I seem to recall advertisements within the past two decades for Southwest Airlines and Snickers with taglines about getting away and taking a break. I think it is safe to say we all would like to get away from the chaos of 2020. But doing so is one of the hardest things for golf course superintendents to execute.
It’s hard to believe the summer of 2010 was a decade ago. Mother Nature wreaked havoc on bentgrass greens up and down the eastern United States. Plenty of grass was lost throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and even points up North. Low-budget or high-end, it did not matter. The excessive heat and humidity caught many of us by surprise so early in the year.
Six months later I was sitting on a sofa in Virginia at Christmas. My granddaughter was 7 and I was shocked how fast she was growing up. I blurted out to the family, “Let’s go to the beach,” and they looked at me like I had three heads.
It’s true, I did not take time off, especially in the summer. A vacation back then was trying to squeeze in an extra day or two of personal fun around trips to the Golf Industry Show. Grass does not know what day it is, and the summer is an all-out grind from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Such is turf life. And this was the life I chose.
My grandparents took me and my cousins to the beach when we were growing up. I think I was 5 the first year we traveled to the North Carolina coast. This trip occurred annually, with the house getting bigger each year as more friends and families attended. Some years, our crowd exceeded 20.
I felt the urge after the 2010 season to provide my granddaughter with similar summer experiences, instilling a love for the beach and spending quality time making memories. Funny thing is, I had not spent time on a beach in more than 20 years.
In the summer of 2011, we traveled to the beach the first week of August. I convinced myself with June and July in the books that summer was winding down and perhaps the week away would be less stressful on my team. There was a severe storm and a drainpipe failed, causing a huge sinkhole in the cart path near the third tee.
Despite the “emergency,” I relished my time basking in the sun, playing in the sand and enjoying the tinge of saltwater in the corner of my mouth as I rode the waves. I’ve seen a quote attributed to John F. Kennedy that says, “... it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean … We are tied to the ocean.”
It has now been 10 years of trips to the beach. We have moved it around the calendar to accommodate the schedules of others attending. Some years, there have been more of us than others, but I have at least been a better husband, stepfather, grandfather and, hopefully, a better superintendent by taking time away and making time with family.
Oh, the stuff that has happened during my vacations will make a great chapter in my tell-all book some day. Trees falling on neighbor’s property, weeks of intense heat indexes, flooding rains and drought, plus a year when a fire at a chemical manufacturing facility upstream from the course inadvertently polluted our ponds.
But despite these and other events, my team has always persevered. I believe they have grown and are better in their roles from these experiences. Amazingly, the course is always there when I return no matter the chaos that may or may not have ensued in my absence.
This year’s trip was a little different as we explored a new destination and, of course, I was gone during the hottest week of the summer. But after dealing with all the chaos that is 2020, I needed a break, and I hope before it is too late my turf brothers and sisters will give themselves one, too.
I know everyone’s situation is different. Perhaps you do not even have an assistant and time away will not come until long after the grind is complete. But please take care of yourself as this year has contained more stressors than any of us have faced.
Your family, team and course are counting on you.