Being the ambitious type, as most of the superintendents that I know are, I took a leap of faith in 2008. I left a head superintendent’s job at Fort Dodge Country Club in Iowa to grow in Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea, Minn. The tease was not only the experience of getting to grow in a new course with modern technology and turf varieties; it was also a carrot that I would be asked to serve as the superintendent and the head golf professional. That is something that I was and still am excited about. Did I know what I was getting into? By no means!
I have been passionate about golf since I was a young child. I have been passionate about maintaining golf courses almost as long. The opportunity I was given in Albert Lea at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club was irresistible. I have had some great relationships in the business with exceptional people on both sides of the golf business. I would say that I know as many golf professionals as I do superintendents. That is not to say that I did not take the golf professional side a little lightly when I jumped into this project. After all, I had been a superintendent, and I was walking into a construction project that needed a turf guy first. That is where I spent all of my time throughout the construction/grow-in phase on the project.
We finished seeding the course in October of 2008, and things had gone exceptionally well. I suddenly realized that the following year we were going to have a pro shop open, and I was not sure where to start on that end. I have long felt that knowing someone who has the answers is more beneficial than attempting to have all the answers oneself. So, I reached out to some of my friends in the golf professional world and received a crash course. I have been on an accelerated learning curve ever since. I have found that the challenge of being a golf course superintendent, which I relish, is often eased and sometimes magnified by wearing the both hats.
The positives are numerous. The communication between the pro shop and the maintenance staff is seamless. The goals for the golf course are clearly understood and articulated between both departments. Golfers quite often bring their comments to me in the pro shop, and I have the ability to explain things to them on the spot or make immediate changes to the maintenance of the golf course. Of course, none of this would be possible if it were not for the exceptional individuals who work with me. By wearing both hats, I have been forced to become a better leader. The communication, leadership, time management, training of staff, and delegation that I knew was important became a necessity.
There are certainly challenges as well. Being in two places at once is obviously impossible, but it would come in handy sometimes. While I still open up the maintenance building and meet with my assistant every morning, I miss the time spent with the maintenance staff on the golf course. It has been a great ride so far, and I cannot wait for next season.
The golf course business is challenging right now, and the opportunities to accept additional responsibilities may come your way. If you are willing to take them on, you can become even more of an asset to your employer. If you are interested in focusing on the golf course maintenance side of the business, that is great. I would challenge you to take a day in this next year and job shadow the golf professional, the accountant, the chef, or someone else outside of your department. I think you will find a new appreciation for what both you and they do for the facility.