Points Regarding Golf Course Maintenance

Is It Time to Rethink Maintenance Budgets?

In the December, 1999 issue of Crittenden GolfInc, a panel discussion brought out some interesting points regarding golf course maintenance. In light of current economic conditions and a later than usual spring in the Midwest and Northeast, the need to control expenses may finally get its due among golf course owners, managers and superintendents.

Our experience has shown that 40% to 60% of the overall expenses of operating a typical daily fee or semi-private golf facility relate to turf maintenance. While the 1999 article in Crittenden stimulated some indignant responses to charges of “empire building” in the maintenance area, Dr. Michael Hurdzan posed a very cogent question –“ If you get a superintendent for $50,000 and he’s taking $800,000 to maintain it (golf course), aren’t you better off paying $100,000 for a superintendent that can do it for $400,000? The answer is very simple math - about $350,000 better off.”

Another good question would be, is it really possible to have that big a variation in maintenance costs? That begs a multitude of other questions, but there can be a tremendous difference in maintenance costs with no discernable difference in visual imagery and playability for the average golfer.

In 1991 Edgehill studied the maintenance expenses of more than 15 Private Clubs in a major metropolitan area. The variation in maintenance costs was over 35%. While this may not be the 50% variation outlined by Dr. Hurdzan, it was interesting to note that 2 courses widely acclaimed (nationally and locally) for their course conditioning were in the lowest quartile of maintenance expenses, with costs that were 25% below the highest budget.

As we have continued to follow maintenance expenses over the past decade, the trend in maintenance costs has generally seemed to be increases well in excess of the increases in the Consumer Price Index. The trend has been to see Greens Fees increase at a similar rate. While this is good for revenues in the short term, it has also obscured the need to control expenses for many golf course operators. There are also some other factors:

1. Higher Labor costs
2. Higher Equipment prices
3. More Man/hours used