Golf Course Management

OCT 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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28 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.18 When I was taught to drive, my dad told me that when traffic lights turn yellow, it means caution and to slow down. He told me that it pays to have patience when driving and that speeding up to get through a traffic light is a good way to have an accident — or worse. I've followed that advice throughout my life behind the wheel, and though there have been times when I've stepped on the gas, for the most part I follow this simple guidance. As a young superintendent, on the other hand, I made the mistake of speeding through caution signs, and I paid some heavy prices for those decisions. In an early instance, I had nursed a sick practice putting green through a tough summer, and when Labor Day rolled around, I was thrilled I could finally aerify and fertilize the weak turf and "make it stron - ger." It was a poor decision. e green quickly crashed and died once I punched holes in it and dragged in sand, a death that was inflicted due to my lack of experience and inability to read the signs. It was a painful way to learn that when turf is weak, back off, have some patience and continue to nurse it to the point where it can benefit from and withstand cul - tivation. I've made similar mistakes by lowering the height of cut on turf in the middle of a hot summer for an important event by dry - ing out greens below the wilting point to make them firm. I've dealt with crew problems abruptly in - stead of thoughtfully. Of all of my mistakes in my 40 years in turf, the ones that involve my dealings with my crew are the most painful to look back on. On three occasions I've reacted snappishly and without thought to a situation with a crew member, and I know the damage that resulted was to a human being who could not fight back because I was their boss. In each instance, I immediately apologized with sin - cere regret, and though I don't think there was lasting damage, I know I had hurt a person in a way that I would not wish to be treated. e signs were the same each time: a surge of anger, a rush of adrenaline and a lashing out of emotions. I've learned that for me there are other, subtler signs that show up prior to that point of crisis. In times of severe stress, specifically Pay attention to the signals (business) Chris Carson during the middle of a tough summer, I find I develop a slight stammer and have to slow down when I speak. It's not something others might notice, but it's a warning sign to me to take a deep breath, maybe get away for a day to regroup, and then refocus on the smooth run - ning of the green department at my club. I am happy the average tenure for the crew at Echo Lake Country Club is almost 15 years, and I like to think my awareness of my foibles and my desire to treat others as I wish to be treated has something to do with that. In 2008, when the Great Recession hit, it didn't take a financial genius to understand that our club, like most, was about to be hit by hard times. I had a good knowledge of the finances of our club, and when a budget task force was put together, I offered my assistance. I told the group I too saw what was imminent and that I had a number of suggestions to help us weather the impending financial stress. When I went into one of the early meetings with a menu of ways the green department could help the club get through the difficult time ahead, the committee and board of trust - ees were appreciative of my professional re- sponse to a tough situation. e signs were obvious, yet I had a friend who dealt with the situation in another way, demanding new equipment and refusing to adjust his budget. His employment ended soon after this, and he told me, "Looking back, I wish I had read the situation better." As my club worked through its problems, other signs began to show up — the light turned green — and I was able to ask for and receive restoration of most of the previous cuts. Let's hope that we never see another crisis like we had in 2009, but the lesson I learned is that we need to be aware of the finances of our club, how it raises funds for operating and capital and to make our budget requests with an eye on the overall health of our employer. I've made my share of mistakes, but I've learned that when the light turns yellow … step on the brakes! Chris Carson is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J. He is a 33-year mem - ber of GCSAA. As a young superintendent … I made the mistake of speeding through caution signs, and I paid some heavy prices for those decisions.

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