Monroe Miller’s cover story in the December 2010 issue of Golf Course Industry magazine entitled, “Are Chapters Dying?” asks the bottom line question: “Once the backbone of a superintendent’s professional life, can chapters remain relevant in golf’s new age?”
Miller advises that continuing to decline chapter memberships (16% to date) and member participation in chapter events is triggering the issue of chapter relevancy. Miller further suggests that a perfect storm between golf and the economy is causing havoc throughout the regional chapter world.
Having acknowledged the above, I suggest that it is not really a question of whether chapters are in fact “dying” – rather, it is the more fundamental question: Have chapters been “relevant” in the first place?
Can there be a more appropriate question to ask once we note that 97 of the 102 regional chapters (96%) currently do not have a mission statement and…
…that the mission statements for the remaining five chapters are of a non-consequential nature. (See my January 26, 2010 blog message entitled, “Redefining The Chapter Mission Statement.)
Consequently, without defining mission statements, the chapters have defaulted through the years into always comfortable but still directionless social forums; i.e., providing non-essential services that render chapters non-relevant in today’s difficult economic times.
Identifying “Essential Service”
In today’s economic times, there is only one essential category of service that will make a difference in the current chapter world: job security; i.e., providing members with critical job securing, career enhancing, and outreach program counseling. Such counseling is not available anywhere across the chapter spectrum today.
Sensing that something should be done to stem the negative tide, chapters – with the best of intentions – have begun to hire “employment issue starved” first-time Executive Directors in the belief that the added stature a new top executive would bring to the forum will solve their problems. Unfortunately, this will not be an effective remedy because . . .
…the basic tenet of well-functioning member-based associations (i.e., chapters) is that they must provide essential services to their members to hold their attention and support in difficult times…
…which is not the case now. Until chapters begin to address job employment issues, as hiring Executive Directors with proven job security and outreach program experience is one effective way of so doing, the chapters simply will be adding an expensive salary to their bottom line and nothing more. FYI: There are thousands of affordable, golf oriented retired corporate and military personnel available for chapters to hire.
If you are a superintendent who cares about the future welfare of your career, your family and your profession, register and get elected to chapter office and make a difference; because now is the time for visionary chapter members to lead their brethren to more promising lands through the writing and implementation of meaningful chapter mission statements. (See the January 26, 2010 blog message to see a “model” chapter mission statement.)
(See my January 16, 2010 blog entitled, “Redefining The Chapter Role” to note how GCSAA can effectively complement the chapters’ role within the employment issue debate.)
Ask the average golfer, or the country’s many superintendents themselves, “What is the golf course superintendents’ Number One asset?” and you will get a variety of seemingly appropriate answers most of which will – with the best of intentions – inevitably miss the mark.
I say this because virtually every answer given in response to this question will tend to focus on the more visible elements that the national golf community traditionally associates with the work of the golf course superintendent and not on the single core element that separates the profession’s performance from virtually every other professional group known to man; i.e., an unimpeachable work ethic.
Yes, the golf course superintendents’ agendas across the country are driven by the desire/need to deliver impeccably maintained golf courses with all the singular elements this entails. And while the superintendents commit heavily to delivering these agendas and earn unfettered respect while doing so, more times than not this translates into endless work hours but not necessarily into the building of a professional work ethic. Do not confuse the two. (See my April 2, 2009 blog entitled, “Dangerous Myth #1: Workaholics Thrive.”)
Defining A Work Ethic
A work ethic embodies, first and foremost, an uncompromised commitment to excellence and nothing less. Once this commitment is made, however, golf course superintendents become tactically prepared to focus on maintaining the “forest” and not just the “trees” therein. This is the essence of a golf course superintendent’s worth ethic.
One of Vince Lombardi’s most often repeated themes to his teams was that they would…
“…continue to commit to the endless pursuit of ‘perfection’ – realizing that while it was not obtainable, the process would catch excellence.”
The key to building a personal and profession-wide work ethic is the “universality” of the commitment to excel. Another Lombardi credo applies directly here:
“Excellence is not an occasional happening, it is a habit.”
It should be noted that the standard of excellence is not compromised by a bad economy; nor should the pursuit thereof be compromised because declining/tighter budgets can be more efficiently managed.
The DNA of the men and women who elect to become golf course superintendents assures this. No compromising here. This is how a professional work ethic is born. This is how a professional work ethic saves jobs in good and bad economies. Therefore, be proud and visible as you continue to address all you survey.