Be a better communicator

Columns - game plan

December 10, 2021

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Superintendents are some of the most knowledgeable and articulate folks on any golf club or facility’s staff. They’re a fount of information about agronomic issues, and if you’ll give them half a chance, you’ll realize their knowledge isn’t limited to growing and maintaining grass.

So why does the word “communications” befuddle and frustrate so many of them?

Why do some feel that they have so little to say, or even feel threatened when the communications spotlight shines on them? Do they worry that one of their golfers will criticize their efforts? Or challenge their capabilities? Whatever the reason, it’s important for superintendents to remember that effective, insightful and timely communications are as much a part of their jobs as mud on their boots.

Here are a handful of tips that will make even the most reluctant superintendent a more confident and effective communicator:

You’re the expert — show it. Take an hour before year’s end to plan a 2022 editorial calendar of timely and relevant articles that can be distributed (electronically or in print) by your club or facility’s communications point person or posted on the course’s website. One article per month is a good target to shoot for, and they don’t need to be more than 300 to 400 words.

Choose any subject you think golfers need to know more about or would find interesting. Not sure what subjects to include? Ask a few players with whom you have a relationship. A few possibilities: changes they will notice in course conditions in the weeks to come, the different types of grasses used on the course and the steps your team takes to keep them healthy, and what golfers can do to contribute to healthy and sustainable course conditions. While you’re at it, get creative with easy-to-shoot-and-edit video.

Build your research library. As a natural researcher, digging for information comes easily. As you’re building out your editorial calendar, also consider a handful of topics that are of interest and for which you want to deepen your knowledge. These should be areas that represent agronomic trends, such as efficient labor utilization, low-water-use grasses and bunker reduction.

Create electronic folders where you can add and store information as you come across it. Now, when you’re ready to write about a subject for one of your monthly articles, you’re already on your way. And when management asks about a particular course of action related to one of these subjects, you can quickly prepare a memo or presentation with the industry’s latest thinking and insights.

Listen up! The best communicators are also the best listeners. Listen to what your golfers are saying about course conditions and where they would like to see changes. You might be surprised how fascinating many golfers find your insights and the extent of your knowledge. Maybe you overhear a group of golfers talking about a thin area on the eighth green or a coyote they saw crossing No. 17. Those are opportunities to talk about remedial actions you’re taking to restore the green or to discuss the range of animals that call your course home. And when you hear television broadcasters mention an agronomic or maintenance challenge a course may be having, that’s your cue to let your players know that you’re on top of the issue at their course.

Be a teacher. Most golfers do not understand the dynamics involved with golf course care and upkeep.

For example, most favor trees and the shade they provide, but they’re probably not aware of the damaging effects of shade on healthy turf. Most golfers want to avoid pesticides, but they probably don’t know how diligently you and your team use certain practices. Explain your efficient use of water. Help your golfers understand how carefully you monitor water consumption, explain your environmental stewardship commitment and educate them on the benefits that open green spaces such as golf courses provide their community.

When you stop and think about it, you really do have a lot to talk about, and no one is more qualified than you to lead the conversation.

Henry DeLozier is a partner at GGA Partners, trusted advisors and thought leaders. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audubon International.