Common Cents: Say Yes to TAS!
For the past several weeks, every Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visit made in Washington, Oregon, and especially Hawaii has focused on one major subject - methods to deal with the current economic downturn and the inevitable reduction in labor occurring at virtually every golf course. With current staff reductions ranging from 10-30% with even more possible as 2009 approaches, golf courses are scrambling to come up with ways to continue creating good playing conditions without compromising long term agronomic health on golf course areas down-the-middle. While budgets are getting slashed at all levels of golf courses, the purpose of this update is to encourage you all to measure your cuts twice before actually eliminating some important portions of the annual budget.
One of the cuts that would seem easy to make would be the USGA Green Section Turf Advisory Service. Why would a golf course pay from $1800-$2900 (based on payment by May 15, 2009) to have a USGA agronomist visit when budgets are so tight? What possible ideas could be derived from a visit by a USGA agronomist that would be any different than any other consultant? Finally, is there any guarantee that the USGA agronomist recommendations will actually pay for the cost of the visit? Hopefully, the following will answer some of these questions:
1. Why would a golf course pay to have a USGA agronomist visit when budgets are so tight? The better question would be, 'How could you not have an unbiased individual that sees more golf courses in your region come in to assist in addressing ways to deal with less labor and other budgetary issues?' Let's face it - not one single golf course superintendent has the market cornered on every good idea to deal with less labor while still providing the type of quality expected by players. Numerous programs are being conducted at every level of golf course ranging from multi-tasking jobs on and around greens, dramatically changing how bunkers are addressed, recycling sand on greens, tees and approaches, turning back the clock with far less expensive fertilizer programs, and addressing equipment with a cash flow model instead of outright purchasing that your players need to understand during these difficult times. When times are tight, it pays to have outside assistance. In the case of the USGA Green Section agronomists it will more than pay for the cost of the visit!
2. What possible ideas could be derived that would be any different than any other consultant? Most of the examples in the previous paragraph point out the difference between USGA agronomists and others that golf courses utilize for advice. The only thing USGA agronomists are selling is advice and ideas! If the answer for a particular problem is not immediately known, there are 17 other agronomists who will have the answer or direction to take to find solutions. Various golf magazines have their 'Best 18' lists - you can utilize the 'Best 18' agronomists on your site despite having only one person doing the actual visit.
3. Is there any guarantee that the USGA agronomist recommendations will actually pay for the cost of the visit? The answer to this question also is very simple - it is entirely up to you! Every USGA agronomist can easily provide one or more recommendations that will more than pay for the cost of their visit should you follow the recommendations. This is especially topical in the economic downturn we are currently experiencing across the country.
So when the time comes early next year to make that decision to keep using a completely unbiased resource for information or 'save' the cost of the TAS fee, measure twice before you cut. It will be the best common cents decision you will make during the next year.