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GREEN COMMITTEE

Golf Course Maintenance Specifications Numerous surveys indicate that the most important element of the golf experience to most players is the condition of the course, especially greens.

LARRY HIRSH

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The golf course superintendent’s impact on this is obvious. How they accomplish the goal of providing consistently good conditions can be the difference between economic success and failure. Club Benchmarking (CB) indicates that private clubs average between 30 percent and 37 percent of gross revenues being allocated to their golf course maintenance budgets. This is the largest allocation of available resources at most clubs and is often considered the most critical. Often, revenues dictate the level of maintenance and course conditioning often impacts potential revenue. If it sounds a bit “circular”, it is. Over 70 percent of private club members indicated the main reason for joining was “the high quality of the golf course.” Combined with the fact that most golfers don’t know Donald Ross from Donald Duck, maintenance is a critical factor in golf course economics. How do club members and leaders know what to expect and where (when necessary) to cut? Each course should have a written maintenance plan, with specifications in detail that allow management/leadership and the golf course maintenance crew to assess accurately the cost and benefit of each of the specific practices. As living, breathing and growing systems, golf courses evolve and change with seasonal and weather impact. Members and boards don’t always understand this. A written golf course maintenance plan can improve the communication between superintendent and club leadership so that everyone knows what’s expected. What’s in a maintenance plan? A good maintenance plan (at a minimum) includes the following: • Mowing heights and frequency • Bunker maintenance • Schedule of aerification, verticutting, topdressing and other procedures • Hole and marker movement • Divoting • Fertilizer, chemical and pesticide application • Irrigation • Staff planning, and • Equipment. Changes in the golf course maintenance budget will impact each of these elements and when

BOARDROOM | JULY/AUGUST 2016

those changes come, club leadership can make informed decisions on what is considered essential and what they can live without, as well as what might need improvement. With the sometimes-fickle nature of club politics, a written, an approved maintenance plan can be invaluable to both the superintendent and his crew, as well as the board and membership. A well-crafted plan can serve as a common ground when questions or disputes arise about the playing conditions, and club leadership can make informed decisions about what and where to cut when budgets are stressed. Since the superintendent is often the “fall guy” for the less then desirable conditions that result from excess play and poor weather, an established and approved maintenance plan can often be used to demonstrate to club leadership the practices that were employed and how the course can return to expected playing conditions. A written maintenance plan can also help the superintendent impact the bottom line. Expense management: This can be a tricky area. Once budget cuts begin, it’s usually only a matter of time before playing conditions are compromised and players/members notice. When that happens, revenue declines and more budget cuts are soon to follow. On a golf course, effective cost management can involve a variety of practices that shouldn’t harm the revenue stream, including: • Efficient use of equipment • Efficient irrigation • Enhanced time management • Weather-based management, and • Play-based management Revenue enhancement: The obvious ways a superintendent can enhance course revenue include: • Providing premium conditions • Schedule agronomic practices to avoid busy times or special events, and • Communication. It’s critical that club management/leadership become informed about maintenance practices and a maintenance plan enhances their education. B R Larry Hirsh, CRE, MAI, SGA, FRICS is the president of Golf Property Analysts (www.golfprop.com), a leading golf and club property consulting, appraisal and brokerage firm based in Philadelphia. He blogs on variety of club and appraisal issues at http://blog.golfprop.com

BoardRoom magazine July/August 2016  

BoardRoom magazine is the only publication of its kind that is designed to educate the board of directors, owners, general managers and depa...

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