I was proud to be a golf course superintendent. It was what we all dreamed of becoming when we were studying plant physiology and soil science back in college.
We worked hard to move up the industry ladder until our opportunity finally came to take the proverbial reins as “the head guy.” But make no mistake about it:Being a superintendent is not simply a career; at its very core it’s also a lifestyle. Like so many other pieces of our life, the style in which we live it can change radically over time.
It certainly did for me, which is why I gave up being a superintendent. As I look back on my 15 years of actively managing golf courses, there are some aspects that I definitely miss and some that I definitely don’t.
Things I definitely don’t miss
- Limited amount of family time. As a superintendent, we all understand and accept that it’s not a 40-hour work week; sometimes it’s double that. Time with your family is limited at best. If babies and small children are in the mix, you had better hope your wife is up to the task. When my son was a toddler, I left for work before he got up and rarely got home before he went to bed. So, my wife started bringing him to the course during lunch so he and I could spend some much-needed time together. She was a blessing I’m still thankful for.
- About 5 percent of the golfers. We all know this small group of people. They’re always complaining about something in the clubhouse after a round – the greens are too slow, or the grass is too tall in the rough. Coincidentally, these comments are almost always made after the complainer failed to sink a putt or drive the ball straight into the fairway. They have little to no appreciation of what it takes to properly maintain a golf course.
- Weather watching. Back in the days before smartphones and weather apps, making multiple trips to the clubhouse to watch The Weather Channel was the norm. Because so much is dependent on what Mother Nature throws at us, being a superintendent means always being informed on what’s going to happen in our little corner of the world. While today’s professional has much easier and quicker access to this information, I steadily grew to despise Jim Cantore and Weather on the 8’s. In fact, I don’t think I’ve tuned in to that channel since my departure.
Things I definitely do miss
- The sunrise. As simple as it may sound, experiencing the dawn of each day as the sun slowly emerged over the horizon, washing new, soft light over the undulating landscape of dew-covered putting greens as the low hum of diesel- engine-powered fairway mowers fill the air, still gives me a feeling of pure joy and contentment like none other. I consider it a real perk of the job that few people outside the industry ever get to experience.
- The other 95 percent of the golfers. I was fortunate enough to have maintained courses at daily-fee facilities, municipalities and private clubs. The vast majority of the golfers, regardless of facility type, were truly great to engage with. Each golfer always had a unique and interesting viewpoint on a wide range of topics that spanned from today’s politics to how the course played when it first opened 30 years ago. Those one-of-a-kind interactions made the long hours at the course well worth it.
- The maintenance crew. One of the most rewarding attributes of being a superintendent is, without a doubt, working with your crew. As superintendents, we wear so many different hats with our crew: supervisor, trainer, educator and occasionally, pizza-party organizer. With all the long hours at the course, developing a cohesive, team-driven atmosphere became the blueprint for success. Working with different personalities and getting everyone to march toward the same goal was extremely challenging and rewarding. Those are the memories I cherish the most.