Keeping a record of how the golf course is performing, in financial, playing and environmental terms is essential if the facility is to be well run, offer good value to its customers and be able to justify its operation to the wider community. Course management that provides quality playing surfaces and which cares for the environment is dependent on good decision making based on facts and figures.
The course is your prime asset and you need to know what you are spending on its upkeep and where your money is going. The annual audit is usual practice for business. Keeping a record of income and expenditure is essential if the performance of the business is to be measured and analysed so that management can adjust practices to assure future prosperity. The golf course can make up 70% or more of a golf facility's total expenditure and it is important that costs and revenue from course-related activity are tracked and reported on. This will help club and course managers to:
- provide clear information to committees and boards
- assess where more money can be made and less spent
- demonstrate the success of management practices
- develop an even more efficient and effective programme.
On average, 60% of direct costs related to the course will be for staff. The greenstaff’s time is, therefore, precious and should not be wasted. Do you know where, on the course, the staff spend their time? Surveys have shown that on some courses, up to 27% of staff time can be spent looking after bunkers! Are you able to prioritise time so that the areas golfers consider most important – the putting surfaces and green complexes – receive the most attention? See the real value from your staff by focusing their efforts on the areas of the course that will improve your business prospects.
The performance of the golf business is directly related to the performance of the golf course.
The course is the primary asset for the business. So, why not audit the performance of the course in a similar way to that of the business?
If you can demonstrate that your management provides consistently good or improving performance of putting surfaces, then the club knows that it is investing wisely in the course and in you and your staff. The following assessments should be undertaken on a regular basis:
Holing Out Test
. Records the final outcome of putting surface preparation – the reliability of the surface in terms of getting the ball in the hole.
- Firmness – a key measure when it comes to the receptiveness of surfaces, ball reaction on landing on the green and the year-round playability related to drainage.
- Trueness/smoothness – important to consider ways of reducing surface imperfections that interfere with the roll of the ball.
- Speed – useful to assess the consistency of putting surfaces, both through the year and between greens.
In addition to these playing performance criteria, there are critical agronomic measurements that, if assessed regularly, will inform turf management and ensure healthier turf and better playing performance. These are soil moisture and organic matter.
Target ranges can be set for all of the above, but these must be realistic and achievable within the confines of the site and available resources.
Environmental and social performance
The Course Management team need to keep a record of the inputs required to present the course to a good year-round standard, related to cost and playing performance targets.
Holding good information and reporting on water, pesticide, fertiliser and energy use and waste production are key elements for the golf course operation and also for justifying the course management programme in environmental and social impact terms. Golf facilities should be transparent in this regard to demonstrate that the game is a responsible user of land which does not pollute.
Beyond this, use of top dressing and other materials has an impact on budgets and the environment, be it directly related to the golf course or in terms of the supply chain and where these materials are sourced.
Making data work for you
The R&A Evidence Fields is a list of financial, playing performance and greenkeeping practice data that needs to be collected and analysed if the performance of the golf course is to be monitored and improved.
Much of this data can be used to achieve environmental certification. The financial information can also be used to assess the benefits to the business of going through such a certification process.
Recording data is only of value if it is used for the benefit of the course and the business. Interpretation of results may require expert assistance, particularly with regard to the agronomic elements. The club management team must work together to get the best out of the golf facility and this has to reflect well on their contribution to the business.
Examples of measuring performance to enhance sustainability include:
Haggs Castle Golf Club, Scotland