Setting the Right Communications Standards for Golf Course Maintenance
Ask anyone in the golf industry if they think communication is important when it comes to setting and maintaining high standards for golf course maintenance and they’ll respond with a resounding “Yes!” Now ask those same individuals if they’ve formalized a thorough communications schedule at their own course and we’re going to bet the response is “Well, sort of.”
This can be a problem. Why? Because failure to maintain a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly communications schedule can lead to surprises—and not in a good way. Consider the impact on your team when greens are not up to par, improperly sprayed applications result in damaged turf, or schedule snafus interrupt play and result in unhappy club members or wasted labor costs.
The list of what can go wrong is long, but the solution is simple: Set a detailed communications schedule and stick to it. It’s good for your team, your budget and your players—and here’s how to do it.
Make Communication a Daily Habit
First and foremost, encourage honest daily communication between your superintendent and golf pro. It doesn’t have to be formal, it just has to happen and when it does, make sure information is shared on everything from the play schedule, to golf course maintenance activities, to the expected influx of players and of course, players’ comments on course conditions, good or bad.
Likewise, keep the communications channels open between the golf pro, superintendent and the locker room attendants, club staff, and if applicable, the caddy master. These are the people at the frontlines and often they’re the first to hear members’ or players’ unfiltered insights on conditions. Ask your superintendent and golf pro to make a point of checking in with these folks on a regular basis.
Schedule a Weekly Staff Meeting
In addition to an informal daily meeting between the superintendent and golf pro/pro shop, it’s also wise to schedule a more formal weekly staff meeting at which your superintendent, assistant superintendent, general manager, golf pro and food and beverage management gather.
At this meeting, you’ll want to go over upcoming events, ongoing golf course maintenance and/or changes to the grounds, and any current or upcoming golf course maintenance that will affect or impact events or play. Again, knowledge shared at this meeting helps eliminate surprises, encourages respect among the team, and keeps everyone informed and able to use their expertise to best effect.
Ask for a Weekly Superintendent Report, Course Drive & Bulletin Board Update
If you’re not already receiving one, ask your superintendent to report on the course weekly and make sure this information is shared amongst the club’s leadership. The written report should include a synopsis of current operational efforts and any directional changes due to the latest golf course conditions.
It’s also a good idea to schedule a weekly course drive with the superintendent and the general manager and/or the green committee chair for private clubs. Seeing is believing and there’s no better way to update everyone on conditions than actually touring the course.
At the same time, ask your superintendent to post a brief update on golf course conditions on the pro shop or locker rooms bulletin boards. The update should cover cultural and golf course maintenance activities on the course as well as a quick report on playability, i.e. greens conditions and speed. If you have a blog, newsletter or twitter feed, schedule and assign updates. Remember, your players are your customers and they, too, like to be informed.
Make Sure Monthly Communications Keep the Big Picture In Mind
While managing the day-to-day is a big part of everyone’s job, keeping track of progress on seasonal and annual goals should also be part of your communications protocol.
A written monthly report from your superintendent to the general manager should detail progress on goals, expected timelines for milestones and explanation of any deviations to the annual plan.
The owner, and for private clubs the green committee, should also receive a similar report and solicit their feedback on golf course issues. Keep them informed on any obstacles to the plan’s progress and what the proposed solutions are. The superintendent should schedule a monthly course ride with the general manager and club leadership to ensure they know how the course is doing and what steps are being taken to maintain top conditions.
Schedule a monthly meeting to go over the operational calendar with the superintendent, general manager, pro shop, and the head of the men’s and women’s clubs. Discuss agronomic practices and review how these are impacting course conditions and player access. Use this opportunity to get feedback from these key members of your team and integrate this information into future planning.
A monthly meeting between your key staff and tournament director as well as special events coordinator is also a good idea. Finally, for private clubs, if your board of directors meets monthly, put it on the communications calendar and make sure that your superintendent attends.
Keep it Going Quarterly and Annually
Every four months, schedule a course drive with your agronomist and review conditions. General manager, green committee chair (if applicable), superintendent, golf pro and any other important committee or board members should be invited.
On annual basis, conduct an end-of-year-review and a planning session to prioritize initiatives, formalize processes and create a game plan for the coming year. Include a review and planning session for equipment, as well as for agronomic and operational initiatives.
Your annual planning session and review of the golf and agronomic calendar is one of the most important communication meetings of the year. Pure and simple, it’s scheduling for success. During this process, you’ll schedule key agronomic events at times most appropriate to guarantee their greatest success and the course’s fastest recovery, as well as important golf events when the course will be at its best without conflicting with critical agronomic activities. Too often, the golf events will get scheduled without considering key agronomic events which often results in less affective agronomic programs and less than satisfactory playing conditions for the golfing events.
And of course, safety first. Have an emergency response plan in place and review it annually to make sure it’s still on target for helping your golf course recover in the event of storms and/or other natural disasters.
And Don’t Forget…
In addition to daily, weekly, monthly, and annual meetings and planning sessions, don’t forget these small, but potentially important gatherings and communications opportunities, including:
- Industry meetings – Make sure someone from your staff represents your golf course at regional and national conferences and trade meetings.
- Community meetings – Your golf course is a big part of your community. Volunteer your expertise at civic meetings, nearby schools and community groups and contribute your knowledge on matters such as water management and resource conservation.
- Chamber of commerce and tourism meetings—Again, your golf course contributes to your community’s standing in the eyes of visitors. Have a representative who can speak for you and contribute.
- Peer-to-Peer – Encourage your staff to visit other golf courses in the area and to let the pro or superintendent know when they’ll be there. A cross current of information is good for everyone.
- Language courses – Provide opportunities for your golf pro and superintendent to increase their language skills for better communication with the golf course maintenance crews.
It’s a Team Effort
The goal of a detailed and formalized communications plan is to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and to eliminate unwanted surprises, but the by-product of good communication is mutual respect and that’s worth a lot. Keep everyone informed, keep honest communication ongoing, and keep standards at your golf course and among your team high.