More than turf

GCI's Henry DeLozier offers five tips for every superintendent to exceed expectations.

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October 14, 2011

Tough times have created great opportunities for golf course superintendents. These opportunities reveal themselves in the form of revising and streamlining out-dated practices and processes, improving programs, expanding the reach and impact of the superintendent, and educating members and golfers about best management practices.

Club leaders in every category are alert for opportunities to improve performance results for course conditions, budget management and member satisfaction. Five tips that will help every superintendent to exceed expectations are as follow:

1. Understand What Is Expected
Agronomic expertise is ‘table stakes’ nowadays. Employers assume that their club superintendent is expert in the scientific aspects and requirements of his or her job. Club employers expect business acumen, leadership and a solutions-driven attitude. Meet with the club executive, owner and/or Board of Directors to identify top priorities for the facility and agree upon proper measurements of success.

2. Know Your Value
Superintendents are charged with managing the franchise value of many facilities because it is their work – whether good or bad – that defines the club. Business prospers when the golf course is in good condition. Superintendents must understand the significance of their work and be prepared to measure the financial impacts that can be created on the Balance Sheet and Income Statement. The time for superintendents to defer responsibility for the financial well-being of the club has past. Every superintendent is a key member of the management team and must contribute the business success of the facility.

3. Understand Capital Expense Planning
Every superintendent should maintain a current and action-ready five-year Capital Expense Plan that identifies all capital costs for which he or she is responsible. This plan should identify types of equipment, purchase price, leasing-versus-purchase analysis, projected replacement lifecycle, and warranty options. The CapEx Plan should be supported by competitive bids and a simple, easy-to-understand set of recommendations from the superintendent.

4. Understand Business Risks
Business Risk involves all of the aspects that govern the enterprise nature of your employment; it is far more than slips/falls and lifting injuries. See that all licenses and permits are current, in-place and readily accessible, and maintain ironclad records for employment, chemical and pesticide use, and water-taking and use. Maintain an immediately accessible Crisis Communication Plan for chemical spills, for applicator mistakes and mishaps, and for personal injuries and property damage. The superintendent is considered the ‘keeper’ of these matters that bear great risk to the club and the employer.

5. Communicate Constantly
Superintendents must be master communicators nowadays. If one is not expert in his or her communications skills, take lessons and become an expert and proactive communicator. Because of the high-risk and high-importance of many superintendent responsibilities, one must develop a comprehensive communication plan that features regular and redundant messaging that is clear, concise and in plain language. Plan to deliver the same messages in various club media and via different club settings whether the Annual Meeting or newsletters or member-information programs.

About the author
Henry DeLozier, a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy, author's the GCI column, Game Plan. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf of Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council.