Lessons from O.J.
Noer’s advice in 1942 still rings true
saw the first television ad for the 2012 Masters Tourna-
ment in early January and it immediately got me
thinking seriously about golf. I almost by-passed the
basketball season! The Wisconsin landscape this winter,
on so many days, also served to invite people out to play
a few holes.
Golf does that – it makes you feel good, especially as
you contemplate another new season. For golf course
superintendents, however, that same enthusiasm and
excitement is often tempered by some cold hard realities.
Budget woes nationally remain in the headlines, even
though there have been miniscule signs of economic
recovery. We still have high unemployment, high food
prices and a struggling housing market. Golf is discretionary spending, and if income is flat for most families
and we are troubled by unemployment, less is going to
be spent on entertainment than in years past.
In our golf course operations, we still see high equipment
costs, rising fertilizer and plant health product prices; fuel
costs are an uncertainty because supply is also uncertain.
It seems the economic conditions of the past few years
will continue in 2012.
I recently had the pleasure of reading an essay written
by Wisconsin’s own O.J. Noer in 1942. Noer was universally recognized as the world’s expert on turf during his
career with Milorganite. He was greatly respected in golf
turf circles, and when Noer spoke everyone listened. The
essay was titled, “Wartime Maintenance.” Even though it
was written 70 years ago, many of his observations and
words of advice are still pertinent today in our tough
4“There can be no complaint about (budget) curtailment,
provided it is wisely done and each department is
LABOR COST CAN
BE LOWERED ONLY
BY A REDUCTION
IN THE FORCE.
CUT TO THE BONE
“A drastic cut in the turf maintenance budget becomes
expensive if it falls below the absolute minimum
needed to keep the turf in a standby condition. Rehabilitation costs may greatly exceed the seeming savings.”
4In discussing irrigation, Noer showed himself to be
ahead of his time: “Courses having water (irrigation)
should take a more moderate stand. They should use
water when needed to keep the grass alive, but not to
keep it green.”
4“Labor is the largest single item of cost. A few clubs
have tried to effect savings by lowering wages. This is
not the time for that. It will only drive the efficient
4“Labor cost can be lowered only by a reduction in the
force. Most courses cut to the bone long ago.”
4“Some activities will have to be eliminated altogether.
Greens and tees will be mowed less often. Traps, tees
and bunkers will get less attention.”
4Noer commented that wartime roughs would be cut
closer than ever before to reduce the lost ball problem.
“Most clubs are asking caddies and workmen to
return balls they find, and are paying them for doing
so. Their continued employment by the club depends
upon enough balls to permit play.” We haven’t reached
that point just yet, fortunately.
Noer concluded his essay with “wartime maintenance is
no easy task.” He advised courses that the superintendent
is depended upon to advise and counsel officials so that
“the important essentials can be provided and necessary
His words ring true today.
Monroe Miller was the longtime golf course superintendent at Black-hawk CC in Madison. He is a member of the WSGA Hall of Fame
and recipient of the USGA’s prestigious Green Section Award in 2004.