Generally speaking, there are certain jobs where a high level of creativity is most definitely required. Just off the top of my head a few obvious positions come to mind: artists, web designers, authors, chefs, filmmakers, magazine editors, landscape designers and teachers.
And then there are the jobs on the other end of the spectrum that require little or no creativity, although this isn’t to say these jobs are any less important or any less satisfying. Examples of these types of jobs would be cab drivers, assembly line workers, grocery clerks, mail carriers, forklift operators and train conductors, just to name a few.
But there is a third category of jobs, jobs that actually require some creativity, but only to a certain point – a point that, if exceeded, could end up with a rather negative impact. A great example of this type of job (and to turn our attention to golf course maintenance) is that of the golf course cup cutter.
Cutting cups on a championship golf course is not a job for just anyone. As mentioned, creativity is needed, but so is a strong sense of restraint – knowing when to hold back.
Those who cut cups on golf courses (and do it well) are – pardon the pun – cut from another mold altogether. They need to have certain characteristics that most other duties in course maintenance simply do not require. Kind of like a closer in baseball (minus the thick, grizzly man beard, hopefully).
These characteristics include a strong attention to detail, knowledge of the game of golf, a good eye (for a straight pin) and, as mentioned, that streak of creativity – a creativity you more than likely don’t want in most other maintenance duties.
Ideally, a cup cutter also will possess some scouting attributes. He or she can help golf course superintendents and assistant supers with scouting of disease, insects and, in the summer, dry spots. Experienced cup cutters can tell you if the greens might need an extra splash of water or not. And, if you trust them enough, they can be another set of eyes for not only scouting, but checking up on how the greens mowers, collar mowers and even the bunker crew are doing as well.
Of all the people my assistants and I have trained to cut cups over the last 20 years, I’d say about three in 10 actually have had what it takes to do the job well. Part of this low percentage is no doubt a certain high standard we’ve set for the finished product. If we lowered our standards and cared only about quantity, not quality, that percentage would surely double, if not more.
But that isn’t going to happen. Most supers are going to continue to demand the best from this job. It is simply too important to be left to chance. It is a job each and every golfer judges (even if subconsciously) as they walk off each and every green.
And often they voice this opinion to their playing partners:
“That pin was too hard.”
“That putt didn’t break as much as I thought.”
“Was that pin fair?”
And what cup cutter, when finding out a hole-in-one was achieved on one of their cups that day, doesn’t feel a little sense of pride himself? It’s almost like they assisted in the hole-in-one.
The creativity mentioned earlier within cup cutting comes from a couple different aspects of the job. Both of these center around location.
The first, location of a daily pin in relation to the location of the pins on all the other greens that day. You wouldn’t want five front pins in succession, or a string of left centers in a row. You want balance without predictability. This cries out for someone with a sense of creativity. I’ve never been one in favor of a set rotation for moving cups. I’ve always disliked the old front pin followed by middle pin followed by back pin in a continuous cycle throughout the 18 holes.
The second aspect of cup location creativity is the ability to bring into play slopes, edges and berms on the green, as well as areas off the green itself, like water hazards, bunkers and false fronts (or false backs and sides).
The restraint of creativity mentioned earlier is crucial here. Just as you don’t want boring cups, you surely don’t want 18 diabolical ones, either. Put one or two near a slope (not on a slope). Tuck one or two on an edge near a bunker or water hazard. But make them fair, and balance this out with some good old boring, middle-of-the-green, flat-location pins.
Knowing your customers for any given day must factor in as well. If you have a large outside group holding a tournament with mainly non-golfers (we fondly refer to them as hackers) on your course, you wouldn’t want the greens to play too difficult. These events take a good six hours as it is with easy pins. Do your best to help keep these events flowing.
On the other hand, if your course is hosting a regional golf professional tourney, you no doubt would add a little flair and difficulty to the set-up. Know your target audience every day.
Your cup cutter should definitely be a worker who golfs. This is positively essential.
In the end, there are two ways to look at the job of cutting cups on a golf course. One, you can consider it just one of many morning duties that must be accomplished, and put no more thought into who is doing it than you do for daily bunker raking or string trimming. Or two, you can consider it one of the most essential and pivotal jobs you assign each day, making sure you have the very best person doing the job.
Guess this outlook depends on how creative you are.
COVER PHOTO COURTESY OF DANIEL76/ESSENTIALS/ISTOCK