25% of superintendents aim to be a general manager at some point in their career…
About 8 percent of those in the professional Class A and Superintendent Member classifications of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) now work as general managers of golf courses or club/resort properties, reports Mark Woodward. The association’s new Chief Executive Officer, Woodward is the former Manager of Golf Operations for the city of San Diego—a role in which he supervised management of Torrey Pines Golf Course and its hosting of this year’s U.S. Open.
“Our survey data tells us that about 25 percent of our members have the goal of being a general manager,” Woodward adds.
The GSCAA data confirms that the job of golf course superintendent has expanded considerably. “Our members now tell us that only one-third of their work is directly related to course maintenance,” says Woodward. “The rest involves duties such as labor relations, budgeting, planning, communications, or Board and owner meetings.”
The expansion of duties is also reflected by the proliferation of new titles among GCSAA members, Woodward adds—with the list now including Manager of Operations, Director of Golf Operations, Director of Golf Course Operations, and Director of Facilities, in addition to more traditional, maintenance-oriented titles such as Superintendent or Director of Agronomy.
“What we are seeing,” says Woodward, “is a career development continuum on which our members’ duties range from those of solely turf managers, to duties that combine turf and golf operations, to general manager duties. Certainly, growing their responsibilities in this fashion shows that the golf and club industries recognize the value of the expanding base of skills and abilities now reflected among our membership.
“In my opinion, based on experience and interaction with those in course and club ownership and management, the stereotype of superintendents not being qualified for general manager positions is outdated,” Woodward continues. “Movement to a general manager position must be desired, and many do not view the GM role to be a better position, so they do not pursue such opportunities.
“Certainly, being a GM requires a certain skill set and list of abilities,” he adds. “To generalize that a particular background—be it superintendent, golf professional, banquet manager, or business professional—is better suited to be a general manager is a mistake. Ultimately, it comes down to the person and his or her skills.
“If a facility is to move its superintendent into the GM role, it must provide the resources that will allow him or her to be successful,” Woodward adds. “It is virtually impossible to be the GM and day-to-day manager of golf course maintenance activities; without a good staff and support, that structure is doomed. It is not an issue of qualification, but rather the availability of proper resources and support, that will allow the facility to be successful.”
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