“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
— Ferris Bueller, 1986
Golf course superintendents live in a world that can move at a glacial pace while waiting for decisions from management and boards, or for grass to grow. They also understand the whiplash effect of Mother Nature that can propel them from zero to 60 in the time it takes lightning to strike or an irrigation line to rupture. The physical demands of the job are often only exceeded by the emotional ones. That’s why it’s important to hit the refresh button on a regular basis. Here are several easy steps that can help:
Enjoy and expand your hobbies
Many superintendents are outdoors people. Hiking, camping, fishing and running enrich their lives. According to HobbyHelp.com, some of the more popular hobbies are less strenuous but equally rewarding, including birdwatching, reading, gardening and cooking.
The benefits of hobbies are numerous: making time for yourself, refreshing your mind and diminishing work/life pressures. Superintendents live in a world of repetitive tasks but can find relief by breaking away from routines. If monotonous duties are wearing you down, experiment with something different — restart and refresh.
For Fred Gehrisch, the superintendent at Highlands Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina, physical exertion is an outlet. “My hobbies include teaching kickboxing and practicing Kung Fu. I find that the physical exercise really calms my anxieties,” he says. “I also enjoy doing home improvement projects. But spending time with my wife and our dogs is my most favorite pastime away from work.”
For Carlos Arraya, the superintendent-turned-GM/COO at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, destressing requires mental and physical activity. “I enjoy listening to vinyl records, going to museums, and I’m big into fitness activities. All allow me to refresh and reenergize. I have a new bounce after each exercise. I picked up meditation in 2019 and have kept it as part of my refreshing to-dos.”
Be a lifelong learner
Continuing to increase your knowledge of topics that interest you and ways to be more effective in your job is another outlet to relieve pressure. Want to learn more about nature, writing software code or history? Online learning has put continuing education within reach of most everyone, even superintendents with demanding schedules. MOOCs (massive open online courses) are affordable and flexible ways to learn new skills, enrich your interests and advance your career. MOOCs are often created by an educational institution, including some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities, and often address non-agronomic topics that can expand one’s awareness of the world beyond fairways and greens.
The GCSAA provides excellent career-building knowledge and exposure to subject-matter experts. Participating in their professional education programs is a bedrock on which to expand your knowledge base and increase career opportunities.
“I read trade articles from various professional publications to keep up and improve my knowledge,” Gehrisch says. “I also like to read articles from other industries and see how I can use the information in our profession.”
Same with Arraya, who adds, “I read a lot and have found myself shifting to Audible books. I like creating a list of challenges that the team or I face and research them at length. The research expands my thinking. If all else fails, I pick up the phone and call someone smarter than me.”
Do more for others
Mike Kitchen, the superintendent and GM of Teton Pines Country Club near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has helped his son’s computer club. Many superintendents host Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops at their course to provide boots-on-the-ground experiences in conservation, nature, leadership, backpacking, hiking and bird study. In addition to helping youngsters earn their badges or complete a school project, most superintendents will tell you that the experience reminds them of the reasons they were attracted to agronomics and greenkeeping in the first place.
As Ferris Bueller accurately observed on his famous day off, life can move pretty fast. It’s important to stop and smell more than freshly mown grass.