Customer-centric turf management

Set yourself apart by demonstrating insight into groups of customers, golfers and members.


Golf course superintendent on a shaded course shaking hands with one male and one female country club member

If you were in a job interview and were asked to describe your position as a golf course superintendent, assistant superintendent or equipment manager, would you first mention your role in creating an exceptional experience for your customers? Or would you instead start listing turf care, equipment and the demands of your daily responsibilities?

Our industry is first and foremost a service endeavor, and the ability to acknowledge and act on this can be pivotal in reaching your career goals. In this month’s column we will discuss three ways to be customer-centric, both now and during a job search to ultimately succeed in the golf industry.

Who is your customer?

First, take time to understand the customers at your current property. What is your golf facility known for? What qualities are attracting customers to choose your golf facility? Consider fundamental information such as average golf handicap, rounds per year, age, interests and how golf fits into the other amenities at the facility. Pondering basic data points can be surprisingly instructive in better understanding your customers and how to enhance your customer focus. As an example, perhaps you discover that there has been a high number of new members with young families at your facility. This could be a great opportunity to introduce more junior golf and family golf events to cater to your new customers.

Understanding your customer is critical when you are conducting a job search. Thread stories and examples into your interview answers about how you put your customer at the forefront of your actions and leadership. From your first correspondence to final interview, if you can demonstrate an insight into the particular group of customers/golfers/members at your target golf facility, this is a powerful way to connect with your prospective customers and set yourself apart.

Engage with your customers

Once you have the baseline information and understanding of your customers, the natural next step is to create systems that will keep your knowledge evolving and adapting to your customers’ needs. Find ways to regularly collect feedback and insights to guide your priorities moving forward. Be willing to hear from all members of your committees and their different perspectives. If your golf facility conducts customer surveys, be involved in crafting questions that will give insight for actionable ways to improve the experience of your customers/golfers/members.

Also, many golf course superintendents regularly schedule time to interact with golfers, such as welcoming golfers by the putting green or first tee. Interestingly, many have shared with me that the feedback they receive in those casual settings can be the most informative. These also provide excellent examples to highlight your customer-centric approach during an interview with a hiring committee.

Promote a culture of service

Don’t wait until you are conducting a job search to become customer-centric. Start today with the way you communicate with your team. Remind your crew members why their jobs exist — to provide an outstanding experience for your customer. By slightly altering your word choices and connecting tasks and responsibilities back to the service you are providing for your customers/golfers/members, you are creating a customer-centric work environment. In his best-selling book, “Atomic Habits,” James Clear writes, “Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.” Let that be an encouragement as you make small changes now that will have a big impact on your career advancement in the future.

I have witnessed newfound job search success for countless GCSAA members who made small changes in their approach, changing from turf-focused to customer-focused and ultimately reaching their career goals. Someday, in an interview for your dream job, your small habit of simply using phrases such as “customer experience” on a regular basis to describe your role will generate big results, when the hiring committee recognizes that you are all about people, not just turf.

Carol D. Rau, PHR, has been a career consultant and speaker with GCSAA since 2005 and specializes in golf and turf industry careers. Rau is a frequent speaker at national, regional and local GCSAA conferences and teaches GCSAA webinars.