Superintendent Magazine - November, 2012


What Keeps Them Up at Night?

From the weather to the state of America to having kids in college, superintendents reveal what keeps them from getting a good night's sleep.
By Editorial Advisory Staff

THEY ARE EXPERIENCED AND SUCCESSFUL GOLF COURSE SUPERINTENDENTS, but they're also human, and sometimes they lie in bed at night, eyes agape, and wonder what tomorrow will bring. We asked the nine members of Superintendent magazine's editorial advisory board to list what keeps them up at night and why. Here's what they had to say.

Stressed Out, But Dealing With It

Stress keeps me up at night. When I can't find a way to relieve stress, or I don't come to terms with the stress in my life, then I lose sleep. The stress in my life comes from having two kids in college and my youngest child now in high school. It also comes from having customers/golfers who expect perfect playing conditions every day. And then there's my reduced maintenance budget and resources to do the job as well as increased operating costs, such as for water. And there's Mother Nature, who doesn't seem to care about my plight. I'm sure I could add more to the list, but it's how one handles stress that is vital to getting a better night's sleep. For me, it's about keeping everything in perspective. I can sleep at night no matter how much stress I have if I count my blessings each day and thank God for my life. Stress is only temporary.
Michael P. Osley | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Saddle Rock Golf Course
Aurora, Colo.

Three Major Concerns

I'm usually asleep on the couch every night by 8:30 because I get up at 4 a.m. during the week and at 3 a.m. on weekends. But I have three major concerns as I drive into work in the mornings. Like other superintendents, the weather dictates everything I do on the course. If for some reason the forecast has changed, the tasks I planned to tackle that day need to be adjusted. The second concern is whether the irrigation cycle I planned the night before ran and if any heads stuck on during the night. The final concern I have is if all members of my staff showed up to work that morning. Our mornings are very busy and even one person can set our schedule back for the entire day.
Patrick Daly | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Framingham Country Club
Framingham, Mass.

Worrying About Worker Safety

Most superintendents strive for perfection that's almost impossible to achieve because we have to battle things like Mother Nature, reduced budgets and our golfers' expectations. But what keeps me up at night has nothing to do with growing grass. I worry mostly about my staff members doing something that could get them hurt. So I'm always reminding them that safety glasses are mandatory when operating a weed wacker.
Todd Voss | Golf Course Superintendent
Double Eagle Club
Galena, Ohio

The Future of America and the Golf Industry

Not much keeps me up at night anymore. But I do wake up early and start thinking, and I worry about two items that are closely related. I worry very much about our country and the socialist path we are being led down. This path seems to be leading us away from God to a much more liberal and bigger government. Bigger government and more pressure on businesses aren't good for the golf industry and for the futures of superintendents and their assistants. People must be able to work hard, make money and have confidence in the future to invest in golf and other leisure activities. That confidence has been taken away and replaced with a fear of the future, the cost of health care and increased taxes. I feel very fortunate and thankful that I came through the industry during its great years. But I fear that the next generation of superintendents won't have the same opportunities that I've had. Their career paths will be much longer, more difficult and probably less rewarding financially unless we get back to a business-friendly environment.

May God bless America.
Ken Mangum | Director of Golf Courses and Grounds
Atlanta Athletic Club
Johns Creek, Ga.

The Weather, Of Course

I don't remember the last night where I didn't wake up because my back was hurting or I had to go to the bathroom. But there's one scenario that will make me toss and turn all night. It's when I'm watching the 6 p.m. news for the weather report and the meteorologist tells me tomorrow is going to be a "Chamber of Commerce" type of day - as in 92 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and clear with 20 to 25 percent humidity, 0 percent chance of rain and winds from the southwest at 15 to 20 mph. It will be a great day to be at the pool or the lake, just not a great day to be keeping grass alive. Problem is, this weather pattern has been the same for the past week, and the meteorologist says it looks like it will continue for another seven to 10 days. Our irrigation pond is slowly losing ground because the well pump has been running nonstop for four days, and it's now starting to sputter and stop for 20 to 25 seconds. Water restrictions are just around the corner. Do other people worry about the weather like I do?
Marc Shotzberger | Golf Course Superintendent
Philmont Country Club
Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

Retirement, Getting the Kids Through College

After entering my fourth decade in the business, I find myself worrying less about my job and more about things like retirement and getting my kids through college and on the road to their own professional endeavors.

Not to say the job is any easier than it was 25 years ago, but I find myself thinking back to a quote I heard while I was in college in the late 1970s - "experience breeds instinct." I guess I'm more confident in the programs and systems that I've developed here, and I have faith that we have the resiliency and ability to bounce back no matter what happens.
Kevin Smith | Vice President/Director of Agronomy
Pinnacle Golf Properties
Greensboro, N.C.

Issues Out of His Control

As superintendents, we are great problem solvers. We deal with adversity as much as any profession. We are forced to think outside the box and are oftentimes asked to control situations that quite honestly aren't controllable. I lose sleep when I'm forced into a situation that I have no control over and can take no action on how to resolve it. Yet, the consequences of the situation, right or wrong, fall squarely on my shoulders. The issue might have to do with golf course conditioning, member relations, staffing, irrigation or just a lousy weather pattern. If my hands are tied and I am helpless to solve my problem, I wont be getting much sleep.
Craig Felton | Golf Course Superintendent
Oak Hills Country Club
San Antonio, Texas

Anything to Do With the Greens

The one thing that keeps me awake at night is what, how, why and when am I going to do the next cultural practice - watering, application of fertilizer, etc. - on our putting greens? With an average of 60,000 rounds of golf annually and 3,500-square-foot greens, the wear and tear on greens can catch up if you're not on a program to alleviate potential issues. As with every golf course, there are unique challenges at Pebble Beach, including nematode pressure, irrigating with reclaimed water, and dealing with original native soil push-up greens. These issues can make greens maintenance an art. As with most things we do in life and on the course, sometimes it's as important what you don't do as it is what you do.

Chris Dalhamer | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, Calif.

Oh, Those Nasty Summer Storms

What keeps me up at night are the massive storms that blow through during the summer. We work so hard at keeping the golf course in the same consistent condition every day, so it really gets to me when a huge storm comes through with damaging winds. I know there's nothing I can do about it, but it's frustrating to have the course looking so good and then the entire property gets trashed with debris from an overnight storm's high winds in the matter of 45 minutes. It takes days to clean it all up again.

Steve Hammon | Golf Course Superintendent
Traverse City Golf & Country Club
Traverse City, Mich.