I am often asked to talk with marketers and suppliers about the demographics of the golf course maintenance business. Basically, they want to try to understand who you are and how you think so they can figure out your “pain points” to sell you stuff more effectively.
I throw a lot of data at them: average age, average pay, average tenure, average budget, average staff size, etc., etc. They take copious notes and nod a lot.
And then I say this: the most important thing I’ve learned in 30 years of working with golf course superintendents is that they share a special bond that transcends the averages and the demographic data.
I’ll try to put it in words …
I’ve learned that there are unique rewards to the job that “outsiders” just don’t get. Being out alone on a gorgeous piece of land at daybreak. Nurturing the property along and knowing that you’re making it better than it was. Passing along knowledge to the next generation. Getting those rare but deeply felt compliments about “your” course.
There are also shared frustrations: golfers are idiots; people think I’m Spackler; the GM’s priorities are all wrong; activists hate us because they don’t understand how carefully we manage our land; millennials suck.
Balancing work and family doesn’t happen without effort. Your passion for your profession must always be viewed in the context of the quality of your homelife and your own health.”
Very few of you will ever get rich yet there’s vast wealth in the fringe benefits. The connectivity of golf is extraordinary. I often find myself someplace spectacular – Cypress or Merion or Seminole – and I just shake my head in wonder that golf has taken me there. Do you feel that too?
Because the profession of greenkeeping is 150 years old, it’s been a family affair literally and figuratively. It’s not unusual to find third- or even fourth-generation turfheads but we also have the unofficial clans of Latshaw, Williams, Graves, Maples or Mangum that tie hundreds of today’s best back to a common “ancestor.” We are a band of brothers (and increasingly sisters) with common roots and values.
Knowledge is shared generously – far more so than in other professions. I honestly can’t think of another industry where individual businesses (clubs) compete ferociously for revenues yet their employees (superintendents) would drop everything and help the person across the street if disaster struck or they simply needed some extra help or equipment.
Mother Nature is everyone’s boss.
Balancing work and family doesn’t happen without effort. Your passion for your profession must always be viewed in the context of the quality of your homelife and your own health. It’s heartening to see this becoming more of the norm, but wives and girlfriends still suffer too often because your 150-acre mistress is always calling.
Achieving quality conditions and avoiding risk often trumps cost. Yes, you’re frugal. I often say that if I ever won the lottery, I would hire a superintendent to manage my money because you are amazingly careful with other people’s dough. But, when push comes to shove, you’ll spend what’s necessary to do the job up to standards.
So those are the “hidden qualities” behind all the averages and data about you and our happy little industry. Yet, there’s still something intangible that’s impossible to capture. Something really hard to put your finger on.
It’s that special thing that unites us so closely that sometimes miracles result. One example: our cover story on my friend Scott Dodson whose life was quite literally saved by fellow superintendent Brian Conn.
The story itself is astonishing. Please, please read it. What you will learn is that the bond that defines our profession can sometimes be deeply personal in ways that go far beyond turf. The bond is just the beginning of something bigger and vastly more important. There is great humanity among us. And humility. And love. And grace. And I’m crying again just thinking about listening to the recording of Guy Cipriano’s interview with Brian when he talks of faith and family and changing his life by saving another.
God, I love this community. I’m so, so grateful to be a part of it. I hope you are too.