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Be a Good Procrastinator

I doubt anyone reading this can truly say they do not find themselves procrastinating from time to time; it is generally not considered a positive trait. Well, there is such a thing as good procrastinating, and using it to your advantage can be really positive when it comes to managing a golf course.

I was recently on a flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco. The movie had finished, and they were filling the final hour with a hodge-podge of shows. One of the shows was a how-to on becoming a millionaire. I was barely paying attention, until they started to talk about procrastinating and how it can be a benefit to your long-term financial success. As a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator, I decided to pay attention. If one of my worst traits could help me, I was definitely interested in listening. In truth, the trait they were promoting wasn’t so much procrastination, as it was patience. Evaluating long-term financial goals requires patience and the ability to allow a decision to play itself out over the long-term, rather than rushing to a rash decision based on emotion.

In my seven years as a golf course superintendent, I have learned to use procrastination as a positive virtue when making many of my agronomic decisions. When it comes to making an agronomic decision, I always try and wait until the last possible moment to decide on the best course of action. Over the years, this procrastinating has saved an amazing number of headaches, dollars and mistakes. The first time a potential decision pops into my mind, I do what I can to keep from making the final decision for as long as possible. This gives me the opportunity to consider the decision from all angles, analyze other possibilities and ask the opinions of others.

An example of how I used positive procrastination this season:

Just after Labor Day, our A4 bentgrass putting surfaces were looking a little lean. Some of the areas stressed by a late season heat spell were thin, and in general the turf was lacking the density I wanted to see. My initial reaction was to dial up a granular app and get the density up as we headed into fall, but I resisted my initial judgement and took more time to think about the ultimate solution. Had we been in the middle of a stressful period, the granular probably would have been the correct decision, but we were well past any significant environmental stress. I turned the idea over and over in my head, talked with my assistant, Ryan Moy, and other crew members who were spending time on the putting surfaces. I gave them my opinion, listened to theirs and continued to wait. Despite the turf being a little thin, green speeds were great and plants were healthy. Having entered what I called a “net Poa gain” period, my biggest concern with making the granular app was that I would ultimately be helping the Poa more than the bentgrass. I gave the surfaces some ferrous sulfate and a little bump of soluble nitrogen and continued to wait and observe. I changed my mind by the day, one day knowing I wanted to make the granular app, the next deciding to keep waiting. As my waiting continued, the ferrous sulfate and soluble nitrogen began improving the density. By the beginning of October, it was clear that holding off on the granular application was the right decision. In this case, procrastinating helped to keep me from making what ultimately became an unnecessary application.

Procrastinating usually carries a negative connotation, but when managing a golf course, putting off key decisions might just insure you make them correctly.

Chris Tritabaugh is Golf Course Superintendent of Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. His blog can be found at http://hngcturfgrass.blogspot.com.

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