What Should Be In Your Golf Course’s Long-Range Plan?

Eric J. von Hofen planting a Live Oak tree
If you listen to the news, anyone in the golf business should be running for the hills and filling out an application at the local grocery store these days. This goes for the members too. Golf rounds have declined and the NGF reported again today that more courses closed in 2010 then opened. Those courses that have had a long-range plan is place have come out on top during the market meltdown over the last two years. I have found a pattern of success at operations that have been proactive and set up a committee that has tackled these tough issues.

In order for these long-range plans to get off the ground and stay on track, you need to have longevity on the committee. Usually the past presidents of the club are the best fit. These individuals know the history of the operation and have served their time. They usually are long time members and have the time to met once a quarter. During these meeting topics can be covered very quickly with little time wasted on bringing new people up to speed on what’s going on.

With so many moving parts in running a successful golf course operation, a long-range committee needs to look at the following areas to keep the club and course on track.

1.Membership– What is the trend at the club? How are you handling membership pricing and dues?
2.Staff– How is the club retaining and rewarding it’s best employees? Turn over is expensive and you would like to continue to get that member pour from the server who knows what you drink and eat as soon as you walk in the door.
3.The golf course-Many say it’s the most important thing and I have to agree. Understand the history of the course and when it was built. If it was designed by a classic architect, don’t mess it up. Get a professional that understands the design thoughts and don’t let a group of low handicap players redesign the course to fit their games.
4.Water– Understand the irrigation system and how it works. This alone could be a million dollars or more if you need to replace it. Just because the pipes are out of sight and out of mind doesn’t mean your irrigation system is doing it’s job. Is your club taking measures to conserve water? You might be surprised on what you find out.
5.The clubhouse-What upgrades are needed to maintain the building and provide new services younger members with families might want to use on a daily basis. Here I would listen to these folks, because they will be around for many years to come.
6.Capital Equipment-What does the kitchen need to cook 600 people Thanksgiving dinner or that 300 people at a weeding? How about equipment to mow the greens and fairways. Have you priced out a new rough mower lately? I will save you the trouble and tell you they cost as much as your wife’s BMW. These expenses have to be planned for.
7.Landscape-Yes, good old plants and trees. Believe it or not, but they too have a life expectancy and need to be cared for. Develop a plan with an architect that knows what the heck these trees and plants will look like 40 to 50 years from now. Work off of the plan and add plant material over time. Try not to install the entire design in two months and expect them to grow 20 feet in a year. Remember this apart of a long range plan.

I hope you use these seven items as building blocks to put together or enhance your clubs long-range plans. Good luck out there.

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