by Gary K. Carls CGCS
Over the past several years I have come to have a much greater understanding of the importance of history in our lives. Whether it is your personal history, that of an association or the history of your club they can all play an important role in many of the decisions we make in our jobs. Many of us have maintained a personal historical record in our heads of the things we have done that have worked well or have been failures. By maintaining this history in our minds we have learned to be better superintendents. Understanding and appreciating the value of history can help make us all more successful in our careers.
Having been privileged to have a copy of the GCSANC 65-year history, it becomes much easier to understand the old statement “history repeats itself”. It is amazing to see how many issues of today were concerns in the past. Issues such as water, staffing, chemical use, meeting participation, education and the image of the superintendent are all recurring themes throughout the history of our association. We all have made considerable efforts in these areas yet they remain concerns to the superintendent today, as they were 60 and 70 years ago.
Does this mean things have not changed in all these years? Certainly not, but we still work with nature and its ever changing character. New products have come along to help us do a better job or be more efficient in our work, but we will never be able to conquer “mother nature”. Other facets of our job have also changed and made our work more challenging. Player expectations have grown enormously over the past twenty years and we take it as our personal challenge to meet those expectations. The expectations at my course may be different than those at yours but we also are probably working with different tools to meet those expectations. Understanding that these challenges have always been there and will continue to be, is a key to remaining successful in this business.
In the past few years I have heard a lot more superintendents speaking about the history of their courses and clubs. I think this allows them a greater appreciation of what the intent of the original course designer was and allows them the opportunity to maintain their course to this intent. I think we all have been guilty at some point in our careers of thinking we could design a better hole than what we were given to work with.
By understanding the original design I think we can see how many of our current problems may be the result of changes that were not properly thought out in the time between the original plans and today. Over the years as different committees, superintendents or members tried to leave their mark on the course, history may have been changed, often times not for the better.
In most cases, I think a well-designed course from 70 years ago is still a good design. Maintaining the course to the original intent may be the key. Learning more about the history of your course may be one of the best things you can do to understand how to best maintain your course. If you have a set of original plans look them over and try and envision what the architect was trying accomplish and how he wanted the course to play and how your maintenance practices affect that intent. Can you alter your practices in a way that will make the course play more like the original design?
In our area we are blessed with golf courses designed by some of the greatest architects of all time. I don’t think equipment advances will ever make these pieces of history obsolete. Trying to maintain them in a manner they were not designed for might. Try and preserve the history and learn from it whenever possible. The results may surprise you.