By Jeff Bollig

The famous cartoonist Walt Kelly created a poster to commemorate Earth Day in 1970, which featured his cartoon character Pogo standing in the garbage-laden Okefenokee Swamp with text that read: “We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us.”

That phrase came to mind when I read a recent CNN Money report listing the golf course superintendent as one of 15 “stressful jobs that pay badly.” While the report indicated superintendents generally do well in terms of compensation, other factors that elevate their stress level landed the profession on the list.

I am sure some of you are thinking: “Now wait a minute. The enemy is … us? What about sanctimonious golfers, egotistical green chairs, unpredictable weather, falling budgets and growing expectations? How can you point the finger at us?”

There is no finger-pointing, and all of those factors are legitimate stressors. Unfortunately, you have little to no control over them. The more you worry about the uncontrollable, the more the uncontrollable controls you. But having never been a superintendent, I turned to someone I have long admired because he might be the coolest cucumber I have ever seen in action.

Bob Randquist, the certified golf course superintendent at Boca Rio Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida, has seen stress at all levels. He has worked at ultra-limited budget facilities, managed bentgrass greens under the searing Oklahoma sun, hosted major championships with the eye of the world looking on, and served on the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) board when the national economy went in the tank. Still, he has always been able to find the silver lining when the cloud appeared to be completely dark.

“We face many challenges, perhaps more than some other professions,” Randquist says. “But the key is how we react and manage them. I tell people I work in the best office in the world – a golf course. We just don’t stop and take enough time to smell the roses.”

Randquist readily admits his life is not stress-free, nor is he perfect at managing it. But years of practice and consistent routines have helped him to mitigate the negative consequences of extreme and/uncontrolled stress. He offers the following tips:

  • Establish clear expectations.

    Early in the employment life cycle, supervisor and employee should establish and document clearly the levels of expected performance. These should be regularly reviewed to make certain progress is satisfactory to both parties, with any discrepancies addressed immediately.

  • Establish clear communications.

    Open, honest two-way dialogue with appropriate constituents is vital. Providing the opportunity for feedback lessens/eliminates the element of surprise or the unexpected.

  • Sharpen the saw.

    Continue to expand your knowledge base by learning new processes, technologies and methods that can enhance efficiency and the effectiveness of you and your staff.

  • Get away from the job.

    Give yourself one day off a week to recharge your batteries and get away from the workplace. Take periodic vacations that provide extended time away. Delegate responsibility and authority to appropriate staff to build bench strength and succession in the event of staff turnover.

  • Get a hobby.

    Find an activity that interests you and allows you to learn a new skill such as music, art, athletics, etc. These also provide an outlet to release pent-up energy or stimulate senses not normally used in the job setting.

  • Make good lifestyle choices.

    Stress can have a detrimental impact on one’s health. Lack of sleep and excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other items can exacerbate the negative impact of stress. Regular physical activity can also serve as a release and help ward off the ills of stress.

  • Faith if it works for you.

    Though belief in a higher being might not be for everyone, those who do have such faith readily admit that it brings a sense of calm and peace.

Heeding his own advice, Randquist has played pickup basketball, sings in the church choir, plays the piano, fervently follows his Oklahoma Sooners, teaches seminars, volunteers for regional and national associations, and spends considerable time with his family.

“I find these activities have kept me refreshed and focused in my job,” Randquist says. “I know I would not have lasted without doing it.”