COURSE CARE
The Cost of Maintaining Trees October 27, 2014 By Ty A. McClellan

Each and every tree on the golf course comes with its own price tag that adds to the overall cost to maintain the property. There are many direct and indirect costs golf facilities should consider when evaluating trees on the course, such as the extra time needed to mow the rough and cleanup of leaves each fall.

When it comes to trees, few understand that each and every tree on the golf course adds to the cost to maintain the property. As a result, there are a number of added expenses that most golf facilities fail to fully consider:

  • Trees on the golf course affect on-going maintenance costs by creating more work. This includes, but is not limited to, routine limb pruning, string trimming turf around trees, and the cleanup that is associated with storm damage, leave drop each autumn, and other debris like seeds and fruiting structures – e.g., acorns, walnuts, etc.
  • Trees lead to wear patterns and voids in turf coverage wherever traffic is concentrated into narrow corridors. This leads to additional aeration, fertilizer applications and repair through sodding, seeding or sprigging. Unfortunately, turf recovery efforts aren’t always successful because of insufficient air circulation and sunlight exposure, also caused by trees.
  • Tree regionalUpdateContents compete – and usually win – with turf for valuable nutrients and water, further weakening the turf and predisposing it to decline and chronic poor performance.
  • Trees prolong frost delays and predispose turf to winterkill injury.
  • Trees occasionally interfere with irrigation coverage, resulting in inefficient use of water and inconsistent turf performance.
  • Tree regionalUpdateContents damage cart paths, resulting in expensive repairs and/or more frequent replacement of paths.
  • Last, and certainly not least, trees slow mowing operations, spray applications and any other maintenance task that forces operators to negotiate around each tree. This wastes time, labor and products.

Keep in mind that even if trees are provided to your golf facility free-of-charge, the cost to maintain the course still goes up with each and every tree established on the property. For this reason, caution should be exercised whenever considerations are given to adding trees to a course. Such decisions should be well-thought-out with long-term impacts on budget, turf performance, architecture and playability in mind.

Conversely, to achieve greater economic sustainability going forward, golf facilities are wise to address tree issues by selectively removing problematic trees, lifting tree canopies by removing low-hanging limbs, thinning tree populations where they are too densely populated, and pruning tree regionalUpdateContents to reduce the impact of trees on turf performance, maintenance and playability. In this way, every dollar spent on the existing tree population will improve turf performance and make the course more economical to maintain.

Perhaps the following three equations are a better method to simplify how trees affect the bottom line at golf facilities:

  1. Fewer Trees = Less Maintenance and Less Work = Golf Course that is Easier and Cheaper to Maintain 
  2. Fewer Trees = Greater Operational Efficiency = Golf Course that is Easier and Cheaper to Maintain  
  3. Fewer Trees = Healthier Turf = Turf with Fewer Problems = Golf Course that is Easier and Cheaper to Maintain 

For more information on the cost of maintaining trees, please see The Truth about Trees and The Hidden Cost of Trees.

Source: Ty A. McClellan (tmcclellan@usga.org)

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