Communicating human capital

By linking investments to improved golfer experiences, decision-makers can appreciate your staff's impact on the success of your course. 


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course

In today’s competitive world, when key staff members can be financially tempted to move elsewhere, it’s crucial for decision-makers at our golf courses to recognize the value of their staff. Far too often, employees are viewed as mere costs on a budget sheet, rather than the valuable assets they truly are.

This perception can have detrimental effects, especially when proposed salary increases are not supported — or when arbitrary budget cuts are made — without considering the cumulative knowledge and expertise held by longtime employees. The key to changing this mindset lies in humanizing our budget, demonstrating the tangible benefits of investing in our staff members and showcasing their contributions to the organization’s success.

As superintendents, it’s our responsibility to articulate the value that our staff adds to the operation of the golf course. One effective way to do this is by listing our employees by name, providing a brief description of their roles and highlighting the essential skills they possess. These individuals should be shown to not be just “bodies with pulses” but well-trained professionals who contribute significantly to the smooth functioning of the course.

Just like investments in new equipment, investing in human capital can yield substantial returns. Consider the example of GPS technology on a new sprayer. By illustrating the potential savings on chemical applications, decision-makers can see the compelling value of this upgrade. Similarly, the case for investing in well-trained staff can be made by showcasing not just the superior playing surfaces they produce but also the time savings and efficiency gains they bring to the table.

Moreover, we should emphasize the long-term benefits of developing our staff’s skills. For instance, the knowledge and expertise of an employee with a spray license or experience in maintaining irrigation systems are not easily replaceable. It takes years to cultivate such capabilities, and losing these skills can significantly impact the course’s overall performance and success. Therefore, viewing employee training as an investment, rather than a mere expense, is critical.

Humanizing the budget extends beyond monetary figures; it involves demonstrating the impact of our decisions on golfers’ experiences. When presenting a case for course improvements, such as adding drainage to wet fairways, it’s essential to illustrate how these changes will enhance the golfers’ playing experience. By showing before and after pictures of a transformed area, decision-makers can visualize the positive impact of their investment on the course’s appeal and reputation.

Furthermore, emphasizing the reduction in chemical use and mechanical damage from mowers and carts can strengthen the case for adding drainage. Connecting these benefits directly to improving the golfers’ playing conditions will resonate even more with decision-makers, as they are ultimately more passionate about golf than turf management. Don’t underestimate the value of an after picture that shows a firm, tight fairway with a close-up of a golf ball beautifully perched and ready to be struck.

To effect meaningful change, it’s essential to challenge the traditional financial accounting perspective that views employees as costs. Human capital is just as valuable as tangible assets such as machines and buildings, and acknowledging this fact is critical to the golf course’s success. By presenting the staff as an asset with a significant impact on the organization’s success, we can foster a culture that values and invests in the development of our people.

The true value of our staff must be recognized and protected from arbitrary cuts and indeed promoted when appropriate to keep up with inflation. By humanizing our budget and showcasing the contributions of each team member, we can better demonstrate the significance of investing in human capital. Drawing parallels with tangible investments, such as equipment upgrades, can help decision-makers grasp the substantial returns that well-trained and skilled employees can bring to the organization.

Ultimately, by linking investments to improved golfer experiences, decision-makers can appreciate the profound impact that our staff has on the success and reputation of our golf courses. In short, it is our job to transform the way those in charge view and treat our most important asset — our people.

Chris Carson served as the superintendent at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J., for 36 years, and is a three-time winner of GCSAA’s Leo Feser Award. He is a 38-year member of GCSAA.

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