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Understanding The Assistant Trap

Jim McLoughlin


Unfortunately, many assistants jobs fail to spawn successful careers in golf because:


First Problem:

Being semi-desperate to escape the assistants world, too many settle for superintendent positions at courses with weak reputations that, accordingly, cannot advance their careers -- thereby creating career traps that offer little opportunity from which to seek better employment.


Proven Solutions: Assistants (or anyone else) should never accept a superintendent position without doing the necessary due diligence, which should include, in part, the following:

  1. A thorough Q&A exchange with the outgoing superintendent. Most do.

  2. Seeking their current superintendent bosses' opinion re: the vacant position. Some do.

  3. A GM-to-GM check of the quality of the vacant position. Few do.

  4. Implementing the job application guidelines presented earlier in this blog series. Few do.

Second Problem:

Well over 65% of assistants stay too long at their assistant positions violating the Golden Rule of not staying as an assistant at the same job for more than five years - another form of career trap because staying over five years conveys an image that the assistant was not qualified to be hired as a superintendent. To maximize career advancement opportunities assistants are encouraged to:


Workable Solutions:

  1. Change assistants jobs once or twice within the five-year Golden Rule period. Few do.
  2. Develop a quality career web site to optimize their job application process. Few do.
  3. Continue to acquire educational credits to enhance evolving career opportunities. Some do.
  4. Before the end of the five-year Golden Rule period approaches, assistants should begin to consider getting out of golf and prepare accordingly. Few Do. (See the August 20th blog message in this regard.)

Third Problem:

Approximately one-third of assistants face the daunting problem whereby their boss superintendents refuse to support their assistants job applications - sometimes overtly sometimes covertly - elsewhere because these assistants are too valuable to their bosses and would be hard to replace. So, superintendents keep advancing their assistants' pay levels to keep them on board - a trap most assistants readily fall into.


Lightly Tested Solutions:

  1. Try diplomacy first where the assistants promise to stay on the job for a period of time in return for their bosses' promised support to help advance their careers. Few do.
  2. Then if all else fails, apply confidentially for future jobs realizing there is not much to lose if the superintendent finds out about these covert job applications. Some do. Too many stay on, indefinitely thereby undermining any chance of finding gainful employment outside golf later in life because their peer class has passed them by age-wise.

The role of the assistant golf course superintendent is the most unique assistantship in golf today because - unlike golf professional and GM assistantships - candidates to become assistants to a superintendent must commit to the considerable investments of time and money to earn a multi-year college degree to qualify for his first meaningful assistant superintendent job.


Superintendents have a responsibility to support the advancement of their assistants' careers at appropriate times. Some do; some don't. But it is safe to say that most superintendents can do a better job of serving as mentors for their assistants; i.e.- guiding them through the pitfalls presented above.


Spread the word!


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