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Step One Approach To Written Contracts: Create A Visible Presence

Jim McLoughlin


My Sept 25th blog post advised that the primary reason why the vast majority of golf course superintendents are denied written contracts is because search committees lack the confidence to judge the technical qualifications of job applicants accurately.


Therefore, logic suggests that the best approach for superintendents to overcome this shortcoming is:


To educate search committees to the point where they would feel comfortable granting written contracts to established and newly hired superintendents throughout golf.


FIRST APPROACH: Create A Visible Presence


The first approach to earning written contract protection is for superintendents to craft situations where they can readily interact with their administrations, committees and player communities for the purpose of educating those so identified to the true nature of their jobs. For example:


  1. Attend Board meetings. It is estimated roughly that only about half of superintendents attend Board meetings - a situation that is counter-productive to the career welfare of those who are denied this opportunity.

Caution: When requesting access to Board meetings superintendents should not ask to attend the full Board meeting because clubs guard this access zealously. Rather, they should ask to attend Board meetings only for the time it takes to present their department's report and to answer forthcoming questions.


If invited to attend full board meetings - accept.


Exchanges between Board members and their superintendents at meetings are one of the purest forms of job security available throughout golf. Once board members get to know a superintendent they won't abuse him!


During my 25-plus year career I am not aware of a single superintendent who attends board meetings being dismissed without cause.


2.  Provide the opportunity for members/players to sign up to play weekday rounds of golf with the superintendent.


During these rounds the superintendent would briefly focus on creating maintenance-based teachable moments as the foursome plays through the course.


One qualifying comment: Many superintendents are leery of playing with members because the quality of their golf games is suspect - believing they need to have a solid game to play with home course golfers.


This is a myth because members/players do not expect all superintendents to play well; rather, they will accept higher scoring provided the superintendents keep their composure, play at a good pace and do not complain about their playing difficulties. Furthermore, could there be a greater incentive for superintendents to improve their golf games?


3.  Schedule Open House tours of the maintenance facility and equipment inventory for administration/board members and for members/players and their children.


Recommendation: Once annually during the spring (before many families go away for summer vacations) on a Saturday afternoon (when the course might be closed to enhance attendance) schedule and promote via newslatters and web sites a +/- three-hour Open House field day for the administration, player communities and their children at the maintenance facility.


This would include: discussions/demonstrations re: equipment use, cost and maintenance practices/schedules; staff scheduling; and a mini-seminar explaining what is the need for and scheduling of cultural practices - subjects that lay player communities know very little about and the one teachable moment that could do more to educate constituents to the world of the golf course superintendent than any thing else.


As adults and children thoroughly enjoy Open House tours of fire houses, so too would they delight in similar tours of golf course maintenance facilities and identifying with the work environment of the golf course superintendent.


4.  Develop a Maintenance Program Web Site as presented in the Oct. 2nd blog post  to derive all the stated precedent-setting benefits presented therein.


5.  Briefly visit the starting tees to engage a few members/players each weekend/holiday - dressed as a professional representative of the club/course and not as a working superintendent.


Final Observations: The collective impact of the above "visibility" campaign would be:


1.  To effectively close the knowledge gap that know exists between knowing what is necessary to produce the superintendents' work product and their administrations' understanding thereof. 


2.  Accordingly, this would per se enhance the chances of those superintendents so participating gaining access to written contract protection.


By educating constituents through this "self PR" campaign of increased visibility, the individual golf course superintendent will earn new found respect and pave the way toward the ultimate job security - written contract protection.


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