Here is my latest entry from my blog at CTGolfer.com. I thought you might find it interesting.
All golf course maintenance budgets have been feeling the effects from a suffering economy. Private, public, municipal and resort courses across the country have had to be creative trimming maintenance budgets while continuing to keep course conditions at the highest level possible.
Budgetary challenges have increased each of the past few years since the start of the downturn in the economy. Superintendents have had to revisit maintenance priorities and how they relate to golfer expectations. The key component to successful budget reductions is to solicit and analyze player feedback and close the gap between the golfers’ expectations and the superintendent’s perception of high quality course conditions.
Obviously greens take the highest maintenance priorities with tees and fairways being a close second. Greens affect an approximate seventy five percent of the shots in a round of golf. The reception of the approach shot and two putts on average.
What areas of the budget does a superintendent look at when making these cuts? Labor is number one. Reduction in mowing frequency during “off-peak” times will clearly help the bottom line but cuts must be deeper than that.
Trimming the size of the work force and the rate of hourly pay must be visited. Payroll taxes, health insurance and other related costs are reduced when labor reductions are instituted. Elimination of overtime, restructuring labor force type (seasonal vs. year-round, part-time vs. full-time) all play a significant role in responsible budgetary management. The superintendent must be careful because if labor cuts are too dramatic, players will definitely notice the reduction in day to day conditions. After all, you can have all the best equipment, fertilizers and supplies, but if you do not have enough properly trained and experienced employees to utilize these tools, the benefits are never maximized for the players.
Bunker maintenance is right there with greens maintenance as far as cost is concerned. Reduction of the type and scheduling of grooming can greatly reduce costs. Instead of the seven day a week complete raking of the bunkers, superintendents may skip some days or just rake small disturbed areas that have been unattended to by the player. Styles of bunker edging may be altered to be more “maintenance free”. Instead of the consistently clean cut bunker edge, which requires extensive labor to maintain, some courses have opted for a shaggier look. Allowing the turf to grow longer around a bunkers edge can not only reduce maintenance but provide an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the surrounding highly manicured turf.
Have you heard that brown is the new green? Superintendents are sending a message. Dark green, lush, perfectly manicured, weed-free turf is not necessarily the most healthy, playable, environmentally responsible and fiscally prudent way to maintain your course!
More and more superintendents are finding areas on their courses that they can convert to the “naturalized look”. Allowing native grass species to grow undisturbed can reduce maintenance, fertilizer and pesticide usage while enhancing the aesthetics of the course. Many clubs have embraced this practice and are benefitting from the reduced costs, increased contrasting aesthetics and beneficial environmental results without reducing the speed of play.
There are many more ways that superintendents are being creative in the approach to balancing budget cuts with player satisfaction. The world is changing and the play of the game with it. The true key to any courses success is in the knowledge of the players’ viewpoint, creative thinking, adaptability and communication.
Enough for today… I have to jump on a tractor and blow some leaves this morning. No job too small! Besides, I’m a salaried employee. Gotta save some labor dollars!