Why does it have to be ‘Super’ tough?

Larry Canning

A ‘super’ Super?

I would like to ponder, along with you, my readers, the subject that is Course Superintendents. We used to call the lads Green Keepers but in this day of political correctness, it’s now Course Superintendents. Just like a Club Pro is now The Senior Manager of Golf and Retail Operations and the Gardener is the Executive Officer of Horticulture, Bark Chips and Manure Management.

With the GFC (which until recently, I used to think stood for how expensive KFC had become), Management and Committees have had to make some pretty tough decisions to keep the game buoyant and sustainable. Gone are the days of bribing a board member into putting your grandson’s name down for membership so he can become a mid-week probationary member by the time he retires. The people in charge of golf clubs, on the whole, have made golf memberships and social play more accessible with all types of clever initiatives and I applaud their lateral thinking.

I reckon we all have accepted this new way of making sure our respective golf clubs—and for that matter, the game of golf in general—isn’t pricing itself out of the market and is offering an easy, enjoyable experience. Well, maybe except for our mates, the Greensk…. sorry, Course Superintendents.

For those of us who have dealt with the golfing public for any period of time it’s pretty obvious you need the customer to leave your course thinking he or she can one day master it if only they could just improve their slice. Sure, there are some tough holes out there but it’s a fair dinkum layout that rewards good shots. That way you can charge an appropriate amount of money for the experience. It’s called hospitality.

All the employers from the club have been trained to look after the member or his/her guest, so when July the 1st comes around, they might just front up with their subs again and even introduce a brand-new member to the club.

Everyone seems to get it except our old mate, the Course Super, who obviously has some kind of vendetta to settle with everyone who has attempted to play well on his course.

Has he been belted once too often by a stray Titleist? In all my years as a professional, I’ve heard all kinds of complaints from golfers like, “It was so slow out there I had to play a provisional on 17 for fear my first ball could decompose” or “Old Clem Windbottom is such a burglar, it’s a wonder he doesn’t roll up to the first tee with a stocking pulled over his head”.

But I’m yet to hear someone come into the pro-shop and say “Larry we need to make this course harder because we all played too well today”.

I’m pretty sure we don’t need to do a global referendum to establish that the game isn’t very easy and the best way to keep the game forging ahead is not to find ways to make it harder. So why do our mates put flags on the side of cliff faces or 4 feet from the edge of a water hazard?

It’s as if the term “Monthly Medal” has some strange masochistic underlying interpretation by the Course Super around the world and a Pro-Am is a licence to make scores as high as physically possible so the sponsors look like buffoons and the pros appear to be beginners.

The sad thing is I’ve met some really super… Supers who know more about grass than Keith Richards, and can turn an ordinary piece of dirt into a manicured area of fairway you could eat with a knife and fork. But when you suggest someone might want to play well on their golf course they suddenly grow hair on their cheek bones and turn into a mower-wielding werewolf.

Guys if you’re reading this please understand there are those of us who have spent their lives trying to keep people playing golf by attempting to make the world’s hardest game almost playable. And if any of you want to talk to me about this issue, well, unfortunately my family and I have been placed in witness protection and won’t be available for another 5 years.



9 Responses to "Why does it have to be ‘Super’ tough?"

  1. Donald Newell  August 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I agree greens too fast, long rough, water to dodge, bunkers every where, it all makes for hard round of golf
    It is a game that is suposed to be enjoyed
    But by the time you finish you are totally frustrated and about to go off and do somthing else
    And if green keepers cant take the heat get out of the kitchen
    Regards Donald Green Keeper NZ

  2. Nathan Bradbury  August 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    This is a real shame that someone who hasn’t worked a week on the grounds staff of a golf course makes these comments. Every golf course is different to manage. Maybe the author should stick to “trying” to be a golf pro!
    As a superintendent a lot of my “exotic” events i.e pro-am, monthly medal and championships hole placements are selected by the club captain and another board member. Maybe mr Canning should speak to Superintendents before shooting his big mouth off. Real shame we are ment to all be on the same side

  3. Richard Fellner  August 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for the comment Donald. Many golfers out there share your frustration!

  4. Richard Fellner  August 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Nathan. Re: Club Captain/Board member choosing pin locations: Maybe more golfers should voice their frustration to these people instead of the super?

  5. shotmaker  August 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Articles like this are very destructive for the golf industry as a whole. Interesting to read about “trying” to make golf more sustainable.

    One of the first things a successful organisation requires is a team of people with common goals and vision trying to support each other in the trenches.

    A number of industry bodies have been working together to promote golf in Australia and build the professionalism of the sport. Golf Australia the Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Australian PGA to name a few. Articles like this make golf less sustainable and undermine the good work and professionalism of the golf industry in Australia

  6. Steve  August 31, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Always blaming the greenkeepers for a bad round. As a former super I was always instructed by the committee or club captain regarding pin placements, tee locations etc. God only help me if the tees wernt all the way back on there plates on a monthly medal, move them foward to make the course easier and you will never hear the end of it. Times have changed regarding playability of courses, each club seems to have a competition against one another to see who can get the most difficult course rating and course architects are trying to create courses only fiting for major championships with severe undulating greens, excessive bunkering and long pockets of rough. More can be done by all to make the game of golf easier. Try supporting the greens staff once in a while, they do know what they are talking about, its negative comments like this that drove me a away from the industry. Nothing is ever good enough.

  7. Bradley Prikk  September 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

    You have got to be joking,you goose ! Most people are just happy to hit the green firstly and where the pin is located is secondary. Next time Mr Canning visits a golf course the only pin he should be worried about will be the middle pin protruding from his backside !

  8. Jack Leworthy  October 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    As Nathan Bradbury states, when “important” tournaments like club championships, pro-ams etc come up then either the captain or one of the committee likes to choose the pin positions in a bid to toughen the course up a bit.

    As regards fast greens, pure green fairways and tees and white bunker sand we are to a certain extent bound by the PGA tour and what golfer’s see on tv. “They have it, so why can’t we”? Time and time again I have been asked this question at board level. The truth is that the tournament course has been primped and preened for months and in major tournaments, years to the level required for the tournament. Budgets are increased, extra staff are brought in. Fertiliser applications are increased, turf heights are lowered, greens are topdressed more regularly etc. The same course 6 months down the track then goes back to “reality” of how it looks normally.

  9. paul rogers  February 7, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    as someone just trying to get bac k into golf after many years in the ‘wilderness’ i offer a different and probably outdated perspective. some of the comments i have read sound familiar. i too recall committee members insisting on ‘toughening’ the course including faster greens and growing rough in to narrow fairways. all in the name of making the course ‘harder’ than your competitors. this was generally bemoaned by calmer headsincluding the club pro and sensible members.
    from what i have observed recently, the game has changed dramatically with golf clubs having sweet spots the size of tennis racquets and balls flying much further. in this regard, i believe courses should be protected to an extent, during major professional events, but i don’t see the need to punish and bash club golfers for the sake of ego. club golfers i have known over many years seem to be playing better and enjoying their golf morr than ever so what’s the downside of that??

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