The state of the economy and how it is affecting golf course
maintenance operating budgets across the country is a topic
that is unfortunately unavoidable. In response to numerous
conversations with golf course superintendents, general
managers, green chairmen, and owners, a consistent theme of
cost saving and improving efficiency has emerged. The amount of
budget reductions and specifics for improving efficiency across
the Northeast Region, however, is unclear. These questions lead
me to conduct an informal survey of nearly twenty-five golf
course superintendents with a wide range of operating budgets
across the entire region.
All but one of the responses indicated a reduction in the
total operating budget for 2009. A 5-10 % reduction of the
total operating budget was the most common response, although
two courses reported reductions near 10-15 %. Labor comprises
the majority of the maintenance budget and is usually the first
target when it comes to budget reductions. All of the courses
reported that reducing labor was part of the strategy to meet
the lower budget. Improving efficiency of hourly employees and
limiting overtime were consistent responses from nearly all the
golf course superintendents. Reducing bunker maintenance was
the most commonly reported change in management practices among
Of the turf areas, roughs were reported to be the first area
for reducing maintenance inputs followed by inputs to fairways.
In terms of playability and turf health, most of the
superintendents believe that the in-play areas will not have
any significant changes (good or bad) from the 2008 season.
However, nearly all of the superintendents reported that
expectations will be equal or slightly higher from the previous
year. Thus the dilemma begins; how to produce the same product
or a better one with less?
Although the survey was very informal, it certainly shed
some light upon trends in our region. In a recent meeting I
attended, a superintendent mentioned that this economy is going
to inspire creativity among superintendents across the country.
I could not agree more as tough times require creative and
efficient solutions. Examine all aspects of your maintenance
budget to find areas where efficiency could be improved and
where resources might be more valuable. Ultimately,
communication is needed between course officials and the
superintendent emphasizing the concerns that might arise if
tough weather is experienced and how it relates to budget
decisions during the season. Additionally, educating members on
the realistic expectations if the budget is substantially cut
back is necessary.
USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable
information involving all areas of golf course maintenance,
which will help maximize turf health, playability, and
efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis,
; Adam Moeller,
; or Jim Skorulski,
for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.