There’s so much business strategy in superintendents’ worlds. Let’s focus on pace of play, a major frustration among players and course operators.
Joe Haskins, superintendent at Renditions Golf Course Davidsonville, Maryland – operated by Landscapes Golf Management – offered his views on the topic. Here are his top five tips on how to manage speed:
Golf is simple when superintendents adopt a “find ball, hit ball” philosophy. Grow and sustain the right species of grass in the right areas of the course. Setup courses with the perfect balance of bark and benevolence for each handicap range (despite most superintendents knowing that extremely tough pins and fast greens cause inevitable triple bogies, they love to test golfers’ mettles in devastating ways). Permitting your existing rough to reach eight inches is not a naturalized area – it’s a pace killer. Notwithstanding, it’s perfectly acceptable for fescue to do its Jack and the Beanstalk impersonation where golfers rarely if ever hit.
It’s the superintendent’s duty to coach maintenance crews about what’s an acceptable, baseline time for golfers – from high to low handicappers – to play each hole from tee box to sinking the putt (or picking up and moving on). This factors into how each hole is patterned, notably pin placements. Without interfering with play, crews should feel free to coordinate with marshals about when to politely encourage golfers and offer playing tips to pick it up where their play is dragging. Lastly, closely communicate with clubhouse operations for its personnel to suggest to golfers the proper tee boxes to play from in sync with the day’s course setup. The superintendent is the lynchpin here.
The quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line. That’s why cart-path-only restrictions represent the antithesis of fast play. If conditions are marginal, let them scatter a bit under a 90-degree rule. Lean on directional pegs, ropes and GPS systems to contain play by limiting access to wetter areas. Although obvious, courses occasionally send carts with not enough juice, further prompting logjams of epic proportions.
Keep score of areas along the course where bottlenecks frequently occur and don’t cop a “there’s nothing we can do about it” fallback attitude. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and helping golfers navigate the layout most often doesn’t involve a hefty cap-ex budget – or any at all. Par 3s seem to be the biggest “turtle” culprit, so consider removing accessories like water cooler stations, ball washers and divot mix containers. Shrink naturalized areas close to in-bounds, limb-up trees for easier recovery shots following mishits and use dry-erase yardage signs for at-a-glance, accurate distances.
Work hand-in-hand with the operations team to explore partnering with companies that affix sensors to golf bags and carts to monitor speed of play. These types of systems provide courses with full, real-time operational oversight and reporting, giving managers tools to manage operations effectively. The results: enhanced player experiences, increased efficiency, cost savings and additional revenue. The data points gained about individual golfers allow for better marketing of equipment sales, instruction and, perhaps most important, tee sheet optimization and tee time intervals.
Haskins and Landscapes Golf Management live by the mantra that well-managed golf courses and country clubs – and their ultimate business profitability – comes down to happiness of members, guests and staff. In today’s hurry-up world, with pace of play under control, complaints will assuredly decrease and your offerings will be favored over the competition.