Five Things Your Superintendent Wished You Knew
About “Streamlining” Golf Course Maintenance
Timothy Garceau - Haworth Country Club
With one of the most unusual seasons ever upon us, most if not all golf courses are working with much smaller staffs while trying to provide players with the quality of golf they have come to expect. Next time you play, consider these practices that may be in effect at your course or club.
1. BUNKERS – A tremendous amount of time, money and energy goes into maintaining high quality bunkers. In order to free up maintenance staff to perform other more pressing tasks, Committees can change the status of bunkers to be part of the general area and, ideally as a last resort, implement a preferred lies Local Rule that would allow a player to place the ball elsewhere in a bunker without penalty. Reduced raking and attention to bunkers do little to take away from the enjoyment of the game and can be a real time-saver for the maintenance operation. Players should also do their part by smoothing out the sand with their feet as they exit the bunker.
2. GROWTH REGULATORS are used at nearly every golf course in one capacity or another. This tool can be expanded upon, with care, to use in other areas of the course or be used more aggressively if turf wear allows. Additionally, in conjunction with turf growth regulation, rolling can be substituted for mowing which often takes less time.
3. ACCESSORIES – Some clubs have left tee markers off the course allowing players to choose their own spot from which to play. So long as players don’t overuse certain areas, this can work indefinitely, allowing players to adjust their yardage* daily to suit weather or ground conditions and increase enjoyment. Moving tee markers daily can take over two hours; likewise, reducing the number of ball washers, bunker rakes, trash cans, etc., can all add up to time savings. It also improves safety removing potential transmissible items from the course.
4. HOURS OF OPERATION – Later start times allow a smaller staff to provide similar conditions to that of a larger staff. It is simply a matter of adding valuable maintenance time: an extra hour for a staff of 10 adds 10 hours of uninterrupted work time, allowing that staff to be 100% productive for a longer period of time. There is no substitute for that time. Also, eliminating an hour of start times later in the day can also provide a pocket of time for staff to accomplish tasks not possible in the small intervals of time during normal play.
5. CROSS TRAINING AND MANY OTHER IDEAS are being implemented at clubs everywhere. Each club is different, allowing every facility to develop solutions that work for their respective situations. Some clubs have reduced workloads in other departments and have those staff lending a hand with course maintenance or course projects such as aerification. Many clubs are utilizing riding mowers verses walk mowers, reducing the time and the number of people to accomplish mowing tasks in order to free those staff to accomplish other tasks. Superintendents by necessity are used to overcoming unforeseen obstacles as a matter of their daily routine. As seasons change and course demands increase, we will need to be agile with our planning and methods to meet what each challenge brings forth.
As long as players expectations take into consideration the changes that superintendents and maintenance staffs are facing, with a good plan and teamwork we can still have a wonderful 2020 season.
* Players should review Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping for Rules regarding Modification of Courses and how it affects score posting. Players should calculate the measured distance between the set of tees being played and the rated set of tees for an 18-hole round. For differences under 100 yards, no adjustment is necessary and scores can be submitted as usual; otherwise, differences between 100 and 300 yards must be adjusted using the table from section f (i) of Appendix G. Another table is also available for 9-hole adjustments where the difference between the tees being played and the rated set of tees is between 50 and 150 yards.