Part 1 of 3: What superintendents can learn from zombie movies

By |  October 29, 2012
Photo: gremlin / E+ / Getty Images

(Photo: gremlin / E+ / Getty Images)

By Kevin A. Fletcher, Ph.D., President & CEO, e-par USA, Inc.
October is nearing its end. That means that the television program guide is filled with Halloween movies.  I’m not a huge horror movie fan, but I do enjoy most shows about zombies. I thought that Zombielandwas terrific (with golf’s great ambassador Bill Murray as himself in a short, but Oscar-worthy, role) and Sunday date night with my wife (after the kids get to bed) consists of Tequila on the rocks and AMC’s The Walking Dead. 
I was thinking about this show the other day, and it dawned on me that there are some great parallels between surviving in a zombie-filled world and managing a golf facility in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way. Yes, avoiding and fighting the undead is not that much different from dealing with golfers, turfgrass and green committee members, while also reducing water use, managing chemicals safely, and acting responsibly. Before you snicker, let me provide some examples of what I mean:
1.     Keep Your Head on a Swivel or You Might Lose It (Self-Assessment First): One of the biggest mistakes made by the living in the zombie-filled world is moving around without really being sure where you’re going or what’s looming ahead. Sure, that alleyway is clear now… but what’s around the corner or behind you for that matter? Your eyes need to stay open and darting in all directions or they’ll become zombie hors d’oeuvres.
It’s the same with golf course environmental management. It always pays to conduct an initial environmental review or assessment. Ask yourself some hard questions about your environmental plans, operations, procedures, etc. It may help you create a clear vision (need eyes for that) and avoid getting bitten in the rear.
2.     Don’t Run Into a Dark Building at Night (Make a Plan): The first to go usually do so because they aren’t thinking. “Hey, let’s hide in that abandoned building.” Well it wasn’t abandoned, was it? Now you’re innards are serving as a zombie calamari appetizer.
Once you have a handle on the state of your environmental game through a self-assessment, make a plan. Don’t just run around looking for places to hide. You need to take your environmental threats and opportunities head-on. Make improvements where they need to be made by planning for them, not winging it. Is water your biggest issue? Then make a water conservation plan as a priority. Be smart.
3.     Don’t Be a Hero (Be Risk Averse): You have a choice of running through a crowded zombie-filled mall or heading outside and around the parking lot with maybe a few flesh-eaters to deal with? Easy. Make like a husband during the holidays and avoid the mall. Why put yourself unnecessarily in harm’s way?
This is critical for superintendents to do as well. Have you conducted a risk assessment, developed a risk profile for your facility-wide operations and developed written standard operating procedures for staff to follow to help avoid environmental incidents and accidents? If not, do so. Environmental stewardship isn’t just about nest boxes. Take the time to identify and manage your environmental risk. Survival is heroism during times like this.
Kevin A. Fletcher is President & CEO of e-par USA and is dead-icated to helping golf course management professionals fight with the ghosts and ghouls that make up a comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship and sustainability. Feel free to trick or treat us at
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