Golf Course Management

MAR 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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Page 67 of 101

64 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.18 Happiness has often been derided as a friv- olous, idealistic emotion by kings, tyrants, or any individual or group trying to dominate others. Happiness has been so lambasted by the powerful throughout history that our na - tion's Founding Fathers included its pursuit in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. It is an American right to pur - sue happiness and to despise those who would deny us happiness and freedom. When we were born, we departed a warm, protective amniotic solution and were thrust into an unfamiliar, air-filled environment, where we took our first breath and began to cry. It seems intuitive that bewilderment, insecurity and instability were among our very first feelings. Soon after birth, most of us were given to our mother, where we felt comfort and warmth and were taught a new way to gather nourishment. As we grew, we formed bonds with family and perhaps some friends who made us feel happy and secure. However, as we departed high school, most of us began our individual pursuit of happi - ness and stability. When I took a position as a golf course superintendent, I moved my young bride away from her family and friends and began working 80 hours per week. Midway through my first summer, I had gained the respect of my crew, and the course drew praise from the members. At that time, ownership called me into a meeting and informed me they expected more of me. They expected me to work 100 hours per week, and I began to feel like a tool. I spent 10 years working on a golf course, and I loved being outside in all kinds of weather, laboring, scheduling the crew, and interacting with people from diverse back - grounds. I left the golf course because I was offered an opportunity to pursue a stable job while having time to spend with family, friends and, at times, myself. I have been car - rying out research and teaching in the turf- grass management program at Michigan State University for more than 25 years. In that time, I have met many good people who have had outstanding careers on golf courses. I have also watched many fine young men and women burn out by being overworked and undercompensated. I have also observed very intelligent, professional and experienced superintendents who have had their jobs taken from them because a new board mem - ber did not like them or their pay had gotten too great to keep them on staff. They spent a career being loyal, only to have that loyalty be a one-way street. So when I read emails, letters or magazine articles that ask, "Why are enrollment num - bers down at universities?" or "Where can I get qualified people to manage on my staff?" I think it comes down to the fact that profes - sionals in this line of work are offered few op- portunities to spend time with their families. Too often I have heard this being told to su - perintendents about how they should balance their work and personal lives: "You are mar - ried to the golf course; you sleep with your wife." Sorry, I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid, and there aren't as many people in line wait - ing to take a sip as there once were. Isn't it time we talk about the elephant in the room? Can we begin to create a healthier, happier and more stable working environ - ment for those in the golf course industry? Maybe not, but perhaps we should try. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. The elephant in the room I have watched many fine young men and women burn out by being overworked and undercompensated. (up to speed)

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