As a golf course superintendent, I make it a point to put myself in positions – if I’m able – that don’t stress me out. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly obsessed with avoiding stress, but let’s just say I keep this high on my to-do list.
Avoiding stress mainly means planning, organizing, imagining worst-case scenarios and figuring out an outcome that can keep me from slipping into the unknown, which is where stress is born.
So it’s a bit ironic that, this summer, I’ve found myself in a position of stress that I have basically put upon myself. This stress can be blamed on nobody but me.
Let me provide a little backstory here. This summer, the Pacific Northwest has been a record-breaker for not only dryness, but high temperatures. I’ve lived in western Washington for almost 18 years, and never have I experienced a season that reminded me so much of a good old Midwestern summer.
So, of course, with dry and hot summers come dry and hot golf courses, and all the goodies that follow. Of all these “goodies,” the health of the greens usually weighs largest of all.
In this part of the country, Poa annua greens reign supreme, but keeping Poa alive and happy in 90-plus temps day in and day out can be challenging. Superintendents’ stress levels are sure to be tested with all the stress suddenly put on the greens.
In fact, I recently talked with a fellow super who firmly believes his own personal health and stress levels are in direct correlation with that of the greens at his golf course. If the greens are healthy and playability optimum, he’s happy. If the greens are diseased or stressed in some fashion, he’s a time bomb ready to go off.
Now, I wouldn’t go too far with this thinking myself, but I do believe that my own stress can be significantly lessened if I can lower the stress of the greens.
But, as they say in Ireland, that’s the rub. There are other factors to consider than making greens fat and happy. If that’s all we had to do, it wouldn’t be nearly as hard.
Golfers demand greens of a certain quality. And, of course, we want to provide that for them. Truth be known, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if all we had to do was provide fat, healthy greens. We welcome the challenge, even if that means some uncertain times.
Modern-day superintendents know how to manipulate their greens. It is a strength born of necessity. If we hadn’t adapted or, for the younger supers, learned these skills, we would have been passed by.
Whatever it takes to provide top-notch greens, we do. We core them, topdress them, roll them, verticut them, lower or raise the height of cut on them. We apply wetting agents and plant growth regulators. And we spoon-feed them the proper levels of fertility, just enough to keep them alive sometimes. We keep them lean. We live on the edge.
And in periods of hot and dry, like this summer in the Pacific Northwest (and every summer for most of you), we try to balance that line between keeping them top-notch and just plain alive.
This is where my self-imposed stress comes in. Although most superintendents know at some level that they need to keep the greens in a certain condition, we don’t really need to be told. We want that ourselves. To a certain degree, we stress out the greens ourselves, and thus stress out ourselves.
Why? Because we’re proud of the product. We want firm and fast and true greens. And even though this can be next to impossible in certain conditions, we still try. It’s what we do.
So call it self-imposed stress, or compulsive disorder, or maybe just call us crazy. Taking on stress headfirst is the true test of character.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALIJA/SIGNATURE/ISTOCK