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Matt’s Memories: How to stay in control of your club

By |  September 12, 2022 0 Comments

When I visit with superintendents, I see many of them lack power at their facility. If you let the club tell you when to aerate, topdress and do your maintenance, you have lost control. The club should only tell you what they want — how you get there is entirely up to you.

Photo: Matt Shaffer

Photo: Matt Shaffer

I was always in control, always. Control really needs to be established early in your tenure. Changing later is much more difficult. It can be done but that is the long game, and I was never good at the long game.

When I took a job, I identified all the problems and started implementing a plan to rectify the issues. I established how much it would cost and then it was game on. To establish credibility, I took the low-hanging fruit first, like course detail, cleanup and making sure the staff was clean, sharp, professional and polite.

When I went to green committee and board meetings, I was prepared and never deviated from the objective or solution. When I would get challenged with, ‘We can’t afford that!’ I would say, ‘Let’s see how we can make more money!’ At the end of the day, the problem still costs the same, and I am not going to compromise my plan to fix what they can afford.

I took a job at a big club, and they earmarked a sizable amount of money for a maintenance building. When I did my due diligence, I found out it was underfunded. I went back and said I needed an additional $1.5 million. They said NO. I responded by saying, ‘Take that money and put a roof on the clubhouse.’ They were dumbfounded.

This did a couple of things. One, it showed that what I said is what it is. And two, that I was a team player.

Now some of you are saying, ‘I don’t think I could do that.’ If you want control, you have to do it! Four years later, we built a state-of-the-art building, and it cost $2 million more than the original budget. I guess I’m better at the long game than I thought I was!

I’ll share something my dad told me one time: I asked him once, ‘When do you worry about getting fired?’ He told me that you’re most vulnerable to getting fired when you are worried about getting fired. I said, ‘What?’ He went on to explain to me that when you’re worried about getting fired, you are reactive instead of proactive.

Another quick Augusta story

One year at August National, I had to stay at the course on Christmas Day. Everyone else had the day off, and most went home to Pennsylvania. As luck would have it, it snowed! So, I put my skis and boots in the truck and went to work. I went up behind the clubhouse and proceeded to ski down across the 9th green and down to the lower range, thinking to myself, I bet I am the only person to ever do this!

A couple of weeks later, Paul (R. Latshaw) and I got called into Mr. Armstrong’s office. Paul looked at me and said, ‘what did you do now?’ Mr. Armstrong proceeded to tell us that there was new technology at ANGC. Would you like to see how it works? SURE!

He turned on the TV and there I was skiing. Paul says, ‘What am I looking at?’ Mr. Armstrong said, ‘Mr. Shaffer, why don’t you take it from here?’

I said, ‘Look how good my form is … and I haven’t skied in over two years!’

Paul still couldn’t get his head around it. Then Mr. Armstrong clarified for him what he was seeing, and now I had two people mad at me. On the way down to the shop, Paul shook his head and chuckled. He said, ‘Get to work, and do you think you can stay out of trouble?’ It was my turn to laugh!

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