Flexibility in April

April marks the official beginning of the golfing season. Awakening from the cold, snow-filled off season, most courses and clubs have an inaugural event that ushers in the start of the members coming out to shake off the rust of their golf swing and start enjoying the warmer weather offered by Mother Nature. Good times.

Ironically, April also marks the same time that most golf courses need to perform several critical maintenance tasks in order to get the season kicked off right. Bunker repairs, topdressing and aerification are only some the major jobs that help get the course prepared for immediate play. Then there's the annual application of pre-emergent crabgrass control to work into the schedule along with a little ammonium sulfate based fertilizer to get the turf "greened up" with some color and growth. I won't even go into the copious amount of time that goes into training the new maintenance staff workers.

The best superintendents I have ever known understand how to successfully manage all of this (and more) while delivering the best possible playing conditions for the time of year. It's all a matter of prioritizing and being flexible to the ever-changing conditions. Agronomy plays very little part of being successful in this situation.

Planning and execution is only the first part of getting your golf course off to the best start in Spring. Most superintendents are very good at making the necessary plans and scheduling the timeline for all the jobs that need to get done. Far less, however, are just as proficient at being able to adjust them on the fly when Mother Nature, or the GM and Golf Pro, throw a monkey wrench in the timing. This is when the wheels generally fall of the cart.

Again, flexibility is the key to success. Weather forecasts change constantly. Backup plans have become mandatory. All superintendents understand this because Mother Nature is always in charge. Unfortunately, General Managers are also in charge. The same mindset should be taken with them.

Your golf course is a money generating tool that you get to take care of. When the weather is great and golfers want to play, the course needs to be ready to accommodate them. If that means that maintenance practices need to be shifted and re-scheduled, then so be it. Sure, it kind of stinks from your viewpoint, but in today's new golf market, it's absolutely critical.

So plan out everything that needs to be accomplished but be prepared with backup plans to your backup plans. To me, this is the secret to success in the art of golf course maintenance.