, responsible for the care of areas in golf, football, and tennis across Europe - was international expansion planned from the beginning?

Christian Engelmann: Becoming active beyond Germany was always our strategic goal. We realized very early on that the market in Eastern Europe was developing very strongly in the 2000s, and they were very innovative and also willing to invest a lot of money - especially in the Czech and Slovak markets. This prompted us to establish ourselves there, and we are still very active there today.

Engelmann Turf Care Installation of Hybrid Turf TSG Hoffenheim
Installation of hybrid turf at the pitch of the Bundesliga team TSG Hoffenheim: The construction and maintenance of professional football pitches are also part of the company's portfolio
Engelmann Turf Care Greenkeeping
Greenkeeping, the maintenance of the entire playing surface of a golf course, is one of the core competencies of Engelmann Turf Care. Others include renovation work, such as on the tee, or the construction of facilities like sand bunkers.

Manfred Brinkmann (Economic Forum): Do you work exclusively from Germany, or do you have branches in the countries where you manage sites or work on site projects?

Christian Engelmann: From the beginning, we also had locations outside of Germany. The reason for this is the different employee rights from country to country and the respective tax and accounting peculiarities. We manage everything from Germany, but the execution is carried out by our local branches.

Dr. Endre Hagenthurn (Economic Forum): Who are your clients?

Christian Engelmann: Our main customers are professional, profit-oriented golf clubs. They work with fixed budgets, therefore, they have to calculate carefully and cannot deal with rising energy and personnel costs. That's why we are a good choice, as we offer operators of golf courses an all-in package, providing staff, machinery, and materials at annual fixed prices over adjusted service periods of up to five years. In recent years, more and more clubs and organizations have decided to outsource course maintenance, which actually lies in the staffing issue. Currently, we maintain 17 sports grounds in the area of golf, tennis, and soccer, including three Leading Golf courses in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Additionally, we support top professional sports in Germany, including the ATP tennis tournament in Stuttgart, on behalf of AELTC Championships Ltd. Wimbledon, and the European Challenge Tour Golf in Wittelsbach.

Dr. Endre Hagenthurn (Economic Forum): What is the special challenge for you in golf course maintenance?

Christian Engelmann: The challenge is the individual response to the customer, because it is important to understand in advance what he expects, to meet this expectation as much as possible, and on the other hand to explain what is achievable. This of course also applies to other industries, but on one hand, our business has a lot to do with emotion, and on the other hand, it is not easy to cover an area of 100 ha with a contract. Mutual trust therefore plays a very big role, as does initiative and personal commitment on our part. Since we have been doing good work for nearly 30 years, we have a good standing and corresponding references – in Germany, for example, the Wittelsbacher Golf Club in Neuburg an der Donau.

Engelmann Turf Care Grass Tennis Court in Stuttgart
For the best tennis on grass: This is what a top maintained grass court looks like, where professionals can show their full potential. Here in Stuttgart, prepared for the ATP tennis tournament 2023

Manfred Brinkmann (Economic Forum): For a long time in Germany, golf was not as popular as it was in the United States, but it is becoming increasingly popular here. How do you view this development, especially in light of conservation and sustainability?

Christian Engelmann: The sport itself is gaining in popularity, that's true. Nevertheless, few courses are being built anew, certainly also for cost reasons. However, the facilities that are being built today are indeed showcase models in terms of biodiversity and sustainability – the focus is on integration with nature and the use of sustainable materials.