There are seasons in our lives and careers that seem to define us. They force us to evolve and craft a different way of living and working. We are certainly going through an epic season of change in 2020. COVID-19 and the resulting pandemic has forever altered our lives and now we find ourselves facing a multitude of change and challenges.
The GCSAA has gathered a lot of information that can help you manage your golf facility and answer general questions about the current pandemic and the constantly changing rules, regulations and suggestions. You can access this information at www.gcsaa.org/resources/covid-19-pandemic-resources. I want to share with you some new wisdom with old roots that can help you and our industry navigate safely in this new world.
I have been in the golf management industry for many years, and I have worked in multiple markets and climates. I have survived economic downturns, Y2K, droughts, floods, fires, labor shortages, language barriers, PythiumVolutum and prep for five televised golf tournaments. Collectively, all these events added together are small compared to the Covid-19 pandemic. My grandfather used to say when times were tough, “There is always a way. It may be difficult, it may seem unlikely, or even impossible, but there is always a way.” From growing up on a family farm in Indian Creek, Georgia, to managing one of Texas’s most famous golf resorts, I have observed with each problem, no matter how complex it is, there’s always a solution and way to succeed. Three things are critical to finding the way through problems whether they are ordinary (broken irrigation line) or epic (COVID-19):
1. Control your emotions
The shock of how fast our lives changed with the pandemic was staggering. Superintendents were operating normally one minute. They were then notified by authorities that their club must close at midnight.
When this happens, superintendents must create full contingency plans and an immediate response to all stakeholders. There is no Google answer to this situation and the clock is ticking. Generally, when given these parameters, you would be mad and confused. Unfortunately, you have just arrived at the first of many decisions that will shape the future of your staff, your property and yourself.
Personally, I had to lay off 15 staff members and reduce the remaining staff to 20 hours per week during our closure, but at least we can execute essential maintenance. Your first actions should be professional, kind and full of emotional control. Your attitude and words will become your legacy while fueling the response of your team. Be positive and do the job at the highest level possible with the given resources.
2. Display the will to succeed
Heavyweight boxing champion Mahammad Ali said, “You have to have the will before you can gain the skills.” This is true of any endeavor. Right now, you may only have some of the skills needed to rise to the top of our profession during these trying times, but the will to succeed will inspire you to improve, learn new skills and persevere.
COVID-19 is a serious threat and we have not yet seen the deep impact it will have. We cannot stop believing that this, too, shall pass. We can make a difference. Everyone has a breaking point. I know from personal experience that what we think is our breaking point is far from our actual breaking point. In Karate, we have a saying: Everyone wants to be a champion until they get hit in the face. It is a matter of choice.
Success is truly a ratio of your desire to succeed vs. your willingness to quit. I have chosen to do everything I can to help my property and staff weather the pandemic storm. I am learning new skills and perfecting old ones. I never thought I would have to take the temperature of every staff member before and after every shift or that my 9th degree black belt would make me a great security guard during the course closure. My advice to you is to take care of your mind, body and spirit, and commit 100 percent to building a better golf industry and career. Be the example for your property and, by force of will, overcome the current trials and be a hero in our most dire season.
3. Blend tradition with innovation
The core best management practices that have stood the test of time must still be employed and mastered, with the missing ingredient being the skill to innovate and master your craft under new expectations. The difference in knowing how to do something and why you do something requires a dose of reverse engineering. Starting where we are today, glance into the future and project where you want to be. You must develop people, projects and processes to move from our current reality to the brighter future.
You may need better agronomics or, perhaps, a blending of agronomy and finance. Labor and team-building will be in high demand. There will be individuals and organizations that will see a better way where everyone else sees only obstacles. Do you have some ideas that fit this synergy? Do you have the courage in these most challenging of times to put them into action? It’s time for our generation to prove its worth. I look forward to seeing the results.
We have never seen a challenge as great as the 2020 pandemic. I hope that you can use these words of encouragement to improve your personal and professional situation. Please follow the latest recommendations to be safe. Follow the posted rules for shelter in place or other directives from designated authorities and above all be kind to everyone you encounter (including yourself). My thoughts and prayers are with the golf course industry and may we all find our way through this difficult time.
Tartan Talks No. 45
The work existence of golf course architects includes various technical stages. Yet, there’s also an emotional side to a business featuring powerful memories.
We visited Toledo, Ohio, to record a Tartan Talks episode with Steve Forrest and Shawn Smith of Hills • Forrest • Smith about the spirit of golf course architecture. Forrest and Smith recently conducted an estate sale as they prepared to move from their longtime Bancroft Street headquarters to home offices. The pair spent eight months clearing sketches, books, scorecards, clubs, equipment and other memorabilia from a trio of buildings. At its peak, the firm established by Arthur Hills employed 11 golf course architects at the location.
“As you clear things out, you keep getting more and more memories,” Forrest says. “You see plans and you think of the people, you think of the site, you think of the circumstances of the project. There’s some sadness, but also thankfulness and blessedness for having the opportunities I have had over the last 42 years.”
The memories will continue as Forrest and Smith are still involved in a slew of projects, including renovations at multiple Naples, Florida, courses designed by the firm during the Sunshine State golf boom. “We are as busy now as we have been in 10 years,” Smith says.
Enter bit.ly/ForrestSmithPodcast into your web browser to hear the podcast.