Improve Your Golf Course Management

by Jonathan Williams, Superintendent, Sewailo Golf Club

Hopefully, like myself, golfers everyday are trying to find a way to better their golf games. Some golfers attempt to achieve success by trying the latest and greatest shafts, club heads, or training aids. Others by spending hours hitting balls downrange toward (and past) the 250 yard flag at their local driving range. For me the goal is to improve on multiple fronts: better ball striking, better putting, better course management and better course management (hopefully you noticed the repetition). In my experience, better course management is achieved by playing more golf and testing myself in unique scenarios on the course, but with one small caveat, I could possibly control the outcome of certain shots before I hit the ball. Would you believe if I failed to play golf I could possibly promote you not to enjoy golf? That I could raise your handicap? How is that possible? The reason… I am a golf course superintendent and my job is golf course management.

For some of you, depending on where you play or who your superintendent is, this idea could be a scary preposition. How much do you know about your superintendent? Do you have an understanding of his or her role, recognize his problems, or realize his contributions to the enjoyment of the game? I will not dabble in the difficulties of a golf course superintendent (weather, financials, water, etc.) but will point out that they directly influence course conditions, or more specifically, one gauge of course conditions: the degree of satisfaction of those who play their course. It is obvious that conditions of the course are entirely subjective. The 7:30 foursome could desire a firm, fast and lean course, whereas, the 7:40 time wants a soft and receptive green with deep lush fairways. For these reasons the superintendent should receive some resemblance of a pardon. I was attempting to put this “pardon” idea into play last week.

I played at two local clubs and found the superintendent had a direct effect on my game. Should a superintendent give a superintendent a pardon? What if the pardon is on a golf course condition directly within the superintendent’s control? One thing is for sure, I could have bet my favorite golf club that the superintendent at those clubs were not golfers. I would wager that the golf courses with the best playability are ones where the superintendent plays regularly or is a devout steward of the game of golf. Nobody wants impossible conditions to play but what if the person that defines the conditions does not play golf and never realizes the challenge that the course is presenting.

So, superintendents who golf more will be better superintendents, does the opposite reign true? Golfers who become better course managers (superintendents) will be better golfers.

Remember that the superintendent can have a critical influence on the game of golf by his golf philosophy. If you understand the (your) superintendent’s philosophies you will be more prepared for what lies on the course. Short game conditions can be dramatically impacted by moisture conditions, mowing heights, etc. Tee shots can be drastically affected by vegetation. Bunker shots can be affected by multiple conditions including sand composition and its influences by frequency of watering, style of raking, and original sand structure. Not to mention how much you could improve upon your putting if you understood greens maintenance and construction. If you are unaware of these conditions and complexities and how they have a direct effect on how you should play then you are leaving stokes on the course. Next time you see the golf course superintendent do yourself a favor and grill him (her) on some difficult questions… “How often do you golf?” “What type of playing conditions are you aiming for daily?” “When can we play together?” I guarantee it will be the most inexpensive and economical way to lower strokes or at the very least understand and enjoy golf more.