Why a golf course superintendent?
A lot of people say: “I like being outside.” Honestly, I hate being outside, I hate the sun and I am not much a fan of the heat. I like a challenge, I perform best when challenged and this profession does that every day. It also offers an opportunity to build programs and systems, which allow conditions to improve over time. I like taking all the possible inputs and coming up with a recipe that results in the best possible playing conditions. I love golf, I love systems, observation, deduction and I like developing strong relationships. All of these are important parts of this job and that’s why I was drawn to this profession.
What is your favorite part of your job, least favorite?
My favorite part is developing a system to make what we do as efficient as possible. My least favorite; the fact I actually have to be outside.
Are you a cat or dog person?
Beer or wine?
I like both, but I love beer. I love the brewing process for the same reason I love my job. You take inputs and create a recipe in order to produce the best product. With each brew you get a better system and ultimately a better product.
What would you say are the three most important elements in successful golf course management?
Observation, deduction and reaction. Does not matter if it is managing turf, or people, if you can do these three things you can solve any problem.
How do you keep your staff motivated?
I think the most important motivator is to let them know they are an important part of the operation. If an employee is on the golf course feeling as though what they do is a part of the success, then they will be motivated. I let all my employees know that their opinions matter, that I want to hear what they think. Then, when they come to me with an idea; I listen.
What’s the best bit of professional advice ever tossed your way?
Listening, rather than talking is what makes a strong leader.
What did you learn that they never taught you in college?
The vast number of responsibilities a golf course superintendent has on a daily basis.
So, a big greasy double cheeseburger for lunch, or some sort of tofu ball?
Not a tofu fan, but I’d take it over the cheeseburger for sure. My lunch usually consists of a can of tuna. I am a simple guy, with simple tastes. However, we have a guy on crew who brings a zip-loc bag of cookies for everyone every day. They are hard to resist!
What achievements are you most proud of?
Personally, I am most proud of being a son, brother, husband and a dad. My wife Lindsay stays at home with our girls and her job is way more difficult than mine. I have tremendous pride and respect in what she does every day. We were at a Twins game last week with our daughters, who are 5 and almost 3. After the game, every one sitting around us told us how wonderful our girls were. Comments like that are priceless and give my wife and me a huge amount of pride.
Professionally, I am proud of everything I have achieved. My assistant at Northland, Jake Ryan interviewed and was hired to replace me. He had to go through the process, with no assurance of getting the job. He got, and that made me very proud. Every job I have gotten has brought me a tremendous sense of pride, because each one fulfilled a goal and brought me one step closer to where I am today. At the time, getting the job as assistant at St. Cloud CC, right out of school felt just as good as it did getting the Hazeltine job last November. Obviously being at a Club like Hazeltine at such an early stage of my career, is something that elicits a tremendous sense of pride.
Name your top superintendent influences.
I have worked for three superintendents: Tom Kasner, at my hometown course in Albany, MN, Bill Larson at Town & Country Club in St. Paul and Dan Hanson at St. Cloud Country Club in St. Cloud, MN. Each one of them was influential in my career in their own special way. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for elements I learned from each of them. Also, Jeff Johnson at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis is a great friend and influence. While we have never worked together, we have always used each other as sounding boards for what each one is doing and seeing on their course. I think we have both helped to make the other one better.
Few people know I like to…
Watch Formula 1 racing. It is something I liked when I was a kid, but got away from it when I went to college and started working at golf courses. Recently came back to it. I enjoy the speed and excitement, but I also really like the engineering of the cars. Much like this job, and brewing beer, Formula 1 engineers must work from a set of inputs to achieve the best possible result. Observation, deduction and reaction are what make them successful. When they race in Asia, I get up in the middle of the night to watch. My wife thinks I am nuts! Thankfully those races are in the spring and fall.
Do you collect anything, and why?
I tried a couple of collections when I was younger, but none of them really stuck. I think the most collection-y thing I have is golf hats. I tend to buy a hat when I play somewhere. My wife has threatened to throw them away one at a time. She says I would never notice, I would, I am pretty sure.
Worst place you have ever slept?
I can sleep pretty much anywhere, but I am not one for putting myself in uncomfortable sleeping situations. I once discovered a house I was living in had a mouse, which was probably about the worst.
What are your favorite things to do away from work?
Spending time with my family, golfing, grilling and trying to keep from doing things that involve being outside for any extended period.
If you had to choose between a day of fishing or answering these questions, which would it be?
Easy: answering these questions. Fishing obviously involves being outside, being hot and another of my least favorite things, touching fish.
Chris is currently the Golf Course
Superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club