By Michael D. Vogt, CGCS, CGIA
The three fundamental components impacting the golf offering at private clubs are: the golf course design / course routing plan in relation to clubhouse location, golf course conditioning, and the most often forgotten, the Turf Care Center (maintenance facility). In most clubs, the golf course Turf Care Center, otherwise known as the Maintenance Facility, is not given sufficient consideration in its planning, location, and the essential purpose it provides. The result is inefficient, costly to operate, poorly constructed and morale issues affecting course maintenance. There are a myriad of operations that take place within the Turf Care Center’s complex of structures and outdoor spaces.
A Turf Care Center for today’s club is really an industrial engineering facility that is essentially for properly maintaining the golf course. Over the past twenty-five years, the technology in the golf turf industry has advanced far beyond the most forward thinking expectations. The developments of improved turfgrass varieties, more environmentally friendly insecticides / pesticides / fertilizers, new irrigation technology, environmental concerns, and design improvements for the highly technical turf maintenance equipment have changed the profile of the modern Turf Care Center. There is also a people issue that requires an important advancement in the education and dedication level of the golf course superintendent, the supporting golf maintenance staff and the golf club member.
Although the science of industrial design has been applied to create new innovations in course machines and equipment, it has not been applied to the design of the Turf Care Center facilities and structures in which these machines are stored, maintained, and in which a multitude of daily maintenance activities occur.
It is common sense that millions of dollars in course maintenance equipment and certain operation activities need to be protected from the weather. For hundreds of years, farmers used barns to store equipment and material. Since barns served the agricultural community adequately, it was logical that the course maintenance facility started as barns to house maintenance activities and equipment. All they added to the golf barn was a room for the telephone, a restroom, a floor and a few tools needed by the golf course superintendent. This thinking reveals an obvious lack of understanding especially for what must happen behind the scenes in golf course maintenance today; where expensive, high-tech equipment (rolling inventories often costing more than $1,000,000) must be maintained and protected to keep everything in top condition.
The need for an enclosed, heated, multipurpose Turf Care Center goes well beyond just protection from the weather. The equipment and golf course maintenance activities require a specially designed facility. A golf course Turf Care Center has a unique purpose; although, is essentially a group of industrial buildings with large service yard.
The operating activities involved in maintaining a good golf course cannot be efficiently and safely conducted in an old, makeshift barn or for that matter an off-the-shelf metal building. To do so is to inflict a serious injury to the overall golf operations. A poor Turf Care Center contributes to the accelerated depreciation of the equipment, impairs the control of activities, wastes man-hour dollars and most critical of all, hurts the quality of the course. The net result for having an outdated facility is higher operating costs and often, poor golf course conditions.
Early in the development of the industrial revolution, the resolution was reached that the application of the science of design in the planning of structures made an important contribution to the financial success of commerce and industry. With the goal to have improved golf course conditions, the design of a new or renovated Turf Care Center is critical with the establishment of minimum standards for the special spaces required for the administration, staff facilities, maintenance shop, equipment parking, and other activities necessary for properly supporting a golf course. These minimum standards serve as a guide for the design and planning of any Turf Care Center.
FIVE IMPORTANT TURF CARE CENTER CONSIDERATIONS FOR ANY CLUB ARE:
1. Location of the Site
The location of the facility in relation to the golf course and outside services is critical to the efficiency of the operation. A facility buried deep within the golf course with limited access for trucks and staff causes a number of serious problems. Ideally for locating a new Turf Care Center, it should be given as much thought as when selecting the clubhouse location and course routing; however, most clubs have Turf Care Centers that cannot be relocated. An existing location may be modified to enhance restricted spaces by moving bulk storage areas away from main building areas. Also, space can be created and relocated for better use. The Turf Care Center planner is routinely called upon to redesign existing facilities and to add square footage to create a better facility.
2. Traffic Flow
The traffic flow of equipment generated by daily maintenance can be a distraction and cause members to view the golf course operation in a negative light. Traffic flow across adjacent golf holes is not only a distraction, but it can be a serious safety hazard. Poorly located maintenance facilities can double the traffic flow and contribute to increased operation costs. Also, within the confines of the Turf Care Center land area, traffic flow is critical. It is essential to keep labor and machine movement to a minimum. The ultimate design solution of a facility should achieve a smooth efficient traffic flow from employee parking to job task to end of day routine.
3. Location of Special Areas
Special areas house those activities which are necessary to the golf course operation that require special planning and special supporting structures (gasoline tanks, equipment wash areas, pesticide structures, bulk material storage areas, etc.). Many golf courses now have greenhouse facilities, and tree and shrub nurseries to replace special specimen varieties on the course and clubhouse grounds. Literally, every golf course maintains a turf nursery that needs to be properly sized. Special maintenance activities need facilities properly designed and located.
4. Space Planning
The space planning for the Turf Care Center is divided into two areas: exterior site areas and interior building spaces. The professional planning of these spaces is critical to the efficient and safe operation of the facility. A structurally sound building is essential with proper utilities and adequate paved areas around it. Most upgrades of Turf Care Centers renovate and add to existing buildings. Environmental issues must be considered when improving or building a new Turf Care Center.
Space planning must consider a variety of factors, some of which are; size of staff, equipment fleet size and models, management style, etc. After these factors are identified the planning process can begin. At the minimum, 12,000 square feet is recommended for a modern Turf Care Center serving a typical 18-hole golf course.
5. Future Planning
When considering the future planning of the course facilities, envision potential changes for the maintenance shop such as the enlargement of the site for the in-house growing of ornamental plants and nursery stock. Envision the need for new structures to support the new technology in the composting and recycling of waste materials. Green building or LEED® Certified will have an increasing impact on future building, including the Turf Care Center. Who better to carry the environmental “torch” for a club than the golf course and the superintendent? By using green building products and procedures, the club makes a statement to the community that it is investing in the future and cares about natural resources.
The benefits of a professionally planned and designed golf course are well recognized. Just as important is the golf course Turf Care Center that protects the multi-million dollar golf course investment. Legal, environmental, safety, equipment, chemical, and staff issues are all ultimately affected by the Turf Care Center and its operation.
Michael Vogt, CGCS, CGIA, is a Golf Course Consultant for McMahon Group. He can be contacted at 800-365-2498 or firstname.lastname@example.org .