Why Journaling May Save Your Course Thousands Of Dollars

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
January 8, 2013

Michael Robinson, recently retired, maintained a daily journal for over three decades as a golf course superintendent at Skyline Country Club in Tucson, AZ.

Imagine a scenario such as this: a homeowner sues your course for thousands of dollars on the basis that the irrigation mainline was installed on their property without consent and the course should pay “rent” during the time when the mainline was in use while on their land. How would you handle this situation?  

This scenario was not imagined, it happened to now retired golf course superintendent Michael Robinson while he was in charge of golf course maintenance at Skyline Country Club in Tucson, AZ. In the end, the lawsuit was dismissed when the homeowner and his lawyer realized they would lose resoundingly in court. How did the club win so convincingly? Fortunately, Mr. Robinson had learned from his former boss Jim Snyder to journal every day. Mr. Robinson set aside 30 minutes at the end of every day to journal the day’s events and committed to that practice for over 30 years. It was those journals that documented conversations with the homeowner that ultimately forced the homeowner to concede defeat. 

Recently I spoke with Mr. Robinson about the importance of journaling for assistants, first year superintendents and even veteran turf managers. Mr. Robinson shared the following points with me: 

  • Set aside 30 minutes at the end of each working day to journal.
  • Start by documenting daily metrics such as the temperature, humidity, frost, height of cut on fairways, tees, roughs and greens and water use.
  • Even though it is now required to maintain a pesticide log, journal all pesticide applications, rates, ambient conditions and briefly journal observations and the target pest.
  • Document fertilizer applications, rates, spreader settings and response.
  • Notate special events such as tree damage, flooding and erosion, course closures, and damage to turf from golf carts.
  • Keep track of major purchases, especially warranty items.
  • Mr. Robinson shared that probably the two most important items to journal are labor disputes and conversations with homeowners. This alone my save your course thousands of dollars when conflicts arise.

Michael Robinson was the golf course superintendent at Skyline Country Club for several decades and has passed his knowledge and journaling tips to Gary Sloan, Michael’s former assistant and now golf course superintendent at Skyline. Whether you journal in longhand, on the computer or on a mobile device, make a resolution to journal in 2013 and keep it! 

Source: Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region (bwhitlark@usga.org) or 480.215.1958.

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