Golfing is More Than a Swing

By Bryan Crockett

It all started because he had defaulted on his taxes.

Jim Ruelle started his own company GPS Golf as Built Design, when he was 28. Ruelle attended North Dakota University where he double major in, landscape architecture and environmental design.

When Ruelle moved out to Salt Lake he had started working for another company doing golf architecture. While working for this company, the boss came up to him half way through the year and said essentially, “here is your 10-99 form, I am a little behind with money and I haven’t paid your portion of the federal and state taxes.” Ruelle finished the project he was working on and parted ways. Ruelle decided he was going to be an independent contractor and GPS Golf as Built Design was created by “default”

GPS Golf is a sole proprietorship; Ruelle has created it and maintained his company by himself. GPS Golf is a consultant company for golf course design and maintenance. Once hired Ruelle subs out his work to get the job done. Once GPS Golf is hired, their primary job is to create a master plan for the golf course. Creating conceptual maps, grading plans, drainage plans, hydraulic pumps, and it’s all maintained and planned with trimble GPS.

In an 18-hole golf course, GPS golf plans out how many sprinklers and gallons of water they will need. On average a golf course has about 2,100 sprinklers. During the middle of the summer at peek temperatures to get a half-inch of water on the grass it pumps about 3,000 lbs. of water a minute.

Ruelle travels all over for his company, locally, nationally, and globally. He has worked in 38 states, including California, Montana, and Florida, and 20 countries including New Zealand London, Kuwait and many more. Ruelles’s office is out of his home and truck, and he travels all the time. He spends approximately 120 nights a year away from his family and 40 day trips to different parts of the states.

Ruelle has worked on some of the biggest names in golf and some of best golf course in the world. While on the job he has run into high profile golfers such as, Bernhard Langer, Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and many more. He has been invited and attended the Masters golf tournament and has had many opportunities to play golf on private high-end golf courses. His favorite golf course he has ever been on was Spyglass Hill, in California.

What makes the best golf course? Is it the grass? The level of difficulty? Ruelle said its “location, location, location.” For golf you usually need good weather but he also adds that “a golf course that doesn’t disrupt the nature of the land is always your best golf course” When Ruelle is planning his design for a golf course, he plans accordingly to not take out trees, move hills, and not to add un-necessary things.

“The world of golf design is very competitive” Ruelle says. When you are bidding for a job or if someone reaches out to you for a job, he recommends, not discussing that plan with another company, or anyone, until you have a signed contract, and the job is yours. Other companies are very cut throat, he explained that companies will hear about a job opening and go in and underbid the work or will do the job in half the time then others, and he said “that’s great but when someone hires me they know I don’t cut corners and they get high quality work for what they pay for”

Ruelle always loved the game of golf. He knew he was never good enough to play professionally so why not design them instead. I asked Ruelle what steps he would encourage students that wanted to go in that field? Ruelle said, “He wouldn’t,” He told me how hard of a job it is and how you travel way too much. “There is so much work that goes into a design of a golf course that you don’t realize it’s easier to just do something else and play the game you love.” Ruelle would rather work a 9-5 desk job get paid every two weeks and have the weekends off to go play golf.

Ruelle encourages everyone to follow his or her dreams and create your dream job. Ruelle would never change what career he went into but he does say he wishes his choice was less work and not so time consuming. He said “it’s the 50/50 rule its nice to be your own boss but its also nice to leave at 5 o’clock and let your boss worry about the rest.” Ruelle said, “what ever you go into though give it your all, be self driven, be a hard worker, and the reward will follow.”