The rituals of spring
For superintendents, one of those is managing maintenance costs
ne spring a few years ago, golf au-
thor, columnist and history profes-
sor Brad Klein visited Wisconsin. He came
to play the new Erin Hills GC, near Hart-
ford, that was receiving so much attention.
He and his wife also traveled to Wisconsin to see Aldo Leopold’s shack on his old
worn out farm on the Wisconsin River between Baraboo and Portage. Both had
read Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac”
and were touched by what they saw there.
I was pleased to be their host.
I have made a pilgrimage there every
spring for years; it became a ritual for me,
following opening day on the golf course.
Leopold’s nature writing around the spring
season is delightful reading, and I’d take
my copy of his book with me. I like to sit,
relax and contemplate the season ahead,
drawing strength and inspiration from his
presence that I felt.
Until this year. Flooding on Levee Road
delayed the trip until later. But I still have
been contemplating the season before us,
especially in the context of some devastating circumstances for golf course superintendents. As if the past several years of
declining rounds, fewer golfers and less fa-
cility revenue weren’t enough to deal with,
the loss of products and skyrocketing petroleum prices are causing us some stress.
When budgets for 2011 were developed
last year, no one anticipated the fuel prices
we are now seeing. Gasoline and diesel
fuel may approach $5 a gallon by Memorial Day, $2 more per gallon than we budgeted for. That is potentially an increase to
the average budget of $10,000-$20,000.
Market speculation, demand and Mideast
turmoil are being felt right down to where
the club meets the golf ball.
We, along with UW-Madison turfgrass
pathologist Dr. Jim Kerns, are working to
find an affordable alternative to PCNB
fungicides to control snowmold. All of the
options will be more expensive. Recently,
the EPA hosted hearings on chlorothalonil,
a workhorse fungicide here and everywhere else, causing worry about its future.
Most of the fungicides, herbicides and insecticides we use are petrol-based and will
have pricing tied directly to the cost of a
barrel of oil.
Cutting more costs is becoming way be-
yond problematic – we did the easy reduc-
tions several seasons ago. Low
maintenance areas, no-mow areas, plant
growth regulators, electric vehicles and
mowers, more energy efficiency in pump
stations and golf course shops, buying co-
ops, shared equipment, reduced wages
and benefits and scores of other things are
the low hanging fruit that has already been
picked. Mostly, golf conditions in Wiscon-
sin have remained excellent, but we won-
der, for how long?
CUTTING MORE COSTS IS BECOMING WAY BEYOND PROBLEMATIC
– WE DID THE EASY REDUCTIONS SEVERAL SEASONS AGO.
“typical” golf course has an average maintenance budget of $807,436. Other than a
handful of Wisconsin courses, most would
be thrilled beyond words to operate with
that kind of money. Someone should do a
study of what the “typical” Wisconsin golf
course actually spends. The same survey
noted an average deferred capital investment of $246,677 – a number that may not
be far off the mark in our state.
These are the things I am contemplating
this spring. I also consider, on the other
newed dedication to the game we work at
and play. I have confidence in the spirit
and abilities of superintendents to do
more than their share to get us through.
We love the smell of that first mowing, the
return of the songbirds and the sight of
golfers on the course after a long winter.