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Why Superintendents Are Denied Written Contracts

Jim McLoughlin


Two totally independent national surveys that mutually support each other's findings tell a frightful story about the careers/lives of golf course superintendents:


FIRST SURVEY:  Indicates that only about 20% of golf course superintendents enjoy the security of a written employment contract, while roughly 80% of PGA and CMAA members enjoy this privilege.


Few people in the world give thought to the devastation wrought upon families when a superintendent is summarily dismissed - which is not a rare occurrence.


These families face the loss of their primary income; the loss of the ability to pay mortgage payments and children's college tuition fees; employer-provided housing is quickly term-limited often putting families out on the street; family health coverage fades; and children will have to change school systems - as anxiety about all of the above mounts throughout the family.


And finally, dismissed superintendents face the daunting task of seeking their next job often without their former employers' support and without chapter-based outreach program relief because there is no such program throughout the profession.


Can there be a more traumatic experience befall a family than what we have here? I don't think so! Yet, little, if anything, has been done from Day One to address this correctable situation. (See next week's blog on this subject.)


FYI: Club members rarely know whether their superintendents have written contract protection or not. They would be appalled to know how little day-to-day job security their superintendents have, or of the havoc that befalls dismissed superintendents.


SECOND SURVEY: Indicates that roughly 85% of employed golf course superintendents feel insecure about keeping their jobs despite being the only essential professional workforce in golf. Clearly, the absence of written contract protection is the generating cause of this uncertainty.


Why Are Superintendents So Often Denied Written Contract Protection?


The primary reason why qualified superintendents are routinely denied written contract protection is because search committees don't know enough about superintendents' technically-based jobs to be confident they can hire effectively. 


Accordingly, search committees hire and hope things turnout well; but to protect themselves they generally decline to grant written contracts of any length that would certainly prove to be a total embarrassment to members of the search committee and the club administration should a newly hired superintendent fail on the job - leaving the club with a legal obligation to pay off the remaining contract obligations via a lump sum payout.


No way this is going to happen, except for when long-term totally proven superintendents are hired. Therefore, granting written contract security to less experienced newly hired superintendents is generally out of the question.


When presently employed superintendents with proven performance records are also denied written contract protection the only explanations are: that jealous GMs want to assert staff control, or that inexperienced committee members who don't know the consequences of their actions have graduated to take control of their boards - which is more the rule than the exception. When situations like this become obvious it is time for superintendents to consider changing jobs if they have the luxury to do so.


FYI: Because the nature of golf professionals' and club managers' job profiles are more readily understood by search committees and, therefore, pose a far lesser risk of a bad hire -- these two professions enjoy ready access to written contracts.


Next week's blog will focus on the strategy needed to open the door to written contract status.


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