Turf & Rec

Features Profiles
A look at the 2009 Depression

March 24, 2009  By William Gathercole

The 2009 Depression has created a situation where consumers are watching their wealth being eroded. The value of homes has dropped and pension savings have been decimated. Consumers fear for their jobs with the rise in layoffs and unemployment.

In the golf industry, consumer spending for golf may drop by as much as 20 per cent. The Depression presents an opportunity for pro–active superintendents to respond to the circumstances by ensuring that golfers are provided with the finest possible playing conditions, at a reduced maintenance cost. Some, or all, of the following operational adjustments may be required for the next 12 to 24 months:

• Financial management of the golf course budget. Along with reduced player traffic, club management may decide to drastically reduce green fees in order to attract more players. Consequently, the maintenance budget will likely have to be drastically trimmed as well, perhaps by as mush as 25 per cent, or more.


• Remuneration of personnel. This represents the single greatest maintenance expenditure. Temporary salary cuts, and/or reduced crew numbers, will need to be considered. Extra manpower can be employed only on a part–time basis. Overtime wages must be entirely eliminated. Employees will somehow have to be motivated to increase productivity, and also encouraged to perform flawlessly.


• Management of golf playing areas. Here are some ideas that will further reduce the cost of maintenance. Increase all mowing heights. Decrease the frequency of cut, especially on fairways and rough. Reduce the surface area of fairways.

• Fertilizer. This represents the largest material expenditure for a golf course. High nitrogen products should be selected because they are more economical on a “per acre” basis. The total seasonal amounts of nitrogen must not be reduced for greens and tees. Lower nitrogen for fairways may need to be considered due to the large area involved. The use of phosphorus, potassium, and secondary elements can be reduced, or temporarily eliminated, without necessarily harming turf, but soil conditions will need to be monitored more closely with more frequent testing.

• Fungicides. The cost of disease control programs may be effectively minimized when fungicides are applied exclusively on a preventive basis. When used on a curative basis, a higher fungicide rate will need to be employed for the adequate control of disease. Effective curative programs are comparatively more expensive. Besides, most fungicides have been designed for preventive use only.

• Irrigation. For those clubs that must pay for their water, it may be time to cut back on irrigation frequency and quantities. How to save on water? Up to 50 per cent of watering may be reduced with the use of wetting agents, such as Primer.

• Capital expenditures. Old equipment with high repair costs must be immediately replaced with brand new units, with extended warranties and on a lease basis.

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