© Will LAine (2)

As everyone knows, this has been a very difficult year to find labor for golf course maintenance operations. We decided to get a little creative with our recruitment strategies this past spring at the Country Club of Asheville in the western North Carolina mountains. Instead of posting on a job board or a recruitment website, we reached out to local high schools.

I contacted five different high schools in Buncombe County and spoke directly with different guidance counselors. All of them were very helpful with recruiting students to join our team. I created a flier that was specifically geared toward students, highlighting the perks of working in golf course maintenance for the summer — including working outside, flexible hours, free lunches, golfing privileges and joining a fun team in an exciting work environment. Each school I contacted posted the flier in the school, with a few of them forwarding it to their golf coaches and teams to help spread the word. Some posted it in online job boards for their students.

© Will LAine (2)

I’ll be honest, I had no idea how this strategy may play out. But within a few days my inbox started flooding with emails from interested students. By the end of the week, I had more than a dozen interviews scheduled. By the middle of May, we had hired eight high school students to join our team. As schools started finishing exams, these new hires started showing up to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

It was like a breath of fresh air having these kids join our staff. They were eager to learn, and they all got along with each other and worked well with the existing staff. Within the first month, we had them trained on how to walk mow, rake bunkers, weed eat, fill divots, move tee markers, Buffalo blow, roll, and edge heads and valve boxes. Having these young, energetic high schoolers complete the more labor-intensive job assignments allowed our full-time staff to focus on mowing with the heavier machinery.

It was awesome having these young men work with us, but we all knew it wouldn’t last forever. As summer came winding down, they started going back to school and reality started setting in. A few of them were interested in working weekends throughout the school year, which has helped tremendously throughout the fall golf season. Those who didn’t want to work during the school year asked if they could come back and work next summer.

The most rewarding moment of the summer happened when a young man approached me before his last day and asked me how he could turn this into a career. I was honored to tell him about my journey and how I paved my way into the industry. I told him about some of the turf schools in the state and some of the scholarship opportunities available. He even borrowed a few turf management books I had in the office. This brief interaction made all those hours of training worth it.

This past summer at the Country Club of Asheville was very rewarding for me as a supervisor. With the current labor shortage, it is harder than ever to find dependable staff who show up with a positive attitude and take pride in their work.

There have been a lot of negative statements about this generation of teenagers and their work ethic — they won’t get off their phones, they’re spoiled, they won’t show up on time and they just don’t want to work. But I can proudly say from my experience that those things are not true, and that the future is very bright!

Will Laine is the assistant superintendent at the Country Club of Asheville. This is his first Golf Course Industry contribution.