Turf Matters

The Site To Go To For All Your Turf Matters

  • Facebook Likes

  • The new Brushcutter

    Pengganti Brushcutter

    Increase productivity, cut labour. Try the AM61A

  • Trees Nursery

    Forest trees nursery

    Get your Trees from this nursery

Posts Tagged ‘golf course maintenance’

Visit Malaysian Golf 2020

Posted by mynormas on February 22, 2019

Did you know that 2020 is Visit Malaysia Year or VMY? Visit Malaysia Year has been held in 1990, 1994, 2007 and 2014. The next one will be 2020 with the tagline ‘Travel. Enjoy. Respect’.

logo VMY 2020

This is the old logo that almost everyone hates, but since there’s no new logo as yet, here we are.

Tourism is a big income earner for Malaysia contributing up to 15% of the GDP. And as per the Tourism Malaysia Annual Report of 2016, page 43, golf tourism accounted for RM335 million in 2016 alone. So its nothing to be sniffed at. Don’t miss the boat. Don’t regret if your club does not catch part of the huge crowd of golfers next year (Ahem…).

But seriously, what are you doing to prepare for it?  I’d also love to ask what is the government doing to prepare for next year’s VMY but who am I to question those who can’t be questioned?

Since I’d like the Malaysian golf industry to thrive, question the industry-players I must. We can’t wait for the government to bring the visitors to our doorstep, we have to do our bit too. How and what to do, you ask? Well there’s a few suggestions I’d like to make.

But first some clarification is in order. Please do not restrict VMY only to foreign tourists, it also includes domestic tourism. Having cleared that up, the first suggestion I’d like to make is to advertise, to create some sort of interest in your club. What is different about your golf course compared to others?

And please… enough about caddies. Did you know that Malaysia was awarded Asia’s Best Golf Destination in 2014? Indonesia and Thailand had better caddies but we won. Its not about the caddies.

Fast greens are not enough an attraction anymore, many visitors can get fast greens in many other places. Of course, having slow greens is a decided disadvantage. Having dead AND slow greens is embarassing for your club AND Malaysia. Do not be surprised, I have seen quite a few of those.

green dead

Some of my suggestions:

  1. Advertise. Get noticed. Get a write up done. Do something different, something outrageous. Be different.
  2. A coat of paint. If not the whole clubhouse then the places where visitors most likely to visit. The golf centre, starter hut, half-way hut, the toilets, the changing rooms, the golfers’ restaurant and at the risk of repeating myself; the toilet. Oh don’t forget the course furniture and accessories too.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. The signages. This could easily go to item 1 but I think it’s too important to risk putting it on a low priority. I am talking about signages from the outside of the club to the inside.signage bad
  4. The trees. Yes, believe it or not the trees on the golf course. Back when the golf course was designed, the architect had already specified how many trees to be planted. Then along the way, as the trees were growing, more and more were planted until they grow big and too close together. Trim, cull, kill, transfer, the trees. Well… some of them anyway. Just send some workers and one guideline “Anything below five feet; cut” or “Anything within 10 feet of each other, kill the smallest tree”.

    tree

    Wayyy too many trees for the grass to survive. Wayyy too many trees for the machinery to manouever. Wayy too many trees for golfers to play through. In short; wayyy too many trees.

  5. The greens. The greens are the heart of the golf course. Please grow more grass on the greens. In the quest for speed, too many golf clubs stress their greens by mowing very low losing grass to disease and algae in the process. Grow more grass, take care of your soil, then only think about speed. Asking you to hire me seems to be self-serving, so I won’t; go ahead and ask two or more suppliers about your greens. Then make a decision about what to buy. Or to renovate or to replant from the nursery. Just do something in the months that you have before 2020.
  6. The fairways. The fairways are expensive if you want to install them with subsoil drains. I suggest you use spikers or slicers to cut tiny holes into the soil to allow water to flow into the soil and also for better circulation of air. It helps during the not so wet season. You’ll still be in trouble during the monsoon, but at least it won’t be so bad after every little bit of rain.fairway slicer spiker aerator
  7. The tees. Most golfers who are regulars or are club members, insist on the tee markers being at the back of the back tee. Or the centre of the tee. Ends up that part of the tee is the most used and are balding. Train your staff to rotate the tee position by following the pin position. If the pin is at the back of the green (blue flag), the tee should be in front, and I mean all colour of tees should be in front. tee not changed
  8. Your frontliners. I once overheard a receptionist calling for a Mr. Brikjen, I happened to glance at the guy’s score card and he was a Brigadier General! His friend wrote his card as Brig Gen name and the receptionist thought that was his full name! How about a waiter with body odour? Or a scowling receptionist? I’ve seen them all and more.

There’s probably plenty more you can do the grab part of the RM350 million. Or you can continue complaining. And wait for something to happen. Anything.

Maintaining this Website. Sumbangan.

Saya menyumbang ilmu secara ikhlas melalui laman web ini. Tetapi pengendalian laman web ini perlukan wang. Setiap tahun USD99 (lebihkurang RM400). Sedikit sumbangan anda amat membantu. Anda mendapat manafaat dari laman web ini? Sumbangan bermula dari $10. Jangan lupa ‘Like’ artikel ini; ‘Follow’ laman web ini dan klik mana mana iklan di page ini. This website is maintained and managed with my own money. I’ve done my best to not allow advertisement on this site thus far so that I can be independent. I’m going to start to ask for donations and see if I can get enough to sustain it that way. Donations start from $10.

$10.00

Advertisements

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Padang Golf | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fertiliser: less is more

Posted by mynormas on August 9, 2016

I was doing training at a golf club the past couple of weeks. It was about basic chemical application, y’know, calibration, safety, pest identification and stuff. Since it was the fourth time for the club (the superintendent organised it every alternate year), I thought I’d slip in a module about fertilising, just to keep the training interesting and hopefully to ensure I get invited back next year. Two things came to mind:

One. I was explaining about the nutrients required by turf and how important each nutrient in its own way to the health of the turf. I was writing on the white board when suddenly I drew a wooden barrel (or cask, if you prefer) and mentioned about Liebig’s Law of Minimum. I said that according to Mr. Liebig, each nutrient is important and lacking in any will affect the plant’s health.

Liebig's barrel

Liebig used the image of a barrel with unequal staves to explain how plant growth is limited by the element in shortest supply, just as the level of water in the barrel is limited by the shortest stave.

During the lunch break a participant showed me a picture of the Liebig’s barrel sent by the superintendent (he was sitting at the back of the class) to their group WhatsApp presumably because my drawing was bad. It then occurred to me that I actually read about Liebig’s Law 22 or 23 years ago! I remember because I read it in the local public library. I know it was that long ago because back then, knowledge wasn’t the only thing I was pursuing at the library and when I got married, I largely stopped going to the library.

Anyway, Liebig’s law was more than 150 years old and there probably are people who disagreed with him but the fact that I recalled it at the particular instant reminded me about something I heard or read about the mysteries of the mind and how we don’t actually lose information in the brain, so I came to the logical conclusion: I am more than just a pretty face.

The second thing that struck my mind was when I was explaining about measuring green sizes and the participants eagerly asked that it be included in the practical session later in the evening. Know this; most of my participants are not particularly fond of practical sessions because it involves a lot of calculations. Know this too: many superintendents don’t know or don’t measure their green sizes.

Training day at KLGCC

I told my participants that knowing green sizes is important because it will be easier to weigh the amount of fertiliser needed for each green – based on fertilising rate – as compared to calibrating the fertiliser spreader or worse, having no system at all. It would also make it easy to buy close to exact amount of fertiliser needed instead of the usual one ton figure when what you really need is 0.8 ton for 18 greens for six months (all figures not real).

As an example, if we decide to fertilise at a rate of 1.5kg/100 sq.m then green 7 which is 600 sq.m in size will get 9kg, green 8 (703 sq.m) will get 10.5kg, green 16 (345 sq.m) shall receive 5.2kg of fertiliser brand Y which, when calculated with the percentage of nitrogen in the fertiliser, we can say that each green receives 150g of nitrogen per 100sq.m.

Furthermore if the total sizes of all 19 greens in your course is 9,200sq.m, and you think you will stick with applying 1.5kg/100 sq.m/month of that particular fertiliser, then you’ll know you need 125kg of it every month or about 750kg for the next six months. Why order more? Yet it is quite common for clubs to order an exact one ton despite the protestations of the supplier “NO! Don’t order so much! Order just enough for your needs!”. Ahem.

It is disappointing that I can still find Malaysian golf clubs that apply fertiliser at the rate of one bag per green regardless of green or fertiliser bag sizes. The other method I’ve seen was when I was told that this club used the setting ‘J’ on brand ‘X’ fertiliser spreader. That could’ve sound reasonable except that the spreader was never calibrated and the superintendent doesn’t know the rate of fertiliser he applied.

In the first club, after measuring the greens and weighing the fertiliser according to the size of greens and rate of application, they cut down their fertiliser use from 16 bags to 12 bags per month. Guess what? The greens were greener and in better condition two months later. In the other club, they chose to be secretive about the amount of fertiliser used before measurement or maybe they didn’t know or maybe they were upset that a consultant was forced on them and didn’t want to cooperate: didn’t matter  to me, based on a few factors, I chose a new rate and the greens improved too.

If you think by saving the club’s money every month, producing  greener and better greens means that I’m getting a huge paycheck; you’re wrong. Despite the improvements at one particular club, it still hasn’t paid me for the last four months of my consultancy there. No kidding.

Posted in Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens, Padang Golf | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Consultant

Posted by mynormas on May 24, 2016

I was with a client Golf Course Superintendent (CS) and he was telling me about a golfer that was gushing about the improvements in his course and wonders how the CS could manage such work in a short time during one of Malaysia’s hottest weather period ever. The superintendent said “I told him that now, we have a consultant who…” I held up my hand “No, you were 70% of it” I said “You, and your people did all of the work. We had a discussion, yes, but you did the work. I have clubs that I have consulted for much longer and there was no difference, sometimes their condition got worse”

The CS blinked. “How could that be?” he asked.

“Well, not all superintendents are willing to listen. There are those who felt that a consultant was forced on them when they don’t need one. I have a superintendent who will do the opposite of my recommendations and there was one who would deliberately take my recommendations to extremes” I continued to give him two specific examples of the incidents.

Unfortunately for the golf course, when the CS did the opposite of my recommendations, it back-fired and as for the part where a superintendent took my recommendation to the extreme, I was lucky that in my report I showed pictures of two other clubs that received the same recommendation with good result because it was done with common sense.

I just could not bring myself to put those kind of things in my report or mention it to the management. In one club when the GM – who was a friend – asked my opinion about a CS related to one of the cases I spoke of earlier.  I told him “I think he should be promoted, either to be a club manager or perhaps laterally as operations manager”

“Why?”

“He is loyal, qualified, has good relations with golfers and perhaps he has been in one position too long, exposing him to other jobs may improve his morale and perhaps even open a brand new career path for him”

I told my client CS “Some days I just want to resign from being their consultant. It has come to a stage where it can be embarrassing to admit I consulted for them. The incidents I quoted were for the things that I can follow up on but what about stuff that I can’t?  Like fertilising or chemical applications?”

There are of course, other clubs that can be a challenge too, for example clubs that has a case of ‘the improvement lust is strong but the financial flesh is weak’. Watching TV turns them on but they have no money for Viagra (for the clubs that are in that position usually are at an old, Viagra-needing age already). So they hire someone who can give suggestions that they can’t act on. Honestly, I usually stay on at these clubs because the CSs there are usually hard-working and full of initiative.

Then there are clubs where the management are perhaps are not clear on what they want. “I want to improve my golf course” they said “Sure” I replied and a couple of months later they’ll say “My fairways are still wet”. I said “Your fairways are wet during the rainy season and we can only work on them when they’re dry, in the meantime, we work on your greens”. “But my greens are fine” one particular boss said. So I showed him the before and after pictures of the greens because somehow the young CS managed to improve the greens in just two months.

The only club – so far – that I have refused to work as a consultant for is a club that the GM would continuously reduce the cutting height after I have asked that they be raised because of health issues. When explained, he would feign understanding and agreement but it would happen again within an hour of me leaving the club. I was engaged under a friend’s company so I told the friend; “Sorry, I’m busy and can’t cope”.

There are also some superintendents who don’t like to be friends (tongue in cheek) with me. Whenever I go to a club, whether at the invite of the management or as a customer, I do my best to contact the superintendent beforehand but I don’t know everyone and some superintendents live like hermits with no friends in the industry or not a member of the association so I don’t know who they are in which case I usually tell the management to ‘make sure the superintendent know I am coming’. Once or twice the management will be red-faced to explain the absence of the superintendent “I met him this morning!” was one reply I got; there was one ‘Emergency Leave’ and a recent ‘Very Busy’.

In general, it has always been a good experience, I enjoy the work though yesterday my wife said that soon, maybe I should look for a permanent job without so much of traveling because “… you are not getting any younger”. Hard to argue with that, the traveling is the toughest part of this job.

When I first started this consultant business a friend remarked “I have always imagined you as a consultant” I wasn’t that surprised and asked why, assuming the answer to be my knowledge, experience and luck in working for big or award-winning clubs.”Because you are always smiling and approachable”

Oh…

Posted in Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A winner

Posted by mynormas on April 21, 2016

I was at a client club the other day going round the course with the superintendent. I was in crisis mode because their green no. 2 had the highest number of insects per square meter I’ve ever seen. Plus the hot weather was thinning out the other greens.

On one green, we met a flight of golfers and I as usual try to be unobtrusive without being unfriendly; a nod here, a smile there and a thumbs-up where appropriate. One of them approach us “Whatcha doing? Checking the greens?” he asked. “Yes” I whispered (one of his friend was putting). “The greens are quite fast now” he said. “Really?!” I said, wide-eyed. “Yes, really, it really is different from what it was before” or words to that effect. I’m assuming the ‘it’ he was referring to was the whole golf course.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just another green in another day on another golf course…

I pushed the superintendent to the front “Here’s the guy responsible for it. All his work” The golfer nodded to the super and the super was unsure of how to respond but I suppose it’s safe to say he was pretty proud and he should be.

He only has one triplex greensmower for 19 greens. That same mower is used for dethatching and rolling. One tractor pulled fairway mower, one unreliable front deck mower, one bunker raker and nine workers; four of which works for only half of the day. He mows his tees with backpack brushcutters. He fertilises his greens with slow-release greens’ grade fertiliser alternating with big-prilled oil palm fertiliser.

He has been working at the same course since the day it was planted with grass, in fact, he was one of the workers doing the planting. He stayed on through a few management changes and rose up through the ranks.

He doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t have formal training or even much education, what he has is a good attitude. He takes notes of almost everything that I said (doesn’t necessarily mean he does everything) and asks questions if he doesn’t understand. He is not afraid of trials and tests which I have come to fear more than he does but there were a few chemicals that I am using now that I learnt from him. He doesn’t complain or whine and he definitely does not have the victim mentality.

What he has achieved came through a victor mentality of wanting to try anything new.

Sure, the greens and even the course may not be much to KL folks but considering the resources he has, the location of the club and the price golfers pay; I think the club did well to improve the course and at least this flight of golfers agree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those black things? Those are the bugs.

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Greens | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Unaffordable Course

Posted by mynormas on January 26, 2016

The USGA Green Section wrote a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic even, article on its website on how golf courses increase their maintenance costs. I may not agree with all of them (edging the buggy paths, for example) but there are plenty that I agree with and am surprised that Malaysian golf courses continue to do them or even constructing them. Lets list and summarise  them here; words in bold are from the article (ok, maybe I paraphrased here and there: sorry) and those not in bold are my comments.

  1. Having (or adding) a lot of bunkers which should be maintained to be consistent and uniform. The more bunkers a golf course has, the more difficult it is to be maintained to be consistent and uniform or even maintained regularly. And no, I don’t think consistently and uniformly not maintaining them at all counts.

    Now almost all new bunkers in Malaysia 'must' look like this. I once asked "Why?!" and was told "There's a new cloth/coat/technology to hold the sand". "Thats good" I said "but it will still increase your construction and maintenance cost and it looks out of character from your older bunkers!" "Ya... but everyone else has them" was the reply.

    Almost all new bunkers in Malaysia ‘must’ look like this. I once asked “Why?!” and was told “There’s a new cloth/coat/technology to hold the sand”.
    “Thats good” I said “but it will still increase your construction and maintenance cost and it looks out of character from your older bunkers!”
    “Ya… but everyone else has them” was the reply.

  2. Plant more trees. Ya… There are owners and bosses who love to plant trees. Committees too. Perhaps some people think its a legacy thing. With too much trees, grass don’t get enough sunlight and the efficiency of your mowers is less to mow around them. Plus your rough/fairways dries out slower because less air and sun.
  3. Lakes and stream banks. Mowing and trimming them as close to the water edge as possible. These are mostly manual work.
  4. A ball washer for every hole. If you must have them (they’re sponsored perhaps?) install them at tees of holes 1, 10 and at your par-3s. Golfers or caddies can make use of them while waiting for their turn. If I have a ball washer I’d be changing the soap water every week.
  5. Let the maintenance staff fill the divots instead of educating golfers (and caddies) to do it.
  6. Blowing debris from fairways and roughs (I may not agree totally on this.  Though I usually blow the leaves on Fridays only)
  7. Have a multitude of mowing heights. This is my pet peeve. I try very hard to not roll my eyes when superintendents proudly tell me that their tee is mowed at 14mm, the collar is at 12mm the apron is at 15; the fairway collar at 20, the light rough… As if golfers or even the staff can tell the difference of 2mm. I’m betting the Myanmarese mechanic back at the workshop is laughing to himself while setting everything at 17mm… For most clubs; I suggest only three mowing heights: greens, fairway (=tee, collar, apron etc) and rough (=light rough, deep rough etc).
  8. Mow the greens and/or tees with walk-behinds. Mind you most clubs in Malaysia get away with it because instead of either two ride-ons or six walk-behinds greensmowers for 18 holes; some clubs have two or three walk-behinds for 18 holes and don’t see a problem with it.
  9. Ornamental flower beds. I totally agree. Why have an unmaintained flower bed? I actually conspired with a superintendent of a client club by removing a long neglected flower bed while the boss is away and pretending it was never there. Long story… Maybe one day I’ll tell it.
  10. Irrigate non-playing areas. I took out a lot of sprinklers from rough areas.
  11. Overseed turf that would go dormant. Not applicable to Malaysia.
  12. Make your natural unnatural. Yeah… about this. I think we shold keep natural areas to be natural however, this does not mean unmanaged; I usually send workers once a year to kill new trees, ‘volunteer’ oil palms and creeper plants.
  13. Plant the wrong grasses for your area. You know; Seashore Paspalum for fields far from the seashore or Bermudagrass/Tifeagle for areas with a lot of shade.
  14. Edge the buggy paths frequently. I actually see nothing wrong with this if you have the manpower. I do this at least at holes 1 and 10 for the best first impressions.
  15. Let your irrigation system get too old. At the very least the pump house lah…
  16. Use plenty of signs, stakes and ropes. Ya. Mowing around these takes time and reduce efficiency.

For detailed sarcasm, visit the page at www.usga.org/course-care/forethegolfer/steps-to-make-your-course-unaffordable.html.

For sharing information about how to not increase the cost of your course, call Normas at 03-5I3I-OO66 or email me at mynormasATconsultant.com replacing AT with @. 

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Padang Golf | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Meet Azmi

Posted by mynormas on November 3, 2015

Have you ever met a local worker that feels lunchtime is a waste of time and consistently works through it? When that was brought to my attention a few months ago, I had thought it was only during the busy periods or maybe a once a month kind of phenomena, but it turns out he has been doing it for years. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Encik Azmi bin Mat Ali. Pernahkah anda berjumpa dengan pekerja tempatan yg merasakan waktu makan adalah ‘buang masa’? Kenali Encik Azmi bin Mat Ali. Pertama kali saya mendengarnya, saya sangka ia berlaku jarang-jarang sekali atau hanya jika tekanan kerja memerlukan, rupanya dia telah melakukannya secara diam, tanpa meminta balasan atau pujian selama bertahun tahun.. 

A father of three and a 17-year veteran of the golf course industry, he says that he would rather work through lunch because ‘stopping mid-way and going back to the workshop is a waste of time’ and he feels that he might just as well finish what he started which is primarily, mowing fairways.

Azmi

Azmi

In the Malaysian context, a golf course machinery operator can usually operate only one or two machines. Not Azmi, he can operate several and ‘given the tools, I can make adjustments to the cutting unit too’. Some superintendents, the foreign ones especially, may find this laughably mundane and strange to be unique but in Malaysia where many clubs use transient migrant workers as machine operators, this is unique. Working through lunch hour consistently would make him an abnormality especially with the attitude of many in the industry today, whether from the management or even from the workers side.

The management thinks that the local workers are not reliable and hardworking (which usually means work long hours; productivity be damned), and the workers usually have entitlement issues (like “I am entitled to this” kind of thing). Both are right in their own way; the problem comes when they fail to see issues from the perspective of the ‘other side’.

Back to Azmi, he mows fairways of nine holes in one day, without overtime. Again, some may think that is normal but I have worked in a golf course with machine operators that took two days or more to finish nine holes.  It took me about two months to untrain and retrain one particular worker; he’s not stupid, just not trained hence not productive. It would be easier to just give him overtime to finish the job and if he can’t, because he has to pick up kids after school, to call him lazy. I chose the hard way.

Personally, I feel that management needs to move away from the mentality that golf course maintenance is just cutting grass (to which I mean the workers need to be trained: either send them for training or send your superintendent/supervisors to a specialized/shortened Train the Trainer program) and I also feel that workers needs to move away from the mentality of ‘I’m just a grass cutter’ and as long as ‘cukup makan (just enough to eat), I’m fine’, whether in terms of knowledge or skill or contribution. We seem to be satisfied with what we have except for salary though, everyone wants a big salary increment every year, even if what we can do (skills, knowledge and contribution) this year compared to last year, in fact, every year is the same.  We want a bigger increment because we are still breathing?

As workers, we claim that we deserve better pay because of our 10 years’ experience but if we take a closer look at our ’10 years’, it is actually one year’s experience repeated 10 times or at best, two years’ experience repeated five times. We need to get over our entitlement issues, to be respected and to be able to claim for better pay or promotion, we need to be able to show our skill, knowledge and contribution is increasing over the years.

Secara peribadi, saya ber pendapat bahawa majikan perlu mempunyai mentality yg ber beza dari ‘pekerja padang hanya lah tukang potong rumput; siapa siapa pun boleh buat’; sebaliknya memikirkan untuk menambah produktiviti, pengetahuan dan kebulehan pekerja dengan cara menghantar mereka ke sesi latihan luar ataupun menghantar pegawai atas ke sesi ‘ Train the Trainer’ di reka khusus untuk mereka supaya mereka boleh menjadi pengajar yg lebih baik. Pastikan semua kursus di ‘tailor made’ utk kakitangan anda dan bukan sebarang kursus untuk awam.

Untuk pekerja pula, kita harus menjauhi pemikiran ‘cukup makan’ dan berpuashati dengan sumbangan, pengetahuan dan kebolehan kita. Kita tak berpuashati dengan pendapatan kita, kita mahukan kenaikan besar setiap tahun sedangkan sumbangan, pengetahuan dan kebolehan kita pada tahun ini – malah setiap tahun – sama sahaja. Jadi kenapa kita mahukan kenaikan besar? Kerana kita masih bernafas?

Kita mengaku kita ada pengalaman 10 tahun, tapi bila diteliti, kita dapati pengalaman kita adalah satu tahun di ulang 10 kali ataupun pengalaman dua tahun di ulang lima kali. Pada saya, untuk mendapat penghormatan dan hak untuk demand kenaikan kita harus tingkatkan sumbangan, kebolehan atau pengetahuan kita. Pada saya, pembohongan dari majikan bukanlah tentang kenaikan gaji 3% atau 5% setiap tahun, tetapi kegagalan mereka utk memberi ruang dan peluang kepada pekerja meningkatkan ilmu dan kebolehan lantas mengurang peluang pekerja mencari majikan baru (yang mungkin boleh memberi kenaikan lebih) sekaligus memerangkap mereka dalam perbincangan atau rundingan tapi kekal di satu tempat kerja. Pekerja pula mengambil jalan mudah dengan memilih mentality mangsa dan tidak mengambil tanggungjawab untuk destiny sendiri sebaliknya menyerahkan kepada dan menyalahkan org lain: Lebih mudah utk merungut dan mengadu pada bulan Januari daripada berusaha untuk peningkatan diri dari Februari hingga Disember.

Azmi’s employer told me that if he ever asks for leave, they would immediately approve – mainly because he rarely applies for one anyway – and that they have been generous in his annual increments because of his dedication to his duty and to his work. He may not be the perfect example in terms of knowledge and skill, but in terms of dedication and responsibility, his employers know they can depend on him and has rewarded him accordingly.

You may have your own stories of dedication and hard work; I’ve always liked to highlight such stories to inspire and perhaps debunk prejudices so do share with us. If your story is about how you were treated unfairly, trust us, you’re not the only one; but the rest of us just refuse to be victims.

Majikan Azmi memberitahu saya bahawa mereka akan segera meluluskan cuti beliau jika dipohon, selalunya dia jarang memohon cuti pun dan mereka merasakan mereka lebih mudah untuk bermurah hati sewaktu mempertimbangkan kenaikan gaji tahunan untuk beliau kerana kebolehan dan dedikasinya. Dia mungkin bukan contoh terbaik untuk menggambarkan kebolehan dan pengetahuan pekerja, tetapi majikan nya tahu dia boleh di harap dari segi dedikasi dan tanggungjawab.

Anda mungkin ada kisah dan cerita tentang pekerja ber dedikasi anda sendiri, saya berharap anda tidak keberatan untuk berkongsi. Jika cerita anda adalah tentang ketidakadilan, percayalah kami yang lain semua pernah mengalaminya, cuma kami memilih  untuk tidak memiliki pemikiran mangsa.

Posted in Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Pekerja Mahir

Posted by mynormas on September 7, 2015

In my experience and from what I’ve seen; very few Malaysian golf course staff are actually formally trained. I define ‘formally trained’ as a period of time be it 10 minutes or 10 days or more where a staff is taught on what he does, where he does it, why and the machinery by a qualified or suitably experienced staff.

More often than not, a staff that stands out will be selected to operate a small machine, fo example, a bunker rake or a mini tractor. He would then gradually be told to use a bigger machine over time. This actually is good practice, except for the fact that for some of them, this would be the first machine (and for some foreign workers, they have never operatted a motorbike before) they have ever used.

How does he learn how to operate the machines? An operator who has previously operated the machine. Nothing wrong with that. Except that the same thing happened with that operator too a few years ago (sometimes a few weeks ago).

So he does not know about safety protocols whether about the machine or the areas he will be mowing. He is ignorant about machinery maintenance and the finer points of mowing. Not for long of course, remember the staff member selected is usually relatively the brightest of them there and so he does not take long to adapt and to learn from his mistakes. Yet I still see ‘experienced’ operators that mow muddy fairways, making a bad situation worse. Ok maybe that is not bad training per se but also shows a lack of common sense and/or a bad attitude.

20, 15 years ago I used to hire staff from the agriculture institute of Malaysia or IPM where they graduated with a certificate in agriculture. This used to be a three-year course where they learnt about plants agronomy, nutrition and also agriculture machinery and engines. The best part is that they are able to operate a tractor and change a tractor’s implements. It may not be that much relevant on a golf course but by the time they are on my golf course, the bunker rake is not the first machine they operate. Get it?

Unfortunately, by now their sylllabus has been changed to a two year course with the final semester being ‘practical training’ off-campus. The syllabus is now more modern with enterpreneurial and computer skils added. Good for them, but of not much use for me.

In a recent talk I gave to a group of people interested in setting up a training facility, I outlined the importance of skilled workers in the field mantenance industry (note I did not say ‘golf course maintenance industry’) where the best reason is that there is a better possibility of improving the golf course quality with skilled workers. The least important reason, I suppose, is reducing the number of foreign workers in Malaysia.

However, there are hindrances that I foresee. Big hindrances. This project of training skilled workers will not work if the employers; the golf courses, the fields, the contractors are not supportive of it. There will be plenty of reasons or excuses; those can be overcome. High turnover, high mobility, cannot work hard (read: cannot work long hours), unreliable etc, can be overcome. What will be more difficult is overcoming the notion that field maintenance is just ‘cutting grass’.

Its hard enough convincing club owners to improve the pay scale for golf course superintendents and/or hire better quality people to justify the better pay scale. It would be harder, I imagine, to convince them to hire skilled field workers AND to introduce a career path for the said workers.

But I have seen it work and the people that want to do this may have some ideas of their own to do this; retraining existing workers, for example. I wish them luck. At least some one is doing something different other than hiring more foreign workers at a problem. “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity” Remember? That Einstein guy’s quote?

 

Posted in Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents, Maintenance, Padang | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

This machine is mine.

Posted by mynormas on August 19, 2015

In a recent previous post and even in a magazine article, I wrote that in the month of August, turf machinery be washed extra clean, polished even, and a national flag tied to the machine; not merely as a show of patriotism but more so that the machine operators take a little bit more care for their machine instead of just hosing it down at the end of the day, every day.

Why August? Because coincidentally, the National Day of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia fall in this month and many of my readers are from this region (WordPress allows me to trace the country of origin of readers).

Yesterday I happened to visit one of those golf courses that did this. The superintendent told me how he picked a Saturday afternoon when most of the machinery were back at the workshop and called for a staff meeting. After the usual briefing, he told them about the programme and gave them time to wash their machines.

One operator, after vigorously washing his machine, found that he could not tie the flagpole to the machines’ roll-over bar because the roof was wider than the bar and there wasn’t any other place to tie the flag. Guess what he did? He dismantled the roof and tied the flag to the roll-over protective structure. He was willing to not have a roof for a month (the superintendent will take the flags back after Malaysia Day on 16th Sept) just for the flag. And he’s not even a Malaysian.

He took off the roof so he can tie the flag.

He took off the roof so he can tie the flag.

The superintendent told the bunker-rake machine operator that he need not worry about his machine because it was too small and too old to clean up. The staff member protested, not only did he wash his machine extra clean, he took some paint and painted all the metal parts of the machine – dozer blade included, black. The superintendent gave him a flag which he proudly displayed on his machine. And he’s not even a Malaysian.

He painted the metal parts black so that he can be allowed to put the flag.

He painted the metal parts black so that he can be allowed to put the flag.

The point is not about the flag but the effect that the programme had on the workers: they owned the machines. Suddenly it is ‘my’ machine and I want my machine to be the cleanest it can be because I want to put on a flag. Follow up this with a training on how to look after the machine and I’m sure the machine will last a little bit longer with less maintenance stress as compared to a machine that did not ‘belong’ to anybody. I mean, “who washes a rented car”?

I got that quote from a book I read about 25 years ago titled ‘In Search of Excellence’ written by – if I am not mistaken – Tom Peters. An example he gave was the ground crew chief of a squadron of jet fighters that had the best maintained planes compared to other squadrons. The crew chief’s secret was, instead of a crew looking after the right wing, another one looked after the left wing, one looking after the cockpit and so on, he gave them all each a plane to look after. One crew, one plane. “How did that work in creating excellence?” he was asked. His answer was that because each one of them now ‘owns’ a plane, they had a greater sense of pride and responsibility to that particular plane of theirs. “After all” he said “who washes a rented car?” I might be paraphrasing because hey, it has been about 25 years ago but I believe the gist is there.

I also believe the credit should also go to the crew chief for his innovativeness and in this context, the superintendent for his role in firing up the workers. I mean, if he had sat in his office and gave the flags to the supervisor who would give the flags to the mechanic who then gave the flags to the operators; the effect would not be the same. So what worked? Maybe it was his speech, maybe it was the look in his eyes, maybe it was because he helped wash a few machines, maybe he held a big stick, maybe he promised them a reward or maybe it was already a culture in that place, whatever it was, it got the result that he wanted. It was actually more than I imagined, I can tell you that.

Its still not too late for Malaysians, at least, because the flags can remain on the machines till 16th September which is Malaysia Day. The cheapest flags I found was at Mr. DIY (biar kami rugi asal anda puas hati) at RM2.50 each. Or we can try and do something else. Or we can try finding one excuse or another to not do anything and complain about everything. It is a choice. Up to us.

Posted in Golf Course | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Low Budget Success

Posted by mynormas on July 31, 2015

I attended a  meeting with a local district council and their golf club operator last month. I have worked with that operator for the past two years and was expecting to be ignored or be a scapegoat. Yet I was first praised by a club official who said “The golf course has improved a lot in the past two years; thanks to Normas”. and later on, the chairman, when talking about club’s finances also said something about how the golf course “…is now good and very different from how it was two, three years ago”. I was humbled.

If you go to the club, you – the seasoned golfer – may not be impressed but to me, it was incredible: they had only one greensmower; their main greens fertiliser, was plain quick-release fertiliser bought from the contractor who harvested the oil palm in the golf course by deducting the cost from the tonnage (that means they didn’t actually ‘buy’ the fertiliser); their pesticides were bought from the local hardware or stores that cater to the local farmers; they have five foreign workers and three or four local workers . The club had one tractor-towed-ground-driven fairway mower and two rough mowers, one of which spends more time in the workshop than in the field (note: do not buy refurbished machinery if your club is FAR from the supplier, unless its cheap enough you can buy two when you need one). It has one topdresser that is too big for the greens and too small for the fairways (note: get a third opinion before spending so much money on machinery) and until recently – and by recently I mean two months ago – no working greens’ aerator.

The toughest part of it all for me was that the person in charge; the superintendent, was someone who worked his way up almost 20 years ago in the club, not a golfer and has never been on another golf course. Ever. This made him a hard worker with good discipline and very loyal. However, it also means he sees things in one dimension and tend to drift back to old habits. I concentrated on being friends and not on being a consultant and managed to get things done. Though I suspect I won his respect because when things go bad; I took the blame even when he knew it wasn’t my fault.

You see, the boss took an interest in the golf course and after every visit I made, I have to do a presentation to him the following day and he wants to know what went on, what went wrong and what comes next. So when there were an insect attack and I had already instructed what chemical to be applied at what rates and in which order, he would assume it would be the end of it. Once or twice, that wasn’t the case and I can trace it back to wrong application or even no application but I would explain it away as a new attack or when a wrong chemical was bought, applied and the grass died, I said that I had misjudged something.  I do have a different way of doing things compared to most Superintendents and adding that to this Superintendent’s experience would give him a steep learning curve.

The operator was a rags-to-riches kind of guy and quitting wasn’t in his vocabulary, he chose to want to succeed and I suppose, that was the main driver for the improvement in the golf course. Its not the best golf course in the country yet and is at a precarious balance so I wouldn’t recommend the kind of knife-edge work to any other club, but for it to come from greens with no grass to healthy grass shows what a willingness to improve can do even at low budgets. If they can, you can. Call me.

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Biggest Office

Posted by mynormas on June 3, 2015

This picture? The

This picture? The “Golf Course Superintendent” sign? Totally not photoshopped or tricked out in any way.
To be fair, the super has moved to new facilities; thanks to new management and they went on be one of the top clubs in Malaysia.

Reading or writing by squinting through one eye is a bummer; I’ve had to go through a minor operation on one eye due to cataract yet I really felt the need to say something about this issue. This past week I’ve had four discussions about Malaysian golf course conditions  (I know thats what you go through in a day but bear with me) and all of it relates to the man in charge, commonly called as the golf course superintendent. In Malaysia, they are also referred to as the golf course manager, supervisor, director or assistant superintendent but the fact remains, they are in charge. I divide them into a few categories:

  1. Superintendents who don’t know what to do
  2. Superintendents who won’t do
  3. Superintendents who can’t do
  4. Superintendents who’s knowledgeable, can and will do.
  5. The corrupt.

It has been said that the golf course superintendent (or whatever the designation) has the biggest office in a golf club; anything between 120 to 300 acres. He, other than the club manager, should be the highest paid person in the club. Such privileges do not come easy; on his shoulder rest the reputation and prestige of the club and he is responsible for the highest expense department, not to mention taking care of the item with the highest construction cost; the golf course.

Right about now I can hear the cliché already; “it is a team effort”. Of course it is, but the team would have to be led by someone that needs to know agronomy, plant pathology, soil science, entomology, agriculture engineering, hydrology, not to mention golf rules and even golf itself. No? Then how is he (or she) to know about plant health, fertility, insects, drainage, machinery, irrigation and how to set up the golf course?

Cliché alert: “It’s not rocket science”, “it’s just growing grass”, anyone can do it bla bla bla. For these managers/owners, I say good luck in managing your clubs but actually, these are the minority. The majority of clubs know that maintaining a golf course takes a knowledgable person with skills. Here’s the tricky part, many clubs know that and want to hire them, but most clubs do not seem to recognise or respect what they already have and I mean this as recognition to both sides of the argument: some superintendents are lacking in knowledge but are still retained, some superintendents are in their comfort zone (and still retained) and some superintendents know what to do but do not get the support and respect they deserve. Of course, there are some who are knowledgable and are supported.

I’d love to comment about the superintendents who are lacking in knowledge but I won’t. Sometimes I can’t help but pity them; for the most part they were thrown into the deep end because of their good work in a previous position or loyalty (or they can’t find jobs elsewhere) and really don’t know what to do except repeating what their predecessor have done or what they think what their predecessor have done and what the suppliers advise. Somehow I can’t find in my heart to blame these people, they were examples of the Peter Principle: people who were promoted and promoted until they reach the level of their incompetence. To these clubs, there is hope because these people in general have good attitudes and are hardworking (hence the promotions), so send them to seminars, courses or pay for them to attend classes (I had a club willing to pay for my Diploma in Accountancy which was of no use to them at all!) or send them to a neighbouring club once a week or month to learn from the superintendent there; or pay the superintendent to come over to teach – just make sure you know the superintendent’s background too.

I’ve also met superintendents who are – on paper – knowledgeable but have voluntarily capped their limits at a certain level. They would not do more than that level, never mind the condition of the golf course. There are of course, justifications and reasons for it: no budget, interference, not enough workers, the weather, poor construction bla bla bla. Have a chat with them and you realise that it is easier to play the victim’s role in a blame game. You get told the idea that this is a hopeless situation even if you know of other clubs who faced similiar circumstances yet are in better condition. This also means that the golf course’s potential is also capped at that level and would not rise any time soon. To the clubs that hired these superintendents; tough luck. No seminar I know will change your golf course. No consultant or adviser too, unless the reports are discussed with the bosses; then maybe there is a chance. I’ve seen that happen, then again, I’ve also seen where the report was discussed with the boss; and the little that was done was to cover the bigger things that was supposed to be done but not, and after listening to the old story of “why it can’t be done”, the bosses gave up (thats part of the problem anyway) and things go back to what it was. To these clubs: good luck. Some superintendents in this category have been … wait: no… a MAJORITY of these superintendents have been in the same club for a very very long time.

What? You don’t know what I’m talking about, but yet your heart rate is increasing, temperature rising and you are upset? That, sonny, means you DO know what I am talking about; you’re just in denial. Okay fine, there are some superintendents who are in one place for too long with their golf course is in good condition. Happy? I’m talking about other clubs where the condition is poor and it is always someone else’s fault. But now that we’re at it, how about taking your club up another notch? Perhaps the weeds on the fairways? The greenspeed? No you can’t? Because of (insert excuse here) right? I rest my case.

The third category of superintendents is the one I pity most. He (or she, I know of one lady super) can usually get a job elsewhere but to him (or her) this job is a challenge to his/her ability and they just want to give it a try. These superintendents are usually  young or relatively new at the club and usually are up against a culture or a bureaucracy that has dug in, fortified and willing to fight to not change. Buying a fungicide that the superintendent needs to apply by the end of the week will take three weeks to process because it has to be justified, three quotations have to be searched and that one form needs to have three (or five!) signatures from three or five levels up and those people are usually not at their desks because of course they are in charge of other projects too. Or the superintendent is regarded as an outsider, an alien, an aberration even. Or a club that can only make decision after a committee meets which is usually at the end of the month… maybe three. Then there are clubs with real issues, for example; a non-responsive workforce – for want of a better description – they have the numbers but they can only work certain hours and at certain limits, never mind clubs with a small work force. Or a club that really tie their superintendents down with a very low budget. Just in case you think I am contradicting myself with superintendents in the second category, be advised that superintendents in this here third category, are still putting up a good show despite their restrictions.

Clubs with these two challenges (1. the non-performing superintendent as well as workforce – because it permeates into the department’s work culture, I promise you – and 2. the club with plodding bureaucracy or work culture – because it permeates into the club’s work culture, I promise you) are good candidates for the golf course maintenance contractor. No kidding. Hire one company to maintain your golf course and you will rid yourself of non-performers and plodders; and consign your golf course to forever be average. What? You think these companies were set up to serve golfdom and golferkind while turning your golf club into the best? No, they were set up to make a profit, so they think fast on their feet and are super-efficient for their own good but it will translate into comparatively better golf courses for you, at least for the first year and the final year of the contract. After which you are ‘doomed’ to appoint a contractor again because you don’t have the know-how and lets face it, you don’t know what went on the past five years anyway.

Someone is upset reading this is it? Lets be realistic, to look for the ‘right’ contractor, you are going to call for a tender exercise which will primarily focus on the cheapest tender after which you will negotiate again until the guy with the cheapest price hurt his knee begging you to stop: so of course lah the contractor will work his a$$ off to beautify your golf course without cutting any corners. Right? Unless – dare I say it? Oh heck, there are some people who will thank me – the contracting company is orang putih/gwailo/angmoh; then we will be the one on our knees begging. And the golf course will be better than average while some of us wonder why the expats do a better job than locals. No, not really about skin colour or just about the budget too. Find out why in the next category of superintendents.

I would be remiss in my ranting to not talk about the fourth category of lucky superintendents and their clubs. The superintendent who knows what to do or if they don’t; they find out, they are willing to do what it takes and they are allowed to do what it takes as they see fit. They are working for clubs who say things like “What? You need a new RM180K fairway mower? We don’t have the budget now but can we talk about it and see if we can postpone or perhaps look for a reconditioned mower or repair what you have now?” Or “So you need to hollow-tine the greens next month eh? Let me talk to the tournament organiser and see how he feels or if he wants to postpone or if he is willing to continue if you use smaller tines/do half of the greens”. In the world of management it is called ‘discussion’.

Did you notice that the two top clubs in Malaysia routinely get their superintendents on stage during award presentation ceremonies? Even if its held overseas? You think that’s because of gratitude to the superintendents’ efforts? No, that’s the mark of the attitude of the clubs to the superintendents’ office. It started long before that walk up the stage. It causes the walk. Not the budget. Not the machinery. Not the skin colour.  Its the attitude. The respect. The clubs respected the superintendents work, decision and opinion.

Ya, ya, ya… here comes the cliche: “Respect has to be earned”. Kinda hard to sympathise or empathise with some clubs (I hesitate to use the pronoun ‘you’ here, because there are some who will take this personally) who insist on hiring the cheapest person they can, to maintain the most expensive department they have. Respect your superintendent and see the difference. If there’s no difference, then perhaps, change the superintendent (sounds harsh? It has to work both ways fellas).

This article is too long already. Is anybody still reading? Very few now I bet. So it is time to introduce the fifth category of superintendents; the ones that people know but talk about only in whispered circles. The almost-unmentionables; the Mr. 10 percent. The what-do-I-get-in-return guy. The corrupt (oh, you think that’s too harsh? Lets see if I can find another term… urm… nope).

You think every one else does it? No, you are a minority. You think because your boss/purchaser/storekeeper does it, it is ok for you to do it? No; two wrongs do not make a right. You think because your salary is lower than market rate then it is ok for you? No. It ruins your reputation to go look for another job that can pay you higher than market rate. You think because the golf course looks good you can do it? No you can’t, because it IS your job to make the golf course looks good. You think nobody knows? Wrong, the industry is small (in Malaysia) and people talk. Ok, they whisper. Behind your back.

Stop. You are ruining not only your reputation but the other superintendents’ too. You will be indebted, nay trapped, to one or two particular suppliers and you will find it hard to change because… easy money is addictive or after a while your hand in the other guy’s pocket so often that you get used to it and he becomes your twin; hard to tell where he ends and you start. Your office is his office. There’s also guilt, fear and conscience. Then the golf course stagnates because your pool of resources and ideas has shrunk to one or two companies. No doubt they’re good and the golf course is good, but it won’t get any better.

So, to improve the golf course conditions in Malaysia; to the superintendents, let’s pull up our socks, raise our game, stay clean, increase our skills, share our knowledge or find another job. To the clubs themselves, treat the superintendents as a professional, respect his position, give him authority: if you can’t, send him for training or a makeover, or find a new one. Otherwise we have to continue as if nothing is our fault and like everything else that goes wrong… blame the government.

Note:

I wrote this opinion based on my observations in Malaysia. It should not be used without evidence to point fingers to any single person, club or group or organisation in particular. Hopefully it provokes thought, if not action. Get angry if you want but do something productive we must. 

Anonymous comments will not see the light of day on this site; I won’t even read it.

Posted in Golf club, Golf Course, Golf Course Superintendents | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: