Jim Croxton, BIGGA’s Chief Executive Officer believes, “There are four keys to relationships and they’re the same for all – whether it’s friendships, marriages or between club managers and greenkeepers.”
When asked what makes for a good relationship between a club manager and course manager/head greenkeeper I always maintain it’s the same as for any other relationship, within reason! To me there are four keys to strong relationships, be they friendships, marriages, business relationships and certainly key relationships within a team:
1. Honesty: The very best are based on honesty, and the worst are the opposite. In a relationship honesty is imperative as without it there is no…
2. Trust: Trust is critical. The general manager has to trust the course manager with the business’s prime asset – the golf course. The course manager is an educated professional, skilled in agronomy, course maintenance and presentation, short and long term planning and financial control. Equally the course manager has to trust the general manager to provide good leadership, support the greenkeepers to the membership and committees and be open about budgets, priorities and decision making. Regular communication is crucial.
3. Common Purpose: Of paramount importance and, in some ways, the hardest to achieve. I have never met a course manager who didn’t have higher aspirations for the course than everyone around them. I’ve never met one who didn’t think that with a little more resource – staff, equipment or time – the course could get to that next level. It is crucial the general manager and course manager work together to identify the standard of presentation and condition that is desirable and achievable within budget. If this doesn’t happen, one side won’t be happy. So that generally means a little…
4. Compromise: Good relationships are based on positive compromise, where both sides understand the other’s position and endeavour to accommodate it. The classic example in a club is course closure – generally the course manager’s first instinct is to protect the course, whereas often the general manager wants to drive revenue or customer satisfaction. This can lead to conflict. The key is compromise using robust data or evidence; what revenue or goodwill will be gained/lost by opening or closing the course? Balanced against the potential cost of course repair or period of poorer condition. Compromise is also important around the key maintenance practices that ensure all year round healthy turf. All greenkeepers would love to aerate and renovate greens in the height of the growing season as that is when recovery is quickest and best but that is often a crucial time for member and visitor play. Of course, restricting maintenance practices completely is a recipe for disaster so some customer disruption is essential. At many of the clubs I am fortunate to visit these traits are evident and the businesses flourish. Very often a key part of that is a course manager committed to CPD who prioritises communication to members and employers. At clubs where this relationship is weak the business is always in difficulty.
This article was first published in The Golf Club Manager – the official journal of the GCMA. If you would like to receive the journal, either join the GCMA today, or subscribe to the magazine.