Speak up now or forever hold your labor peace

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November 2, 2020

Sometimes you don’t realize there’s another way of completing a task until an outside force upends your process.

Think about the above statement in the context of 2020.

Begin the morning hustle without a breakroom meeting? It happened.

Reduce the mowing schedule without losing customers? Compare your course’s YTD play numbers vs. 2019.

Attach a piece of colored foam to the bottom of the cup without the third foursome of the day ripping it out? Compare your course’s pace of play vs. 2019.

An outside force — the COVID-19 pandemic — has affected short-term operating procedures at most facilities. The short-term measures will likely yield long-term changes.

Contributor Rick Woelfel addresses superintendent views toward practices and tactics implemented in 2020 out of necessity (Stay or go?, page 23). Rick’s story wisely begins with labor reductions.

Crew sizes contracted in March and many never swelled to projected 2020 levels. Amazingly, thanks to the incredible people who maintain golf courses, conditions rarely suffered, especially in cool-weather regions that received favorable weather. In fact, I have recently visited multiple superintendents in these regions who consider 2020 the best turf year of their respective careers.

Still, widespread concerns exist about what a positive year in terms of play and conditions means for 2021 crew sizes. Successful leaders are often too good for their own good. They lose resources and personnel and — miraculously! — they produce a comparable if not better product despite fewer available labor hours. Keeping courses in tidy shape for an expanding customer base exerts an enormous personal and physical toll on the remaining workers.

Have the bosses recently asked how you and your crew are feeling physically and mentally? Have you answered the question honestly? If the course looks and plays great and the people maintaining it appear healthy and satisfied, the bosses are less inclined to replenish resources. Attempting to repeat the Herculean feats of 2020 represents a monumental challenge. Your bosses need to know this.

Owners, operators, managers and committees remain perplexed when creating a 2021 budget. Anybody who claims they can accurately project outings and event revenue, or play numbers, is either a genius or fibbing. Even golf’s staunchest supporters and believers never imagined the huge usage spikes courses received this summer and fall. Managing editor Matt LaWell solicited superintendent-focused budget guidance from a trio of turf legends to help prepare readers for the financial unknown (Budget 101, page 6).

A general manager recently told me his philosophy involves “budgeting for the product you want to produce.” Defined expectations are a key part of the budget process. But they don’t solve an industrywide labor dilemma that actually expanded in 2020. Superintendents need bodies to produce that product.

Not sure how to explain this to your bosses or members? Tim Moraghan does the job for you in a column that doubles as a letter you can post in the pro shop, clubhouse or locker room (Labor of love?, page 22). The column demonstrates why Tim is one of the industry’s more respected voices. He uses his enormous credibility to make a candid argument on behalf of superintendents. Tim is a highly-regarded consultant, recruiter, speaker and writer. He can present realities to owners, general managers and members without fear of losing his job.

Golf has experienced plenty of positives in 2020 and some of the changes implemented by necessity will make courses better recreational and work environments. That foam at the bottom of cups has increased pace of play and skipping a fairway mowing or two hasn’t created undesirable conditions.

On days when cups are moved and playing surfaces are mowed, trained employees must be present. Having fewer of them around will create more problems in 2021 than your bosses might envision.

Guy Cipriano

Editor-in-Chief

gcipriano@gie.net