GSI Executive Search Blog

Great Hires Lead to Success

As a General Manager, one of your primary responsibilities is to develop the strongest team possible to assist you in running your golf club. This includes hiring the best possible candidate for each and every position at the club, but particularly for your leadership team. One of these key leadership positions is your golf course superintendent or director of agronomy, the person responsible for managing your golf course maintenance operation as well as course conditioning and agronomy.

There is so much that goes into being a good superintendent at golf clubs today.  If you have the right person in this position, it can significantly reduce the responsibility of the general manager, allowing this person to take on a key role of helping to educate your membership on what is really happening out on the golf course, and more importantly, why it’s happening. In today’s world, at top golf clubs across the country it is estimated that the best superintendents and directors of agronomy spend only about 40% percent of their day related to resolving actual agronomy issues. The other 60% is dedicated to a myriad of other important issues that help enhance your club and relieve some of the communication burden between the membership and other staff members from the GM. The more educated everyone is, the more advocacy and support the club management receives.

Great superintendents and directors of agronomy are truly some of the most well-rounded employees at the club. They typically manage the largest budget and the largest staff and are responsible for the club’s largest asset -- the golf course itself. In many cases, they are well educated and can bring great value to the management team.

Some key attributes to look for in superintendents and directors of agronomy that in turn can set your club apart from others include:

  • They must be strong HR specialists accustomed to dealing with a large diverse staff. This is particularly important with today’s labor market being so challenging. Most golf courses in the U.S. struggle with keeping dedicated, loyal employees long-term. Having someone with the talent to hire good people, train them, motivate them, and reward and recognize them so the employees “want” to come work each day and perform a critical function for the club cannot be overstated. Most members join a golf club to play on a highly conditioned course. The golf course maintenance staff provides those conditions, and many times under very difficult circumstances and adverse weather conditions.
  • The best superintendents and directors of agronomy are excellent communicators and perform a key function of helping to educate the members on golf course maintenance activities. This is a critical skill in that club rumors and misinformation of what is really happening on the course often spread rapidly amongst the membership, causing more work for everyone involved in putting out unnecessary fires.
  • Great superintendents and directors of agronomy are also highly skilled at working with local, state, and federal regulatory agencies when it comes to dealing with risk management, which includes above-ground fuel vaults, pesticide management and chemical storage, wash-rack run-off, employee safety, HR, and numerous other issues that help keep the club in compliance, avoiding legal concerns and potential fines.
  • Superintendents also must excel in developing and managing very large budgets while being fiscally accountable, and then managing those budgets so the club’s goals are met at every financial level. They should perfect their speaking, writing, and presentation skills so they can justify all expenditures in the club’s largest budget.
  • The top superintendents in the country are also proficient scientists, botanists, chemists, and horticulturalists.

As you can see, great superintendents and directors of agronomy must have skills and talents having nothing to do with agronomics and growing turfgrass. These skills can make a difference at your club and set it apart from others in your area.

Our GSI Executive Search and Ethos Club and Leisure consultants have a combined 80 years of experience managing all different types of golf courses. We can help your club manage the hiring process, taking the burden off the club to find the best slate of candidates for the club leadership to interview. By managing the process from start to finish, we allow the other club leadership members and board of directors to continue to focus on their daily tasks. We will handle all the behind-the-scenes legwork for you and bring forward only the most qualified candidates, assuring that you are talking to the best of the best. In other words, one call does it all.

Mark J. Woodward, CGCS                                                                                             
Principal, GSI Search Consultant                        
Head Agronomy Consultant

Shawn Emerson
Ethos Club and Leisure, Agronomy Consultant