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Survey Says!

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Dave Wilber


The email from GCSAA said that it would take 8 minutes to do my Member Needs Assessment. Mine took 22. 

Because I am slow and because I am wordy. I also took the time to use my Twitter feed and tweet about doing it and to encourage others. And I emailed three influential supers in my world and asked them to weigh in. So let's call it an even half hour. At my current billable office rate, that runs the abacus to about $100. 

A year ago, I wasn't a GCSAA member. I had taken a break for just over a decade. You can read about my coming back, here. I don't want to digress into the why's and how's here. But now that I am a member, I wanna be involved. I filled out my committee volunteer form. I have made it known to a few players that I'm available. I have read the emails and the magazine. Mostly. And I did what I did today and was serious and dutiful about filling out my survey.

Survey. I think for a ton of people that word has a bad connotation. If you've ever worked around the resort world, you know that comment cards can make or break you. And then there are those annoying asks after a routine customer service event, to "stay on the line for a brief survey". I rarely do. But then a friend in the world of customer service explained a simple fact to me: you don't have a voice unless you speak up and the right people hear you.

...you don't have a voice unless you speak up and the right people hear you.

So today, as I went through what really is a very predictable set of questions. I decided to look a little harder and not just pass thru quickly. I imagined in my mind all the people in our world that this would or could impact. I imagined all the Supers that I know. And don't know. All the staff members that I know. And don't know. All the up and coming young people in our future and even, yes, gasp... Golfers. 

Golfers. That word, in and of itself, brings all kinds of emotion to anyone who ever has touched a blade of grass in any effort to prepare a playing surface. "It's not a museum or a mausoleum", an old school super told me one day, "it's a place for people to come and use and if we keep them from doing that, we don't stand a chance". Golfers. It's true, we really are in a business of meeting their needs. Now, let me qualify that: they don't always know what they need, or are right about those needs. 

Here is my overall burning question: What are WE (you, me, everyone in the industry) doing to support golf and golfers? I don't see this as just a USGA, R&A or PGA-oriented question. Really. We want the game to grow. We want the future to be bright. We want the greens that we are keeping not to be seen as evil consumers of resources. We want Sustainability and Inclusion, Recreation and Community. Simple. 

We want the greens that we are keeping not to be seen as evil consumers of resources. We want Sustainability and Inclusion, Recreation and Community. Simple. 

So I have a hard time when I am asked about words like Advocacy or Government Relations or Research and the more lofty topics first. And this is coming from a guy who did a lot of Government Relations work in our field and believes in research (as long as it isn't poisoned by money). Because so many times, I found myself explaining golf to non-golfers and often to people who never would be golfers. Try this. Ask some golfers about what you do. They really don't know. Why not help them learn? Isn't that the basics before we spew a bunch of corporate-speak?

This is why I see things like The First Green being so important. And why I am always telling supers to open the doors to their shop facilities and conduct meetings and tours. And why I want people to invite members and golfers to join them for the morning prep sessions.  And why I am baffled that at least part of my agronomy visits don't include a crowd of interested golfers or a roundtable fireside chat. To just talk about grass. Here again, a GCSAA winner, the new Friend of the Superintendent program. Brilliant. On par with the USGA Walking Membership and that kind of thing. And there are so many opportunities. And I'm not talking about the boring old, "Fix Your Ballmark" poster or the overproduced 15 second "commercial" showing a super (usually a very good looking dude, sorry Darren Davis) overseeing an army of mowers on a perfect sunshine day. No. The YouTube-oriented world needs less slick and more real than that.

If we survey a bunch of golfers, do they really know us?  Do they really know what we do? What the skill set required to make a playing surface really entails?  Sadly, most often they don't know. And I'm not talking about teaching Spacklerisms here. I am just talking the simple basics. Which are routine to us and completely looked at as witchcraft to them.

Do they really know what we do? What the skill set required to make a playing surface really entails?  Sadly, most often they don't know.

I think golf is going to have a future. And for as long as it lets me, I wanna be involved with that future. It's been such a rewarding career and community to be part of. But if our association doesn't know us and understand what that passion looks like? Bad. Bad. Bad. And more bad. Photo ops and stuff like that just don't play as real. It's a 1-iron. Sexy and often ignored.

Fill out your survey. Be heard. And speak up about what matters to you. What could possibly be wrong with that? And if you don't think your voice matters, you are wrong. And if you don't think you are a good communicator, that's your ego speaking. Just write. They will know what you mean. Pissed off? Say so. Happy? Then say that too.

I'm not sure there has been a more important time to influence the direction of our industry. And I love our industry. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a wonderful life. Not easy, but truly wonderful. 

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I think it boils down to; do golfers WANT to learn about what we do, do they WANT to hear about what it takes to produce great turf or do they just want to golf. 

 In a word where everything is at our fingers tips, I'm not always sure golfers WANT to know. Keep in mind-golf is for pleasure, recreation & (sometimes) relaxation.  I'm not always sure how involved golfers WANT to be. We have passion & desire for our occupations, that's why we choose it. I'm not always interested in other's occupations because its not an interest to me. 

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In my travels, when golfers spot a logo or ask what I do their questions are usually endless. I think that wasn’t exists more than many people think. But when you have the same daily audience, they need new and interesting ways to receive. Otherwise they get their info from sources other than you. 


The problem many have, is that they immediately turn toward the over technical answers and become hard to understand. 

The routine questions I get asked are basic. And require basic ways to say the easy stuff.  

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