© matthew Wharton

For many of you across the country or around the globe, you may think the header references golf reopening after lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I stated my case for golf last time, and I am happy to see golf return to all 50 states and other parts of the world.

I am thankful golf stayed open in my locale, but I must admit there were many days I felt guilty we were operating when so many of my peers were dealing with other forms of this ongoing crisis. The past two months I have had countless conversations with my wife and peers about the rising and sinking tides of emotions that have come to define what we are experiencing for the first time in our lives.

But the real story behind the header is slightly different. And for the record, Aerosmith has always been one of my favorite bands, so I make no apologies. You may recall last year I opined about the fun we all had when we first started working on golf courses. After my obligatory indoctrination with the string trimmer I graduated to the triplex greens mower and pulled a five-gang behind a Massey Ferguson tractor. Then my life changed when the club acquired secondhand a monstrosity of a machine – a Jacobsen F10.

Operating an oversized octopus around the golf course three days a week gave me an immense sense of pride and satisfaction. Not only was I responsible for the playability and presentation of the fairways, but the sheer size of that mower boosted my confidence while leaving me many hours to observe, think and, dare I say, dream.

Aside from changing holes or pins, or perhaps you call it cutting cups, mowing fairways is my favorite thing to do on a golf course. And for years my butt did not touch the seat of a fairway unit. For the past 15 years, I have been blessed with a hard-working staff and my skills and experience have been applied elsewhere.

But starting last year, during the peak of the labor challenge, I found myself doing all sorts of things to help the team, including mowing fairways an hour before others arrived just to speed up the process and maximize productivity. I guess climbing back in the saddle was both a necessity from the standpoint we were short-staffed, but it was also therapeutic as I reconnected with those earlier days.

And it has carried over into this year. We all know managing a golf course can be stressful but managing a golf course during a pandemic, well, I am pretty sure none of us had those pages in our playbooks. Choosing to work some mornings from the “mobile office” has helped clear my mind and sharpen my focus on what is best for my team’s health and safety along with the golf course.

Granted, I am blessed the course layout provides sweeping views, making it easy to keep tabs on the team and the whereabouts of play. If I were managing a course where each hole felt isolated or disconnected, I might not be so quick to climb aboard.

We experienced a bizarre spring, with temperatures abnormally warm at times (80s in late March), but we also had patchy frost and a record low of 36 degrees on the morning of May 12. Although the golf course began to wake up early due to those warm conditions in March, the cold we experienced in April slowed its progress.

But I know my time in the saddle is quickly coming to an end as the heat of summer is fast approaching. Soon fans will be going up around the greens and I am certain by the time you read this I will have traded my ear plugs and sunglasses for my TDR and hose reel.

So, what is the point I am trying to make? I guess it is simply we all need to identify what our saddle is and make time to climb up and enjoy the view from time to time. Whether it be the seat of a sprayer, mower or even an excavator, find time to allow yourself to hear that tuning fork inside you and experience the power of deep thought. And do not forget to breathe, because right now that is the single most important thing you can do for yourself, family, team and facility.

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina and past president of the Carolinas GCSA. Follow him on Twitter @CGCGreenkeeper.