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Archive for December, 2009

GREEN COMMITTEES: A survival guide

It puzzles me why some superintendents spend their entire career at one club and others jump around every 3-4 years or so. Could it be that the latter just never learned how to get along and how to deal with committees? I belonged to the first category and I will share with you how I navigated through the minefields of green committee politics.

The first requirement is to be very good at what you do and be sure of yourself and your abilities. Your academic credentials, although very important when you were hired initially, are quickly forgotten. What remains is your capacity to grow grass,  to keep a clean golf course and to present a pleasant personality. I have known superintendents who failed all three.

What remains is your capacity to grow grass,  to keep a clean golf course and to present a pleasant person-ality. I have known superintendents who failed all three…

Most green committees are appointed by the Board of Directors. The Chair of the committee is often a member of the Board. As a rule the appointments are for several years to provide continuity. The purpose of the committee is advisory to the superintendent and to deal with areas of concern from all golfers.

green_committeeGreen Committees meet at the call of the Chair often on a monthly basis during the golfing season. Prior to the meeting the superintendent should prepare a written report and establish an agenda with input from the Chair. At the meeting, arrange the seating with the Chair at the head of the table and you, the superintendent, on his/her right hand side. Present yourself professionally, appropriately dressed. It is best that the superintendent take the minutes and listen attentively to the comments of all members. The desired image is that of a listener rather than a talker. After the meeting, draft the minutes for approval by the Chair and distribution to the committee members.

At the meeting, arrange the seating with the Chair at the head of the table and you, the superintendent, on his/her right hand side. Present yourself professionally, appropriately dressed…

Most often the meetings run smoothly but occasionally differences of opinion develop. Do not take sides with one group or another. Just present the facts as they apply based on your experience. Let the Chair and the Committee make the decision. Remember, you can’t have it your way all the time. Pick your yes’s and your no’s. Give in on things that are of no great consequence so that you can sway the meeting to your views on topics that matter. An example of the first: Should your staff wear uniforms? Not a significant issue, but when it comes to deciding on frost delays or no-cart days, you don’t want to share that authority with anyone, not even the Chair or the golf pro.

In your daily contacts with the golfers, pay special attention to committee and board members. Greet them in a friendly manner and listen attentively to their comments. Now is not the time for technical explanations! Leave those for the newsletter, the website, or the Green Committee meeting. I have always paid special attention to the ladies and their functions. Hang around the putting green and the first tee when they arrive and greet them warmly. They will tell their husbands what a swell guy you are.

For every enemy you make, make at least three new friends and your numbers will prevail…

In spite of the above, it is inevitable that you will make some enemies along the way. In that case my advice is to apply a ratio of three to one: For every enemy you make, make at least three new friends and your numbers will prevail. If all else fails you can outlast your critics. Time is on your side.

Two of a pair…

Some years ago I went shopping with a fellow superintendent at a wholesale shoe store in Boston and bought two pairs of sneakers. One pair was beige and the other dark brown. I loved wearing running shoes on the golf course because they made me feel young and athletic and when I walked across a green, vibes went through my body that helped me determine the needs of the grass. Over time, the sneakers had worn unevenly and I ended up with just one pair: one shoe dark and the other light colored. I wore them mostly on my early morning inspections. No one ever noticed until one day….

mismatchedIt was a cloudy morning, a dull day after a rainy weekend that forced me to cancel the carts and the Allied Shoe Man’s golf tournament was about to tee off. A full field and most were very unhappy about having to walk. The golf pro, never one of my great fans, had brought in extra carts. My adverse decision turned profit into loss for him.

I certainly was very unpopular at the club that day. Never shy to face my critics, I headed for the clubhouse, smiling bravely. As I approached the putting green, one of the tournament players came my way. “Uh, oh, here it comes,” I thought, as I braced myself for the forthcoming blast.

“Young man,” he said, “you remind me of Stephen Leacock.” My spirits lifted immediately. To be compared to the great humorist, the Canadian Mark Twain, was a wonderful compliment…

“Young man,” he said, “you remind me of Stephen Leacock.” My spirits lifted immediately. To be compared to the great humorist, the Canadian Mark Twain, was a wonderful compliment. Finally, someone had recognized my witty writing skills. Needless to say, I was very flattered. Anxious to make the good feeling last, I asked my new friend what characteristics in my person had reminded him so much of my idol. Without hesitation he replied that just like Leacock often did, I was wearing two different shoes.

It was not a good day to deal with the golf pro, and I slunk back to the barn…