Question of the issue

What are the key elements to golf course management?

Answered by: Don Mahaffey, superintendent/owner, Palo Duro Golf Club, Canyon, Texas

The fundamental key to golf course management is planning, without a doubt. But without adding execution, to implement the planned goals, and quality control with objective measures, the success of the plan will be uncertain.

At our low-end daily fee course, we use Best Management Practices in every area of the facility, by tracking ratings for a total of 25 factors (including condition of the greens and fairways, care for equipment, employee turnover and training, etc.). This document becomes a written “cookbook” that objectively defines success for our golf course and how we're going to get there. As a example of our accomplishment to date, in 2002, this facility saw 5000 rounds of play; in the next year, that grew to 30,000 rounds.

To illustrate our system, a part of our plan upon purchasing the course in September of 2002 was to consistently provide our golfers with “good greens.” For our golfers' needs and available resources, we defined that as “greens that stimp at 9 and roll smooth.” The timeline on goals is also a vital part of the planning process. We plan to offer 100% turf coverage in a two-year time span from the purchase of the facility. Please note that at the time we purchased the facility, there were six temporary greens and ten others in very poor condition.

Next, we determine the agronomic plan for achieving these goals. It can be challenging to communicate the art of turf conditioning, but it is essential for those who are judging our results to understand the scientific reasoning behind our planning.

The level of conditioning we aim for is determined both by those we answer to and by the amount of resources available to carry out the necessary process to achieve the plan. If the price for reaching a goal is too high, the goals will need to be adjusted. The processes can then be fine-tuned periodically based on results achieved. Through such systematic planning, facilities like ours without deep pockets can reach for reasonable agreed-upon goals.

The bottom line is this system is customer driven. We should not be doing anything that does not meet customer needs. It's a work in progress, forcing me to inventory my personal skills and stay focused on our goals.

Source: GCSAA's Leader Board, January/February 2004