As superintendents, we hear, and are asked, some pretty crazy things. But I just was recently told a story that takes the cake when it comes to selfishness. It’s the end of summer, so I guess it’s the heat or the solar eclipse.
Seems a member of a well-known club, and a very good player, qualified for a national championship. So, he asked the superintendent at his club if the greens could be made to run faster, allowing him to more realistically practice for the big event. He didn’t care about the club’s other 300 members — he needed to get his game ready.
Now, I don’t know for a fact that this player is young and it’s obvious he’s not new to the game. But I’ve been hearing from a lot of you about a new breed of golfers, a generation that has been raised to expect instant gratification and to have the whole world instantly accessible at their fingertips.
On the one hand, I’m glad to hear newer, younger golfers are coming to golf and joining clubs. However, these same golfers all seem to think that when they ask for something it should be done yesterday and because they can find anything they want on the Internet, they are always right. In truth, this generation is no smarter (and definitely no nicer and more rude) than the legions of selfish, small-minded members who came before them and who treated superintendents and their crews like “the help.” But by staring endlessly at their phones, iPods and television instead of looking you in the eye, they’re just ruder.
In many ways, these new golfers are repeating the same complaints made by past generations. And most of them start with television. They point to what they see on Tour each week and wonder why they can’t have those conditions at their clubs. They listen to the overhyping of the perfect maintenance during the majors, conditions that our own industry praises, as well.
Is anyone else struck by the irony that we need crews of 150 or more to assist in getting courses ready for the very few and very privileged? And this is something to aspire to? Really?
Once again, we’re dealing with an audience that neither understands nor appreciates how hard we work. But they have no problem sitting by and speculating what needs to be done without ever having done it. Oh, right, they have a lawn (assuming they just don’t write a check to someone else to maintain it). But when they get tired or bored tending their gardens or managing their lawns, they can go inside, grab a cold one and plunk themselves down in front of that week’s golf broadcast and think, “if only our guy could do that.”
You know what? We can do that — if you give us the time, people, equipment and money, and then get out of the way. In fact, we’d love to do it.
I’m also hearing from a lot of you whose work ethic is being challenged by people — young, old and most privileged, doesn’t matter — who have no idea what the superintendent’s job is. You’ve put in a few years or more, busted your hump keeping the course in good shape, but suddenly someone is saying how you’ve “lost your edge,” or they’re sending around an article they found online (where everything is true!) that says your course, any course, can be better and for less money. Just another example of golfers who might be really smart and successful in real life forgetting everything they know about business, human resources, economics and management when it comes to their club or course. It’s the “brain-bucket” syndrome. When they arrive on course, they drop their brains in the large bucket by the clubhouse door.
What can we do? Start by remembering that we chose this line of work knowing that, in many ways, we’re at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to being respected. If you enjoy what you do and what you get to accomplish, then you just have to live with the self-knowledge that you’re doing a good job.
If you’re lucky, and many of us are, you are respected and well-treated by the people you work for and with. If that’s you, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re not only doing a good job with your golf course, you’re doing a good job as a manager and employee.
No matter which camp you fall in, I do have one piece of advice: Don’t get overconfident. If you’re not getting the respect you think you deserve, maybe you don’t deserve it, maybe you’re not doing as good a job as you think and the naysayers have some valid points. If you’re well-loved, don’t let it go to your head, because as soon as you get cocky, you’re in trouble. As one G.O.A.T. football coach told me, “Remember, you’re only as good as your last day!” And, he has several Super Bowls to prove it. So, don’t make today your last day.
What I’d really like to do — and think you would, too — is get the following message to everyone who uses your golf course. Maybe you start by talking about this with a sympathetic board member, or posting these points on the locker-room bulletin board:
- Just because you have access to the Internet doesn’t mean you can do the superintendent’s job
- Just because you have a lawn doesn’t mean you know how to get a golf course into shape. (And when it gets too hot to keep mowing, we don’t get to quit for the day and grab a beer.)
- Just because you play golf doesn’t mean you know what the superintendent does for you each and every day
- Just because you think you know how the course should play, most of you wouldn’t want and couldn’t do this job
If you have some ideas how to get those four points into the heads of everyday golfers of any age, let me