One year has passed since I actually put the ideas and words jumping around in my head onto paper. And I can honestly say it was a great decision. I’m glad I contributed a piece to the 2018 Turfheads Take Over.
After writing that article, I felt mentally lighter and calmer. That moment of clarity, you often hear about, materialized for me. I received positive feedback from several superintendents and industry colleagues, which was extremely gratifying. Our director of golf even wondered why I didn’t I say all that months prior. Maybe the summer would have been a bit more palatable. We all have that ability to reach out and connect to others no matter what.
So, after that a-ha moment, you would figure life was going to be rainbows, kittens and unicorns right? (Insert spit-take GIF). The world did not change because I penned an article. The budget did not expand tenfold. The labor challenge did not swing to where we are flush with overqualified applicants. Mother Nature certainly did not take the summer off. Golfer expectations were nowhere close to being in line with the reality of what we do.
So, it seems I’m back to square one and about to ask, “Why do I continue to do this?” again. But this is where the a-ha moment steps in and allows me to rephrase that question. Now it becomes, “What have you learned to be able to continue to do this?”
What did I learn?
We experienced eight weeks of high heat, humidity and no air movement, including one month with record rainfall followed by five weeks of drought. Sound familiar to anyone? Another weather abomination coupled with lost turf and uneducated, unrealistic expectations from golfers. Suddenly, it was 2018 again. But there was one difference … me. My reaction was a complete 180 degrees from previous seasons.
The mental health of my crew and I were the top priority. The season was once again a gauntlet of challenges (weather, labor, resources), but I would venture to say it was one of the best we have had in recent memory. Don’t get me wrong, there were the aforementioned challenges, but they never became an anchor around our necks. The challenges became opportunities. Opportunities to try new management techniques, educate crew members and find new ways to connect and reach people.
So, anything else learned?
Did I learn about turf? Sure did. Once again, I learned bentgrass does not like hot and humid weather with no air movement. Been there, done that.
I learned about people. For instance, golfers can say they are “down with brown” and want fast and firm. (Spoiler: they don’t). They want fast and firm, as long as it is green. And expectation levels are all over the place. As superintendents, we strive for consistency in a non-consistent environment. It seems many golfers desire that consistency too, but they forget about the non-consistent element. The group who understands the variables we go through is very minute.
I learned about people. Sometimes cross-training every employee is not the way to go. Because of limited labor, identifying strengths of team members and utilizing their talents was a shift in philosophy this year. It worked out well.
I learned about people. Be consistent with your team expectations. It may irritate some team members, but they will get over it. I had two experienced team members depart our staff this year. It was tough, but it had to be done with no exceptions.
I learned about people. Not all people you deal with share your passion. It’s probably the most difficult lesson to learn. The ability to communicate with them can be a struggle, but the ability to accomplish that communication can open up worlds. (Secret: That is a work in progress).
Again, what did I learn?
Sounds cliché, but the truth is I learned that the only thing you can control is you. A lesson I was taught years ago, but sometimes needs to be refreshed every so often. Take care of yourself. Be it meditation, therapy, exercise, reaching out to others, being involved in something bigger than you, time with friends and loved ones. Whatever it may be, make it a priority. And one year later, hopefully you thank yourself.