Road to Becoming a GM Part 2

12.04.24-WCTAlogo-grassonly.jpgBy Jason Pick, Norley Calder and Stan Kazymerchyk

As the role of Golf Course Superintendent continues to evolve, discussion has arisen regarding the growing trend of superintendents advancing to general manager roles.  Regionally, nationally and internationally, superintendents from all types of golf courses have been ingrained with the importance of continuing education and year after year, pursue accredited or certified status with their respective associations.

Beyond this well-earned and prestigious accreditation, it's not surprising that some are looking into what’s next in professional development.  Where can a superintendent continue to improve his skills and help the entire golf operation grow?  The path can certainly lead beyond the maintenance shop into the executive offices and boardrooms of the facility.

Directors of the WCTA education and development portfolio began looking to those who are planning the transition to General Manager (see 'Road to a GM Part 1),or who have already made the jump.  We wanted to ask their honest opinions as to why.  Is it worth more money?  Is it a requirement to remain employed? Is it the challenge?

Historically, a typical route to GM was working up the ladder in the pro shop as a golf professional.  A business degree may be a requirement for employment at many clubs but extensive experience managing the pro shop was looked at favourably along with PGA certification.  Yet the golf pro's path to GM resembles many superintendents who have also paid their dues before moving into a leadership role, taking turns raking traps, setting the course, mowing, and so on, and many have a solid ability to play the game. 

So what does it take to become a golf course General Manager?  In addition to hearing from several superintendents who are transitioning or have made the leap to GM, we looked into the Canadian Society of Club Managers Association (CSCM), who many GM’s view as the WCTA,GCSAA, or CGSA of their own professions. They too have a professional development route in which extensive training can result in the “Certified Club Manager” designation. This prestigious title, is held by relatively few in the business, similarly of those Certified Golf Course Superintendents or Master Superintendents in our own field.

Option 1: The Route to Certified Club Manager

The Canadian Society of Club Managers(CSCM) has a certification Program for those planning to explore general management.  The program is based on the program developed by the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), and whose core competencies for the club management profession are based on extensive research conducted by the CMAA and were verified once again through a study recently conducted to confirm the currency of these competencies.  They are:

● Club Governance
● Food and Beverage Management
● Accounting and Financial Management
● Human and Professional Resources
● Leadership
● Membership & Marketing
● Golf, Sports and Recreation Management
● External and Governmental Influences
● Facilities Management
● Interpersonal Skills

The Certified Club Manager program, through the Canadian Society of Club managers is extensive.   It requires accumulation of 300 credits in education and association activity, and a number of intensive 6 hour workshops and 5 day courses. The following components make up the certification process:

■ Accumulating a total of 300 credits (education and association activity) through participation in approved education programs and association activities.
■ Successfully completing two CSCM accredited 6 hour workshops (CMI courses).
■ Successfully completing BMI I, II and III and either F&B management or Golf Management Business Management Institute (BMI) programs.
■ Petitioning and successfully challenging the final examination.
■ A total of 120 credits (education and association activity) must be earned within each 5 year period following certification to maintain the designation.

What are BMI Courses?

BMI programs are intense 5 day courses operated out of universities in the USA.  A combination of the following "core" BMI courses is required for the CCM designation. CSCM now offers one of BMI I, II or III annually in partnership with the Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Toronto, ON.

■ BMI I Basic Club Management (Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA)
■ BMI II Leadership Principles (California Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA)
■ BMI III General Manager/Chief Operating Officer (Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI)
■ BMI Golf Management (Jupiter, FL)
■ BMI Food & Beverage Management (University of Houston, Houston, TX)

Who can become a CCM?

■ You must be a current member of CSCM to pursue and maintain the CCM designation.
■ Associate members and Active members are eligible to earn credits but you must be an Active member in order to petition for and challenge the final CCM exam.
■ You must have been a member of CSCM for a minimum of 6 years in order to petition.

For details on these requirements and additional designations beyond the CCM please see the CSCM web site at  under Certification/Certification Process or contact the CSCM National Office.

Option 2:  Alternatives in training - Institutional options

Although many who seek the general management role will pursue the CCM designation, our research has found some alternatives may be substituted to reach a sound level of competency for this role. Several courses offer professional golf management training across the country.  Below are a list of golf management schools accredited in professional Golf Course management education. 

Camosun College
Coronation College of Hospitality
Fanshawe College
Georgian College
Golf Management Institute of Canada
Grant MacEwan Community College
Holland College
Humber College
Lethbridge Community College
Mount Royal College
Ryerson University
SAIT Polytechnic
Selkirk College
University of Guelph
Olds College


Superintendents have adapted their entire lives to waking up early, working hard and producing the best possible product on a daily basis.  We try to build a great team around us, are great leaders and work with our superiors toward a common goal.  We are usually the first department to get our budget cut and deal with less than ideal situations a lot of times, but we all adapt and usually figure it out.

Just like being a superintendent, a GM has different roles at different clubs depending on the level of expectation.  Some clubs focus on fine dining while others are burgers and fries.  If you consider becoming a GM, the type of club will determine what you need to know or what tasks you should focus on.  It is important to know your clientele and work within it helping create a special environment for both your staff and your patrons.

An important part of the road to becomig a GM is to realize your weakness.  Work on it so that you are competent but remember your strengths and hire people that are strong in your area of weakness so you are supported.

We are not saying every golf course superintendent should strive to become a General Manager but we are observing a growing trend and feel that Superintendents have every right and are well prepared to challenge the status quo.  Most superintendents love being a superintendent and can’t imagine doing anything else but sometimes a career can plateau and a change may be needed for further growth.  Superintendents are well educated in managing costs, employing efficient operations and maximizing the return of investment back to owners and employers and are therefore, excellent candidates for the GM position.  Besides, who else knows what goes on at the golf course as well as the Superintendent?