Superintendents are faced with that same feeling from time to time. They work to get their courses in top-notch, pristine condition – perhaps as good as it could possibly get – and then 1.5 inches of pounding rain, accompanied by some gusty winds, arrive on Saturday morning just as golfers are heading to the course.

Even worse, the rain could start late at night and end before first light, so golfers flock to the course in droves, oblivious to the recent rain and expecting to enjoy that perfect golf course you had ready for them 24 hours earlier.

What will those golfers find in such a situation? Will they find that pristine, top-notch course just begging to be challenged and enjoyed? More likely, they will be faced with saturated greens (maybe too wet to even mow), soggy tees and fairways, and washed-out bunkers. Maybe even some good old-fashioned debris strewn around the course?

Unfortunately, I think you know the answer.

The worst is when you’re monitoring the Doppler (as we all do) and seeing those storms that look like they’re going to skirt the edge of your area. The cells might or might not hit you. It’s almost better to know for certain that a big weather event is going to nail you, rather than face that uncertainty.

Should we devote all those labor hours to the bunkers if they might eventually be washed out? What if that system misses us?

We’ve all had these internal debates, often having to weigh short-term gains against wasted labor hours for something that we know, or fear, won’t last. Should we or shouldn’t we?

Three serious threats

Many different scenarios can cause damage. I’ve come up with three things that can quickly alter our perfectly manicured golf courses, our beautiful works of art. They are:

  • Mother Nature. Weather certainly tops this list and can throw the biggest monkey wrench into your perfect conditions at almost any time.
  • Too many chefs in the kitchen. I haven’t worked at a private club in more than 15 years, but I did work at enough of them to be wary of those impromptu Greens Committee Meetings – the ones when someone (often newly elected) has a great idea for change. Maybe the great idea is expanding those bunkers you’ve spent years shrinking down to a manageable size, or clearing an area of trees you’ve planted and are just now coming into their own. You might prefer a major storm to hearing the outcome of one of those meetings.
  • The dreaded “outside event.” It’s probably a good thing golf course superintendents aren’t the ones in charge of booking outside groups for tournaments, or there would never be any. Although outside groups certainly bring revenue to the course, there is no greater wild card for superintendents to deal with. Who is this group? Are they golfers? How many kegs are set up on the tees? We have lots of marshals, right?

Although most groups that book tournaments on your course are going to be well-behaved, there’s always one or two each season that make this great unknown worrisome for supers. Donuts on the fairways, driving on tees and greens surrounds (hopefully not the greens themselves!) ignoring things like bunker rakes, ball marks, divots and signage in general, are just a few of the potential issues. Still, we have to turn a blind eye to them because the revenue is often worth the damage.

We must keep in mind that these potential course-damaging events are par for the course. They come with the job. Sometimes it just feels good to vent, though – especially when one has a sympathetic audience. Thanks for listening.