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Burnout Revisited...

Paul MacCormack


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One of the main reasons I have enjoyed TurfNet so much over the years has been Randy Wilson. From the first time I read his musings to the initial video from the mythical 'Rockbottum Country Club', his wisdom and wit have been spot on.  His ability to cut through the crap with humor is only superseded by his honesty about what it has meant for him to live the life of a greenkeeper.  His recent post regarding the OSV (Off-Season Vacation) may be one of his best yet. It may not be the funniest or the most clever, but it was very honest, and that means a lot.


We are all guilty of working too hard from time to time. If we didn't we probably would not have chosen this profession. But what happens when working too hard takes over your life? When your thoughts are occupied by all things turf? It is simply not sustainable. Something is bound to give, and if pushed too far the consequences can ruin your life.


I can relate well to what Randy talks about because I have been there. I have worked myself to the bone and nearly lost everything that I hold dear. Let me tell you that there is a big difference between 'paying your dues' and working yourself to death.


How do know when you are getting close to the edge? Here are a few of the signs that can tip you off...

  • You are tired all the time. As superintendents and parents most of you are quite familiar with being fatigued, but I am talking about that deep bone tired that just won't go away.
  • Inability to concentrate. Are you having trouble organizing your thoughts or planning things that are usually a piece of cake?
  • Posted ImageYour home life is suffering. Hopefully we all have supportive spouses who understand the sacrifice our jobs demand. But are things more strained than usual? Do you answer questions from your family with no more than a grunt? Are your interactions with them minimal at best? Kids are especially good at picking up on bad energy... so it helps to listen. (Trust me on this one; you do not want to things at home get out of hand).
  • Your usual coping mechanisms are not helping at all. Being disciplined enough to keep up with things like exercise or eating well can help, but in troubled times the rational choice seems to be another slice of pizza and multiple beers on the couch.
  • Your perspective is shaky at best. Is the course all you can think about? Are you spending more time than necessary at the course? When you do pull yourself away, is your mind still at the 15th green?
  • Is your mental and physical health starting to suffer? Are depression and anxiety walking closer than before? Are you finding that your physical well being is not as it should be? If we are wise enough to listen to our bodies, they will usually tell us all we need to know.

If you have answered yes to more than a few of these questions, it might be time to take Randy's advice. Plan a getaway completely separate from golf and the golf course. You can go it alone (which can be helpful) or with your family. Take some time off and delegate a bit more. Our assistants are far more capable than we give them credit for.


Posted ImageOr, maybe its time to talk to someone. Whether its your local clergy, a good friend or a therapist, it can help to sit down with some help to sort things out.


We do this job because we love it. It can be the best job ever, but it can also run you ragged if you let it. If you find life getting away from you it helps to have the courage and the sense to step back and take a break.  Slowing down will not only helps you be a better superintendent, but it just may give you a new lease on your life.

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Great advice Paul. I have been there. I had a Greens Chairman who made my life miserable for 4 years. I thought I could work through it, not a chance. It took some hard sessions with a good doctor who made me realize that the golf course is not how I should define myself. Hard lesson but have worked through it and love to go to work again.

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