Expert say on everyday issues

My golf course’s policy of no golf before a set morning opening time was recently challenged by a new member of the club.

First, a little background about the policy. When I took over as golf course superintendent in 2002, I quickly realized I had a bit of a “morning” problem – a problem no doubt many of you can relate to. The dilemma: I had golfers on the course before we opened.

This may not sound like a problem to some of you. It may even be the norm at your golf course. But for many, golfers out before the maintenance crew is just not an ideal situation. So, 11 years ago, with the OK from the owner, I set about reinforcing the policy (which already existed, but had been somewhat ignored). The policy being that the golf course had a strict set starting time. Like most any other business, we opened at that time each day. No exceptions.

Needless to say, it took awhile for full compliance. In fact, I’d have to say it wasn’t until well into my second season before I realized it was no longer an issue. Sure, there was the occasional fella who tried to sneak out, or a group of nonmembers that had to be educated on THE POLICY, but for the most part the problem simply and quite wonderfully (from my point of view) went away.

That is, however, until recently, and the aforementioned new member. The member in question (let’s call him Bruce) had just moved to the Pacific Northwest from the southern U.S. (we’ll say Orlando), where, according to him, he was a member of a fine, upstanding public golf course.

Bruce can best be described as a man with a direct personality, meaning he says what he’s thinking – there’s very little filtering. Accompanying his directness is an unyielding belief that what has worked for him in the past should, and will, work for him in the future. A common term for this is stubbornness.

In Orlando, Bruce apparently was able to jump onto his old golf course whenever he wanted in the morning. Even in the wee dark hours of predawn if the mood struck him.

“We’d simply check in at the turn,” he told me one morning. “Or after 18, if the pro shop wasn’t open yet when we turned.”

Wasn’t open yet when they turned? I tried my best to hide a shudder.

My initial encounter with Bruce was on the driving range, about an hour before the first tee time of the morning. I was politely explaining to him that the range wasn’t open yet.

He found this absurd. In fact, he laughed at me.

Open? The concept was foreign to him. A golf course range that opens?

After much deliberation, I was able to convince him not to hit shots at my guy cutting the range grass.

A few mornings later, reports drifted to me from the crew of a rogue golfer out ahead of us on the opening nine. I tracked him down. It was Bruce. He directed a big, goofy smile toward me as I approached, and then hit his shot into the rather dark green a hundred or so yards in front of us. I couldn’t see the pin in the faint predawn light.

When Bruce realized I wanted to chat, he seemed put out, reluctantly stopping as I walked toward him. No doubt he was anxious to go see how good his blind shot was.

The conversation that ensued was long, tedious and extremely painful. Most people, when I offer my explanation, get it. Bruce either didn’t or pretended not to.

Included in the many reasons I gave him for a set starting time were: safety of the crew; spraying chemicals that have a re-entry time; watering in the morning; time management of the crew; and a more playable golf course not only for him, but for all other golfers.

Bruce’s response to all this was to look me in the eye and tell me about the course in Orlando where he golfed in the dark.

“They were obviously a more customer-oriented golf course,” he said to me pointedly.

I ended the conversation, asking Bruce to pick up his ball and head back to the parking lot. We weren’t open yet.

If Bruce’s theory is correct, and a customer-oriented golf course means providing a less-than-ideal golf course with unsafe conditions for golfers and workers, then I hope I never work at a customer-oriented golf course.

This isn’t the only difficult conversation a superintendent can have with club members. Read on for advice dealing with another common issue-explaining the importance of aeration.