THE GREENS COMMITTEE
A Greens Committee Chairman or member has the responsibility to oversee and direct an appreciable part of the club's expenditure on the course. Indeed the Greens Committee Chairman of most clubs is responsible for the operating budget for the major investment of the club. In larger clubs this responsibility may be shared with the Club Manager.
There can be problems with this job, and there are opportunities. Some people will say that the job of a Greens Committee Chairman or member is the most thankless task in the world. Others will say it is the most rewarding the club has to offer.
If the course is in poor condition, club operations in general are likely to be affected.
As Greens Committee Chairman or Greens Committee Member, the task is to serve your fellow-members by maintaining the type of golf course that the majority of them want. A tough layout that is a challenge to the expert may not be very enjoyable to the average golfer – of which there are so many. Certainly, the job is not to rebuild the course the way you want it as an individual.
The Chairman should be willing to learn and spend some time reading journals, pamphlets and magazines dealing with turf grasses. He or she should attend an occasional turf grass meeting with the Superintendent. A good Chairman should be an active golfer, but he need not necessarily be a highly competent player or club champion.
A good chairman should also know their limitations. They should avoid causing problems by crossing bridges that, in reality, may never have to be crossed. A golf course program of maintenance and management is an intricate combination of people, materials, pests, climate, grasses and soils. What is good for one course is not always best for the course down the road. Leave the program up to your golf course superintendent, for it is his responsibility to grow and cut grass for the playing of the game.
A good chairman need not become a turf expert. They must, however, have sufficient knowledge to be conversant with the Board and members on questions of a general nature. Tour the course some morning with the superintendent when he or she faces the challenge of the day‘s problems.
Other functions of a good Green Committee Chairman:
- Regularly liaise with club members, the Board of Directors and course operations;
- Keep up to date on members' complaints. Remember that there are no little complaints;
- Have a voice in scheduling the number of tournaments or competitions. Be sure the superintendent receives the tournament schedules and notices of special events that are of concern to his area of responsibility;
- Have a thorough knowledge of the course in its best playing conditions;
- Employ a competent and progressive golf course superintendent;
- Assist the superintendent in an advisory, budgetary and policy-making capacity. Be alert to problems involving salaries, leave provisions, fringe benefits and retirement plans;
- Have authority to close the course on appropriate occasions because of adverse weather or turf conditions. This includes authority to prohibit use of automotive golf carts when conditions justify. The chairman's authority should be vested in the superintendent during any emergency when the chairman is not available and the superintendent finds the need to close the course or restrict the use of golf carts;
- Be acquainted with the problems and the functions of the superintendent. Become a "buffer" for him with the membership;Implement any part of the long-range program scheduled for the current year.
It is the Greens Committee's role to see that course maintenance is in a high position in relation to other functions of the club. Every committee member should have a portfolio containing maps of the entire course.
Some clubs have maps of each hole, showing water lines, drainage ditches, bridges, conduits, etc. Aerial photos are excellent for this purpose. From these maps, outlines may be prepared of the architectural, agronomic and landscape needs of every hole in order to put it into top playing condition. It would be wise to consult a golf course architect as well as your own superintendent. Priorities and estimated costs should be assigned for any planned improvement.
The Greens Committee should contain a continuing nucleus of members. The best committeepersons are those who have an appreciation of maintenance problems or who are willing to learn and who will serve for a number of years. Such committee persons, however, are usually willing to serve continuously only if spared the unpleasantness of dealing with complaints from members.
Plagued by short terms, many Greens Committees today are unable to contribute significantly to the improvement of their courses. There can be no long-range planning when the chair and or committee members change faces every two years. An "improvement" completed by one committee is often removed a few years later by an entirely different group. Short-term planning is expensive and short-term committees often become liabilities.
Next to the quality of personnel, the budget is the lifeblood of the golf course maintenance program. It is one of the most important features of the committee‘s work. It is the committee's responsibility to meet, as nearly as possible, the superintendent's recommendations and the club's ability to finance. The budget should become the principal control of the club‘s program for maintenance, improvements and the purchase of new equipment during the year.
But a budget is a plan, not merely a device to control expenses – it should provide funds adequate to maintain good conditions. If at all possible, funds should be set aside for replacement of worn-out equipment. Good inventory control is important. Appropriation made available to the superintendent should not later be taken away. They should be held responsible for completion of the program within estimated costs. Any budget, however, must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the work program, emergencies, or price fluctuations.
Many golf clubs feel a need to modernise the golf course. Usually such a desire is motivated by:
- Increased use of golf course;
- A desire to improve turf-grasses and playing conditions;
- A desire to reduce maintenance costs;
- Fundamental weakness in construction design;
- Pride of membership (a desire to toughen or add new interest to the course).
Rebuilding or remodelling is not an easy task and should not be entered into lightly. Changes in the course, expense and inconvenience to members must be justified in terms of genuine course improvement.
When planning to rebuild or remodel, Turfgrass Technology‘s services should prove to be helpful. Be sure your club takes advantage of the latest information on soil mixtures for putting greens, new grasses and new techniques. Be sure the fundamentals of drainage, fertilisation and golfing turf management are fully utilised.
Someone must handle the complaints. The chairman is the logical one to stand between the membership of the other committee members and the superintendent. They definitely should assume the responsibility of receiving and dealing with complaints. Perhaps a "Suggestion Box" in the locker room will help to reduce pressure while the chairman is not around the club. Complaints and grievances seem small until they are overlooked.
The smart chairman and their committee will adopt a program of keeping the membership well informed in advance of their various moves. A notice in the club newsletter or on the locker room bulletin board notifying the membership when the greens will be scarified or cored, when re-sodding work will be done or when play will be interrupted for any other reason will save a lot of headaches and later member grumblings.
It's a good policy in another way: it helps to keep the turf management program before the members' eyes. They will enjoy knowing about course improvements. Additional publicity among the membership may be obtained by holding a dinner meeting and presenting a program on turfgrass management. Here is a wonderful opportunity to tell of the problems of turfgrass maintenance.
In recent years the old-time profession of greenkeeper has made rapid strides. Golfers continually demand higher standards of maintenance. To meet these demands, today's turf-professionals must call on the latest agricultural research and technical information. They must make use of modern equipment.
Although today's golf course superintendent is a grower of grass, the fields from which they draw their information have become extremely broad. They must have knowledge of plant nutrition, plant pathology, and entomology, weed control, watering techniques, environmental issues and an understanding of plant life in general.
They must know how to handle their workforce and members effectively. They must also have ability as a mechanic, a landscaper and a keeper of records.
They should prepare the maintenance budget. Be a planner and a purchaser. In short, they must be capable of providing a high degree of maintenance proficiency, operate economically and keep abreast of new developments.
The chairman must show their loyalty to the superintendent by supporting them with the members and by privately reserving any criticism for the superintendent. A good chairman also needs the superintendent's confidence. Thus they can not only develop important information and a better job understanding but may also create an enthusiasm for the work on the part of the superintendent.
The job has become more than one of "keeping the green." Today‘s turf-professional is an agriculturalist, a supervisor and a manager. The superintendent is responsible for the maintenance of the golf course. Given the necessary material and manpower, it is their duty to carry out the wishes of the membership as expressed by the Greens Committee.
With responsibility must go authority and in every case, therefore, the superintendent should have complete control over their crew and equipment. They should receive their orders directly from him or her. The superintendent should be answerable to the Greens Committee chairman for the overall effective maintenance of the course and carrying out of the committee‘s plans and instructions.
Some clubs will wish to have all communications and instructions from all committees (including Green) passed through their Club Manager. Certainly, the Club Manager must be responsible for all staff matters, wages, discipline, annual and sick leave and other entitlements.
For the superintendent, the chairman and the Greens Committee members to do a good job for the membership of the club, they must not appease in order to postpone criticism. They must not be overly sensitive to criticism and permit gibes and taunts of a few to upset the program.
The average member is interested only in having the course playable when they want to use it. They find it difficult to understand why it is necessary to spoil a beautiful green by brushing and top-dressing. The superintendent thinks in terms of today‘s play, not tomorrow's.
Acting from a genuine motive – to do everything to build a better turf for the members‘ enjoyment – the superintendent and the Greens Committee must pursue their efforts.
Constructive criticism and suggestions from members should always be welcomed, but the maintenance team must be willing, however reluctantly, to displease the members and be criticised and spoil a few days' play rather than multiply the bad days of the future.
In order to produce a great golf course, your superintendent must be a professional turfgrass grower – they cannot survive in the long term as an amateur.
Local, state and national turfgrass conferences have helped eliminate the excuse of ignorance in turfgrass culture today. Many Greens Committees have found that the club profits when the superintendent attends these professional meetings.
A good chairman will urge their superintendent to attend and they will see to it that the club makes attendance possible. Whenever practical, the chairman should also attend; this would not only edify the chairman but would encourage the superintendent.