How Are We Going to Get This Done?

By Elliott L. Dowling, agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
September 17, 2013

Fall/winter is a good time to complete long-range improvements (e.g., drainage, tree removal/additions or renovations). Retain adequate staff levels through the "off-season" to ensure projects are completed as well as daily maintenance, before spring.

I am watching football on my television which means one thing: fall is near. For many, this is a celebrated time of year. Difficult weather and heat stress is primarily behind us (although not entirely gone) and we shift focus from summer maintenance to fall projects. 

For most golf facilities, the number of employees gradually declines following aeration in late summer or fall. Be careful not to let staff numbers get too small, too fast. Fall and winter are great times to gain momentum on projects that are difficult to complete during the growing season. Invasive, time-consuming projects such as drainage installation, tree removal or renovation work enhance the course but require significant labor to complete. 

As temperatures cool and leaves change color in October and November, fall can make for beautiful scenery and wonderful golf conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region. However, leaves eventually drop and leaf cleanup can become a major task for many golf facilities. For those with tree-lined fairways, leaf cleanup never seems to end. Decreasing staff this time of year has a direct impact on the amount of time it takes to clean leaves from the playing surface. There is no “leaf rule” in the Rules of Golf although many players evoke one this time of year. Mulching and removing leaves is an important job that requires daily labor. Leaves left on the ground block sunlight to the turf, and sunlight is very important for turf health during the winter months. Remember, leaves often need to be cleaned up BEFORE grass can be mowed and bunkers raked. A skeleton grounds crew can only accomplish so much. 

For many, equipment repair is a major focus during the winter. This time-consuming work requires an experienced mechanic and possibly an additional staff member or two. Teeing ground accessories such as ball washers, tee markers, benches and trash receptacles are sanded (or sandblasted) and painted to give them a fresh, new look for the following golf season. This process is also very time consuming if done correctly, requiring one or two staff members for several weeks. If this is the extent of the winter crew, any outside work, i.e., drainage, tree removal, renovations, etc., takes away from routine offseason tasks. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes, is an unfortunate reality for many superintendents. Knowing that equipment must be repaired and course accessories made to look new, completing other jobs becomes difficult. 

During the budget projection phase of the year, communicate to course stakeholders the need for adequate “offseason” labor. Those who carry enough staff through the offseason are able to target course improvement projects during the winter months. When spring arrives, it is those that have completed their winter projects that can then quickly shift their focus to course preparations as the upcoming season is set to begin. Spring is a very busy time for golf facilities because staff levels are still low from winter layoffs, course cleanup is a top priority as the grounds must be prepared for early-season play and finishing projects that were left from the previous year lead to stressful times for turf managers and staff. As such, be sure to not overlook the importance of offseason staffing levels. Your spring golfing season may just depend on it. 

For more information on making sure your golf facility is adequately staffed during the winter months, please see Winter is Not ‘Down Time’ on the Golf Course

Source: Elliott Dowling (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit

AmEx image