Golf Course Management

FEB 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 02.18 (business) Chris Carson Our national and local superintendents associations regularly carry out strategic plan - ning sessions that help them review where they've been, determine where they want to go, and establish goals that focus on those aims. This practice creates a document that provides a clear sense of mission, establishes priorities and strategic objectives, and is a way for boards and at-large members to work toward com - mon purposes. One of the results of strategic planning by the GCSAA Board of Directors was the estab - lishment of a regional field staff program that serves to support affiliated GCSAA chapters. I find it fitting that these representatives now provide support by acting as facilitators during the strategic planning process for local and re - gional associations. This is a perfect illustra- tion of thoughtful leadership that gets passed down to the individual member. When the New Jersey Turfgrass Associ - ation began a strategic planning process in 2005, little did we know how vital these an - nual, day-long meetings would become to our group, or how valuable the initial meetings would prove to be. Over time, though, we saw that an incredible surge of growth began in that first conference room from the ideas and hard work generated by the efforts of those dedicated boards. We began with a revision to our mission statement that provided focus, added goals and timetables for each commit - tee, and, in the process, produced a tighter and more efficient organization. This annual get-together has become the most important meeting for the NJTA directors, and it is in - spiring to be able to allocate the hundreds of thousands of dollars we've come to generate yearly to turf-related research. These strategic planning sessions don't need to be limited to associations, though. You can use similar planning processes at your club to help you and your team focus on what mat - ters most to your members, and to raise the bar in everything you do. At Echo Lake Country Club, I use budget preparation very much like strategic planning, and the plan that I produce concentrates on the goals and aspirations that are developed as a result. I use the cover letter of my budget (usually five to six pages) as my annual "state of the golf course" message to the decision-mak - ers at my club. In it, I discuss the goals for the past year and how successful we were in ac - complishing them, and I lay out the objectives for the upcoming year and what we will need to achieve them. By revisiting the past year, I remind mem - bers of our progress — and our setbacks — and reinforce the idea that the attached bud - get identifies the resources that are needed to accomplish the goals we've established. I fre - quently remind the readers of the letter that previous financial decisions had tangible re - sults that improved the quality of our course. For example, I might write, "Most of these steps were made possible by this year's change in how we cut our fairways. The purchase of three new fairway mowers has freed up labor that has been used to improve other areas of our course." Strategic plans are living documents that must be revisited and updated regularly. I do that at my club with follow-up memos to my committee, one-on-one discussions with mem - bers, and, recently and very effectively, with a Twitter account (@ELCCGreens) that of - fers daily updates on what we're doing on the course and why. I've found that these frequent communications combine with my yearly let - ter to build consensus and support for the goals of the green department, and help us avoid sur - prises when making budget requests. When taken collectively, the annual letters that I've written to my club provide an inter - esting history of the progress we've made, how we've achieved our goals, and where we want to go in the future. The letter is the most im - portant report that I make every year. It iden- tifies concerns and strategic options, and it in- forms my bosses that we have goals and a plan to accomplish them. You, too, may find that strategic planning helps you develop a more comprehensive leadership role at your club. Chris Carson is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J., where he has worked for 32 years. He teaches courses on budgeting and profes - sional development at the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School. A 32-year member of GCSAA, Chris has served as president of both the GCSA of New Jersey and the New Jersey Turfgrass Association. Strategic planning: Not just for associations

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