By: Erwin McKone, CGCS from his blog The World of Turf
I've been in working in the golf industry for 37 great years. I was fortunate to have had several great mentors that have passed on great advice. Listening to good superintendents and being mentored helped me to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that I experienced in the 21 years I spent working in private country clubs.
One of the greatest lessons I learned was to have your Green Committee adopt and understand the reverence of the 100 days. For those of you who have never heard of the 100 days (not Napoleon's abdication of the throne and return from exile) but the 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the 100 days mark a critical time for northern golf course superintendents. During these 100 days, the golf course needs the absolute attention of the golf course superintendent, it is crunch time. The golf season is short in the north and we try and make the golf course as playable as possible during this time.
Unless your course has the resources for extra staff who will not be necessary in any maintenance capacity (which simply does not exist) there is zero time for any projects on the golf course. Mother Nature is enough to battle. A golf course is simply mans overpowering of nature. Grass is cut at ridiculously low heights and trampled on, as we play a game of skill requiring firm surfaces on which the game is the most fun. Smooth and true putting surfaces require special cultural practices and careful water management that includes hand watering even with the newest and best irrigation systems. Making the golf course the best it can be takes a "all hands on deck approach," and I don't know any course that is defined "perfect" in the sense that they could not use another single employee to complete an additional task that would result in being better. Even Disney has to draw the line somewhere.
More and more I hear of owners, boards, and decision makers suggesting and encouraging golf course projects in the middle of the golfing season. Once the weather changes in the north, everyone is finally eager to ride around the golf course and make all types of suggestions of changes, but that ship is better ridden upon during the off-season. Sorry if you didn't want to be bothered to bear the discomfort in November, or October was no good because every nice day was a "bonus day" of play, but that is when pet projects and improvements should be considered and planned. I won't go into why spring projects are a bad idea, lets just say, soft ground conditions, spring rains, cold soil temps, and winter clean-up.
Once Memorial day is here, its hump time baby! Time to do regular mowing, make preventive spray applications, and prepare the course for play. The in-season time for a golf course barely has time just for maintaining it. Watering, scouting, topdressing, mowing, detail work, and cultural practices need the absolute attention of the golf course superintendent. In-season is not the time to take on extra things that require the superintendent's attention. Contractors or even facility employees just can't be supervised to the extent they need to be in the middle of the golf season; the course needs vigilant supervision. A golf course is not just the grass, it is the cutting units (mowers), equipment repair, equipment preventative maintenance, irrigation system, root zones, drainage system, plant protectant programs, employees, parking lots, swimming pool areas, club lawns, landscape beds, and whatever else the facility has thrown the way of that skilled operations manager. The superintendent has plenty on his / her plate without the additional distraction of a project.
Please, do your facility and your golf course superintendent a favor and leave sacred the 100 days. If you really want to have a great golf course, allow the induvial who operates it the grace to focus all their energy and attention on just that, and if it so happens that Mother Nature gives a slight break in the action, let the superintendent go home and spend some time with family or friends. Encourage the superintendent (operations manager) to get away and relax. If the superintendent is able to get away, or if they go home after a full day without making sure the are seen, please don't say things like "I haven't seen you in a while," because unless you were down at the maintenance facility at 5:00 am or went out 3 holes in front of the first group, how would you expect to?
Phrases like the previous one mentioned manipulate people into thinking that they need to be seen in order to do a good job. A good superintendent is like a good hockey referee, you enjoy a good game of hockey that is orderly and flows nicely, know they must be there, but hardly see them. The superintendent and crew are meant to be unseen, they work out ahead of play, repairing and preparing, so that golfers can enjoy the game unbothered by the staff. It is also bloody dangerous to be seen on the golf course as the maintenance staff, especially by the inconsiderate golfer who gives little regard to how dangerous the flying projectile can be to the human body.
Fall and winter are the time for projects on a golf course. During the time the golf course is being utilized at full or near full capacity, maintenance is the priority. The 100 days are a grind for the staff and managers of the golf course. It is a stressful job that can be overwhelming to some who lack the support of facilities that fail to
establish realistic expectations based upon the resources allotted to the golf course operation.
Golf course staff work long hours and sacrifice much personal time during the best time of year to be with friends and family. Keep sacred the 100 days. Be kind and considerate, and think about the message that you send to overworked individuals who give up their summers for the love of the game.