TAS Visit Tips
By Chris Hartwiger, Agronomist, Southeast Region
You know it is important. You know it is a challenge. But time and time again communication
arises as the most common problem facing golf course superintendents. As the focal
point of golf course maintenance operations, the superintendent is communicating
daily with golfers, employees, and managers. Building successful relationships with
these groups is as important understanding the principles of turfgrass management.
Each year the USGA Green Section agronomists conduct Turfgrass Advisory Service
(TAS) visits at over 1800 golf courses. In addition to providing technical information,
many superintendents use the TAS as a means to enhance communication between important
personnel at their club. In this article, we will share several ways superintendents
have used the TAS to enhance communications at their course.
Take Advantage of the Full Day Visit
Whether your golf course is public or private, it is always a good idea to bring
course officials out on the golf course to learn more about what a superintendent
must do every day. A full day visit provides the opportunity to discuss agronomic
topics in the morning and meet with course officials in the afternoon.
Including course officials in a TAS visit is a great way to build a relationship
and discuss important course topics in a non-threatening manner. Too often meetings
are scheduled between a superintendent and course official only when there is a
problem. A TAS visit can be scheduled far in advance and all parties can look forward
to an afternoon on the golf course.
Orientation of Green Committee Members
An ideal green committee is fair, approves a generous budget, and does not change.
In reality, green committees are unpredictable. When your green committee changes,
do you have an orientation program for the new committee members? Do not make a
mistake and assume that a new green committee member understands the importance
of your position. It is up to you to educate committee members and build a relationship
with that person.
Mike Claffey at Cape Fear CC in Wilmington, NC has an excellent approach to building
a relationship with new committee members. Mike has a standard orientation packet
that he provides to the new committee member. This packet includes descriptions
of Mike's and his staff's professional background, projects at the club, and detailed
Including a new green committee member on a TAS visit will help get the relationship
off on the right foot. They will consider it a compliment to be invited to spend
an afternoon on the golf course "talking turf" with you and a USGA agronomist. Making
the orientation fun and informative is a great way to build allies should a difficult
situation arise in the future.
AM With Superintendent/PM With Green Committee, Pro, Club Manger, etc.
Why are the bunkers so hard? Why are the bunkers so soft? Why do you want to cut
those pretty trees around the 7th green? These are questions that arise frequently
at courses throughout the southeast region. As the superintendent, you can give
the agronomically correct answer every time, but sometimes you may get the feeling
they do not believe your answer? A great way to overcome this problem and educate
these committee members is to include the committee on a TAS visit. This could be
a tour of the course, a lunch meeting, or a board meeting. Committee members can
ask all the questions they want and have a knowledgeable superintendent and a USGA
agronomist as a source of unbiased information.
Is your golf course going through a green or bunker renovation? The USGA Green Section
frequently is asked to make presentations at Board meetings regarding the renovation
process. While most superintendents may undertake a few construction projects in
their career, the Green Section is involved with a few construction projects every
year. A presentation at a Board Meeting is a great way to develop a plan that will
ensure the project is completed to everyone's satisfaction.
Develop an Agenda
Prior to a TAS visit, meet with your club officials and develop an agenda for the
visit. This agenda will require everyone to think about the most important issues
at the club and make sure they are covered on the visit. Typically, a visit is much
more efficient and more topics are covered when an agenda is developed prior to
Motivating employees at a golf course is a never-ending challenge. Try making an
employee meeting part of your next TAS visit. Prior to the meeting, the superintendent
and USGA agronomist can discuss topics to be covered during the meeting. During
the meeting, these topics will be reviewed and employees will be free to ask questions.
Having an employee meeting makes a statement to the employees that they are a valuable
part of the course. Including an employee meeting during a visit is a great way
to motivate and educate your employees.
Advances in technology will lead the way for improved course conditions, but communications
will still remain the number one problem on golf courses. The most successful people
in any business to effectively communicate and motivate those around them. Your
success as a superintendent will rest largely with your effectiveness as a communicator.
Hopefully, this article has offered a few suggestions on how to use the USGA TAS
can be used to open the lines of communication at your course. Give us a call -
we would love to visit your course.