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Does spring bring dread for you?

By |  April 27, 2018 0 Comments

Spring brings with it many emotions. Although I am in need of a slowdown after a busy golf season in late December, I am ready to start growing grass by February. No matter what grass you grow or what region you are in, I bet the feeling is familiar. Time off is good and reinvigorating, but we are all eager to get back to work.

As much as I long for the season to begin and to get everyone excited to be working on the course, it can all become fleeting when feelings of anticipation turn to utter horror as large areas of grass don’t wake up.

All turf managers in the golf industry have felt the unnerving feeling of having dead grass after a harsh winter. Those of us in the Carolinas remember all too vividly the winter of 2015. It was a national story of how damage repair costs soared into the millions.

There are only two things to do once the reality sets in that a problem exists. Get through your own personal emotions, then develop and execute an action plan for success.

I emotionally equate the process of making mistakes or losing grass and dealing with it to the five stages of grief:

1. Denial — This is the gut check that happens when something is not right and you know it. We check and recheck areas, hoping that a small sign of life pops up, but nothing does.
2. Anger — “Why did this happen to me?” and “Didn’t I do everything right?” are persistent thoughts.
3. Bargaining — “What do I have to do for the man upstairs to help out here?”
4. Depression — This is the downright sucky part. Failures wear on even the toughest individuals and can take you to a lonely place.
5. Acceptance — A friend who is most likely facing some winterkill this year told me, “You can only do so much until Mother Nature kicks the crap out of you.” Truer words may have never been spoken.

Once you go through the five stages, it’s time to move on to the most important and strategic part of getting through a winterkill situation: the action plan.

This is where I have seen many superintendents falter. What is done is done, and the only way your course can get through it is YOU! Communicate what has happened and why. Communication with your decision-makers is vital to getting through a tough time. Hide nothing. Many times, people make the mistake of trying to cover up things or not be overtly honest.

Bring in knowledgeable consultants, respected superintendents in the area or agronomists to help communicate the challenge, timeline and options going forward. The faster people begin to feel comfortable again with you as the caretaker of the most valuable asset on the property, the better.

Be ready for the questions that will come, and will come in this order: What is going to happen next? How long is it going to take? How much is it going to cost? Having the answers to these questions is your action plan. Be confident and right. Making a mistake at this point can be disastrous.

Now it is time to be on the golf course. Do not hide in the office, or even worse, away from the property. Be the one to answer questions and control the flow of information.

If you are one of the people untouched by winterkill this year, be thankful and reach out to someone who has. It is always a hard situation to go through, but even harder alone.

My staff and I are ready for the season for now, but I wait anxiously as brown turns to green, we hope!

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