Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Divide and Conquer Environmental Issues at Your Club

Begin with a plan to implement an environmental program at the club you manage. This guide will help focus plans and responsibilities to separate departments and measure progress.  

environmentalchecklist v 2.1

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is a Union in Your Future?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just announced bad news for the golf industry. As you may know, the NLRB issued its final rule regarding the new employee notice that all clubs must post beginning November 14, 2011 dealing with employees rights to organize and form a union.

To add insult to injury, just this new legislation hit the streets; the NLRB handed down its first ruling that will make it much easier for the union organization process in clubs across the country. In a 3-1 decision, the NLRB has said that unions may now organize smaller subsets of employees in a business. For the golf course industry, this means that a union could organize the golf maintenance staff staff rather than the entire club staff.

Since a union is formed when a majority of employees vote for it, it will be much easier for union organizers to get the 51% they need if they can focus on a smaller number of employees. Clearly, 20 golf maintenance workers is a much more interesting target than going after the entire group of employees at a club that enjoys a large staff of 75 to 100 all encompassing club workers. Once this subset group is unionized, the club will need to negotiate a contract with these 20 while dealing with the needs of the other club workers (golf shop staff, kitchen staff, servers, pool staff, administration staff, etc.) separately.

Such a situation will increase administrative issues for the club and soon push the other club workers to look to unionize when they begin to realize the differences in pay, benefits and/or treatment from the club’s leadership. This is exactly what labor unions have wanted for years and it is why the NLRB has finally given it to them. With the increase in cost of labor clubs and golf will begin to become out-of-reach to more, continuing the death spiral already being experienced at some golf facilities on the edge.

This policy also places the burden on employers to prove that any excluded employees “share an overwhelming community of interest” with those in the proposed union group. So, golf facility leader’s will now have to struggle to include more employees into a proposed union group to help dilute the chance the union will succeed – an awkward and expensive task no facility wants to have to undertake.

What makes this ruling even more regrettable is that there is no direct federal or state court appeal that can be made of an NLRB judicial decision. The only course of action is, an employer will have to be challenged with a union that wants to organize a small subset of workers, let those employees unionize and then refuse to recognize the newly formed union. When that happens, the new union will sue the employer and the employer will then be entitled to argue the NLRB overstepped its authority by allowing this small subset to be unionized in the first place.

In short, this NLRB ruling cannot be addressed until a business decides to accept being slapped with an unfair labor practices lawsuit for failing to accept the new union representation of a small group of its employees.

The NLRB has an agenda that will only cause the golf course industry more and more of a problem as these new regulations and rulings are handed down. The cost of golf will begin to increase as the H2B program remains under assault, health care laws will either fine of force clubs to insure all staff members and labor prices will escalate due to unions and the high cost of imposed increases in wages and benefits.

Powerful forces are at work to change the labor landscape in our industry, it behooves each of us to have a dialog with our appropriate representatives on these small business harming, draconian policies.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is your golf facility psychologically ready for change?

Every once in a while the economy whacks everyone on the side of the head to remind them to shape up, pushing many golf businesses into a state of shock. 2008 showed us a perfect example of a good whacking with a major collapse in the financial markets. Fast forward to today, the shock has worn off (mostly), and it’s time to shake off the dust and move forward. For many clubs, this is the time to reevaluate the course of action, reposition the club, or even reconfigure the whole facility.
For most club businesses it’s so much easier to go back to the way things used to be. The thing about change is that it mostly strikes the psychological part of the system, and club leaders that charts the course of the club, must expect and properly handle the emotional ups and downs of the membership and the staff throughout the transition.

Just over the past few months, I’ve either been involved with or have witnessed the firing of key clubs staff, rebirth of entire organizations, layoffs, and repositioning of companies (yeah, those management companies are spending money like the 112th Congress). Although I personally enjoy the prospects of change, years of dealing with various clubs and organizational changes has taught me a lesson or two about dealing with the unsettling factors involved with major change within clubs. I’ll share a few of them here.

Deal with the fear of change. Your other option is stagnation which is much scarier. The way you can help the club and staff overcome the fear of change is to provide as many facts and analyses as is possible. The more knowledge everyone has, the less emotionally reactive they become.

Don’t act out of panic. You’re almost sure to make the absolutely wrong decision. Enough said?

Take things one step at a time. Keep a strategic view, make your plans, and then act accordingly. The longest journey begins with the first step.

Remove yourself from the situation. Pretend like you’re giving advice to someone else. I’m saying this from experience. Something happens when you’re removed from the situation – you become more rational and less impulsive in your decisions.

Get your staff on board during the planning process. You need the affected mangers and organization leaders on board to make successful transitions happen. They need to understand why the change needs to occur, where the organization is headed, and how you will get there in order to transmit the ideas throughout their respective departments. The more time you spend with them laying out the groundwork before the change occurs, the easier the transition.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Engage the organization throughout the change process both by talking and listening. This is no time to hide in your office, behind your computer screen. Pay particular attention to the quiet ones. They’re the ones listening to everyone else and can provide a wealth of information about the general morale and other on-goings within the club.

Expect problems. Know that things will go wrong. Your staff will get cold feet, the markets will change, and your finances won’t go as planned. It’s OK. Your plan should have wiggle room, but also, don’t beat yourself (or anyone else) up if things go slightly off course. Regroup and pull things back on course. You never know, you might even decide to change the intended course halfway through the process based on the new information.

Not everyone will be unhappy. Whenever I’m presenting to a group about a particular subject I always notice a few quietly nodding their heads. By tuning into the “Head Nodders” know that some of your staff is already on board to make these changes happen. Use them to help you in the change process. If they’re already nodding they most likely share your vision, and can help you during the transition.

The ending is just as important as the beginning. Once you’ve gone through some type of change process, don’t let the organization fall back into the old patterns otherwise your efforts will go to waste. Everything associated with the change process will feel a little shaky for a while. Make sure all the processes, new systems, and new positions are solidly in place before you relax and grab that cold frosty to celebrate.

Change, whatever it may be, is one thing that’s inevitable, the better we prepare to be agents of change the better and more valuable of a manager and a leader we become.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Goals Won, History Zero

Does this scenario sound familiar? Roughly four months before the beginning of the club’s next fiscal year, the club manager leaves you a message and reminds you that, “We need to start putting together a budget.” You nod in recognition to this voice mail and go about rescuing and renovating turf before the frost bugs and freeze crickets annual late fall invasion begins on the course. A few weeks go by and you make a few remarks about the budgeting process to the other members of the management team at the staff meeting you’ve blown-off for the past three months, only because you have been teaching your staff “Heat Stroke 101”.

As in years past, you finally ask the club accountant to prepare some background information on your spending habits for the past few years. At the next Board meeting, you mention your progress during the superintendent’s report that the budgeting process has started and ask for any input from the Board and the green committee. Shortly after the board meeting the information you requested is provided to you by the mild-mannered club accountant. It’s now November; time to set goals and determine the timeline for completion of the budgeting process. After several more meetings, careful calculations are made, discussions are conducted and the information is consolidated by the club accountant into a working document titled “2012 Club Operational Budget.” Comparisons are made to the current year’s budget, adjustments are engineered, consensus is achieved and the budget proposal goes before the Board for approval. Once approved, the operating budget becomes the focal point of future management decision-making and analysis of operating results. Congratulations, you now managing the golf course business like our House Spender John Boehner and King of the Flim-Flam Senate, Harry Reid.

A good budgeting process for a club is one that provides information and focuses on both financial and operational outcomes. It provides a supportive environment for making effective management decisions. A good budgeting process is timely and strives to achieve excellence while providing the backdrop for operational control. It details a set of standards to which you are attempting to adhere—the definition of management and control. Furthermore, a good budgeting process should address both the personal and technical aspects of creating this important operating plan. The personal aspects include management and staff involvement, goal-setting behavior and the integration of continuous improvement strategies. Technical aspects focus more on resource allocation, forecasting techniques, probability models and compliance.

Success in 2012 will require a very different approach than was the case a decade ago. In the past few years, the private club industry has faced a variety of marketing, membership and revenue challenges that were unheard of 10 or 15 years ago. Membership in clubs will be increasing focused on value and the ability to become a “One Stop Family” entertainment club.

Budget by Goals, Satisfaction and Importance

What are the identified challenges that will continue without new investment? Is a change needed to your current approach to routine maintenance, revenue generating activities and member retention? Yes, things you do each day will effect revenue and member retention, as a superintendent you must be concerned with revenue generation and member retention, this is your future!

When budget discussions begin, “Why?” should always be the most important question. Why raise or lower cost in golf course conditioning? Why increase staffing, resources or systems? Why invest in a new irrigation system. Simply increasing or lowering percentages across the board will not give you the answers. Your success going forward depends on how well you, as the superintendent, understand your clubs needs, your members' desires, and the solutions required to achieve your club’s goals.

By comparison, think how obvious these decisions would be if the golf course was unexpectedly hit by a devastating tornado or flood, or if the clubhouse burned to the ground. Make no mistake about it, by default, the goals of the management team are shared goals and the successes are also shared.

Many superintendents lament that they have worked years to “get the budget to where it is today”. I contend that in these business climates funds should be allocated where they can attract and retain members. In McMahon Group survey results over the past 6 years from over 120 golf and country clubs the golf course as a club activity and a club feature scored highest among all other activities and features in member satisfaction and importance. I see two significant facts emerging from this data, members are highly satisfied with the golf course, more than any other feature at clubs, and, these assets should be preserved with proper and proportional operational funds.

How would management arrive at a proper proportion of revenue that should be allocated to golf course maintenance? The fact still remains that golf course budgets do not include a revenue side. One simple formula for average golf and country clubs is a dollar amount of approximately 20% - 25% of dues income. Currently most clubs charge higher dues for a golf membership, is the difference in dues from a social member to a golf member the true cost of maintaining and capitalizing the golf course? You see, it’s not easy to segregate an amount from dues to allocate to golf course revenue but it can paint a picture of where a club might want to be. Other revenue sources that can be recognized are guest fees, cart fees, a portion of outing income, a portion of range fees, bag storage, locker rental fees and this list can go on. As superintendent and a member of the management team you should know the clubs revenue numbers.

The above are valid ways to approximate what income could be allocated to the golf course based on a number of clubs and the average of dollars spent on golf course maintenance. However, your managing a business, and if you where the sole proprietor you will want to have profit or in a club’s case money left for capital improvements or more precisely, what we call asset allocation fund.

Initiation Fees – Going, Going, Gone

Slowly, initiation fees are becoming less relevant in the country club world. Only the very elite clubs will be enjoying six-figure initiation fees, and waiting lists. In the not too distant past initiation fees fueled capital improvements, now in addition to dues (a category named “capital dues”) amounts are used to fund asset replacements. In addition, more often than not, clubs are using a dining minimum to balance losses in the F&B department. The question begs an answer; will increases in monthly dues become the knock-out blow to clubs? Will the gap widen between the amount of dues charged for golf memberships and social memberships?

What about the golf course? If budgets are built to support routine maintenance at subscribed levels perhaps the history type formulas could be done away with. If this year you needed X next year you shouldn’t necessarily need X + 3%. List your annual goals and budget what you need, as you become better at your business, you may become better at budgeting and better and more efficient at the maintenance of the golf course you manage.

For an in-depth look at a goal orientated budget template go to:

Goal Directed Budget Template

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can You Tell Me His Name?

At the age of 7, his family was forced out of their home. The boy had to work to support them.

At age 9, his mother died.

Age 22, he started a business.... that failed.

Age 23, ran for state legislature... he lost.

That same year, he lost his job, and failed to get into law school.

Age 24, he borrowed money from a friend to start a new business. Within months he was bankrupt, and spent the next SEVENTEEN years paying off this debt.

Age 25, ran for state legislature... and won.

Age 26, his fiancée died, sending him into a deep depression...ending in a nervous breakdown that kept him in bed for six months.

Age 29, ran for speaker of the state legislature... and lost.

Age 31, ran for elector... lost again.

Age 34, ran for Congress... laughed out of the election.

Age 35, ran for Congress again. Got elected finally

Age 37, ran for re-election... blown out of the election (although incumbents win 90+% of the time).

At 40, sought the job of land officer in his home state... soundly rejected.

Five long years later, he had the nerve to run for the US Senate...and got trounced.

After losing, he said, “The path was worn & slippery. My foot slipped from under me,
knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself,
'It's a slip and not a fall.'"

Age 47, sought his party's vice-presidential nomination: trounced again.

Age 49, ran for US Senate again... and was again soundly defeated.

Age 51, ran for, get this, President of the United States!! Talk about temerity!!
Consider this quote from our 11-time loser:

The sense of obligation to continue is present in all of us. A duty to strive is the duty of us all. I felt a call to that duty.


What a strong word; it says so much. Within it resides one of the three single greatest powers you have at your instant disposal. That's the power used by the man you just read about... President Abraham Lincoln.

So, if some grass died this summer and you spend much of your time counting "warts on the course" remember Abe.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

H-2B Program, Changes Will Effect Users NOW

The Department of Labor (DOL) has targeted the H-2B program for termination. In one of its first efforts to dismantle the program, DOL issued a new prevailing wage rule. According to DOL, that wage regulation will increase the costs for H-2B employees by nearly $4.50/hour.

When the rule was first published, it had an effective date of January 1, 2012. However, pursuant to an amendment to the rule, DOL has now sped up the effective date to September 30, 2011.

Those clubs that use the H-2B program must prepare for this wage hike now. Not only will this new prevailing wage be in effect for those H-2B workers who begin work after 9/30/11, but that wage must also be used for those H-2B workers who are here now and are due paychecks after 9/30/11.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The US Swelters Under Torrid Heat Wave

Is this Déjà Vu all over again?
It will be intensely hot again Thursday in many parts of the country. From the South and the Midwest to the East Coast, temperatures will soar again into the mid to high 90s and could top 100 at many locations.
Heat advisories were issued in at least 27 states. Officials say at least 22 people have died from heat-related illnesses. For many, it will likely remain hot and humid for several more days to come.

Heat-Related Deaths:
The heat turned deadly in some parts of the Midwest: In Kansas City, where the heat wave is entering its 10th day, Mayor Sly James said heat appears to be a factor in the deaths of at least 13 people.
"Generally, the folks who have died have been those who have been less able to protect themselves against the heat for lack of air conditioning, fans, cool places, those types of things," James said. "And those folks who are often elderly or concentrated in high rises, or in places where there are pockets of poverty."

The summer of 2010 is on a pace to break temperature records up and down the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico. For example, Washington, D.C. had 40 days of 90-plus-degree temperatures in June and July, more than typically occur in an entire average year (37). During the recent U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst, the heat index reached triple digits, topping out at 110.

Déjà Vu, 2010 USGA article:
Needless to say, this has put tremendous strain on golf courses and those in charge of maintaining them.

USGA Green Section agronomists consider it necessary and appropriate to practice defensive maintenance and management programs as long as these weather extremes continue. Obviously, extra care must be taken to pamper the grass through this difficult weather, and understanding from golfers is also a must to help get through the crisis. If everyone works together and does what is best for the grass, the summer of 2010 will one day be nothing more than just a bad memory.

By way of letters sent to USGA Member courses and via communication through the Green Section Record, the goal has been to alert golfers and turf managers alike about the extraordinary weather conditions and turf-loss-related matters. This extended period of heat and drought – followed by heat, humidity and thunderstorms – has caused and probably will continue to cause turf stress and turf loss throughout the affected areas of the country.

“No two golf courses are alike, having different grasses, soils, course features and golfer expectations,” said Stanley Zontek, director of the Mid-Atlantic Region for the USGA Green Section. “It is important that golf course superintendents use defensive golf course maintenance programs. That is, be conservative and pamper the grass. The turfgrass is under intense weather stress, which is compounded by an increase in disease pressure. Everyone should be more concerned about plant health than green speed.

“There is an old adage in our industry: Slow grass is better than no grass. This is not a joke. It needs to be taken seriously.”

Some suggested management programs include:
Maintain a solid fungicide program: With heat, humidity and thunderstorms, fungicides do not last as long and disease pressure is greater. There is no better money spent than in protecting the grass from disease. If the fungicide budget is being depleted, pull back in other areas. However, when conditions are this difficult, fungicides often cannot completely overcome disease incidence. It may well be a case of reducing disease injury rather than eliminating it altogether. The following steps are just as important as applying a good fungicide.

Raise mowing heights and use sharp mowers:
This can help the grass survive.
In an age of rising expectations for putting-green performance, the recommendation to raise the mowing height on bentgrass greens to promote better summer survival is not a popular one for golfers. Of course, failed putting greens in late August are not popular, either. However, science is on the superintendent’s side on this one.

The benefit of raising the mowing height in the summer can be explained by looking at the relationship between energy production (photosynthesis) and energy consumption (respiration) in the summer. As temperatures increase, the rate of photosynthesis in cool-season grasses (bentgrass) decreases, but the rate of respiration increases. Explained another way, energy production is slowing while energy consumption is increasing. This is not sustainable over the long term because, eventually, the plant is going to run out of fuel.

Chris Hartwiger, a USGA Green Section senior agronomist based in the Southeast Region, says that raising the mowing height increases the amount of leaf surface area, which increases the amount of potential photosynthesis. In essence, the higher mowing height is creating a bigger tank of fuel for the plant, and hopefully, the fuel will not run out until cooler temperatures return in the fall.

Mow less…roll more:
The goal is to reduce mechanical stress to the grass plant. Mowing is a stressful practice for bentgrass putting greens in the summer months. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that, by mowing three days per week and rolling three times per week, green speeds would remain consistent throughout the week. In the field, we have observed this practice used in the summer months, and superintendents report favorable results with respect to turf quality. Therefore, if stress is high, reducing mowing frequency and substituting rolling is an option to consider for limiting stress.
Switching from grooved rollers to solid rollers will also protect collars from the turning of mowers.

Carefully monitor course traffic:
Traffic causes additional stress when grasses are already weakened by high temperatures. During these difficult economic times, every golf course wants as much play as possible, but traffic patterns need to be managed carefully. “During these stress periods, we emphasize the importance of using ropes and stakes to manage traffic flow on and off greens. In some cases, weak putting greens may need to be closed,” said Bud White, director of the Mid-Continent Region.

Spoonfeed the grass:
Bob Brame, director of the North-Central Region, emphasizes the importance of staying consistent with a light and frequent foliar feeling. Excessive grass growth depletes carbohydrates (plant food). Iron (to keep the grass green) and growth regulator applications will be part of this mix.
Air movement: On shaded or pocketed greens, prune tree limbs, use fans, and generally keep the air moving. When you are hot, you stand in front of a fan to cool yourself. When the grass is stressed, it needs good air movement as well. Drier turf is also less prone to disease.

“Fans have proven in research trials and in the field to be a valuable bentgrass life support tool,” said Hartwiger. “Fans should be running 24 hours a day right now. If portable fans are available, use them and rotate them throughout the property as needs dictate.”

Do not over-water:
Manage water applications carefully, and hand-water if possible. Lightly syringe the turf with the nozzle. If you are wetting the soil, it’s too much. Any midday watering should be focused on cooling the turf canopy. Remember, you can always add more water, but wet, saturated soil can damage roots, increase disease and contribute to turf loss via wet wilt. If corrective watering needs to be done to curtail dry spots, the extra water should be applied in the early morning or late in the evening. Do not over-water the grass in midday heat.

Watch the putting greens carefully and add supplemental water as often as needed to prevent shallow-rooted bentgrass from wilting.

Surface aerate the greens:
This allows the soil to breath, excess moisture to escape, and roots to re-grow, thereby helping the grass to survive.

Venting the putting greens is another way to properly maintain turf. Venting is a term that applies to the practice of creating small, non-disruptive holes in a putting green for the purpose of improving gas exchange, increasing water infiltration, and stimulating new root initiation. The term venting is used instead of aeration because of the negative connotations golfers associate with the term aeration. Venting is a golfer-friendly practice.

Dr. Robert Carrow, of the University of Georgia, found that the ideal venting frequency in his research plots was every 21 days throughout the summer months. For the summer of 2010, the Green Section recommends venting greens every two to three weeks until fall core aeration arrives.

None of these suggestions by themselves will make the difference between putting green survival and serious injury. It is important to implement all of these suggestions to the greatest degree possible. Although you can’t do much to control the weather, these are steps that will help in the long run.

Meteorologist Allan Dunham with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., said the high dew point level, combined with hot temperatures, will drench the North Atlantic states in Florida-like conditions.

"This is going to cover basically all of southern New England, getting up into southern New Hampshire all the way back towards New York and down along the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard," he said.

Sound familiar? Parts of the above appeared in last year’s USGA Green Section Report, August 4, 2010.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What’s a Trillion Dollars?

Anytime the federal government talks about a billion dollars; that’s about $4.00 for each of us. When our government talks about budgets and deficits in the terms of a trillion dollars; that’s about $4,000.00 to the taxpayer. I hope that put some light on what a trillion is, now, like the great Paul Harvey used to say “Here’s the rest of the story”.

Not too long ago, then, President Bush requested $87 billion for us to fund and manage two wars. That would have cost you $348.00 dollars.

Consider the news when the awful president Bush was proclaimed the “Worst President Ever” with a deficit of $420 billion, that’s about $1,680.00 cost to you, the taxpayer. Even though Bush with the GOP congress have survived the DOT.COM bubble, two wars and the tragic attracts of 9/11.

Remember the 2003 tax cuts, they did what they were supposed to do, like they always do, they increased federal revenue and decreased the deficit by $120 billion – or $360.00 to us taxpayers.

The national debt when Bush took office was $4 trillion dollars. That’s a staggering $16,000.00 for you. In Bush’s first six years his administration added $2 trillion to the national debt, he was harshly criticized, and rightfully so, that’s a total federal debt of $6 trillion, or, $24,000 for each of us citizen taxpayers.

The One Hundred Tenth United States Congress was the meeting of the legislative branch of the United States Federal Government, between January 3, 2007, and January 3, 2009, during the last two years of the second term of President George W. Bush. The Democratic Party controlled a majority in both chambers for the first time since the end of the 103rd Congress in 1995. Democrat Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the House and Harry Reid was Majority Leader in the Senate.

In two years of the 110th congress the Democratic controlled body of government increased the debt by $5 trillion, that congress borrowed more in two years than all 42 presidents before Bush, COMBINED. They successfully increased the national debt more in two years than the 224 years of the United States of America. That a $5 trillion increase that brought our debt to $14 trillion, that’s an amazing $56,000.00 for each man, woman and child in the USA!

This year’s deficit alone is $1.7 trillion, or $6,800 to you. Our government is deficit spending almost $7,000 for every person in the country. That means that after spending every dollar the government actually collects in taxes, they keep spending and borrowing at this ridiculous level.

Our federal budget is $3.5 trillion per year, $14,000.00 for each of us. $2.2 trillion is entitlement spending. Entitlements represent transfer of wealth, from the people who work to the people that don’t to the tune of $8,800.00 per taxpayer; and of course, that includes money to pay the interest on financing the whole scheme.

In the latest skirmish on Capitol Hill the senate cannot agree to cut the $3.5 trillion budget by $100 billion, $400 bucks to you and I. The debt ceiling vote is gridlocked for bargaining proposes between the House and Senate.

What’s the end of this story sound like to you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

God’s Thoughts on Lawns:

I ran across this short story last week; I thought I’d pass it along.

God: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happen to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil; withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of song birds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

Saint Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and soil worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Saint Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great lengths to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm temperatures probably make the grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites very happy.

Saint Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bail it like hay?

Saint Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them bag it up or rake it.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

Saint Francis: No sir, many of the Suburbanites pay to have it removed.

God: They fertilize grass so it will grow. When it does, they cut it off and pay to throw it away.

Saint Francis: Yes Sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

Saint Francis: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide shade and beauty in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and shrubs. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form a compost to enhance the soil. It’s the natural circle of life.

Saint Francis: The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No! What do they do to protect the bushes and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

Saint Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

Saint Catherine: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…..

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks, TOCA and Golf Industry Magazine

I would like to thank my friends at Golf Course Industry magazine for the opportunity to give me an outlet for my writing (ramblings). Pat Jones and Mike Zawacki recently emailed me the news that I won an award from Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) on a short piece I wrote for my BLOG and Golf Course Industry in September, 2010. If you would like to read the article it can be viewed at Golf Course Industry. Thanks again to Pat and Mike at Golf Course Industry; they truly are a great group of professionals representing the Golf Turf Industry.
First Place - Wrting for Electronic Newsletter: Original Content

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Organic Root and Hair Fertilizer

• Strengthens and nourishes weak, damaged hair and Poa annua
• Stimulates scalp and thatch for faster turf and hair growth
• Adds moisture to dry hair and turf roots
• Hair and turf grows stronger

Organic Turf Root Stimulator Hair Fertilizer treatment is perfect for turf and hair that grows sluggishly and breaks easily.
It is enriched with a special blend of nettle, horsetail, and paprika; these ingredients have historically been known to stimulate the turf root and scalp.
Repairs damage done by chemical treatments, rolling, ballmarks and mowing.

Use with the Organic Root Stimulator Turf Hair Restoration System for best results.

Turf Care Centers

It has been some time since I have written about the subject of maintenance buildings and the associated site and companion buildings that make up the Turf Care Center.

Many superintendents sometimes see just the fancy maintenance buildings and Turf Care Centers in magazine articles and books, but in the following space I thought I would let the pictures do the talking. This is what’s out there.

From Florida to Connecticut, California to New Jersey, this photos are typical.

Keep in mind these photos are of private clubs, some in the top 100, most have budgets well over 1 million dollars.

A theme that repeats itself time and again, JUNK! I am beginning to wonder; do superintendents have a love affair with old equipment, plastic drums, and brittle PVC pipe?

Office areas and parts rooms, poorly kept; every course associated with these Turf Care Centers was in great shape, every single golf course was in exceptional condition!


How does your Turf Care Center look?

Friday, March 25, 2011

FYI, Revenues and Expenses

Click on image to view or download

Caparison of revenues and expenses on golf course operating and cap. X, six different course types in the United States.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Measure and Improve Your Course Operation

You can't manage what you don't measure. It is an old management adage that is accurate today. Unless you measure something you don't know if it is getting better or worse. You can't manage for improvement if you don't measure to see what is getting better and what isn't. This article may help you know what to measure and how.

To begin, we'll define a few of the terms. We are using "measure" as a verb, not a noun and "benchmark" as a noun, not adverb.

• Measure: The verb means "to ascertain the measurements of"
• Measurement: The figure, extent, or amount obtained by measuring"
• Metric: "A standard of measurement"
• Benchmark: "A standard by which others may be measured"

So, we collect data (measurements), determine how those will be expressed as a standard (metric), and compare the measurement to the benchmark to evaluate progress. For example, we can measure the time it takes to set-up the golf course each morning, by the number of employees multiplied by the time each crew member takes to complete their task. Then we need to measure the number of tasks the crew accomplishes before players begin to fill the course. We also need to measure (count) the number of break-downs, bad cups, misaligned tee markers, ropes and traffic control items moved, bunkers raked, etc. in that set-up process. That's how we will establish "our quality rating" for golf course set-up, expressed as the metric. We compare each crew members metric against the benchmark of "time and quailty rating for golf course set-up".

In the example above you can see Paul’s performance and quality is directly related to the time it takes to complete the task. Given a set of standards of ballmark repair and bunker detail above 4 it can be surmised that 3 hours and 48 minutes would be the target time for a quality standard of 4 or better..

What To Measure
To manage and measure those activities is important to successfully achieving your organization's goals. Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPI or Key Success Indicators (KSI), help an organization define and measure progress toward its goals.

They differ depending on the organization. A golf course may have as one of its Key Performance Indicators as the time it takes to prepare the golf course for daily play. Another golf course may have as one of its KPIs the percentage of golfers returning to play the course. As routine maintenance changes a return golfer count may correlate to maintenance operations (the number one reason a golfer is satisfied with a golf experience is course conditioning). Still another Key Performance Indicator for a golf course maintenance organization might be the gross revenue compared with routine maintenance costs.

You may need to measure several things to be able to calculate the metrics in your KPIs. To measure progress toward the organizations goals you may consider the time it takes to maintain the course, rounds played, average time to play 18-holes and time to schedule large scale mowing (rough and fairways). Many golf course operations take advantage of off peak time (late in the day) to mow fairways and rough in an effort to increase efficiencies and cause less disruption of play.

How To Measure
How you measure is as important as what you measure. In the previous example, we can measure square footage, time and quality. We could have an assistant or foreman checking time spent and quality of raked bunkers and ballmark repair while changing hole-cups. Another option would have a golf shop assistant take a tour of the course check conditions and work on player relations simultaneously. The biggest challenge is that measurements are current, accurate, complete, and unbiased.

Collecting the measurements enables the superintendent to calculate the percentage of time and quality increases or decreases in relationship to other maintenace eliments and weather. In addition, it provides additional measurements that help the superintendent manage toward improving the percentages through additional training, more efficient equipment, increases or decreases in staff or time allotments and scheduling time of day to accomplish tasks.

How To Use Measurements
Most often, these measurements are used as part of a Continuous Improvement Plan like the Shewhart cycle.

Similar plans are used by many companies in different industries and given different names, but the goal is the same - to measure the key factors and improve them.

It is important that you communicate your metrics both up and down the organization. Your GM, committee, board or owner(s) wants to know what's going on, but your employees need to know also. They are not motivated to improve unless they know how they are doing. In addition, most of the suggestions on how to improve will come from them.

Post team and individual results, either on line or just by hanging charts on the wall. Use pie charts, line charts, key driver charts, and other graphs to quickly, easily, and visually communicate the metrics.

Review your metrics and use them to guide your decisions. With your metrics in place, you can tell which strategies are working and which aren't. If you make a change, you use the metrics to tell you whether the change improved things or not.

When the metrics show improvement, share that success with everyone. Tell your staff. Tell your boss. Tell the guy you meet on the course. And don't forget to reward the people who were responsible for the success, even if it's just a verbal pat on the back.

Measure To Manage
• Measure what's important.
• Publish your metrics and benchmarks.
• Reward people for exceeding their goals.
• And then start over.

You'll be a better superintendent if you do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The President’s 60th

While President Obama is by no means close to 60 years old, he did enjoy his 60th round of golf as President last week. We in the golf business are extremely pleased that the President has been able to take 60 mornings or afternoons to clear his head, relax and rejuvenate on the golf course. We are even more excited about the President’s consistent use of private clubs throughout the country to work on his game – especially when he visits Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii.

President Obama and Vice President Biden tune up at the White House
That being said, I hope that he will work with us on initiatives that will help our industry continue to grow and prosper. As an avid golfer, he knows how important the game can be to the economy of a local community, and I look forward to reminding him and his staff of those benefits at every possible opportunity. Fore!
Contact President Obama; because he and his staff is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. To send him notes of thanks for supporting golf follow this link.

Thanks Mr. President for playing golf

Masters Quiz

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Battle of 2010

In a continuing effort to discover the many effects the past summer has had on golf greens turf I have launch a mini survey. The last survey I finished yielded 422 responses from across the US and gave many superintendents valuable information. This survey is just slightly different being that many have digested the season and have plans or actions in place that will safeguard turf though stressful summer conditions. The survey will only take several minutes and I will post a link with the results after the GIS next month. Thanks in advance, and all my best this New Year. Click to go to survey site.