Innovation is a must for assistant superintendents

The effectiveness of your role as assistant superintendent depends on your management style, your budget and your membership's demands. However, every assistant superintendent is responsible for three essential tasks:

* Supervising the maintenance crew

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* Training new employees

* Managing the plant-protection program.

When you can effectively fulfill each of these aspects of the job, you'll be ready to make that move up the corporate ladder. Let's look at each.

Supervising your crew Supervising comprises many facets. Obviously, communication is the primary factor in successful supervision. We'll break down communication into several basic areas to help you focus on the most important aspects:

* Record keeping. This is one communication tool that is imperative for you to master. Build your record-keeping abilities from a firm foundation. To start, acquire a large three-ring binder for all record keeping. With this binder, you can easily track all records and then move them to a separate binder at the end of the season for storage.

Also, maintain a daily log of activities. Create a list of the routine jobs, such as mowing greens, tees, fairways and changing cups (see Figure 1, page G 50). At the end of each day, spend 5 to 10 minutes recording who performed each job. Tracking jobs this way helps to rotate responsibilities among the crew, which reduces burnout on one particular job. It also allows you to track employee performance. For example, if you hear of complaints about the cup changing that occurred a few days ago, the records will show who was responsible.

On the same page, write down all other jobs performed, recording details from any additional projects, as well. For example, if the crew performed drainage installation on a fairway, note if they used pea-gravel, how much, the tile diameter, whether it was perforated or non-perforated, etc.

* A job board. Another helpful tool is a job board. By providing a job board in the shop, crew members get started more quickly each day because they can find their job assignments without having to talk with you. Arrive at the shop half an hour before the crew is scheduled to start. Before the crew members arrive, go over the day's objectives with your superintendent. You then can schedule all activities on the job board. When starting time arrives, you are then free to address other objectives without having to direct the crew. The job board also is the area to post the amount of time in which you expect crew members to complete each assignment. Providing this guideline to crew members communicates your expectations of their performance. Estimate a reasonable amount of time for each task--and don't accept excuses for times that go past the norm.

The job board area is also an excellent area to post brief announcements. Because you require every employee to go to the job board first thing in the morning, all employees can view an announcement without you spending time calling for non-essential meetings. Besides, if a crew member is absent, he or she could miss a meeting announcement. But with the posting, he or she will be sure to see the notice.

* Using maps. Maps of the course are another essential tool for managing the crew. The easiest map to use is the one illustrated on your course's scorecard. If you don't have one, reduce any other map you have down to a size that will fit in a pocket. Use maps to assign and clarify work duties, such as spin-trimming responsibilities. Because this job usually falls to new employees, with a map you don't have to spend time describing where to trim. Simply mark all the spots on the map. Then provide the worker with a marker to check off each area as he or she finishes it to avoid skipping spots. Similarly, use scorecard maps to record areas where you need maintenance performed, such as watering new trees and sod. Again, record on the scorecard map where new trees or sod are planted, and employees can check off each spot as he or she waters them.

Do the same with recording rough mowing, which can take an entire week to finish. By using maps, you ensure that crew members don't overlook any areas, thus allowing those areas to grow unruly. To maximize rough-mowing efficiency, use a map to record weekly mowing. Post a copy by the job board and cover it with a sheet of plastic, such as that used on an overhead projector. When the rough mowers are finished at the end of the day, they can fill in the areas where they mowed with a dry-erase marker. This also provides guidance to part-time employees who mow after hours. They can quickly see where they need to start mowing. When the new week begins, erase the plastic and start over.

* Managing people. Actually, "managing people" is more the result of good communications than an aspect of it. But your style of management also is a form of communication in and of itself. After all, we are more effective at our job when our employees are more effective at the ones to which we assign them. Therefore, it is imperative that we know how to manage, motivate and discipline our employees properly.

Listen to employees. Sometimes an employee has a good idea how to approach a job differently. Actively listening to him or her provides that worker with an active role in the operation of the course's maintenance, boosting his or her sense of pride in how the golf course looks.

Praise often. When an employee performs good work or shows a display of responsibility, tell them. Employees will respond to being noticed for their achievements.

Finally, discipline employees in private. When someone is doing poorly, don't shame them in front of the crew. Doing so will only cause resentment and erode the employee's sense of pride and respect. Take the worker aside and make clear what he or she needs to correct. This alone is often enough. If it's not, then you can take further action.

Training new employees Golf-course maintenance crews experience high rates of turnover, especially in areas of the country that use many high-school- and college-age workers during the growing season. Because it takes a large amount of time to train new employees, it is important to train them efficiently. As with the communication aspect of your job, you can use a variety of tools to help employees start on the right foot.

* Checklists. Most of the training you provide to new employees is for daily maintenance tasks, such as mowing greens. It is important to be thorough the first time through. Developing a checklist to use during training will keep you from forgetting small details. For each job, have a checklist of all the points you need to cover. Reduce copies of each checklist to a 3- x 5-inch card that will fit in your pocket. Then mark off each point of training as you go along.

* Maps. Using a map of the golf course is an effective way to train new employees who are unfamiliar with the course's layout--and it gets them used to using one in other maintenance tasks, as mentioned previously. Using a map will limitthe amount of time you need to spend showing them directions. After all, routine jobs require certain routes to be time-efficient. For example, you'll rarely perform greens mowing in the order of holes, but in order of the closest greens. New employees can get lost when not following signage, so a map is indispensable.

For each routine job that requires the worker to follow a route, label a map with the job, then draw a line to each stop on the route (see Figure 2, above). For instance, when raking bunkers, choose the starting bunker and then draw a line to each bunker in the order you want them raked. On the employee's first day, give them a pen to mark off each stop to be sure they don't miss one. Inspect the cards when the worker is finished. Eventually the worker will no longer need the map to get around, although they're still likely to continue using it simply to track the tasks they've completed.

Don't forget to provide lots of feedback on how your new workers are performing, both good and bad. Not only does this type of communication improve their job performance, but it also lets them know you are inspecting their work.

Your plant-protection program Accurate record keeping and calculations are important to a successful spray program.

* Record keeping. Keep a record of all spray applications in an orderly and organized fashion so that you can easily access information from previous seasons. By observing past applications and target pests, patterns in pest outbreaks become apparent over the course of years (see related article, "Map and monitor pests for premium control," page G 40). Plus, if you encounter a problem that requires the assistance of specialists, good documentation of previous problems/treatments will help solve it.

Complete a chemical record after each application including information on the chemical used, rate, amount, adjuvants, pests and weather. Be sure to record the expected duration of protection. Most chemicals give a range of protection depending on the weather conditions and rate. When making decisions to spray again, checking the duration of protection is a quick reference to see how effective the previous application was.

Record the mode of action (MOA) and chemical class of the product. Rotating contact chemicals with systemic ones is more effective in controlling certain pathogens, and rotating between chemical classes helps slow development of resistance.

When the season is over, take the records out of the binder and put them in a larger one to organize all preceding seasons. Keeping them in order will make them easily accessible.

* Calculations. Correct calculations are vital to the success of each application. An incorrect calculation can reduce the effectiveness of the chemical, or worse, kill the plant you're trying to protect. One means of avoiding miscalculations is to set up a calculation table (see Figure 3, page G 54). For each spray rate (in gpa) you use in your spray program, calculate the amount of product that goes into a full tank of your sprayer for each 0.5 ounce of product per thousand square feet (M). For instance, if you will spray greens at 59 gpa at a rate of 2 ounces of product/M, look at the chart to find that a full tank requires 7.6 quarts of the chemical.

Because you spend most application time spraying greens, you can customize a chart for the greens program. For example, your greens may require one full tank (166 gallons) and part of a second tank (90 gallons) at 59 gpa. Calculate a column for the second tank of 90 gallons as well. If you were to spray the greens with a fungicide that requires 2 ounces/M, the full tank requires 7.6 quarts and the second tank requires 4.6 quarts.

In some cases, you buy chemicals on an as-needed basis. In these situation, you may have just enough chemical to make the application. Thus, instead of calculating the amount of chemical needed to make the application and having a small amount left over, use all the chemical in the application as long as it falls within the labeled rate of use.

A quick way to do this is to use a percentage based on the number of tanks used to make the application. For instance, to spray greens, you may use one full tank (166 gallons) and part of a second tank (90 gallons). The first tank requires 65 percent of the chemical, and the second tank uses the remaining 35 percent. Calculate this by dividing 166 gallons by the total gallons of the entire application, 256. Then multiply the result, 0.65, by the total amount of chemical required for the application to get the amount that will go into the first tank. If you have 10 gallons of chemical, 6.5 gallons will go in the first tank and 3.5 gallons goes in the second.

Double check this rate by dividing the 6.5 gallons by the number of square feet the full tank will spray. For example, if the full tank (166 gallons) sprays out 123,000 square feet (about 2.8 acres) at 59 gallons per acre, then divide 6.5 gallons (832 ounces) of product by 123. This yields 6.8 ounces of product per thousand square feet. If this falls within the labeled rate of the chemical, then you can use this calculation and have none of it left open on the shelves. Often times, mistakes on the golf course start with the miscommunication between you and your crew. Using some of the methods described here can make you more effective by making communication quicker, your efforts more effective and your supervision easier.

Tony Bertauski is assistant superintendent at Brookhill Golf Course (Rantoul, Ill.).

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