Constantly thinking about budgets

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November 3, 2020

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With most 2021 budgets prepared and submitted, many golf course superintendents and their managers are reviewing and updating agronomic plans for the coming year. A sound agronomic plan is a living document that must anticipate upcoming conditions and respond to emerging circumstances. In volatile times, certain constants must be considered. Let’s evaluate some of those constants in the context of today’s conditions and challenges and see how they might affect budgets.

Constants

Certain irrevocable factors influence the proper care and upkeep of golf facilities with budgets leading the list. Your budget is the mathematical “North Star” on which you steer your performance. It’s also a measure of your intentions. One superintendent summarized his budget by saying, “You can run but cannot hide from your budget, so you might as well pick it up and run with it.” In other words, dig into the process and learn to deal with the variables.

For 2021, here are several budget guidelines to understand:

  • • Flexibility. Most planners expect a choppy year ahead. Set aside funds for the unexpected events that will emerge and keep your powder dry.
  • • Expenses. Plan for three categories of expense. Fixed expenses for such budget overhead requirements as utilities and equipment leases are unlikely to change, although careful budget managers ask for relief on such fixed costs through abatements or forgiveness that may help to stretch budgeted resources. Second, labor costs will ebb and flow as impacts from COVID-19 and closures of club facilities will place irregular demands on labor dollars. Give yourself some room to maneuver. Third, discretionary needs will emerge as fellow managers and golfers seek new solutions to new problems. So be prepared.
  • • Innovation. New ideas and methods introduce new solutions for labor and overhead costs. Be alert and watch for new and innovative possibilities that make your work eventful and add purpose to your accomplishments.
  • • Weather. Changing weather patterns demand that golf course operators become better informed and more proactive in planning care and upkeep practices. While much of your work is influenced by changing weather conditions, superintendents know to rely on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for accurate weather pattern forecasts that help them more accurately plan and schedule their maintenance practices.
  • • Expectations. Golfers’ expectations continue to escalate. You can count on golfers wanting “more and better,” which means course managers are always searching for process and results improvements. For 2021, golfers’ expectations include enhanced sanitation and clearing of on-course comfort stations, golf carts and practice range equipment. Next year will demand sustainable care and upkeep standards despite irregular resources that may be interrupted by supply chain and budgetary limitations.
  • Upcoming Conditions

    Course managers must anticipate changes being introduced for labor management and workers’ expectations. Such changes as reducing the number of workers exposed to one another is requiring managers to divide crews and adjust shifts. Your team’s protection is vital.

    Changing climatic circumstances requires enhanced emergency preparations. Consider your clean-air, fire and immediate-notice evacuation plans for workers and affiliated departments. Your liability insurance carriers are a good starting point for collecting guidance, as are emergency preparedness agencies in your vicinity.

    Emerging Circumstances

    Develop your short list of resources on which you will draw for new threats and opportunities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are examples of resources on which you can rely. The coming year will reveal new problems, challenges and circumstances with which golf course managers must reckon.

    Emergency services professionals, such as your local health care, water supply and cyber-security experts, are valuable resources on which you can call. Beyond your club’s insurer, call on fire and police experts to provide guidance in planning ahead.

    Henry DeLozier is a partner at GGA Partners, trusted advisors and thought leaders. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audubon International.