Whenever anyone asks me which month is my busiest of the year on the golf course, they are always surprised when I answer September. They are no doubt expecting me to say June or July, or maybe even August. But September? Really?
Don’t get me wrong – the busiest time of the year for the golf course (talking rounds played here) definitely is the summer – June, July and August. However, that doesn’t always mean that this is a golf course superintendent’s busiest time.
Compare a superintendent to an airline pilot (I know, I know, they are so often compared). Although I’ve never flown a jet, I’m fairly certain the most difficult time for a pilot would be the beginning of a flight, through take-off and the initial climb, as well as the landing process. The middle stage – when the plane is leveled off and floating at a comfy altitude – is when autopilot is engaged and things are a little less stressful.
Now, I’m not saying that summertime is a walk in the park for superintendents. It is the season when our golf courses are at their busiest, and it is the time of year when we strive for that high-water mark of maintenance. Summer is when we aim for optimum playability – our very best conditions.
But, the truth is, we are all pretty good at providing those conditions. We know what it takes, and summer weather (more often than not) accommodates us. Fine-tuning in midsummer takes adjustments, tweaks and alterations. An extra roll here, a little topdressing there. A midsummer knifing here, a wetting agent application there. Lowering the height of cut here, adding some bunker sand there.
You get the point.
For most golf courses, spring and fall are really the time to get some serious hardcore maintenance done. Plugs start to take over the golf course as we aerify greens, tees, fairways and rough. We begin to wrap up the irrigation season. Off-season projects are planned and started. Those once-green and thriving leaves suddenly become a major headache as they start to fall from the trees and find their way onto greens, tees, fairways and into bunkers. And the grass itself seems to grow as fast as it did in mid-summer (if not faster).
Fall can be the time when things really start to heat up (no pun intended). It’s the time of year you start losing that valuable seasonal staff. The number of jobs don’t necessarily decrease yet, but the number of workers available to do them does. Fall is stressful for not only supers, but the entire maintenance staff as crew members are asked to do more work in basically the same amount of time.
One thing I’ve done to combat this problem is to no longer allow spring or fall vacations for my full-time staff. But I do now allow them to take summer vacations, something years ago I would not have considered. Despite the high-maintenance demands of summer, I simply find it easier and less stressful to schedule time off for the workers in midsummer. And, let’s face it, that is the time of year everyone would like a little time off, right? If it can be done, why not make it work?
September is that transition month for many of us – that rather sudden move from the hot, dry season into the cooler, wetter season. And, of course, transitioning into the shorter days as well. As we slip further from the solstice over two months earlier, we realize again one of the reasons September can be so challenging is that very lack of sunlight itself.
So much to do, so little time.
Those words, more than any, define the month for me.
Now, please, let me get back to work!