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What You Don’t Know About Putting Greens?

Jim McLoughlin


Every golf course superintendent understands what he needs to know about the putting greens at his home golf course. But this is not the case elsewhere because most superintendents consistently fail to see the unique opportunities and associated risks green quality can bring to their jobs/careers. For example:


Unique Greens Role #1: Within Modest Budget Environments

Includes: private, daily fee and public access golf courses. 


Superintendents with much of their careers still ahead of them almost universally fail to see the stunning opportunity modestly budgeted golf course operations present to quickly advance their careers.


The most talked about greens throughout any region countrywide are always those at modestly budgeted golf courses that catch visiting golfers by surprise. Home course golfers quickly know when they have exceptional greens, but it is the several hundred guest golfers that visit a course each year that spread the word throughout a golf community about the greens they 'discovered' when playing in a member-guest, etc.


The net result of all this is that the superintendents who surprise the outside world with the quality greens they produce within modest budgets quickly become known and sought after. New jobs at up the ladder courses follow.


When new to a job, how do superintendents convert moderate quality greens to impeccable order within lower budget situations? Not easily, but with an expert feel for green care and a vision for what is possible combined with a thorough green program commitment to excellence and the sheer force of their wills it happens  more often than not and is a joy to see -- always assuming ground conditions will allow for green upgrades.


Unique Greens Role #2: Bad Ground Conditions Create Career Traps

Examples: Northeast pushup greens and poor draining greens anywhere.


Pushup greens have leveled the careers of many superintendents through the years because present employers and future search committees generally fail to understand the negative impact clay-based poor draining greens have on the quality of grass produced. They tend to blame the superintendents and eventually fire them, or reject their job applications in favor of candidates from courses with quick draining greens that produce better putting surfaces.


Lessons To Be Learned:

First: Superintendents should think twice about accepting jobs at courses with historically poor draining greens unless these courses have committed to a green restoration program which is an opportunity if done well that can make careers for a lifetime - especially if the superintendent's work is referenced and captured pictorially within his career and maintenance program web sites.


Second: Superintendents should understand, and many do, that the battle for their job security will essentially be won, or lost by the quality of putting greens, greenside bunkers and surrounding green envelopes they present throughout their golf courses. Misfiring regularly on any one of these elements negates the benefits gained from doing everything else right.


Spread the word!


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