We sometimes forget just how many tasks and information a superintendent must master. The need to know small details at a moment’s notice continues to govern business and golf course maintenance is no exception. In fact, some experts believe today’s successful superintendent must master the ability to collect, analyze and ultimately utilize a staggering amount of property-specific information.
This sea of data ranges from soil reports to parts catalogs, and from water and pesticide use to ongoing financial reports, budgets and outlooks. Clearly, the best superintendents have created systems to capture, store and retrieve all sorts of information. But what separates the trivial from the critical when it comes to useful information?
Here are the top five reports/data/information a superintendent should have at their fingertips at all times.
#1 Survey Says
The most important data/report/information we have as superintendents is the golfer/member opinion survey. Whether it’s a formal or informal system, or even a hybrid collection of surveys and opinions, it’s vital to know what your customer/member/golfer and key people at the property are experiencing when they play the course.
Perception is reality. So, it is important to develop a two-part strategy. First, try to find the most accurate way possible to gather information about the golf experience, in particular the things you can impact, such as playing conditions.
Over the years, I have tended the flag on the 18th green for a few hours on a busy Saturday and received plenty of feedback to build from, both positive and constructive. Maintain an open mind and remember the goal is to improve the operation. On many occasions, I have created scoreboards and posted results in the maintenance shop that tracked our golfer satisfaction goals and strategies. We did this to increase our number one asset: a happy golfer.
The most important part of this exercise is to build a two-way easy system to keep golfers happy and identify action items that can impact this delicate balance. Be creative and work with your property leadership to create a flexible system that generates reliable data possessing daily and historic value. Some items, such as the water cooler on No. 16 was out of water at 5:30 p.m., will be easy fixes. Other comments — such as ones on green speeds being too fast or too slow — may require more effort.
Golfers/members appreciate being in the loop, so the better you can communicate that the process includes them and that it works, the more valuable you will become to the operation.
#2 Weather Prediction
Decisions on pesticide applications, irrigation, carts on or off paths and tournament schedule are infinitely wrapped around understanding the regional weather. This includes everything from capturing data from the property weather station or regional weather data sites to tracking evapotranspiration rates year over year. As a multi-course operator, I have experienced over two inches of rain in a single shower on one course and no measurable rain at all on the sister course.
There should be more than one manager reviewing weather information prior to it being logged officially into property documents. It is also important to note storms and weather events that are isolated in their severity. You can use historic weather data to predict things like when to have a reminder about the frost delay policy at the club and the negative impacts of lightning strikes to assets (even golfers). This information is also critical in the budgeting process.
Keep in mind a weather average is the commonality of two extremes — one high and one low.
There are dozens of weather apps and hundreds of websites to hone in on the weather’s impact on your operation. There is a reason the PGA Tour employs a traveling meteorologist.
The next data/information set a superintendent must have at their fingertips is the water-use report. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is committed to having written Best Management Practices for water conservation in all 50 states. I have been part of this work and have seen first-hand the positive impact a strong BMP for water conservation program can have, but the programs are only as good as the data they collect. You must have an accurate site assessment, progressive procedures and functional metering to correctly track your property water use. Moisture meters, wetting agents, hand-watering and scouting allow superintendents to generate excellent playing conditions while using less water.It is accepted that firm and dry is better than slow and wet when it comes to playing conditions. Water is critical for life and our industry. If you pay for your water, you know that about 10 days out from the close of a month or financial quarter you are going to receive a call asking you to update your water line item forecast. It better be accurate. You need a water BMP and data collection system to keep those numbers at your fingertips.
Once you have the data, you will use it in many ways such as environmental certifications or recertification’s, budget critiques, short and long-range capital planning, or you may even decide to enter the GCSAA Environmental Leaders in Golf contest.
Be diligent in knowing your true water use needs and work with your local GCSAA chapter and other stake holders to establish BMPs for water conservation for your area before you need one, or volunteer to help keep an existing program up to speed because the fight for water-use rights will never truly end.
#4 Budget Data
Superintendents need access to their working budget – the actual spend and forecasted budget numbers. We will be asked at times for year-to-date financials or how much do we owe on our Early Order Program. Questions that have real and finite answers that will be reviewed against the profit and loss statement on a regular basis.
Monthly, quarterly and annually your employer’s evaluation of your operational performance is measured in purely financial terms. Budgets are not suggestions, but rather the cornerstone for the rules of engagement that will require large amounts of compromise and an occasional dose of innovation. Take the time to not only master the documents your facility uses to craft your budget, but understand the language and acronyms. Learn all the many forms, procedures and protocols that you need to be financially successful at your facility.
To secure our legacy as stewards of the land and the finances, we must master the data within our given budget process and use it to gain an advantage within the daily operation. You may even create your own customized forms and comparative reports to better communicate your agronomic expenses and processes to others.
#5 Contacts, Process and Procedures
The last items superintendent must have at his or her fingertips is a complete compilation of emergency contacts and procedures. This includes equipment such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, AED’s, hand tools, and specialty tools such as chain saws and generators.
We are the stewards of the property, and in times of crisis we will be asked to perform tasks and utilize skills far beyond that of a mere greenkeeper. I would first recommend the contact information for various emergency response groups such as police, fire and medical services as well as property loss prevention/security be uploaded to your personal cell phone or other electronic device, as well as posted in key areas.
Also, have a group text set up so when the alarm sounds everyone responds. Who would you call if there was a chemical spill? Who would you call if an employee had a reaction to a pesticide? Who would you call if you had a report of an active shooter near the course? Floods, fires, personal injuries, wildlife gone bad and building collapses all happen on courses and it’s not as rare as you think.