COURSE CARE
Managing Change Requires Flexibility May 2, 2012 By Bob Brame

The mild winter followed by an earlier and warmer than normal spring has ushered in the need to increase staffing before budget allocations allow. Detailed maintenance standards that integrate with the operating budget can provide needed flexibility to manage unexpected changes.

While there have been a few recent pullbacks from warmer than normal weather this spring, golf course maintenance throughout the North Central Region remains two to four weeks ahead of normal. This is good for play and revenue, but it comes with added costs and requires adjustments in funding. Increased mowing, disease, insect and weed activity are confirming the earlier than normal start, as are topdressing and aeration needs.

The single biggest concern observed in recent travel is inadequate adjusting of cash flow to facilitate the needed earlier than normal maintenance activities. Many maintenance operations are in need of more labor than the budget provides for at this point in the season. In fact, it is interesting to note that a similar dilemma spread across the region over the last two summers. When harsh weather ushers in the need to expand fungicide usage, which exceeds the operating budget line item, what do you do? When unusually hot weather points to the need for expanding hand watering and syringing, beyond what available labor makes possible, what do you do? When a mild winter and an early spring greenup increases labor needs beyond what the budget allows, what do you do?

One possible answer to the problem is to do nothing. As the saying goes, “Let the chips fall where they may.” Yet, doing nothing in the face of turf loss or a distinct falloff in course playability is suspect decision making at best. Knowing there is an issue or need with a priority component of the maintenance operation and doing nothing is a gamble. If doing nothing is being seriously considered, at the very least, and before implementation, it should be discussed with and fully endorsed by the person or group to whom the superintendent reports.

A second option is to increase the operating budget. However, spending more money can create cash flow ripples through the entire club operation. It is much easier to say, “let’s increase the budget” than to gain approval for the actual increase. In addition, and more often than not, the process of getting approval for increasing the budget will exceed the timeframe needed for a judicious decision that guards course conditioning.   

The best answer? Make adjustments within the existing operating budget. Written maintenance standards will facilitate the adjustments by identifying what can be done less so that more focus be given to higher priority needs. The operating budget is a guide and there should be some built-in flexibility. Not so much with the budget in total, but with individual line item allocations. Detailed maintenance standards integrate with the operating budget to provide needed flexibility. If your course doesn’t have written maintenance standards contact your local Green Section agronomist to assist moving forward.

We are fast approaching the cutoff for securing discounted Turf Advisory Service visits. Payment is needed prior to May 15 to secure a $600 discount per visit. Scheduling can still be done anytime during the season. Give us a call or drop an email – we look forward to working with you.

Source:  Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859-356-3272

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