5 Lessons in Recession Course Management from 2009

golf course management

5 Lessons in Recession Course Management from 2009

golf course managementIt’s been a hell of a year, and it’s only June. It’s likely to be rough for awhile. Courses across the US were shut down as early as March, and only in the last month have slow streams of players been allowed back on, and with stringent restrictions. No golfers means no revenue and boards are tightening the purse strings for supers. The problem is, if you want a viable course when players are back in full swing, you can’t just stop maintaining it for a couple months. But, we’ve been here before. We learned some valuable lessons in 2009 and these are five important takeaways on what you can, and what you can’t, sacrifice in a time like this.

  1. DON’T stop “working the soil.” Your soil is the lifeblood of all that grows in it. Keep up your soil tests, add amendments and fertilizer as needed. Letting your levels get out of whack makes it harder to return to balance. And don’t ignore your aerification! The more you let the earth compact, the harder it will be to find space later.
  2. DO keep up your infrastructure. You may be cutting back on watering, but the systems that deliver that water need to be maintained, even at lower capacity. Irrigation systems are under constant attack by the very thing they exist to move – water – so keep your systems updated and ready for any capacity.
  3. DO keep staff levels at effective levels. There tends to be a real knee-jerk reaction in staffing during busy times and slow times, major pendulum swings in levels. But, while over-staffing in a busy time might not cause much damage, under-staffing in hard times can cut your efficiency and effectiveness drastically. Keeping a course in order is no small task, and too few bodies to do it are going to cost you.
  4. DO grow “tough” grass. You want resilient and durable grass, and frankly this can serve you well at any time. Quit “babying” your grass and instead teach your turf to be hardy by caring for it with less chemicals (which can lead to cost savings year round too!).
  5. DO keep expenses down when you’re told.  When owners say “stay the course with regards to budget,” do keep expenses down. You need to work as efficiently as possible or you’ll be on the chopping block. Identify what you can execute within budget and be sure to “manage up” by showing your leadership what you are doing, what you’re limiting, and fully explain the impacts of all of it. Use pictures too.

What we’re experiencing right now, may not just last this season. These are not “stop gap” measures, they are adjusted operational strategies so consider what you’re prioritizing and forecast what the impact will be if you keep it at the same level for two or three seasons. If you plan to stay in the game and be a good property when “normal” comes back, you need to tighten that strap but keep your eye on the future.

If you aren’t sure what you should be prioritizing to ensure your course weathers the storm, we can help. We have decades of experience consulting on soil, water, and turf for courses around the country. In combination with one of the best labs in the country, Brookside Labs, we can assess your existing conditions and make a course of recommendations to help you come out of this with a course you can be proud of.
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