December 11, 2017

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Peter Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent 
Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club
2 Club Parkway
Branford, CT 06405

October 17, 2017

Preparing for 2018

While many golfers are heading to warmer climates or making room for their clubs in the garage, the golf course maintenance staff is beginning to plan for the 2018 golf season.  The top priority for superintendents and Green Committee members right now is preparing the capital and operating budgets. 
At Pine Orchard, we have a model that few courses utilize, but most should.  The Green Committee developed a detailed Standards and Expectations document that describes the conditions and level of maintenance that is expected on the golf course.  This document serves as the foundation for the Agronomic Plan that the superintendent uses to develop programs, maintenance schedules, and ultimately the budget.  Our budget process utilizes a zero based budget system, where every line item begins with zero dollars at the beginning of the planning process. 
For weeks I have been evaluating the efficacy of all of my programs, and building the framework for the 2018 fertilizer, chemical, and cultural programs.  Each application is planned out by area, and quantities of products calculated and tabulated into a spreadsheet.  The first run of the budget includes every bag of fertilizer, ounce of fungicide, pound of seed, ton of sand, and hour of labor that I would like to use on the golf course in 2018. 
The original budget is always extremely ambitious, and rarely practical when added to the requests from other departments.  We work closely with the finance committee to balance the requests and the available revenue, and then go back to the Green Committee to review and adjust priorities and programs until we achieve a reasonable balance between our desire to improve the golf course and the need to operate in a financially responsible manner. 
Unfortunately, this means there are items and plans in the original budget that will be left on the cutting floor.  Often times golfers will ask why we don't spend more on one program or another, and I am forced to tell them it was cut from the budget.   This often leaves them with the impression that the overall budget has been reduced, when in reality, we are one of very few courses whose budget has not been reduced significantly in recent years.  The reality is that there are many conflicting priorities among a golf membership, and the committee is charged with establishing priorities that will satisfy the largest number of golfers using the financial resources available (including those that feel we spend too much on the golf course). 
Thankfully we have a system in place that includes the committee members in the decision making process, and each of them will have an opportunity to lobby for the programs that they feel will have the greatest impact on the golfers' experience.

Pine Orchard has another unique system in place that provides consistent direction for the strategy and appearance of the golf course over time.  The Golf Long Range Planning Committee will be reviewing the Tree Maintenance Program and providing guidance for proposed projects that are being considered for 2018.  They serve as the protector of the golf course from personal agendas and drastic shifts in priorities.  One of their key roles is approving any tree removals from the golf course that have an impact on play. 
As part of this process, I thought I would share an interesting video and article from the USGA that describes the impact of trees on a golf course.  As a superintendent, my top priority is maintaining healthy turf which requires maximizing sun exposure.  Turf growing in shaded environments requires more care and maintenance, including fertilizer, control products, and labor, compared to areas that receive full sun exposure throughout the day.  The pictures below are worth more than a thousand words, they are worth thousands of lumens to the turf.  If that is not enough to convince you of the need for an effective tree management program, check out this feature from the USGA that discusses trees, and their impact on golf courses. 
Thanks again for your support, and remember that there are still plenty of days to sneak in a round of golf before Old Man Winter shuts us down for the season.

Click here for "5 Things To Know About Trees" from the USGA