As the General Manager, with assistance from GSI Executive Search, you’ve just filled a key vacancy on your staff by hiring an excellent candidate to become your next Golf Course Superintendent.
While filling this position is certainly a win for the club, the real process is only just beginning. So, don’t turn your back and let your new Superintendent take the wheel just yet. Now is the time to steer your new hire on a path to ultimate success.
It’s a given that he or she knows how to grow quality turfgrass and possesses many other necessary skills to provide your members with great course conditions, but how much does your hire know about how your club works and operates? Knowing the culture of your club and the inner workings is a crucial factor to a positive, long-term relationship with a new hire.
It is your job to teach him or her, rather than relying on someone else to do it. It’s very important that you spend quite a bit of time with your new hire, learning about them and giving them the opportunity to meet the other staff members. Additionally, allow them a few minutes at your next managers meeting to address the leadership team and tell them about their background, education, and experience that has led him or her to be selected for this new position. Obviously, there should be many valid reasons why you hired this person. So, it’s incumbent upon you to let your entire management team know those reasons from day one and show them that the new Superintendent has your full support.
The next step in this process is to begin talking to your Superintendent about the club’s culture. Every club has its own unique culture and it’s important for the new Superintendent to begin to develop an understanding of your club’s nuances and uniqueness. As your superintendent begins to meet and interact with members, it’s critical that he or she is comfortable talking to them. A very important part of the Superintendent’s job is to educate the members on what the Agronomy Department is doing, and more importantly, why they perform certain maintenance practices. It could even be helpful to encourage more personal interaction with the members, like occasionally dining in the members grill or attending club events.
Make sure that you require your Superintendent to attend all committee meetings, budget meetings, and Board meetings. Many clubs don’t require this or forget to invite the Superintendent to these important meetings. Since the golf course maintenance operation typically has the largest budget, the largest staff, and maintains the largest club asset (the golf course itself), it’s critical that the Superintendent be present at all meetings that pertain to all club issues that could affect the Agronomy Department. The old sayin goes, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
As we know, the golf industry is built and strengthened by enhancing relationships. As the General Manager and the Superintendent’s supervisor, it is often a great idea to take occasional field trips together. There are no better places to get to know someone better than on a golf course or over a meal. GSI consultants recommend playing golf at neighboring golf courses, including your club’s competitors. It gives you and your Superintendent ample time to talk about your club and how to make it better by seeing what others are doing well and what they could be doing better. These trips present great opportunities get to know each other better both personally and professionally, which in most cases translates to better communication and working relationships back at your home club.
Lastly, one of the absolute best perks of our industry is the opportunity to network with fellow professionals in the business. GSI Principals and Ethos Club and Leisure Consultants believe that allowing your Superintendent to attend local, state, and national educational meetings and conferences pays huge dividends for you club. By getting to know as many fellow superintendents, educators, turf grass scientists, and others in our industry as they can greatly expands the available resources your Superintendent can rely on if they need advice on a particular issue that might affect your club. No one person knows everything there is to know about agronomy and other golf course maintenance issues, so having a base of fellow professionals to rely on is good for your Superintendent. Your Superintendent should feel comfortable reciprocating with fellow superintendents. While the golf industry is a large business from an economic impact standpoint, it is composed of a relatively small fraternity of individuals. The cost to the club to support these networking opportunities will pay off many times over in the long term.
So, as you can see, while the hiring process to find the perfect candidate might have seemed like the majority of the work, it doesn’t stop there. Building a relationship with your new Superintendent, allowing them to explore other clubs, and offering them continued education will lead your new hire down a path to success in their position, ultimately benefits your membership and club.
Mark J. Woodward, CGCS
Principal, GSI Search Consultant
Head Agronomy Consultant
Ethos Club and Leisure