4 Ways to Stand Out at Your Facility

by Brian Dobak
March 1, 2010

When we arrive at a new facility and are about to embark on a new experience, we get ambitious and want to make a contribution to the club. That’s a good thing. As we progress during our time there, we find our identity on the team as well as our identity to the members. Amongst our team members, we all play a different role in the golf operation. Within these roles, we tend to want to stand out, make our mark, or put our stamp on a golf operation. On our path towards earning our first Head Professional position, how can we stand out to not only our superiors, but the members and guests as well?  Here are 4 ways that I have learned and  they can potentially have a very positive impact on your growth as an assistant golf professional at your facility and in your career:

Ability to Answer Questions

At a previous facility at which I was employed, I was given the responsibility of the creation and distribution of the annual golf operations survey to the members. Of the few dozen or so questions myself and my fellow golf professionals came up with, one of them was answered with such consistency that it was very telling about what our members desired from us.

Question: “In our daily interaction with you, how can the golf
                professional staff better serve you?”

Answer: “The ability to answer questions”.

How often does it occur that we aren’t able to answer a member or guests particular question? If we can’t answer questions consistently enough, it raises a red flag to the members/guests, and our knowledge levels and communication methods come into question. It’s difficult to know the answer to every question, and members/guests certainly don’t expect us to know every single answer. Sometimes a simple statement will suffice such as, “I am sorry sir, but I can’t answer your question at this time, however I will find out and contact you as soon as possible”. However, with that said, we can and should still be making a proactive effort to know the answer to both obvious and unforeseen questions. Being able to answer questions is an act of service as well as one of the many elements in projecting an image to our memberships. The ability to consistently have an answer projects an image of knowledge and professionalism, and one that cultivates the member’s trust in us.

Knowing answers requires consistent written communication (memos, emails, and detailed tournament sign up sheets) and verbal communication (meetings, timely feedback) amongst the staff. But it’s not just a team thing. You yourself should be seeking out answers on your own. Ask questions so you can answer questions. Don’t be afraid to ask other staff members a question. Asking a question does not mean you are not knowledgeable, it means you care.

Personalize Yourself

How often do you shake hands with members and guests and look them in the eye? Some shy away from that kind of interaction, some are comfortable with it. If you think about it, is there anything more warm and welcoming than a firm shake of the hand? In our culture, it is one of the ultimate gestures of respect. As golf professionals, we need to practice it more. Stay out from behind the counter and be in front of them. Keep as little division between you and the member/guest as possible. Personalize yourself and don’t get caught in that comfort zone behind the counter. If you’re seeing a member/guest for the first time that day, greet them with a shake of their hand. It projects an image of professionalism and portrays your personality more than does hiding behind the counter.

Be Visible

In my experiences, even as assistant golf professionals, it goes a long way in the eyes of the members and guests to mingle with them on the practice greens and the driving range. Approach them and just chat for 5 minutes and make it clear that if there is anything you can do for them, just ask. We have all heard the phrase, “Walk the line”. Go to the driving range on a slow or busy day and just go down the line, saying hello and shaking their hands. Something that works really well and members and guests appreciate is taking an hour before you “clock in” or “clock out” and going onto the golf course and tending a pin or two for a handful of groups. It gives you an opportunity to chat and they may even ask you to read a few putts. Last but not least, take a stroll over to the restaurant in your clubhouse on a busy day and briefly say hello to the occupied tables and shake a few hands (make sure you wash your hands before). All of this is just an effort to be visible and consistently remind your members and guests that you are there for them. Matt Funkhouser, Head Professional at Glendarin Hills GC in Indiana shared his insight with me on this subject:

"Sure, you try to shake all of your members and guests hands throughout the day, but have you ever extended a handshake to the person mowing the rough on the grounds crew? My point is simple: You never know who will assist you or help you in the future. The golf industry is a huge fraternity, even with the grounds crew. Get to know everyone at your facility, not just the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents. I make it a point to tell my Assistant Professional's to start a relationship with everyone at the facility."

Look for Holes

No matter how well a golf operation is run, or no matter how well placed a club is on Golf Digests “Americas 100 Greatest Golf Courses”, you can always find holes to fill, and ways to make systems and processes better. The trick is paying enough attention to recognize these holes. Study the policies and procedures manuals and observe when they are in action. Talk to employees of all levels and ask them about what works and doesn’t work. Watch others do their work and how they interact as they complete the tasks. Finding these holes and making an attempt to fill them gives you an opportunity to put your stamp on a golf operation. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, but at least you tried and gave the effort. What more can your superiors ask of you?