USGA Green Section Archives

There will be further pressures on expenses due to increases in oil prices. The increase in oil prices will not only increase what is normally only 3% -5% of the typical budget, but will also increase the cost of most fertilizers and chemicals that are significantly larger budget items.

Then there is the question of competition and the number of golf courses that have been added in the past decade. In the US, we have added over 20% to golf course capacity since 1990. While it is true that basic demographics relating to the aging of the “baby boom” generation will support some additional golf capacity, it will not absorb all the capacity that has been built or is scheduled to open over the next several years. This will create a very competitive environment for golf course operators over the near term.

The current vogue in the industry has been to express phrases such as “affordable golf”, “increase play availability for juniors”, “lower construction costs” and a host of other platitudes. A recent search of the USGA Green Section Archives and the recap of the GCSAA Annual Convention revealed virtually nothing indicating an emphasis on expense management. To find helpful information, a superintendent has to go back to 1983’s great article “Controlling Golf Course Maintenance Expenses, An Owner’s Perspective” (USGA Green Section, July, 1983) or to 1988’s article, “Are You Adequately Staffed” (USGA Green Section, July, 1988).

We don’t begrudge superintendents their need for larger budgets in a lot of cases, but when was the last time a superintendent went to an owner or Board with the comment, I think I can do as well or better with less. More importantly, what kind of help is the superintendent getting? Unfortunately, not much.

Let’s look at equipment for a minute. A new fairway mower with a 10’ cutting width costs approximately $35,000 today. A mower with the same width cost $20,000 in 1991. This 75% increase in the cost of ownership is way beyond the increase in the CPI over that period. Is this new mower worth the extra money? Its productivity is identical. Do its blades and bed-knives need less maintenance? Even if you ascribe a 7 Year useful life, this new mower is costing about $20/hr. vs. $12/hr. in 1991. Fortunately, the hourly wages paid to the operator have not increased by the same margin.