Of course, superintendents want to retain the good employees they hire. But part of the responsibility of keeping the good ones falls on superintendents, who need to keep employees fresh and focused. We asked members of our editorial advisory board what they do to keep employees motivated.

With a department of 27 greenkeepers and three managers operating 365 days of the year, keeping our team motivated to perform at the highest level is always a challenge. We have a few key things we try to do to keep our staff excited, motivated and involved.

It begins with effective communication. We hold daily meetings with the crew to cover current events on the course, projects, tournaments, etc. We strive to elicit questions, opinions and ideas from crew members to keep them involved in the course’s daily operations. Providing them with a sense of involvement and self-determination can help tremendously with their attitudes toward their jobs.

Other team morale-building activities we engage in include barbecues where we encourage different members of the crew to create a menu and do the cooking. We take trips to the local bowling alley and have golf outings on the course. Ultimately, the key to any success we may have is by making an effort to build a team through good communication, involvement and participation by all involved.

Chris Dalhamer | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, California

Working with people is difficult. Treating people like you want to be treated is key. What we try to do is always keep morale up. When the work is challenging, we try to get everyone involved. We also have a no-seniority policy, so everyone does everything. We do this so we don’t create the feeling that a job is beneath anyone.

The staff needs to know what the goals are, and when those goals are reached there should be some type of reward. Anyone with a bad attitude doesn’t stay on the team very long.

Todd Voss | Golf Course Superintendent/COO
Double Eagle Club
Galena, Ohio

A motivated labor force is very important for many reasons; for one, labor represents more then half of most budgets. When I think of managing a motivated crew, I often think how I want to be treated and what motivates me. The following are some concepts I routinely keep in mind with my staff:

Communicate — Keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. Take time to train and make clear what is expected of them.
Respect — Invite their input on how to improve things.
Ownership — Invite them to think and act as an owner, and that what they put into a job reflects on what they get in return.
Responsibility — Instill a sense of worth; that they are needed and contribute to the health of the facility.
Pride — Take the time to praise what is being done well.
Income — I do what I can to ensure the staff is well compensated.
Be fair and balanced — Everyone is different, and people come forward with their own requests. I take the time to think on how to best respond. What a manager does today can reflect on decisions
down the road. Setting a precedent shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Motivation is contagious — People who are self-motivated, happy with life, have other interests, and have a flare of competitiveness tend to be easily motivated at work.

Dan Dinelli | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
North Shore Country Club
Glenville, Illinois

Motivation and morale are closely related. I believe that showing your employees respect and being quick with a compliment or showing your appreciation for a job well done is great for motivation and morale. As superintendents we have the tendency to feel we rarely receive compliments, if anything most feedback is usually focused on what’s not right with the golf course. I’ve never wanted my employees to feel that way about me. I’m quick to critique, but I’m also quick to compliment.

The best method I’ve discovered to show your appreciation and boost morale is with food. A number of years ago we bought a gas grill for our shop. On the last day after a big push for several weeks to peak the golf course for an event, I’ll pick up some hamburgers and hot dogs from the clubhouse and have a cookout before the crew goes home for the day. Sitting around with the crew in a leisurely setting is excellent for team building and motivation.

On particularly challenging days due to the weather or the workload,I’ll buy bagels or doughnuts for the staff at break time. During the winter, when I just have my year-round staff around, I’ll take them bowling for an afternoon. Without a doubt, I’ve found that making these small monetary investments to show your staff that you appreciate their hard work pays huge dividends down the road when conditions may require them to give a little extra for you.

I also break down any barriers that might exist between job classifications. You’ll see my mechanic mowing fairways or raking bunkers, another mechanic takes care of the driving range, and you’ll see assistant superintendents hand mowing greens, mowing creek banks, line trimming, or whatever job is needed to reach our goals. There are no tasks that are beneath management; in fact, I enjoy helping out myself by mowing greens or raking bunkers when our schedule is tight. It does wonders for motivation and morale to look up and see the management working side by side with you so that everything can get done on time. I have discovered that showing your employees respect and some compassion for their daily struggles is rewarding in itself. I always remind myself that they buy their groceries at the same place I do.

Rick Slattery | Golf Course Superintendent
Locust Hill Country Club
Rochester, New York

One of the biggest keys to keeping my staff members fresh and focused is to try and accommodate their time-off requests. I do my best to say yes to all of their personal time-off needs. The other key is sharing and communicating what’s going on at the club for that day or for the week. They perform better when they have that information, and it really builds our team.

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

True motivation is an internal choice by each individual. However,good superintendents motivate by taking time to create a respectful and team-like working environment. Taking time to listen to and getting to know each employee on an individual work basis is very important to establishing a team approach.

Motivation increases when a crew understands the concept of “being part of something greater than oneself,” and the value that he/she contributes to the bigger picture. A sincere “thank you” from the superintendent on a job well done is and always will be a good motivator.

Michael P. Osley | Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Meadow Hills Golf Course
Aurora, Colorado

Keeping a staff fresh and focused is one of the hardest aspects of managing a golf course. I’ve always believed that money is a motivator, so we try to give pay raises every year. It may only be 2 to 3 percent in some years, but in the end it’s more money in their pockets.

Keeping the shop atmosphere lighthearted and fun helps a person’s attitude. If you’re able to get along, laugh and joke with your fellow co-workers, the day is easier and goes by quicker (sometimes that means getting rid of arotten egg). I also try to teach as many skills to a person that he or she can handle and do well. Knowledge is fun and rewarding; in most cases, people like to be challenged and learn new skills.

Finally, it’s always good to let them be in charge. I think by allowing your crew members to supervise or oversee a project themselves, it can build morale and character. It also tells you a lot about them.

Craig Felton | Golf Course Superintendent
Oak Hills Country Club
San Antonio, Texas