23 Jul 5 Mistakes Every Golf Course Superintendent Makes
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 30+ years playing or working on golf courses, it’s that I’m never done learning. It’s impossible to know it all, and it’s an industry where change is constant. But, there are a few things I’ve witnessed throughout my time about superintendents and what makes the best ones. Here are a couple of mistakes I’ve seen made that could be the difference between amateur and pro status.
Failing to plan for growth.
While most Superintendents have general plans for what activities need done by their team and when, cultural practices or chemical applications for example, they may be too operationally based and forget to plan for the future. “I have no additional funding so no need to plan until I do.” That’s the wrong attitude. If your club leadership comes to you and says we have some budget for capital improvements, you need to be ready to tell them exactly what you’d do and how much it would cost.
Not sweating the small stuff.
In your every day life you hear this old adage often, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And it makes a hell of a lot of sense the older you get. The little details often don’t matter in the long run. But it’s not the same on the course. A successful golf course is made that way from extreme attention to detail and polish. You need to see the minutiae, the tiny inconsistencies and issues. In the tee box, are there broken tees or faded markers? How do the ball washers function? Walk the fairways and make notes about the quality of your cuts, weeds, and dry or wet spots.
Keeping your head down.
There are two kinds of people in any job. The kind that like to chat up every customer or co-worker they pass and the kind that keep their heads down and minimize the distractions that are keeping them from accomplishing what they need to. If you are that latter type, you need to work on keeping that head up. Those people that you, as a superintendent, are walking past have been submersed in your work product all day. Their observations can give great insight into how your course is perceived. The golfers pay attention to the details, and often have high expectations since they’re paying to play there. So listening to them, and your crew, are just as important as soil testing and proper irrigation to a well maintained course.
Ignoring the value of social media.
There are plenty turfgrass experts who don’t give a hoot -or a tweet- about social media (or email for that matter). Who needs all that extra nonsense? Well, the problem is, it’s not nonsense to most of the world, and actually quite valuable to the club, the golfers, and the super themselves. Social media gives you a way to show off your work in a way we haven’t had before. If your 9th hole is looking majestic in the morning dew, post a pic. If you see damage created by some local bug, post it. If you see cart tracks where there should be none, post a pic of the damage it’s caused. Social media is how people learn today. They’ll see that you have a passion for what you do. They’ll see the kind of hurdles you have to overcome. It showcases why your work is valuable and that can only benefit you in your current (and potential future) positions.
Not knowing when to ask for help.
When it comes to mother nature, and her many secrets and surprises, we are no match. No matter how long you’ve been running a course, soil and turf issues can come up that you’ve never seen before. You’re running the show and don’t want your expertise to be doubted or authority to be undermined, and humility can be hard. But turfgrass professionals can all benefit from information sharing among vendors and among other superintendents. In a role like this, we are all constantly learning, and you have to be willing ask for input and advice. That’s where a turfgrass consultant can be a tremendous asset. If you’re less enthusiastic about giving away the secrets of your lush greens to competing clubs, a consultant could be the perfect fit.
At Soil & Water Consulting, we take the time to assess your current conditions. Our testing facility, Brookside Labs, analyzes your samples and we use those results in combination with years of experience in all climates to determine what you need to make your best turf.