COURSE CARE
The Economic Challenge Continues May 3, 2010 By R.A. (Bob) Brame

Recent conversations and Turf Advisory Service visits point to the economy as the biggest concern for most golf course maintenance operations. Maintenance budgets continue to be pulled back in light of declining play, and more than a few courses are quite literally in a "do or die" year. Cutbacks in spending alone will not solve the concern; it will take more play and, with private clubs, a larger membership base.

Reducing the maintenance budget will eat into an operation’s deficit, but it also will lessen the product being presented. A strong argument could be made that pulling back the final product has many benefits, but ultimately it is the golfers’ acceptance of a changed outcome that is necessary. While the specifics at every facility need to be considered, there is a general need to carefully analyze what golfers are paying relative to what they are receiving. Some of the stronger courses in this current economy are those with lower budgets, focusing on course maintenance efficiency and offering low to moderate fees.

There are many who continue to love the game; however, they struggle with available play time and its cost. Maximizing the cost/value ratio (what they’re getting for what they’re paying) can yield a good profit. If this is coupled with maximizing time flexibility, like encouraging golfers to hit a basket of balls or only playing a few holes rather if there are time constraints, it has the potential to attract players. Clearly, such flexibility needs to be considered on the golfing events calendar. The point is, when the product is pulled back, the cost also should be pulled back, and offering flexible usage should be maximized to the extent possible.

In addition, recognizing that the course is what draws and holds players, there must be pullback in other areas of the operation before going after the course maintenance budget. Whether you are considering an adjustment with the maintenance budget or not, give us a call and schedule a visit so that a candid, unbiased review of your operation can be applied to future decisions.

Beyond the ongoing economic challenges, most courses are kicking into the spring in reasonably good condition. Disease activity has been minimal, although Microdochium patch (pink snow mold) is out there. Weed control also is getting some attention, along with Poa annua seed head control options. The cost and efficiency of your disease control program, as well as weed and Poa annua seed-head management are topics worth discussing during an on-site visit. It’s one thing to invest in pest control, it is quite another to achieve the best possible value that will complement desired conditioning over the short and long haul.

We are very near the cutoff date on the early payment discount rate for a Turf Advisory Service visit. Despite the May 15 th cutoff on the discounted rate, visits can be scheduled any time during the season as long as payment is submitted before the cutoff. Now is a very good time to sign up, if you haven’t already done so. Give us a call or drop an email. As always, we stand ready to work with you and your course in maximizing budget efficiency relative to desired conditioning.

Source: Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859.356.3272