Don’t Let the Dog Days of Summer Get to You!
Does this sound familiar? Rain is now being recorded in feet. You have missed or delayed agronomic practices every week. You haven’t cut the fairways in two weeks. Your mechanic has towed rough mowers out of wet spots more often than he has sharpened reels. You have pushed up bunkers countless times only to have them blown out the following day. Your blowers already have more hours blowing clippings than leaves last fall. You have skipped mowing greens one or two days a week. The greens haven’t seen a roller in four days. Green speeds are at a snail’s pace. The only thing you have spent more money on other than bunker pumping and repair is on post and rope to divert cart traffic. Members are complaining about green speed and firmness. The pro shop is missing 3 carts and 2 members that were apparently lost in the rough. The temps are now in the 90s, and the root structure has been compromised from saturated soils. Why are you watering? Club Championship or Invitational is during the hottest week of the year. Oh yeah…the 6” mainline between 7 and 8 blew out. And did I mention…you can now putt with the flagstick in? Call me crazy, but does this sum up your 2019 so far?
As we get into the craziness of summer, don’t let the day-to-day grind beat you up. It is very easy to completely submerge yourself in the problems that you face every day. Hours turn into days, days to weeks, and soon a month has gone by and you haven’t had a day off. There is an overwhelming drive to be at the course from sun up to sun down to solve all the problems or find new ones. The “To Do” list gets longer every day. Well, here’s the reality. That laundry list will never get smaller. Why? We have a great group of driven dedicated individuals with tremendous work ethics in this industry constantly seeking improvement. Sometimes too much so. I haven’t met a group of people that “do more with less” every day than those working in the golf course industry. Golfer expectations are not going down at any course…public, private, large budget or small. So…what are you to do?
I say keep looking to improve your course, do more with less, and keeping providing great playing conditions. However, I am writing this blog to say don’t get burned out chasing perfection. Take some time to recharge during these dog days of summer. Don’t go long stretches without some sort of time away. It is proven that a small time away will actually improve your work performance. Take the time to schedule a day out of the office if you can. Spend time with your family and friends or enjoy time to yourself for a day and turn your cell phone off even for a few hours. Spend some time prioritizing what is really important and necessary to accomplish in a given time frame and when it’s completed get away for half a day. Empower your assistants to make improvements or add to the “To Do” list in your absence. They will probably embrace the responsibility. Oh, and when you return, give them a day off as well, and I bet they return rejuvenated.
I am a third-generation superintendent and have been in the business for over 25 years. One of the biggest changes in the industry that I have seen is the stress and expectations put on superintendents. There has been some banter on Twitter discussing mental health in our industry recently. I agree wholeheartedly and hope we see some educational classes offered soon. Contrary to the public opinion, we are in a high demand, high-stress industry. It’s not just the dog days of summer I blame either. “Well, you get time off in the winter.” How many times have you heard that? Those days are gone. I suppose technically they are correct. Your workweek does go from 60-80 hours per week to 50-60? Tree programs, capital expense planning, aerification, drainage installation, budget prep and meetings, construction projects, educational seminars, pesticide credit upkeep, board meetings, golf committee meetings, greens committee meetings. Also, did I mention snow removal at all hours of the day and night?
Any of these taking up any of your so-called downtime in the off-season? All of these responsibilities are why I think it is even more important to step away a day or two during mid-season when you can. The time you think you may get away in the fall or winter slowly diminishes as more and more clubs plan off-season projects. Downtime in the off-season months simply isn’t what it used to be. The grind continues all year long. Does that sound familiar?
In closing, I will say enjoy that hunt for perfect conditions. Be driven to improve your course every day, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Have fun and let your staff have fun. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first before the golf course every now and then. You and your course will be better for it! Remember that in every 60-minute NFL game, the teams get 6 timeouts to rest players, regroup, and strategize during the most critical times of the game. Give yourself a timeout when you feel the necessity!