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Agronomy Advisory Board Mailbag: Quarter Four

Posted On: October 2, 2018 by ClubProcure in: Agronomy

Agronomy Advisory Board Mailbag: Quarter Four

Our Agronomy Advisory Board Mailbag: Quarter Three edition is brought to you by the VGM Club Fertilizer & Chemical Program.

This quarter we switched up the process a bit. Instead of fielding the questions from our membership , we asked our board a question to help us with our GCSAA seminar titled “The Four Turf Languages”. We wanted to focus on communication.

How do you communicate to your membership and board/owners, and what mediums do you use to do so?

For our seminar, we wanted to focus on four separate mediums to reach your membership and board/owners to tell a unique story. We started with a few assumptions:

  • Many golfers have an unrealistic standard of what a well-manicured golf course looks like.
  • Many board members/owners are not agronomists.
  • It is your team’s job to educate them on the happenings within the golf course grounds.

Those broad assumptions may not be applicable to your situation, but the thoughts our board share on these are helpful nonetheless.

Answers provided by Andy Jorgensen (On Top of the World Club), Ryan McCavitt (Bayou Oaks Golf Complex), Jeff Holliday (Salisbury Country Club), and Shaun Donahue (Tidewater Golf Club & Plantation).

  1. Newsletters: Tool to effectively speak directly to your member’s inbox or mailbox. This is a great opportunity to share thoughts about: current weather patterns, difficulties with turf, helpful reminders about high-stress areas, future plans and more. This helps your membership and important stakeholders understand where your team’s collective mind is at.

Jeff: I do a by monthly newsletter at my club. This can be a bit challenging as the information has to be in three weeks before its actually sent to the membership. If we have projects going on or we have special environmental concerns affecting the course, we will send an email blast to the membership to keep them informed.

Andy: We have a monthly neighborhood newspaper that I will occasionally contribute to, especially when we have big projects coming up or during aerification. This goes out to 12,000+ readers each month.

Ryan: We send bi-monthly newsletters to all of our members/guests and those who have provided emails to the club. There are roughly 20,000 people currently in our email data base.

  1. Blog Posts: This can be stories about your own experience, your own challenges, updates on projects, or conversations with other superintendents. Maybe a conversation with your greens committee? Take your readers behind the scenes a bit. They won’t know the challenges unless you effectively share that information – and this is the type of medium that allows for nuance and the space to share.

Jeff: We are getting ready to start a golf maintenance tab on the club website, sort of like a blog, which will be updated each week.

  1. Social Media: Great place to network, share pictures, and build your own professional community. This medium has been well adapted by Superintendents, and many have credited it for countless practices now used at their own courses. One thing to remember is how it is utilized within the community. If your ratio between turf grass to personal posts are not around 70/30, you may want to consider getting two accounts.

Ryan: The golf course regularly uses Facebook and Instagram to update members and guests. In those social media outlets, they will also periodically include my weekly golf course reports.

Shaun: We can’t communicate enough, however, I do think we can communicate too much. What I mean by this is that because we have so many avenues to communicate nowadays, it becomes increasingly more important to control our content as turf professionals and club executives. Only putting out in a public realm what the message of our content is, how it fits with the culture at our clubs, who the intended (and unintended) audience is and how they receive the message are all important. I’m not a big Facebook guy, but I’ve learned a great deal of tips and tricks from Twitter and Instagram from some of the people who are doing it well. Their message is clear and unobstructed.  Others post really great ideas, but it gets lost in all of the million other things they are posting about. I think they probably need to separate their accounts or really focus on what it is they want their audience, or followers, to know about. 

So to adapt this to the club setting, if you are using social media to get your message out to the membership and various committees I think a dedicated handle would be an idea.  I’m living the dream resort golf life, so the 45,000 members I have come through every year don’t really care about my message. I guess when you are watching pinecones whizzing by at 80 you have time to reflect on things like this.

Andy: I have a personal Twitter account that I like to share what we’re doing with the industry people that follow me. I have also learned quite a bit from seeing others post about their successes and failures. We also have a club Twitter account that I have access to in order to post updates on course conditions. However, we have found the 55+ community hasn’t quite adopted this method of communication, and all but one of the club’s followers are turf people. Our marketing department will also include marketing posts in the mix.

We also have a club Facebook page that marketing and the Director of Golf manage. This seems to attract more attention from our customer base than Twitter and allows us to post messages and get news out much quicker.

  1. How do you open lines of communication between members and your board to speak in person and hear their concerns? Opening these lines of communication are important. Members being able to put a face to the name of your agronomy department is important to the success of your operation.

Ryan: On a more intimate level for board members and those in the TPC network we use Trimms software and Task Tracker to really break down the numbers and efficiency of our maintenance department.

Andy: Each club has monthly golf advisory meetings that consist of staff and one member from each league including a member at large. In this meeting we discuss what’s in store for the coming month and any concerns they may have. Several very positive outcomes have resulted from these meetings, and we have been able to implement several items based on this feedback. This is probably the most effective form of communication we have and also prevents us from getting overrun on a daily basis with questions or concerns. The league leaders gather all the info, and bring it to our attention at this time.

We also host annual membership meetings each fall to discuss membership rates, completed projects or upcoming projects for the next year. We have about 400 people attend these (mostly because we provide free beer and wine) to see what they can expect for the coming year. These meetings tend to spur a lot of discussion and provide great feedback from our membership.

My assistants and myself also make ourselves available for a few minutes in the golf shops each day to communicate with staff and members that are checking into tee times.

The Director of Golf and I both meet with the sales and marketing teams once per quarter. This is crucial in providing them information about the golf course so that they can pass it onto our prospective customers looking to buy in the neighborhood, and helps us identify reasons why someone may have not bought in here. This has opened the lines of communication and has actually helped sell a lot of houses.

To summarize, communication is incredibly important, and it is imperative your team continues to look at better ways to do so in order to be successful. How do you communicate to your members and board/owners? How can it be enhanced to communicate more effectively? 

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