The Role of the Assistant Superintendent

Perhaps one of the most varied roles in the golf course maintenance business is that of the assistant superintendent. While this position almost categorically implies a management role on a golf maintenance staff, the actual level and areas of management vary greatly depending on the superintendent for whom the assistant works, the level of maintenance of the golf course, and the type of facility.

The one defining role of an assistant, in any capacity, is to make the job of the superintendent easier. This prevailing notion allows for a flexible, site-specific definition of the role. First, the assistant must understand the scope of the superintendent’s role at the facility – and whether or not that scope requires the assistant to provide a more managerial role like a foreman, or a more strategic decision making role closer to the superintendent. It is most likely that the actual answer lies somewhere between these two points. This brings the second concept of understanding that defines the assistant’s role. The assistant superintendent must develop an understanding of the superintendent’s thought processes and strategic vision for the golf course’s level of maintenance.

It is all well that an assistant can manage a day-to-day operation of a golf course maintenance staff; however, these daily tasks are always geared toward a bigger picture that is developed by the superintendent in concert with the decision makers in the membership or ownership of the facility. A lack of understanding of the greater vision for the golf course severely limits the assistant’s ability to make decisions on problems or situations that arise unexpectedly. Therefore, it is a primary role of the assistant superintendent to ask, understand, and implement the strategic vision of the golf course maintenance plan.

Pertaining to the assistant’s role down the management chain, the job is much like an executive officer in the military. In this capacity, the assistant must oversee the execution of the daily tasks of golf course maintenance. There is no role that an assistant provides that is more helpful to the superintendent than as a trusted leader of the daily maintenance. This frees the superintendent to oversee and evaluate the golf course in terms of the larger picture outlined above.

One last point on the flexibility of these responsibilities. As the role is very site-specific, it is certainly understandable and at times necessary that the assistant take on a more simplified role in the daily task lists as the need for a skilled and trained eye varies with the daily needs of the golf course. Assistant Superintendents must be prepared and willing to take on difficult chemical application, irrigation repair, acute detail work and potentially remove themselves from the decision-chain for a time as needed for the overall betterment of the golf course. In this role, the assistant superintendent must prepare to facilitate flexibility in management.

While wholly site-specific, the assistant superintendent’s role in any golf course maintenance staff draws several common threads that are adaptable to the facility. The assistants who are best able to draw on these common threads will be most successful.

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