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Insights For The New Year Or Any Time

Jim McLoughlin


Superintendents No.1 Asset: Their Work Ethic

Ask the average golfer, or the country's many superintendents themselves, "What is the golf course superintendents' Number One Asset?" The answers that come forth cover a wide variety of skills (communications skills, technical expertise, quality greens, etc.) all of which with the best of intentions miss the mark.


A consensus of industry-wide opinion suggests that what separates the core of golf course superintendents' performance from virtually every other professional group country-wide is its unrelenting commitment to excellence. This is the essence of the golf course superintendents' work ethic.


Sabbatical Leaves Are Possible

Year long sabbatical leaves with pay are a rare occurrence in golf (while they are quite common throughout the academic world) but not impossible to schedule provided the right approach is taken when applying as profiled below.


Application Guidelines

1.   Only superintendents with exemplary track records need apply by submitting a sabbatical year leave proposal in writing probably not earlier than the tenth year of employment at the same job to take affect no sooner than three years later.


2.   The proposal should identify the purpose for requesting the leave: to recharge batteries; family vacation and travel, schooling, to research and write a meaningful treatise; to participate in a special industry program, etc.


3.   Essential: Proposal must identify how the superintendent will guarantee maintenance program coverage during his year's absence; best option: a well-established first assistant (requiring only a modest salary adjustment) to take over during the leave year; next option: hire a proven local retired superintendent for the one year.


4.   Final written agreement must mutually bind the employer and the sabbatical requesting superintendent to each other employment-wise for a minimum of two years following the completion of the leave year.


The benefits that accrue to the employing club when it grants a sabbatical leave are: first, that it rewards a deserving employee; and second, that it significantly increases the probability of retaining a highly regarded superintendent for the long run upon return from the sabbatical year leave.


Funding the sabbatical leave year should not be a problem because it would be the equivalent of a club funding one year of a retirement plan having been given 3-plus years' notice to prepare.


Player Community Respect Will Negate Internal Politics And Secure Jobs

In as close to any guarantee that can be given - no superintendent will have his job unjustly put in jeopardy once his player community has readily identified with his respected work ethic and persona.


Neither course administrations, nor board, nor committee members would dare go against the will of the players/members to unjustly undermine the job security of a treasured superintendent once he has been identified arguably as the primary reason for the club's/course's long term success.       


To make this work, however, the superintendent must first be visible throughout the campus and be in contact with the player community as the Oct 9th blog suggests.


The Most Adaptable Will Survive

Regrettably, career-planning procrastination appears to be in the DNA of many golf course superintendents.


Unfortunately, superintendents are too often blind to the high price they pay when failing to address employment issues on a timely basis. Consequently, job security is threatened; access to new jobs is denied; anxiety mounts; and careers stall.


In an economic era when maintenance program and career planning adaptability should be superintendents' best friend, procrastination can often prove to be their worst enemy. (See Dec 9th blog.)


Superintendents' Fear Of Employer Retaliation Stalls The Profession

Note the following dichotomy: first, when most superintendents elect to confront their employers on a one-on-one basis about job compensation and security issues they too often renege on this intention and fall back not feeling comfortable about confronting their bosses; however, when coached by an experienced consultant the superintendents stand firm, negotiate effectively and generally win some points.


What is the morale of the story? A lack of negotiating experience and personal confidence will undermine every human being when engaged in a contest of wills with employers.


What is the solution? First: Just like mock trials are used to successfully train young lawyers for the courtroom, a similar chapter program might be established to schedule mock interviews with employers.  Capable chapter Executive Directors would be the ideal people to manage a mock interview program. Add this to their job descriptions.


Golfs Not-For-Profit Business Format Undermines Its Effectiveness

There are over 40,000 not-for-profit associations across America, which includes virtually every meaningful golf organization including regional GCSAA/CMAA chapters and PGA sections.


The inherent weaknesses of n-f-p associations is their consistent lack accountability and commitment to excellence which precipitate over-spending, a lack of needed program development, unnecessary staff growth (at the national level) while at the same time discouraging natural leaders within the association memberships from seeking Board and committee service.


Only two of golfs many not-for-profit organizations - the USGA and the NGF - provide total consistent professional service to their members. Why is this the case?  Simply and solely because these two organizations have brought an extensive level of private sector expertise to their boards.


One thing golf cannot do to avoid the shortcomings of the n-f-p world is change to a "for profit" environment for reasons readers can figure out on their own. But, fortunately, the flaws of the not-for-profit world are correctable. More on this later.



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