Matt Shaffer gives advice on how to know it’s the right time to move on

By |  December 5, 2023 0 Comments

I might not be the best person to answer this question! One of my best friends nicknamed me “The Migrant Golf Course Superintendent.” Before social media, my friends often lost track of us. For a while, we were three years and out.

Photo: Matt Shaffer

Matt Shaffer

Over the five decades that I was a super, the industry changed a lot. If you talk to any of us old-timers, it was a common practice to move often in order to move up. The industry was really growing and the educated superintendent was relatively new. So, there were lots of jobs to choose from.

Now, there are fewer jobs to choose from, but I personally believe that is going to change. Golf is extremely popular. Many new people were introduced to the game during COVID. The great news is many of these folks have stayed with the game, coupled with the fact that there are fewer people getting into the industry.

When I graduated from Penn State, there were 34 students in my class. Dr. (Jeff) Kaminski told me the other day he has 19 in this year’s class. Any of you looking for assistants and interns know that it can be a challenging task. On top of that, there is an aging group of supers retiring. In my opinion, within the next ten years, there is going to be a shortage of superintendents.

That leads us to “Should I stay, or should I go?”

When you consider yourself a private contractor, things become much clearer. Instead of waiting for someone to take care of you, you should decide that you are going to take care of you and your family. You need to acquire the necessary skill sets to take this approach, but when you have them, it is time to use them.

As in all decisions, there are pros and cons.


  • Relocating children
  • Selling and buying another home
  • Leaving friends
  • Heading into the unknown
  • Starting over


  • Larger salary
  • Better benefits
  • More amenities for your family
  • The excitement of starting over
  • A better golf course
  • More resources

There are others, but these are the biggies!

For me personally, as I continued to learn, I was eager to do more. My desire to do more required more. Consequently, this led to me taking bigger and bigger jobs. For many years, I shunned tournament golf. After being Paul Latshaw Sr.’s assistant at Augusta National, I saw the tremendous stress that he was under to produce championship conditions at the highest level. In the years following my departure, I stayed in high-end private clubs with one side stop at Hershey Resort’s 81 holes of golf. (This was an accidental stroke of luck for me because Hershey taught me how to think like a businessman.) But once you are in championship golf, the itch is always there. And eventually, you must scratch it. I finished in championship golf at Merion Golf Club and was fortunate to have hosted some great USGA Championships.

The bottom line is you need to know who you are. You need to have a long-term plan. You need to have a timeline, and finally, you need to initiate it!

I think the danger in our profession is when you wait for something good to happen at a job where, most likely, it will never happen. When you do this, it erodes your self-confidence. So, as I always told my protégées, be proactive, not reactive!

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author: Matt Shaffer

Matt Shaffer, a longtime superintendent, is the owner of Minimalistic Agronomic Techniques (M.A.T.) He was previously the superintendent at The Country Club in Cleveland and is director of golf course operations emeritus at Merion GC, Ardmore, Pa., where he hosted the 2013 U.S. Open. Reach him at

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