Well, at least the calendar portion of 2018 has ended. With images of saturated and seared turf lingering and labor equations not computing superintendents stagger into a new year with one thought: It can’t get much tougher.
Polled in December as part of Golf Course Industry’s annual State of the Industry survey, 90 percent of superintendents indicated the job is tougher now than when they entered the business. Don’t look for that statistic in any GCSAA or turf school marketing campaign.
From weather swings – What happened to spring and fall in many cool-weather regions? – to shrinking labor pools, managing pristine playgrounds on budgets struggling to keep pace with inflation required athlete grit, actor charisma and artist ingenuity. But conquering enormous challenges such as recovering from a flood, hurricane or wildfire, preserving greens with shallow roots because spring never arrived, and completing the work of 15 with a crew of 10 provides lasting fulfillment.
“It’s hard to say which years are tougher, because you know how revisionist history can be,” says Jim Huntoon, superintendent at Heritage Club in Pawleys Island, S.C. “But as I have done this longer, I have gotten better at dealing with it. You get better at understanding there are things you can’t control, and you just prepare the best you can and figure it out.”
Results of the survey, now in its eighth year, won’t simplify a tough job. But they should prove reassuring and provide snapshots of budgets and attitudes following a year that has thankfully ended.
“I’m optimistic 2019 is going to be a better year, because I can’t imagine we can have a repeat of 2018,” says Robert Alonzi Jr., a second-generation superintendent at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.
A couple of details about our methodology. Golf Course Industry administered the survey online via SurveyMonkey. The survey, which was demanding because of the budget detail we asked for, generated 186 responses, with 53 percent of respondents working at private golf courses. As an incentive to complete the survey, Golf Course Industry committed to making a substantial donation to the Wee One Foundation, a charity group started in the memory of Wayne Otto, CGCS, that helps superintendents and other turf professionals in need.