Communicating during times of heat stress

Your best tool might just have nothing to do with agronomy -- it's likely to be good communication.

A familiar refrain in the golf course management industry is “the issue is not that grass dies, it is that you did not tell me the grass was going to die.” Golf course superintendents know all too well that that Mother Nature often holds all the cards for true relief. But communicating to golfers and golf facility leaders early and often is likely to reduce the “heat” felt from those wanting “perfect” conditions.

The elements of communication

There are four crucial elements in the communications process:

  1. the audience
  2. the message
  3. the medium
  4. the feedback loop

Superintendents must consider all elements in order to achieve success.

The audience: Who needs to know what?

First and foremost, the golf course management team must know all of the issues and be armed with information that will allow it to mitigate the issues regarding heat. What are the cultural practices? What are the messages you will share with golfers, employers, peers, etc.

Management is another crucial audience. It is important to bring facility leaders into the know early as to what your team is doing and the implications it has on play, operations, budgets, etc.

Golfers are a key audience as well. Most have little to know knowledge of golf course management. But they do pay the freight so they must be alerted as to what the issue is, how you are dealing with it, and what it means for the customer.

The message: What are you saying?

Your team is the expert and executes your directives. Be clear and precise in what you are asking it to do. Make certain everyone understands what the task at hand is. Facility leaders are conduits to others (golfers, media, employees, etc.). Be clear on what you are communicating, but know that less technical jargon is necessary to ensure comprehension. GCSAA and the USGA both have a variety of information in numerous formats to help in creating your message. Let those organizations provide a credible third-party validation to support your communications.

The medium: How are you saying it?

It has been said that retention of information requires seven different touches. That might be extreme, but don’t leave rely on the “one and done” concept. Utilizing all forms of technology and formats should be considered.

Here are some considerations:

  • For your team, do you have a written plan that is posted in a central area and distributed to all team members?
  • Are you utilizing the web and/or video to instruct or demonstrate?
  • Similarly, what are you providing to facility leaders/management and golfers?
  • Have you considered appearing at a board or green committee meeting?
  • Utilizing the facility newsletter?
  • Emailing information to the golfer/member database?
  • Has your chapter put out a news release to the media regarding the challenges?
  • Are you in contact with the golfer?
  • Perhaps asking your staff to interact with golfers directly might be an option?

The feedback loop: Was the message received as intended?

Perhaps one of the most glaring errors in communications is not allowing a feedback mechanism. Consider your delivering the game plan to your team and then leaving without asking for questions or allowing the team to clarify what was said. How confident would you be that you were understood?

As you communicate your message with your various audiences, provide a means to get feedback:

  • Encourage the audience to respond to your emails.
  • Offer a suggestion box.
  • Consider a question and answer session with the various groups: facility employees, Men’s and Women’s Leagues, board of directors, etc.
  • Provide your contact information to the media so it can get back to you for additional information or clarity.