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On The Road With The USGA
How to best manage the economic challenges of 2009
As the transition from winter conferences/meetings to another golf season continues to unfold, the economy is clearly the primary discussion topic. Presentations made over the last few weeks have generated numerous questions and comments about what to expect in 2009 and how to best manage the economic challenges. While no one knows exactly how the year will play out, the following are a few options that may aid your course in managing budget cutbacks without compromising the long-term product presentation and/or infrastructure.
Are you currently catching and removing clippings when mowing fairways? The proper use of plant growth regulators can slow clipping production to the point where clippings can be returned with no real negative impact on playability. In fact, in some cases, regulated growth will allow less frequent mowing. The cost of using plant growth regulators can be offset with labor and fertilizer savings. A follow-up drag may occasionally be needed should minor clumping occur, but the benefits can still be significant.
How about bunker raking? Reducing the number of complete rakings each week in favor of only one or two with foot printing (spot raking only) inserted each morning between the full rakings is commonly a step toward some cost reduction. Keep in mind, good drainage and design features that avoid or minimize erosion are important aspects of reducing maintenance/raking cost. Sometimes it is necessary to invest in bunker renovation to reduce maintenance cost over time. In addition, take a look at the number of bunkers. While this does not apply to all courses, and should be done with the assistance of a qualified architect, bunkers that don’t offer playability or directional value could be converted into grassy swales.
A step cut or intermediate cut of rough is used to transition from the lower cut putting green/collar or fairway to the higher mowed adjacent or primary rough. A step or intermediate cut is by no means required to play the game and, if used, one pass of the mower is wide enough. Using multiple passes to create a wider transition to the rough adds to mowing costs, and golfers may actually begin to target the slightly higher cut as it accommodates those who like to sweep the ball. When multiple passes are used on the tee end of the fairway (between the tee and fairway), to better accommodate play, it suggests the need for a more forward tee.
Another consideration is flowers and ornamental plantings. While everyone likes flowers and ornamentals they have no positive impact on the play of the game. Golfers will not stop playing a course because they’re eliminated if the key surfaces are maintained well relative to the price they’re paying. Cutting back on, or eliminating, flower and ornamental plantings can offer a big savings for some operations and they can always be reinstated when funding becomes available.
Bob Vavrek discussed the possible adjustment of fairway acreage in the last web update for this region. In reality, all of the possibilities mentioned will not apply to every operation. The real key is to carefully consider the existing level of conditioning, available funds, and sustainability when considering any adjustments. Reducing the needed aeration of greens, tees, and/or fairways, as an example, is not sustainable. Such cutbacks will compromise cost and presentation down the road. This all ties back to a previously made point – the value of subscribing to our Turf Advisory Service is elevated during a tough economy, not reduced. Give us a call or drop an email and we can schedule your visit.
Source: Bob Brame, firstname.lastname@example.org or 859.356.3272