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Golf Knowledge is a Required Skill Today

Matt Leverich


With each passing year, the golf industry is changing. Gone are the days of new course construction and crazy numbers of rounds. However, at the top clubs most of you are aspiring to work at, something different has happened these clubs are transforming their course through large-scale master planning, and at a very high rate. 
In order to maximize your value to these clubs, it is imperative to be knowledgeable in the game of golf, its history, architecture and network. You need to be able to speak on these aspects of a potential renovation plan and how your insight during a project can help make it a better end-product.
This is especially important during the application and interview process. Including a section on golf knowledge is required material, in my opinion. Not only does it let the club know you can lead them through a difficult project, it also shows them you are passionate about golf just like they are. Understanding how golf architecture and strategy work can allow you to offer insight into how a particular feature or project will affect maintenance. So be sure to mention these things in all materials, and certainly speak on it in your interview. 
There are many ways to gain this knowledge, here are just a few suggestions: 
Build Your Library of Golf Books. 
This is the easiest way to begin your studies. There are lots of books out there about all aspects of golf. One of the basics is The Anatomy of a Golf Course by Tom Doak. It's good to understand classic vs. modern and how that can play into a possible renovation objective. There are also interesting reads about specific architects, like Discovering Donald Ross by Brad Klein. 
Become a Master of the Rules of Golf.
As a superintendent, it is extremely helpful to know the rules of golf inside and out. Only then can you see how course conditions can relate to rulings and setup of the course, possibly avoiding member complaints and issues. The USGA has a great resource they call Rules Hub that can help you get started easily: 
Network with Golfers, and Play Golf. 
You don't have to be good at golf to be knowledgeable. Expand your network outside of peers into golfers to enhance your ability to speak to customers. It really is enlightening to spend time with those who aren't employed in golf but instead are passionate about the game. I wrote an extensive article on how you can do this a few years back, it is a good first step with some tips.

It really is enlightening to spend time with those who aren't employed in golf but instead are passionate about the game...

Follow Industry Professionals. 
Social media has allowed you all to share operations with one another. Be sure to include architects, golfers, club finance experts and more in who you follow. Read periodicals like GolfWeek, Golf Digest, Golf Inc., Club Management, etc. Dont get stuck just listening to fellow turfgrass guys. Challenge yourself with perspectives outside of your own.
Understand the Rating System. 
Most golfers don't understand rankings of courses. It's a complicated process and certainly subjective at times so it's a great asset to possess some understanding of how it works. Brad Klein at GolfWeek offers quite a bit of insight into the process through various presentations throughout the year. Be sure to listen in on him if you get the chance. My partner at Playbooks, Greg Wojick, rated courses for years at GolfWeek and wrote an extensive piece on his experience with rating courses for the MetGCSA. I think it should be required reading for this topic of ratings, and it is available here.
Read Online Forums. 
The main architecture site is Golf Club Atlas. While it can be frustrating if not outright painful to read at times from our perspective, it does offer a look from the other side. I'm not advocating or promoting some of the things said there, just that you should read it now and then for rounding out your education in this area. There are other sites as well that tie into following professionals, like Geoff Shackleford, but also allow comments from readers/golfers where you can again gain insight from their opinions. 

While it can be frustrating if not outright painful to read at times from our perspective, it does offer a look from the other side...

In business, it's generally good advice to know your customer and market thoroughly. As a superintendent, you would be smart to know everything about what your customers are buying -- golf. Youll be a more rounded professional and it may be the small difference that helps you land your dream job.


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