Rarely do discussions about upgrades at golf clubs touch on the maintenance facility. Members and committees are happy to talk about investing millions of dollars in the swimming pool, locker rooms, even the parking lot. But the “barn?”

Is the clubhouse more important than the maintenance building? Perhaps, if the club is mostly used for socializing and dining. But what brings members and guests to most clubs is the golf course. And numerous studies have shown conditioning is the most memorable aspect of a golf course.

If the clubhouse burns down, everyone likely can keep playing golf and the maintenance level won’t drop. But if the barn burns down? The club’s principal attribute – and money-maker – is sure to suffer.

Let’s say you work for a club that takes the long view and understands the importance of you, your staff, your equipment and your dedication. And let’s say the powers that be finally notice that the maintenance shed really is a shed and that it’s time for an improvement. What should you ask for?

I’m not saying you want a facility like what they’ve got at Augusta National, Baltusrol, Merion, Oakmont and those other clubs that regard their course’s conditioning as next to godliness. But there is a lot to take away from what those and others have done, and not every suggestion costs money. Even clubs with modest budgets can get more than they think with some planning and precision.

So if you ever get the opportunity to remodel your maintenance facility – or better yet, build a new one – here are a few ideas that will leave the “barn” to the cows.

LOCATION

Just as with any real estate, location is everything.

  • The facility should be seen but not heard. Actually, it’s better if it isn’t visible from the clubhouse or anywhere on the course. It shouldn’t affect play in any way.
  • Of course, the compound needs to be easily accessible from major roads for staff, deliveries, equipment flow and member access, but without crossing the course.
  • Locate the building on high ground and, if possible, not near a water feature.

CURB APPEAL

  • The building and its surroundings should present a professional atmosphere: clean, welcoming, with appropriate and tasteful signage, and with ample parking clearly marked for guests and staff.
  • A neat, clean reception area, with someone there to welcome guests. Ideally, that person would expect the guest’s arrival and offer a refreshment.
  • The artwork on the walls should relate to golf or your course.

FACILITY DESIGN

If your club has a unique design or other feature (say it really is/was a horse barn), use that to make the building more attractive and interesting. I’ve seen clubs refurbish or restore old barns, houses or other structures to create maintenance facilities and offices with character.

  • Incorporate traditional features for offices, storage and housing.
  • The facility is an office, so be sure it has good, smart routing to facilitate the comings and goings of people and equipment.
  • Consider adding dormitory space to provide affordable housing for interns or second/third assistants who can’t afford the cost of living in your area.
  • It’s a little more expensive, but consider heated floors. They keep the building warm and the feet comfortable.

ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY

  • Be sure your facility complies with all permitting and restrictions and is environmentally friendly.
  • From wash racks to chemical storage, low-watt lighting to pesticide loading and waste-product discharge, account for all these requirements in the planning process. That includes checking on applicable government regulations beforehand.
  • Recycle.

ON-COURSE EQUIPMENT REPAIR AND TECHNICIAN SUPPORT

  • Plan for an equipment work station and organization.
  • There must be Internet access.
  • Provide a separate office for the lead technician.
  • Provide more than enough storage space.
  • Large and small equipment will be coming in and going out at all times, so plan the flow carefully.
  • Make allowances for parts, grinding, painting rooms and other task-specific areas.
  • Minimize distractions.

EQUIPMENT AND STORAGE SPACE

  • Absolutely critical: There must be a dry storage area to protect the sizable investment in equipment. Dry and covered.
  • Keep topdressing covered to avoid contamination or heating of material, which could damage turf.
  • You’ll probably need a covered and ventilated fuel space.

OTHER SPACE

  • Reception area
  • Assistants’ offices or area
  • Library
  • Pathology lab

STAFF FACILITIES

  • Treat your staff well and they will want to stay.
  • Provide adequate facilities, separate but equal for male and female – which means separate restrooms, showers, lockers and dormitory space.
  • Staging areas to dry clothing and leave muddy shoes at the door.
  • Refrigerators, microwave ovens, eating tables, snack machines.

AND DON’T FORGET

  • Walkability. Think about walking from area to area in the maintenance building, being able to do so without bumping into equipment, people and supplies. You’ll probably not get as much space as you want or need, so intelligent planning, layout and design are very important.
  • Technology. Not just the latest course-monitoring equipment, but high-speed Internet throughout the compound (the next generation of workers are millennials), plus job boards, ideally electronic displays of daily assignments. And they probably should be multilingual.
  • Meeting rooms. Not just for your crew, but nice enough that the greens committee can meet there, too. That means a white board, flat screen for PowerPoint presentations and a refrigerator for refreshments.

Every part of the maintenance area should be neat, clean, organized and efficient. Those first impressions say a great deal about the overall operation and especially the person leading it.

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf (tmoraghan@aspire-golf.com). Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at www.aspire-golf.com/buzz.html or on Twitter @TimMoraghan