Golf Course Management

DEC 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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30 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 12.18 As I look back to my early years as an as- sistant superintendent, I am often struck by how little I understood about the business of managing a golf course. I was pleased with my developing skills in agronomy and crew management, but I spent little time thinking about what mattered most to the membership I served. I didn't fully appreciate that, at its core, golf is a business and that it would be my job to lead that business as I advanced. I've always tried to share those experi - ences with the young turf managers who have worked for me over the years, to help them learn how important balancing agronomy and business management is to the career of a su - perintendent. So here are five key tips I try to share with my assistants. Find out how the finances at your facility work. Early in my career as superintendent at Echo Lake Country Club, I was surprised to find out how the money flowed at my club. I had no appreciation for the impact of dues, initiation fees, bonds and assessments, and I never thought to ask. When a green chair - man took the time to explain the intricacies of establishing and maintaining a depreciation fund — money taken out of dues to replace depreciating assets such as turf equipment — I felt like I was given a peek behind the cur - tain, a look at something new and exciting. I understood that I needed to be more than an agronomist and a manager; I needed to be a businessman as well. Just about every course will handle its finances differently, but under - standing that process at your facility is crucial. Pay attention to what the member wants. In my third year at my club, I proposed a bun - ker drainage/rebuild project that excited me, that I knew would solve our problem of poorly draining bunkers. I wanted to eliminate the time we spent pumping water out of hazards and dealing with the muddy aftermath, and I was disappointed when I learned that the club wasn't in the mood to spend money on a project that would make maintaining the course easier. I hadn't considered that my club simply didn't want to spend more money at that time, and it helped me to understand this basic principle of course management: Give the members what they want. Present the story in their context, not yours. A few years later, I asked to do this work again, Five business tips I wish I had learned as an assistant (business) Chris Carson echolakecc@aol.com but I took a different approach — I presented the story from the viewpoint of the golfer, not the superintendent. I talked about fixing the negative aspects of our bunkers as they re - lated to play and our members' enjoyment of the course. When the decision-makers at my club understood the good that golfers would derive from this work, the project was quickly approved, and I learned about this key to pro - posing projects successfully. Develop and articulate an equipment pur - chase and maintenance strategy. Many su- perintendents struggle to get the equipment they need to satisfy the expectations of their members, but often the stumbling blocks they face can be overcome with thoughtful plan - ning. Leasing can be the solution to cash flow problems, for example, and purchasing certain pieces of equipment used instead of new can also prove fruitful. Careful analysis of purchase options that include cost per year of ownership as opposed to initial price might overcome management objections to pur - chases. Broadening your thinking toward the long term is also a valuable approach. Speak their language. When assistants are interviewing for their first head superinten - dent position, they will be up against other ac- complished turf managers, and there certainly will be questions about agronomy and turf management. But to stand out — to separate yourself from other contenders — remember that the people who will be making this de - cision probably won't be turf managers. ey will be golfers and business professionals, and your chances of making a positive impression on that group will be enhanced if you can speak their language. Being able to read and understand a profit-and-loss statement and to ask thoughtful questions about the business side of their club will help set you apart from other candidates. If you can express your goals and vision in simple terms that they can em - brace, you will be well on your way to getting a "yes!" 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. I didn't fully appreciate that, at its core, golf is a business and that it would be my job to lead that business as I advanced.

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