Softening the intimidation
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Softening the intimidation

Ron Furlong shares practical tricks that are working for him as he prepares his 21st budget at the same course. Don’t procrastinate and start reading!

September 26, 2022

I’m pretty sure we’d all agree the days of an easy or less-than-intimidating budgeting process are long gone.

I’m not admitting I now dread putting together the annual budget in the fall, but I certainly don’t look forward to it. I often practice honing my procrastination skills with the endeavor. 

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, budgeting has gone from a late-season annoyance to a “How the heck am I going to do this?” part of the job in the fall.

Of course, all 2020 budgets were submitted and implemented by the time the pandemic hit early in 2020. I imagine many golf courses, like mine (Avalon Golf Links in Burlington, Washington), changed gears on the fly that year with the ups, downs and utter uncertainty of golf and everything else in life. 

We all accounted for the pandemic when producing our 2021 and our 2022 budgets. For most, that meant budgeting for more rounds, but also for increased prices for nearly every single item in the budget. And we were budgeting with a high – and stressful – level of uncertainty hanging above our heads not knowing if the rounds played spike would continue. None of these factors made for an easy or smooth budget process.

Avalon, like many golf courses worldwide, is about to complete its third straight successful year. This fact somewhat eases the pressure for the upcoming budget. But many future unknowns, including a possible looming recession, counterbalance the rounds-played positive most of us have experienced the last few years. 

As I prepare to sit down and draft the 2023 budget, my 21st here at Avalon Golf Links and third during the COVID-19 era, there are a few tricks that may help me get through the process as pain free as possible. I’ll pass a few of them along in hopes they might help you get through your 2023 budget a little more smoothly, too.

  • Don’t procrastinate. I read once procrastination is something brilliant people do, basically because they can. Even if you feel you fall into this category, it’s prudent to be on top of budgeting these days. Before sitting down in front of the computer, you should be preparing. Follow fuel prices, unemployment rates and rounds-played trends. Budgeting has become as important to the job as keeping green speeds up. Don’t push it to the background anymore.
  • Utilize Early Order Programs. Although they have always been important for participants over the years, EOP have never been more valuable. Not only are skyrocketing prices affecting everything from fertilizers to seed to wetting agents, but product availability issues are arising. This is another major reason planning your year through EOP is positively vital.
  • Reward worker loyalty and long-term employees. It’s no secret that hiring and keeping employees is more challenging. I’m sure we all experienced hiring people for the crew the last couple of years and then having them last a few days or a week before they decided to try the next job down the road. Once you find the people you want to keep, do what it takes to keep them. I don’t know that any other money allocated in your budget is more vital than keeping these folks. This also includes rewarding the long-term workers that have been with you for years. You must factor in the rising costs of simply living life for your employees, and make sure you do all you can to help them make ends meet.
  • Expect the unexpected. Leave some wiggle room for uncertainty. I’m not sure this can be an actual line item in your budget, but part of me thinks that might not be such a bad idea. We all know it’s been a tumultuous, rollercoaster ride managing golf courses the last three years. There’s no reason to expect this to change soon. Do what you can inside your budget to try and plan for something that you may have no idea what it will be.

Now get to work. 2023 is coming fast.

Ron Furlong is the superintendent at Avalon Golf Links in Burlington, Washington, and frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.