Almost all golf course superintendents share a common theme in their job descriptions: to maintain the golf course at a high level, both from a playability standpoint and a visual one. That’s what we do.
Very few superintendents, on the other hand, are asked to assist in the “growing of the game” aspect of the business. Those responsibilities almost always lie with the club’s golf professional and his or her staff, as they should. And, depending on the structure of the operation, growing-the-game duties may also fall to general managers, directors of golf and, no doubt, the owners themselves.
It may be intentional that the superintendent is excused from these duties because he or she has many other fish to fry. Sometimes it simply might not occur to course owners and managers that the superintendent can help in this area.
Don’t get me wrong: As a superintendent myself, I have mixed emotions about being given this duty. On one hand, I am already pretty busy (especially this time of year), and without me and my staff working to provide a stellar golf course, it would be difficult for anyone to grow the game. Besides, by doing the best I can to produce a great golf course, I’m already helping to grow the game by making it more appealing to would-be golfers.
On the other hand, I also see the benefits of taking a more proactive and promotional role. After all, the success of this industry directly impacts me and other superintendents as much as it does golf professionals, owners and everyone else employed on a golf course. We need the game to thrive and grow as much as anyone.
So what can we superintendents do? I think the answer to this question varies from operation to operation, as well as from person to person. It also varies based on the time of year. For instance, the summer of 2017 has been hot and dry here in the Pacific Northwest, and my long work weeks have been consumed with keeping turfgrass alive and healthy. This is not the time for me to dedicate a lot of effort to growing the game. During a summer like this, the most beneficial thing I can do for the game is provide the best golf course I can.
But the winter, when the rains move in and my time is not quite as precious, is a good time to think about how I can help attract golfers to the game.
The first thing that comes to mind is something many superintendents are no doubt doing already: speaking in front of local classes brought to your course. If you think about it, during these opportunities you’re not only talking about your job and duties as a superintendent, you’re also selling the game to these kids, many of whom have never been on a golf course before that day.
Another way supers can help golf grow is to involve your own kids in the game, which usually results in some of their friends getting into it as well. Nothing sells golf and removes the intimidation like getting out on the course and playing other people who are learning the game.
As you probably know, there are many great programs in place to help grow the game, such as Discover Golf, Get Golf Ready and The First Tee Program. But even with the success of these and other programs, it can’t hurt to have superintendents doing their part, too. What that actually entails will vary greatly from one super to the next, but just think what strides can be made if we all try to do at least a little promoting here and there, when we can.