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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.

3 Responses to “GREEN COMMITTEES: A survival guide”

  • Dave:

    I know of several Superintendents that jump from course to course and it’s not from lack of personality of getting along with greens committees. While much of the blame can still be placed on the individuals “lack of self motivation”, many of these shorter term Superintendents have a special niche or talent for performing a special renovation, turning a poor golf course around, or the like. Previous to reading you post, I thought of this very subject and asked “why”? After a few moments of thought, it was my opinion that it wasn’t poor people skills, but it was lack of a good agronomic challenge, or resources to make desired improvements. Why doesn’t a “long term Superintendent” move? Fear of change? Fear of the unknown at another facility (i.e. irrigation software, soils, water source, grass types, membership, expectation, etc.) The list can go on and arguments can be made for both sides. Luckily I am right in the middle having worked at my current facility for six years. That said, I would be comfortable being here forever or leaving tomorrow…
    Take care.

  • Everyone has different goals and aspirations during their careers. I was at my first club 4 years and have been employed for 20 years at this club. I have had several tough years when a Green’s chairman wanted to take us to the next level. Fortunately he only made my life miserable for 4 years. It is funny how much smarter I must have gotten since we started re-building tees, draining greens and topdressing fairways. Things I have been pushing for forever. I hope to retire at this club. I love my job again and can’t wait to start each day. Gordon told me many years ago that you can outlast any chairman, you just need to be patient.

    Brian

  • CC:

    Gordon –

    Love your writing. It’s my opinion and experience that Superintendents who “jump around” every three to four years are the better for it. No one can learn all there is to know about the industry at one place, and I feel the learning curve at any one facility levels off after two or three years. I have worked at many different facilities and have taken away valuable information and experience from all of them. I have seen first hand almost all equipment, irrigation systems, chemicals and fertilizers…something I would not have been exposed to had a stayed at one place. I now am in a position of hiring turf managers and look for a good mix between job stability and a broad range of experiences. I would be more apt to hire a manager who has proven successful at multiple facilities rather than someone who has been at the same place for 20+ years. To each their own, but I would caution and warn younger turf managers about being complacent and staying at one place too long. You could be limiting your growth and education by doing so.

    Cheers and keep em coming….