The magical morning at Monroe involved touring a course where Ross and his team — which included a young Robert Trent Jones Sr., according to the club website — used sand beneath the ground and the flow of a ridgeline to create enduring variety. Monroe grips members, guests, visitors and employees. Delly grew up working on the course, returned as assistant superintendent in 2006 and became just the fifth superintendent in club history following the tragic death of Mark Hughes in 2007. He understands the responsibilities of the job, thus the tremendous pride and satisfaction he exudes when describing what his team has achieved in 2020. “This has been the best turf of my career,” he says while staring at the 18th green.
Skaneateles Country Club’s surroundings contrast the suburban setting of Monroe and a new maintenance facility represents a dream instead of reality. Skaneateles (which is pronounced more like “Skinny Atlas”) takes the name of the 16-mile Skaneateles Lake, the easternmost of upstate New York’s charming Finger Lakes. Only one hole, the par-3 first, features an up-close view of the lake. A clubhouse, marina and picnic ground occupy the club’s lakefront property.
Superintendent Alan Hammond operates a crew based in two maintenance facilities. Equipment is stored in a former airplane hangar parallel to the fourth hole and maintained in a shop near the 11th tee. The annoyance hasn’t slowed Hammond or his team. In just three seasons as superintendent, Hammond has added short grass near greens, expanded fairways and the practice area turf, removed trees, increased the amount of bentgrass in fairways, bolstered the topdressing program, and developed an energetic staff.
The chance to tell an upcoming story about the restoration of the East Course at Oak Hill served as the impetus for this entire trip. Starting a sunny Monday morning at Oak Hill touring the course with manager of golf courses and grounds Jeff Corcoran and club officials offered an inside and candid look at the restoration process, agronomy and club management. In short, a course roamed by every giant of the men’s game over the last seven decades has reached a new level of greatness.
The sun continued into the afternoon as I entered Terry Hills Golf Course by turning between a miniature golf course and a red barn. I had no idea the red barn doubles as the maintenance facility until calling superintendent Thad Thompson from the parking lot. Thompson walked outside and greeted my arrival with a friendly wave. I was a bit surprised to learn the maintenance facility lurked at the entrance of the property. The high-profile location means Thompson must always factor red paint into the budget.
Terry Hills is a 27-hole family-owned course. Golf outings and weddings account for a significant portion of the business, so uncertainty reigned as spring stretched into summer. Like thousands of daily-fee facilities, Terry Hills received a boost from renewed golf interest. Located between Buffalo and Rochester, golfers from New York’s second- and third-largest cities are flocking to Terry Hills and they will likely keep coming until it’s too cold to swing a club.
Anuvia Plant Nutrients, a sustainable plant nutrient company, announced their product line expansion for the GreenTRX lawn care fertilizer. Each of the new GreenTRX products are based on Anuvia’s proprietary sustainable nutrient delivery technology. The GreenTRX products are comprised of 100 percent nutrients with no filler and no uncoated urea.
The new lineup provides more options that fit lawn care professionals’ needs and the way they work.
“Conventional fertilizers may contain up to 50 percent filler and unprotected urea which is prone to volatilization or leaching,” chief commercial official Hugh MacGillivray said. “We’ve also fine-tuned the nutrient analysis to better match customer needs. Now lawn care operators and their customers have choices that can be based on the best analysis for a specific situation.”
All GreenTRX products are environmentally-friendly. The slow-release nitrogen reduces environmental impact as more nitrogen is used by the growing plant and less is lost into the atmosphere and in water.
The new GreenTRX products are easy to apply. They include Anuvia’s TRX technology and incorporate a poly-coated urea which increases the slow release nitrogen and provides better visibility and an extended feed.
As the golf business continues to surge, the independent market research firm Golf Datatech announced that U.S. retail golf equipment sales for the third quarter surpassed the $1 billion mark, finishing at $1.002 billion. This represents the first time sales have exceeded $1 billion in Q3, as well as the second-largest quarter ever, trailing only Q2 2008, when sales hit $1.013 billion.
Golf Datatech also reported that Q3 golf equipment sales for 2020 were up 42 percent over the same period in 2019, led by strong showings in golf bags, wedges and irons.
“The story keeps getting better as golf continues to surge coming out of the shutdown, and Q3 equipment sales suggests that 2020 will likely end up positive for the entire year,” Golf Datatech partner John Krzynowek said. “Year-to-date sales for total equipment are now up 0.2 percent compared to 2019, and considering the size of the hole created by the shutdown in April and May, this recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. While the US economy will not enjoy a ‘V Shaped Recovery’ in 2020, if golf continues on this trajectory we will be there soon.”
The category leaders in sales for September were golf bags at plus-19 percent and wedges at plus-18 percent, while golf shoes were plus-2 percent. Overall, the golf club category was plus-0.9 percent for the month, with balls and gloves trending slightly lower, negative-2.7 percent.
“These month-over-month sales records are unlike anything we’ve ever seen since Golf Datatech started tracking performance data in 1997,” Krzynowek said. “Our Rounds Played data also shows similar record-breaking growth over the past several months, which is a strong indication that avid golfers and newcomers alike are driving the sport to new levels right now.”
Years ago, during one of his numerous budget hearings at Atlanta Athletic Club, Ken Mangum was told by an accountant that the club’s maintenance cost per hole was the highest in the area.
“Really?” the veteran turf pro asked.
“Yes,” the accountant responded. “Our cost per hole is too high.”
“Well, let me ask you this,” Mangum said. “What are the utility bills at your house?”
“About $500,” the accountant answered
“Well, that’s too high,” Mangum said.
“How do you know? You don’t know how big my house is.”
“Exactly,” Mangum said. “Why don’t you do us a cost-per-acre and see how we come out? Because we have the most fairways, we have the biggest, longest golf courses around, so naturally, with our high standards, our cost per hole is going to be higher. And you don’t know what those standards are, you don’t know how big other courses are, you don’t know anything.”
Mangum still hears about courses turning to the cost-per-hole metric to measure maintenance efficiency and he still feels it could not be more off. “You have to know how big the hole is,” he says. “You have to know how many bunkers you have. Do you have an equipment lease in there? Do you have utilities? Every budget is different. People want to prepare budgets, it comes down to line item by line item.”
Mangum is more than four decades removed from studying under Dr. Gene Nutter at Lake City Community College — since renamed Florida Gateway College though it will always be LCCC to Mangum — and five years into retirement, but he remains as sharp as ever about all those those line items. Let’s listen in.
I wouldn’t spend money just to be on budget. Nor would I spend money not to be on budget.
I had a great GM who said, “Don’t ever not do something because you’re afraid of going over budget. Come and ask me. Explain it. We’re not locked in on a number so much that we want to sacrifice something.” So, we didn’t have to play the game quite as much. Because sometimes you would have a good summer, you would have years when you didn’t use everything, and you would roll that into next year, and you just have to explain that. And you have years when you get a lot of rain, a lot of heat, a lot of humidity, you get more disease, more weed pressure because of that, or you have a storm — we call those non-budgeted items. You can’t plan for things like that. You can’t budget for things like that.
As far as budgeting, I try to base things on standards. I want to ask, whether it’s the green committee or whatever, “What do you want the golf course to look like when you step on the first tee? What do you want to have done before you play golf?” Because that drives your whole budget. The other question is, “Do you want go off the No. 1 tee only? Or do you want to go off 10 as well — a two-tee start?” Because that complicates everything. If you tell me that you want the greens walk-mowed, the holes changed, the bunkers hand-raked, the fairways cut with a triplex mower, the intermediate rough cut, the cart paths blown, pinecones picked up, the ball-washers serviced, the drinking stations serviced — if you want all that done, I’ll show you the manpower and the equipment it takes to do that. And it’s really interesting when you pose that question to people, because they say they want it all done, and then you price it out and they go, “Hmm, maybe that’s not what I want.”
It all boils down to being able to communicate effectively. Whatever your budget is, you have to be able to explain it and communicate to people. They have to understand what you’re asking for and why you’re asking for it.
You’ve got to be comfortable in front of people, explaining things and giving presentations. That’s not the easiest thing.
We probably bought 95 percent of yearly stuff off the EOP. Our hope was we didn’t use everything and then we would take that off the program for next year.
When you do a renovation, there will be an impact on your budget. You have to be prepared for those kinds of things.
Renovations are some of the toughest budgeting years because people will see we have a renovation coming: “Well, you won’t need your people.” That’s what they say. What I did was show them all the things my people would be doing. We would try to do things on both ends of the renovation. And then the minute the sod goes down, it’s yours. As soon as they put grass on one hole, you have to maintain it. I was able to illustrate what our people were going to do. And then you pose the question: “What happens if we let people go and we can’t get them back? Because you do want people to maintain the golf course once it’s done.”
You always want to have a great mowing plan. To me, one of the best things you can do for a golf course is to have a consistent mowing plan and pattern every week. I don’t think there’s anything you can do to make the golf course look better — and showing people what it takes to do that.
One of my favorite stories is from a club in Macon called Idle Hour. I had a very interesting green chairman, his name was Duck Swann — you don’t forget that name. Well, Mr. Swann was the only American to win the British Senior Amateur Championship. He was a very good player. He came to me one day and said, “Ken, how much will it cost us to overseed the golf course?” “Well, are we talking about fairways, rough?” “The whole golf course, rough and everything.” “Let me get some figures and pricing, and I’ll get back to you.” I get to back to him in a few days, and let’s just say it was $30,000. And he said, “Good, let’s do that.” “Mr. Swann, we don’t have that in our budget.” “That’s OK. Just do it and I’ll take care of it.” “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me to spend $30,000 that’s not in my budget and you’re going to take care of it.” “Yep. We’re going to surprise ’em.” And we did, and he did. Occasionally you’ll get people like that. Wonderful guy.
You learn as you go along, because every club is a little different.
Matt LaWell is Golf Course Industry’s managing editor.