Golf Course Management

JUN 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 06.18 When I first arrived at Echo Lake Coun- try Club 33 years ago, the first friend I made was the golf pro, Mike Preston. We were both young and wanted to make our mark on the golf world, and we rapidly meshed into a team that worked together and understood each other's business, knowing that through team - work we would do a better job of keeping our members happy. Along the way, I learned im - portant business lessons from him that I con- tinue to use in running the green department at our club. I learned that the term "customer service" has real meaning and consequences, and that understanding what our members want is the key to success. is is true, not just in the broad sense of understanding the goals and aspirations of the club, but also in knowing the desires of each member. I learned that it is important to anticipate members' needs and to try to give them what they want before they ask and that frequently the best question you can ask when dealing with a member concern is, "What would you like me to do?" Public relations are a big part of our pro's job, and being the face of our club is one of his main responsibilities. I quickly understood that as golf course superintendent, I also had an important role in public relations. I've done my best to represent my club professionally at association and golf meetings and get-to - gethers, and I've always understood that even when I am interacting with members of my community, I am representing the club that pays my salary. Mike, who recently retired, always wanted to know why things were happening on the course, not just what was happening. He would say that if he knew why we were under - taking a task or project, he could more easily support the green department when members asked him questions. With that in mind, we ate lunch together almost every day. I have a vivid memory that illustrates this point: A member came up to us to say hello, and though he knew I was the superintendent, he was used to asking questions of Mike, so he asked him why we were aerifying greens. Without missing a beat — and as I contin - ued to enjoy my lunch — Mike proceeded to inform him why this was necessary and how doing so made the greens stronger and play better, and then the conversation morphed into the member's golf game. After the mem - ber left, it struck me how natural this conver- sation was and how well my friend supported my work. It may seem odd to some superintendents to think that we need to be intimately involved with the business side of golf, but we do. For example, I watched Mike welcome outings to our club, keep them happy, address their prob - lems and concerns, give them more than they asked for, and sign them up for next year. Fol - lowing that lead, the green department does everything we can to ensure that when out - ings come to our club they are treated well and perceive great value from their day. Each of these outings provides income to the club, and each deserves our full attention. Communication issues are usually the cause of problems between superintendents and their club, and I knew early in my career that interconnecting throughout the club is a Lessons from my golf pro (business) By Chris Carson echolakecc@aol.com Left: Chris Carson credits Mike Preston, his friend of 33 years and the recently retired golf pro at Echo Lake CC, with teaching him the importance of customer service and teamwork among the golf course staff. Preston is pictured on the right. Above: Carson is continuing Preston's legacy of customer service as he becomes acquainted with Pat Fillian, Echo Lake's new golf pro. Photos courtesy of Chris Carson key to success. Mike's weekly staff meetings helped him organize and inform his staff, and he and I would talk afterward to confirm dates and starting times and specific needs of each event on the calendar. is communication became a natural part of our day, and though the conversations were casual, they were also important. Knowing that the Wednesday La - dies Member-Guest changed from start times to shotgun, for example, is a way to avoid con - flicts and complaints, and issues are bypassed simply by avoiding surprises. e most important lesson I learned from my pro came from a document that he pro - vided to all of his new assistants during their first day at Echo Lake. e last sentence of this two-page document perfectly sums up the main lessons I've learned from Mike: "Mem - bers and their guests are not an interference to our work … they are our work!" I've taken this simple declaration to heart, and as I be - come more and more friendly with our new golf professional, Pat Fillian, I try my best to continue a legacy of customer service that has been an integral part of my professional life. 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.

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