Superintendents from three municipal golf courses, including Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle, Wash., will lead an hour-long discussion on the specific challenges and opportunities facing municipal courses on Tuesday morning at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in room W209C. Photo courtesy of Jefferson Park Golf Course.
The three golf course superintendents running Tuesday’s Municipal Golf Roundtable at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show might question it being labeled as a Power Hour.
They’re planning for it to have an impact that lasts longer than a mere 60 minutes.
“We’re here to help,” says Larry Glaser, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Seattle’s Jefferson Park Golf Course and 25-year association member. “A big part of this is networking. We’ll be hanging out after our hour to
talk to anybody we need to talk to, trading information.”
Glaser will be joined on the three-person panel by Josh Heptig, Class A superintendent at Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and 23-year association member, and Andrew Wilson, Class A director of agronomy at New York’s Bethpage
State Park and 23-year association member. The session will run 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday in room W209C.
By design, the panel represents diversity among municipal golf courses. Each panelist works for a different governing body: Glaser represents city courses, Heptig works for a county organization, while Wilson reports to a state agency. Wilson’s
staff and budget also dwarf those of Glaser and Heptig.
“There’s no one model that fits everyone,” Glaser says. “A lot of it depends on how big your municipality is and how many rounds you get. But there’s a lot of variety, especially in municipality golf.”
The panelists have established a framework for their presentation, but Glaser stresses that it’s quite fluid. The three preordained talking points:
“Basically, just how we’re operating out courses,” Glaser says. “We have a big range between the three of us. Andrew is at a high-end state facility. His operations are over the top compared to Josh and me. Our operations are an
enterprise fund, and we have small staffs. We’ll talk about how we do things, and we want to see what other people are doing out there. We want to get input from other parts of the country.”
Social inclusion and ‘playing politics’
“Municipalities are the breeding grounds for future golfers,” Glaser says. “Most politicians sit behind their desks and make assumptions without realizing how many different people are picking up the game of golf and who we’re
impacting. We bring in youth and seniors for the lifelong recreation. There’s a social aspect and diversity. I’m blessed. We’re located in one of the most diverse zip codes in the U.S., and the history of my course has been about
diversity pretty much from the get-go. So we’re bringing in the idea of playing politics, too, and how to speak to politicians to explain what we’re all about. We may be the experts, but we’re not always listened to.”
“That’s not necessarily turning a golf course into something else and leaving it,” Glaser cautions. “It’s how to get other people on the golf course. What types of things are we going? I host cross country meets at the collegiate
level. We also offer things like FootGolf and FlingGolf. What other types of offerings are there to get people on the golf course? Bethpage is so hugely popular, they don’t have to do a lot of alternative uses, but we want to see what other
people are facing, what they’re doing, and maybe see if we could possibly bring that to our course.”
If the discussion strays from those three talking points, Glaser’s good with that.
“We want to highlight our successes and our failures and how we deal with each of them,” he says. “But we want to keep it open. We plan to hit the hot topics, but we realize we don’t have all the answers for everybody. We really
want audience participation. We don’t want to monopolize the whole time. If we can give somebody a tool or idea to make their place a better place or give them a way to talk to an elected official in a better way, then everybody will be more
Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s senior managing editor