Monday, February 1, 2010

Steps for a Better Golf Course Management Business, Step #3

By Michael Vogt, CGCS

Now that you have a great documented guiding mission statement and a set of standards that members and staff have agreed upon, you’ve even went so far as to survey your membership to really tune into their needs and desires – now what?

Find Out What it Costs to Deliver the Product.

People that have been in the business of golf course maintenance know that the largest part of golf course work is production. Cut the grass, then when you’re finished, cut the grass again. This not to say that some tasks are not routine, spray the grass, water the grass, fertilize the grass, those efforts are different every time.

What does it cost to cut the grass? Easy to quantify, get out a stop watch and time the task. Greens – 5 men, 3 hours – easy enough, right? Not so fast, rake the sand bunkers, three guys 4 hours. What if you put two more guys on greens and had them rake bunkers as they went around, maybe you save some labor, maybe not but you’ll never know until you try. Travel time is a killer, the more guys you have running around leap-froging from hole to hole the more labor you waste.

Imagine this; if you can save just 5 hours per day, in a year that translates to about 1,200 hours. At $12.00 per hour inclusive that’s $14,400.00 per year based on a seasonal employee. I have heard so many stories over the last year about superintendents looking for ways to save money or budgets being cut by another 10%. I believe the old way of thinking about how we accomplish the routine jobs needs to be viewed differently.

Shift Into High Gear

When does most of the grass get cut? Most mowing occurs during the early morning and throughout the day, right? How about we consider mowing fairways and rough later in the day, after noon or into early evening. The next question is, “who will supervise those late day employees mowing rough and fairways?” Hire and train the right person, chances are they don’t need to be supervised, I was a night-waterman, I was never supervised while I preformed one of the most important jobs of applying water to the whole course.

That late shift can also move hole cups, and pick up trash, fill divots, add water to ballwashers, set tee markers, move traffic control ropes and signs. Spilt or duel shifts work amazing well and give the golf course superintendent the opportunity to utilize part-time labor. Normally at reduced cost without full time benefits. I have had the chance to work out some of these late day options and they work out great, saving valuable time during early morning golf course set-up. I did learn not to rake sand bunkers the night before, every animal with twenty miles of the course will visit and play in freshly raked sand during the dark, bad idea!

I have never understood that one of the busiest days of the week is the weekend, why do so many courses not mow fairways, approaches and tees on the weekend. Sunday afternoon most courses are starting to look and play a little shaggy, just a thought. Wouldn’t your members and guests be thrilled if you maintenance practices had a mowing of fairways, approaches and tees during the weekend?

After exploring new and exciting ideas to save valuable labor we all know that overtime does not produce one and one half times more efficient labor, overtime is an extreme waste of your businesses money. Overtime is not an entitlement to make up for low wages, pay fair wages to begin with. Overtime in some cases can not be avoided; emergency situations like irrigation repairs, chasing hot spots on Saturday or Sunday afternoon are examples. The golf course budget is money you have the authority to spend but you never have the authority to waste!

After you decided on allotted times for routine maintenance practices design your plan to assign dollars to the hours and you’ll have a good beginning at a labor budget than truly reflects the cost of maintenance at your course, doing the jobs tasks as you designed and forecast.

Next Week Part #4 will look at budget formulation.

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