We’re speaking to the choir when we say that golf course superintendents are in a profession unlike so many other professions, especially when it comes to family life. Golf course management is the furthest thing from “9 to 5” that a job can be.
Considering the long hours and sometimes seven-day-a-week work schedule, we asked the superintendents on our editorial advisory board: How do you balance career and family? Here is what they had to say.
I suppose “balance” is a relative thing. Being a superintendent in the Chicago area, balance comes with an annual view. Clearly, it’s a year-round job with overall increasing demands. But during winter the pressures from our career are more consistent with many other lifestyles. Having a seasoned, well-trained, committed staff is important on many fronts. I married my high school sweetheart. Laurie and I grew up within the lifestyle this profession demands. And I make a point to involve my two daughters, Carrie and Jessie, with activities at the course. For example, the family looks forward to picking apples each fall, feeding the ducks and raising orphaned animals to safely release on the course. In short, including the family as part of the golf course lifestyle helps to share time with each other and offer a platform of inclusive activities that brings the career and family together.
Dan Dinelli Certified Golf Course Superintendent
North Shore Country Club
It’s scary just how fast time goes as an adult. What felt like eternity as a kid, goes by light speed today. The benefit of my job is the season-ality of it. I try to plan meaningful vacations in the offseason. Even though we are focused on a lot of renovation work each winter, I make sure to take full advantage of the time of year – winter. In the three other seasons of the year, I spend a significant amount of family time on the golf course. Introducing my daughter to the game of golf has been a really fun experience for both of us. I am fortunate to have a wife who knew the business prior to me getting a superintendent position. It is certainly a lifestyle decision and not a job. That is what separates those who last a long time in this business. Your attitude, work ethic, energy and personal job satisfaction are all direct reflections of whether or not you bought into the lifestyle that comes with being in the golf industry. There is no doubt it takes creativity at times and an understanding from family, but never forget the value of mentoring a good assistant, a well-trained staff that takes ownership and learning to be a good delegator. It’s a team effort, and it is far worse if you can’t trust those around you.
Brian Stiehler Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Highlands Country Club
Highlands, North Carolina
It was really tough to balance my career and family when I got my first and second superintendent positions. The marriage was young, the kids were young, and I wanted to dedicate the time required to improve the golf course conditions and the operation. It takes time to build all three of those life components and the hardest part is the actual balance. To find that balance, you have to count on your family at work. Train them, lead them, trust them, delegate to them and give them responsibility. The time you invest in your employees will make the difference when you are trying to balance your family and work.
Golf Course Superintendent
Traverse City Golf & Country Club Traverse City, Michigan
Fortunately, in the Northeast the winter season has always been the time of year I’ve used to rebalance myself. But after a long career, do I have regrets on this subject? Of course I do. At times, this profession can be all consuming; we manage a perishable product that is controlled by an uncontrollable force. When you feel passionate about what you do, it’s difficult to turn those emotions off and on. In that scenario, any “balance” I realized was because I was surrounded by a loving and understanding wife and family. With gratitude, I owe any balance I have enjoyed in my career to them.
Rick Slattery Golf Course Superintendent
Locust Hill Country Club
Rochester, New York
I would really like to meet someone who can balance work and family because I can’t. I am very passionate about what I do, but that passion, in my opinion, has come at a price. I schedule life around work. Now don’t get me wrong, I take time outside of work, but it does take a lot planning. What I would say is that I have an amazing wife who understands that at this stage of our life, work comes first, right or wrong. We take trips during the off-season to help unwind so you know what you are working for. We always try and plan to do something, or the plan could be to just do nothing. It helps that the “balance” sometimes comes from me, but it truly comes from them – my friends and family.
Golf Course Superintendent/COO
Double Eagle Golf Club
Balancing career and family life has always been a challenge in our line of work. We strive to be successful yet want to enjoy the fruits of our labor whether that is family time or hobbies/sports. I can say without a doubt I owe a lot to my wife of 17 years for understanding the demands of my career and her relentless dedication to the upbringing of our three children. It takes a special person to understand the hours and commitment that need to be applied as a superintendent. Working on a course that is open 365 days a year, there are few breaks and you must create these breaks in order to avoid burnout. I have committed myself to try and make my kids’ sporting and schooling events as much as possible. Being involved as a coach, helper, or in any capacity that can be managed within my work schedule is high on my priority list. Over the years I have made the time to take trips such as camping, skiing, fishing, going to Hawaii with the family and to connect as much as possible (camping being my favorite because there is no electronics allowed). These efforts to enjoy family time coupled with the support from all, allow the balance between work and family to coexist.
Chris Dalhamer Director of Golf Maintenance
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, California
Simply put, do not let your job define you as a person. Some time ago and early in my career, I came to the realization that I would rather be known as a good husband, a good Dad and a good friend than a good superintendent. This is not to say that I don’t want to be a good superintendent; it is just a personal reminder of “why” I work. Balancing career and family is very tough in today’s world of smart phones and 24/7 connection. One has to choose daily to unplug. Remember that time on this Earth is limited, make sure you share that time with the people in your life. Schedule your priorities – don’t prioritize your schedule.
Golf Operations Superintendent
City of Aurora, Colorado
As the demands of the job increase and as my children grow older, I find it harder to balance my career and family. Extracurricular activities have taken away a lot of time when my family of five is together and a shrinking labor force has forced me to spend more time at the club when I could be at home. It is not a perfect situation, and I am torn by my need to be both a good husband/father and superintendent. I have come to rely more on my staff at the club (who by the way have families with which they need time for as well) to allow me to pick my spots to spend time with my family.
Pat Daly Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Framingham Country Club
I’m sure, like most folks in our industry, that there is never enough time in the day. I must admit for me that the career, family balance is a work in progress and far from mastered. In today’s world of technology and 24/7 connection, I struggle with “turning off” the golf course and membership needs. I guess the balance I have created is not so much separation of career and family, but the integration of both on each other. It’s not uncommon for me to be at home dealing with golf course issues. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for you to find me with my family at the golf course.
Golf Course Superintendent
Oak Hills Country Club
San Antonio, Texas