I have been blessed to be in the golf course industry. I am a 27-year GCSAA member who has done most of my superintendent work on daily fee facilities in the Tampa area. Over the last 10 years there has been quite a change in how we have gone about our business. After 9/11, the market falling, Florida took a very big financial hit on daily fee facilities. Managers and management companies saw reduced revenue, resulting in budget cuts. In the beginning it was 5 to 10 percent here and there, then after a few years it was reduced staffing. As is always the case with superintendents, our peers readily shared cost- and time-saving practices. As budget cuts increased and revenue trailed, the distance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” increased exponentially. The big clubs would reduce $75,000 and two employees, leaving the $1.2 million and 25 employees to maintain 90 acres. Meanwhile, the daily fee where I worked went from $965,000 and 16 employees to $675,000 and eight workers for 130 acres.
My world was the reality for a lot of people throughout the country. The GCSAA was doing their part in promoting the golf course industry at the same time clubs were reducing budgets and the membership costs were being passed on to the superintendents. As an industry, many courses were struggling and many still are with more course closures. Nonetheless, superintendents just keep going. There is a passion with which we do our jobs … an undying drive to get up everyday and make our course the best we can.
Thinking of the many different types of public courses- the 9-hole, daily fee, executive, and the mom and pop courses got me thinking of individuals that have always made it work regardless of the situations. We read about guys in Montana or Wyoming that mow greens, change cups, then mow rough. Then after lunch they will repair the equipment or put out some fertilizer. There are a lot more superintendents in my area of Florida doing the same thing. It takes a certain type of individual to keep motivated day after day. I am happy to be in the association of so many of these passionate professionals. It amazes me when you look at an entire industry, looking at all the different types of people that have the drive to give quality a number-one priority.
Think about it … this industry is made up of hard-working individuals that do their job because they love the work. I don’t think you can say that for too many industries. Most of all the innovations on the golf course came from some guy that needed something and made it. We are the ones that find different ways to do a job to either save money or time.
This is where I started to get reinvigorated, as I was asked to do more with less, my first thought was, “Why me?” At Diamond Players Club I looked for ways to fertilize my three acres of greens with $40, and how to fertilize a 120-acre property with no dollars. Believe it or not we did this for a year. Every Wednesday I would go to Home Depot and by a Peters 20-20-20 water-soluble 20-pound bag and sprayed greens on Thursday morning. Howard Fertilizer had a fertilizer plant 15 miles away, and they had leftover fertilizer all over their plant that they could not use. I agreed to clean their fertilizer off their property and traded out shipping for golf. My course was now the owner of 28 to 30 tons of various fertilizers. That was the beginning….
My current course is Stoneybrook Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. Over my tenure here I was hired by a large management group, stayed on when a small local management group was hired, and was retained when the property was purchased by Mark and Cindy Pentecost. Each of these groups has continued to look for the best product for the lowest cost of doing business.
As I constantly look to save money, I find time management of daily assignments the most fun. There are eight miles of cart path from hole one to 18, and over a mile from the shop to the putting greens. It used to take two mowers 3.5 hours each to mow greens in order. By sending one mower to hole three and the other to the putting green and reverse on the back nine, these mowers are done in 2.5 hours and can double cut in three hours. Our latest project with my new owners was course markings. What to use for out-of-bounds and hazard stakes for entire course. As we looked at the different options with the recycled plastic post, cement in-ground markers, or wood stakes, I found through our local Irrigation supply company 8-foot cypress lodge poles for $2.75 each. The poles are used locally for tree stakes. We cut the posts in 3- to 30-inch sections, added a 2-inch PVC cap on top, either white or red depending on its use, and for under $500 we staked the entire course. I also used the same posts and drilled a half-inch hole for our traffic ropes. We now have a product that can be kept uniform throughout the property.
This article is a quiet thank you to all superintendents who have inspired me with their stories, and for the assistance we have received from countless vendors who truly are there to help the superintendent get through any problems they may have on their courses. As I stated before, I am blessed to be in an industry with so many people that are passionate about their craft, as I am.
Kevin is the superintendent at Stoneybrook Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. Kevin can be reached at email@example.com.