By Larry Gilhuly, Director, Northwest RegionSeptember 14, 2011
Maui Country Club. Just the sound of the name makes the mind wander to gentle trade winds, palm trees, sunshine and 18 holes of a beautiful expanse of green turf next to the ocean. While the trade winds, sunshine, and ocean are there, this nine hole golf course is far from green. There is no question that Maui Country Club has taken the term firm conditioning to heart more than any other, and their players like it that way.
Hawaii has some of the largest golf course budgets found in the United States due to three high-ticket items. First, a high cost of labor is of no surprise. Second, one would assume that sand would not be an issue, but the proper golf course sand is not available in Hawaii. Virtually all topdressing and bunker sands come from places such as Vietnam, China, Canada and the U.S. mainland. As such, the costs range between $150-200/ton. On some islands the cost goes even higher; as such, light sand topdressing is not used at all courses, and that includes Maui CC. In fact, recycling aeration cores is becoming very common to reduce the amount of sand used for aeration.
Third, is the high cost is for water. Not the water itself as much as the electricity to run the pumps. Normal 18 hole golf operations often are saddled with monthly costs of $30,000-50,000 just for the electricity. So how does a nine hole golf course survive with dues that are barely more than $200/month? Firm conditioning is at the heart of it, with very careful watering used to keep costs down.
At Maui CC, irrigation exists, but generally it is not used. The players want the ball to roll as far as possible, and they have no need to see their dues double just for the green color. The largely dormant common bermudagrass fairways green-up with normal rainfall and weed populations are kept under control with hand weeding or spot applications of appropriate herbicides. How the golf course plays is the primary issue.
Can every golf course follow this formula to keep costs down? Depending on the grass type, golf courses can achieve various levels of firm conditioning. An important component is the very understanding golfers or owners who comprehend that the game is not played on color. At Maui Country Club it truly exists every day. Wowie!
Source: Larry Gilhuly, firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-858-2266