Editor’s note: I generally enjoy and respect the letters to the editor we get, but this one struck a nerve with me. I’ve always thought that club privileges are part of what makes the golf industry great, differentiates us as employers and generally gives younger workers the access and ability to enjoy a sport they wouldn’t if they worked elsewhere. Is there a better way to grow the game? But clearly not everyone agrees, so I turned this question over to our advisory board. Enjoy — David Frabotta.
I am compiling information and articles regarding the importance/benefits of golf staff (superintendents, assistants, seasonal, golf pro and pro shop staff) playing their course. As of now, the golf staff’s ability to play for free on the course has been taken away until we can prove that free golf for employees, without a doubt, is beneficial for course maintenance and overall productivity of the golf course. Have you had any articles that relate specifically to this topic?” – Oblivious in Montana
Interesting. A little extreme, but it sounds like the attitude of the times we are in. I think it’s clear reasoning that seeing and experiencing the course as the golfer is important when reflecting on playability and feedback when asked about the course by the players. I never enjoyed playing my own course, in fact I have allowed it to pretty much effect my game negatively because I always focused on scouting for needs and adding to the to-do list. I putt almost every day, and I hit a ball here and there, but rarely play the whole course these days. If I do play, it’s on a day where members are not playing. I was always concerned that being seen playing with members that some might feel I’m taking advantage of the facility that other employees can’t, and that I am aligned with that person or group of people. Staying neutral is important politically. I always try to look at the course through a player’s lens when evaluating needs, but in my opinion, there is no better way to reflect than when playing it.
— Dan Dinelli, CGCS,
North Shore Country Club,
Personally, I despise playing my golf course because it stresses me out. I love golf and got in the business as a teenager so I could play more golf, but now play less golf than ever before. I’m trying to change my perspective of that and force myself to play. I encourage my staff to play, and they do have the privileges. The more they understand the game, the more they understand why I nit-pick certain things: details like leaving grooves in a bunker because one of the teeth on their rake are slightly bent. It takes one time for someone to play their ball from that lie before the light goes on. The staff playing golf is extremely valuable to me. It also allows them the ability to see and enjoy their hard work. As for me, I pray one day I would be able to look at a golf course the way I did when I was 13 years old and didn’t know any better. It was all good back then.
— Brian Steihler, CGCS,
Highland Country Club,
Highlands, North Carolina
I don’t play at the club very often. I have found that when I do play I spend too much time looking for issues and not enough time enjoying the game or the people I am with. I do putt the greens all the time, hit shots from the rough and bunkers and spend a lot of time getting feedback from members and guests about their experience. I recently joined an executive 18-hole course so that I could play more often and spend time with my son who has just taken up the game. When it comes down to it, I spend enough time at work that any time “off” will be spent away from the club and with my family.
As far as staff, all of the guys who work with me — including assistants, equipment managers, full-time and part-time workers — are allowed to play golf. The selling point for this policy is it doesn’t cost the club anything for this benefit, and playing allows them to buy in to what we do on the course. It isn’t enough anymore to pay people for work. It’s the little side benefits above and beyond a paycheck that people are looking at when deciding to work at McDonald’s or at our facility.
— Pat Daily, CGCS,
Framingham Country Club,
When I began working on a golf course in 1970, the profession was much different and nowhere near as demanding. I enjoyed playing the golf course I was helping to maintain. But as I grew into the superintendent role and as the expectations for golf course conditions went through the roof, I played less. I ask people now that if you owned a restaurant and was spending almost all your time there, when you finally got some time off would you want to go back there for dinner? I personally have found that getting away and doing something totally different is better for me.
The benefit of employees playing are clear. Here our employee play is restricted to Monday afternoons when it’s slow at the club. The one thing our members hate is to see is an employee displaying poor etiquette or not following the dress code. Prior to granting playing privileges we have a list of rules we pass out to our employees and make them sign and if they break any of them then they lose their privileges — zero tolerance.
The other pet peeve our members have is the perception if they are following behind a group of employees that they are automatically being slowed up by them. So I always tell my staff that if a group of members are following them to let them play through regardless of whether they are holding them up or not.
— Rick Slattery,
Locust Hill Country Club,
Rochester, New York