Summer and stress. They go together like chips and salsa. Yin and yang. Thunder and lightning. In fact, I doubt it is even possible for a golf course superintendent to go through a summer stress free. Is it? Please tell me I’m not the only one experiencing this?

I’m not talking turf stress here. I’m talking good ol’ fashion stress of the mind — pull-your-hair-out-and-pop-about-eight-aspirin-a-day stress.

Having been in the business of golf course management for 20 years now, I can say without hesitation I’ve dealt with my share of seasonal stress over the years. And I can also tell you the key to dealing with these summer stresses is preparation. Knowing they are coming. Not getting blindsided.

When you think about it, if you actually know a certain “situation” is coming, can it therefore really be considered a stressful situation?

Can you plan for stress?

I think you can. I think being aware of the headaches that may crop up in a typical busy season can actually minimize their ability to stress you out.

How’s that for being proactive?

Top Five Stresses of Summer for the Superintendent

So here are five possible “situations” that will most likely try to crop up during the summer. If you plan for them, you might just save a few bucks on aspirin (as well as hair replacement products).

  1. Irrigation woes. Doesn’t seem to matter if you’re at the high-end country club with the new irrigation system (although this probably does actually help), or the nine-hole municipal with the 32-year-old system, irrigation troubles are going to crop up … and more than likely on the hottest day of the year as well. Plan on it.
  2. Scheduling conflicts. A tournament today? A shotgun tournament? Whaaaaat?
  3. Seasonal help issues. It will most likely be on the busiest, most important weekend of the summer when three of your five seasonal workers come down with a mysterious summer “bug” at the same time, leaving you shorthanded when you absolutely, positively cannot be shorthanded. It will
  4. Equipment failure. At some point your No. 1 fairway mower, your best approach mower, your trusty tee mower and your top two greens mowers will go down. AT THE SAME TIME.
  5. Global warming. This goes hand in hand with irrigation woes. Is it just me or are these darn summers getting hotter and hotter?

Now don’t get overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. You’ll feel better.

Top Five Positives of Summer for the Superintendent

With the stresses out of the way, let’s focus on the positives — the good stuff that comes with our jobs during the summer. The perks of the season that make the job of golf course superintendent the wonderful profession so many of us chose.

Let’s be honest, summer can be more than a bit overwhelming on the golf course. So much is going on, both from a rounds-played standpoint, as well as agronomical. Often the desire for extreme playability conditions can drive a superintendent to the edge of sanity.

So it’s nice to know there are good things that come along with the season. Here are five perks — things that counterbalance those stresses put upon us:

  1. That visual reward. We all have a time of year when our golf course peaks. A week or so each year that it shines the absolute brightest. For myself that time is usually about mid-June, before the heat — and the stresses associated with that heat — set in. I’m sure you have several locations throughout your property to revel in the beauty you’ve helped create. Sit back and smell those roses.
  2. You get to golf. The great thing about meticulously fine-tuning a golf course, as well as making it play as challenging and as fairly as it possibly can, is the fact that you get to play it as well. For veteran superintendents especially, I think we tend to forget what a great perk this is. For almost all of us it was that initial love of the game that drew us to the job in the first place. Don’t lose sight of that.
  3. There are professional athletes who shine brightest when the pressure is at its most extreme — the ones who relish in those big moments, with the cameras recording their every move.

Summer is the time of year when superintendents get to show what they are made of as well. Midseason is when the cameras are aimed at us. The cameras I’m referring to our figurative for most of us, but for those hosting tournaments on one of the professional tours, those cameras can be literal as well.

All of us have that competitive nature inside of us where we want to do our best when the pressure is on. To show what we’re made of. Without those challenges, the job would be nowhere near rewarding as it is.

4. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Or maybe it’s because I live in western Washington where it rains all fall, winter and spring. Whatever the reason, you can’t beat a job that has you outside on glorious warm summer days.

5. And for our final perk, a quote from Charles Bowden. “Summertime is always the best of what might be.”

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