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Effective Management Skills for Golf Operators

Effective Management Skills for Golf Operators

You’ve just been hired or promoted to the management position you’ve been after, and it feels great. Congrats! You feel confident in your knowledge of the golf industry, and your experience speaks for itself. But if you’ve never led people at this level before, are there key management skills you’re missing? Not to worry — while the list is long, chances are you already have some of these attributes, and the rest can be learned on the job. But before you dive into your new role, brief yourself on the technical, conceptual and interpersonal skills a great golf operator needs.


What are Technical Skills?

These are techniques that allow you to carry out a task and achieve it correctly. While these tasks tend to be carried out by lower-level employees, technical skills actually become less important as you climb the ranks of your organization. Management and executive-level personnel oversee those jobs. Still, it pays to know how to do things yourself in case an employee makes an ill-timed mistake, you have a sudden spike in workload, or you’re unexpectedly short-staffed. Plus, jumping into the fire at a moment’s notice and displaying technical acumen will earn you some respect from your subordinates.

Digital Marketing

Can you name all the marketing and social media platforms your golf club is using? If you can, great! But it’s still not enough. Today’s golf landscape is as competitive as ever, and courses are differentiating themselves using Google AdWords, Facebook for Business, Instagram, and more. Don’t write these off as “those websites the kids are using.” According to data from software review site SproutSocial, 68% of Americans aged 50-64 use Facebook. And digital marketing is only as good as your audience. Learn how to use the platforms yourself to develop strategies — then find someone savvier than you to lead that charge.

Data Analytics

Taking information, distilling it into logical pieces, and using that to make informed decisions is a key part of managing a business. That’s why many great business leaders come from analytical backgrounds. But as a people manager, getting into the nitty-gritty of the numbers may not be your forte. It’s important to be fluent in the language of data, even if you can’t crunch numbers at a Good Will Hunting level. Understanding the basics of your company’s analytics tools will help you effectively communicate with your data manager in order to make quick & appropriate decisions.

Project Management

At one point or another, you’ll have to lead your team members through a project. As the project leader, it’s your job to map out a path to achieve the goal, which should be as clear as possible. Then you need to pave the way for your team members to hit the ground running, acting as support and smoothing out as many obstacles as you can along the way. While it’s important that you have at least the basic technical skills required to carry out each task, you really need to step back and oversee things from a high level in order to monitor progress, identify roadblocks or weaknesses, and provide the necessary resources for your employees to straight-up execute.


What are Conceptual Skills?

For a top-level manager of a large organization, like say the general manager of a golf course, conceptual skills are vital. Someone in this role must be able to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. (Perhaps that’s a scary analogy for golfers.) A golf course is composed of so many departments with different functions and sometimes opposing priorities — and it’s the general manager’s duty to cut through the fog and make the decision that’s right for the business as a whole. Your golf operations team might come to you with a no-brainer proposal to extend the driving range, but they haven’t properly considered financial implications or the extra workload it would put on the groundskeepers. As a manager, you need to avoid getting bogged down in the details and instead see through a wide lens.


While you may have a dedicated strategic planner on your team, everyone in a management position at your golf course will have to think long-term in everything they do. As a planner, you set out a vision for your business — an ideal outcome. Then you work backwards to figure out how to get there. Managers need to chart out the specific actions required to meet the end goal, then delegate those tasks to their team members.

Creative Thinking

Creativity isn’t just for artists and writers. In fact, creative thinking — bringing a fresh, sometimes unorthodox perspective to your work — can be applied to just about any field. The operators that are best able to harness creative thinking into practical and useful actions are typically the ones that innovate. Applying creative thinking as a manager can unlock many of the issues your employees face every day — but teaching them how to harness their own creative mind at work will get your team to a whole new level.


Problems. They happen every day. And they’re not always as dramatic or obvious as a verbal disagreement between coworkers or a faulty drainage system. Often, problems disguise themselves as minor annoyances that are easily ignored. But a manager’s ability to identify and solve issues both big and small on a regular basis directly impacts their team’s success. Circle back to our Creative Thinking and Conceptual Skills sections for some problem-solving hints.


What are Interpersonal Skills?

A manager’s ability to productively interact with other people, and in particular those that report to them, is their interpersonal skills — and they’re massively important. A manager’s people skills don’t only impact their team’s productivity. Perhaps more importantly, they contribute to employees’ feelings about the manager. Do they respect her? Do they believe in his ability to lead? Can they take their instruction and turn it into swift action? These are all things that can go right or wrong based on a manager’s interpersonal skills.


Speaking of leading, we’d argue that one’s ability to inspire a group to all pull in the same direction, in other words, their leadership, is the most important skill a manager can possess. Leadership is not just about giving passionate speeches and motivating your troops. It’s also about organization, team-building, and engagement. Good leaders know how to foster a positive and healthy working environment — and weed out the people or things that get in the way of that. The best leaders are those that instill values in their team members so strongly that the leader is no longer needed to carry them through.


Communication is key. Giving and receiving information happens every hour of every day. Whether it’s providing instruction on how to perform a task, giving feedback on a job, or sending an important email to your team, the way you communicate is the way your employees will understand their work. And it’s not only how you speak or write to people. Listening, observing, and empathizing are just as important. Communication is constant, and it’s also key.


Did you ever get “Works well with others” on your school report cards? That’ll pay off as a manager! While you may be in a position to delegate much of the time, you’ll also have to work closely with your fellow managers and sometimes jump into the trenches side by side with your subordinates. It’s then that you’ll have to flex your collaboration muscles. You know by now that some jobs simply can’t be done alone, so when you find yourself working in a group, you need to communicate clearly, be open and honest, respect the opinions of others, and encourage each person to use their strengths.


Exhale. Now that you know the three types of management skills you need to operate a golf course — and surely you already had several of these skills — you can continue to self-improve and build your resume with new abilities. Plus, you can walk in on Day One of your new job wielding one of the most important skills of all: Confidence.

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More of this topic: Management & Operations