On the final day of GCSAA's education conference, superintendents gathered to hear advice on reducing expenses while maintaining or increasing revenue from two of their own (Paul Chojnacky, Pasatiempo Golf Club and Adam Ikamas, CGCS, Crystal Mountain Resort) and from two turf and sustainability experts (Rob Golembiewski, Ph.D., assistant professor, Oregon State University and Greg Lyman, director of environmental programs, GCSAA).
Chojnacky and Ikamas told the audience about their efforts to maintain quality while facing huge budget cuts -- a struggle that many superintendents throughout the country have faced in recent years.
Chojnacky faced a $300,000 budget cut after a renovation left him with 20 new bunkers that had to be maintained by hand. Facing possible additional labor costs and a significantly lower budget, he decided to consider his expenses. In Santa Cruz, Calif., where Pastiempo is located, environmental issues are a priority, and the community and the golf course membership are willing to sacrifice "plush green" conditions for the sake of the environment. Because of this attitude, Chojnacky was able to remove 25 acres of maintained turf and replace it with native grasses that are drought-tolerant and do not require irrigation. Chiojnacky also worked with Toro to update the irrigation system and make it more efficient. Pasatiempo's irrigation bill was $125,000 lower in 2009 than in 2008.
Chojnacky also saved several thousand dollars in labor expenses when he brought in goats to clear out the brush that had overgrown the canyon areas on the course. Within 10 weeks, 150 goats had done the equivalent a few years of manual labor by eating blackberry bushes, English ivy, thistle and other plants that obscured many of the views on the course. Now that these areas are no longer irrigated, regrowth has been slowed.
Adam Ikamas is at Crystal Mountain Resort, a 36-hole golf and ski resort in northern Michigan. The owners are very progressive and environmental aware and working toward sustainability. Ikamas, who has lost $50,000 from his budget since 2007 has advice for his fellow superintendents.
Protect your budget. How much is the pro shop spending? How much are other areas spending? Not all the cuts should come from the golf course. To reduce expenses. Ikamas has reduced about 5 acres of fairway and still irrigates the out-of-play areas, but does not mow them (the native deer population helps keep those areas under control).
To reduce labor expenses, Ikamas has only 25 employees for 36 holes, and 10 of the employees are part-timers who "mow and go." There is no overtime. In 2009 Ikamas reduced all inputs (water fertility and pesticides) -- except on greens -- by 15%. The weather was mild that year, and he received no complaints In 2010, when temperatures were higher than normal, he reduced water, fertility and pesticide inputs by 20%. Although more difficult conditions led to slightly more disease, satisfaction remains high and the entire facility is behind the changes.
For more innovative ideas from this session, see this presentation and others on the Conference Education website. An announcement about the postings will appear in GCSAA This Week.