Every author likes compliments, but I was especially gratified while playing a new course recently with some fellow superintendents that they all, in one way or another, said something like this: “We read your column every month. You write the stuff we all want to say but can’t, and we really enjoy it. It’s a shame that more people —specifically our general managers, golf professionals, low-handicap golfers and architects — aren’t reading it, too. Maybe then they’d realize what we deal with and the pressures we face every day.”
I feel your pain. So, here’s something to give to the aforementioned folks so maybe they understand just what it means to be a superintendent today.
Pass this along to those who can use a little education. Tack it on the clubhouse bulletin board, forward the link, stick it in inter-office mail. Then find common ground. Ground you can easily maintain.
We’re in the same boat. Like us, you must deal with supply-chain issues, inflated costs and problems finding workers. But good economy or bad, pandemic or not, it’s important that you support those of us responsible for the care and conditioning of the golf course.
In most instances, the golf course is the primary attraction and cornerstone of the club. It’s why golfers join and it’s a huge part of the reputation. The current situation also proves that courses attract diverse audiences and ages.
Ask golfers what they like about a golf course and conditioning always comes up. Conditioning is key to the golf experience, which is key to driving revenue, whether it’s rounds played, food and beverage sold, or lessons taken. That’s why you need to fight for the course as strongly as we do. It’s vital to our success — and I don’t mean just me, but you and everyone else who works at the club.
We feel for you. We really do. Your office is the most accessible to golfers, so it’s hard to hide. But you’re only dealing with 1,000 or so square feet in the golf shop while I’ve got 150 acres. And I can’t close the door.
Because you’re on the front line with members and customers, you can be a huge help to the maintenance staff. But are you? Are you backing us up when we announce a frost delay? Or rope off parts of the course that have been abused by bad cart drivers? Please don’t tell Mrs. Havercamp that, “If it were up to me, I’d let you drive on the fairways, but Tim is insisting …” Do I give your students conflicting swing advice?
Explain that the maintenance crew has the best interests of the course — and all golfers — at heart. We are not singling out one person for parking on the edge of the green. Invoke the Golden Rule if you have to. But never make exceptions. Ever. Our rules apply to everyone.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not as good as you think you are. If you want to play in the U.S. Open, go ahead and try to qualify. If you do, I’ll applaud and give you my respect.
But you’re not playing in the Open when you’re playing on our golf course. Stop being selfish, look around and realize you’re not the only one out there. No one else wants the ridiculous green speeds, excessive yardages and maniacal hole placements you keep asking for. Most of the other members/golfers are average (if that) players. If we went even halfway to the conditions you’re asking for, rounds would take five or six hours, which is fun for no one. And in case you haven’t noticed, the game today is about fun.
The conditions you’re asking for are expensive, not only in money but in our time and resources. I don’t think you’re going to find many other members willing to pay more for a harder golf course.
Are you designing the golf course for the players or for your ego? I’m not questioning your brilliance, but I sometimes wonder if you’ve considered what it takes to maintain some of the features you put in the course. Steep slopes and morning dew don’t get along. Ragged, choppy “natural edges” around deep bunkers take time to edge, especially when it’s 95 degrees. The equipment we use is heavy and takes deft handling. All I’m asking is that you talk with the superintendent before you commit to the final design.
Because if your brilliant design incorporates too many features that are too hard or too costly to maintain, we’ll just get rid of them. Yeah, we can do that. Easily.