Matt Shaffer addresses the assistant superintendent shortage

By |  February 16, 2024 0 Comments

When there are more people leaving the profession than entering, you will have a crisis.

Photo: Matt Shaffer

Matt Shaffer

I know many of you have had a difficult time finding assistants. And many of you complain about the quality of the assistants that are out there. Once again, when there are fewer and fewer people in a market it becomes a buyer’s market. The big clubs have big budgets and can pony up the big bucks for the best assistants. The reality is that there remains a need for assistants at smaller clubs and the middle layer of golf course management is also the largest.

How long do you think it will be until there is a superintendent shortage? Lots of people think that when the shortages get significant enough it will attract more people into the industry. That is how it worked in the old days. Today’s world is much different. Face it, what is fantastic about this job can be viewed by others as a detriment.

Help Wanted

Here’s a positive description of what we do: A golf course superintendent’s job is never boring and always interesting! The challenges are numerous and diversified, requiring you to use all your resources to devise solutions.

The opportunity persists to develop people and help them reach their potential. Your interaction with your owners will put you in front of the most successful people in your community, helping you to achieve your best results. Of course, there is much more.

If I were a superintendent working in a large golf market right now, I would manage several clubs in one area. This would allow you to consolidate specialized equipment, move labor around at critical times, give you greater buying power and allow you to make more money.

There are several very good software programs that allow you to keep your eyes on the prize. In fact, when you become very familiar with the data and learn to interpret the finer points, you’ll be amazed at how informed you can stay.

The club gets a superintendent that would be out of their price range and their costs would go down as a result of the buying power and consolidation of resources. There is just one big problem: You need a great right-hand person to run each of these facilities and now we are right back to the original problem.

The Super-Scratch Tournament

I am proud to announce that one of my former superintendents from Merion, Scott Bordner, has decided to tackle this labor shortage problem head-on. Scott is the Director of the Union League Golf properties, he is a can-do, solution-minded person.

Scott is a large part of a tournament called the Super-Scratch Invitational that raises scholarship money for future turf students. Scott’s dream is to have this tournament held in every area of the USA and beyond. I can assure you he will get it done. As always, it’s easier to have a huge movement when you have support from the industry, so please reach out to Scott to find out how you can get involved.

When you can stand in front of an FFA class to sell them on this profession and inform them that there is scholarship money available, it becomes very compelling to enter the great brother and sisterhood of golf course superintendents!

And therein lies the solution to yet another problem. That is who we are — problem solvers.

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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