How we did this:
(Golf Advisors top courses under $50)
Chariot Run Golf Club Laconia, Ind.
$44 weekdays with cart
Standout category: Course conditions Aug 01, 2016
Being No. 1 on a positive list put together on golfer reviews was a very rewarding honor for me and my staff. When you take a closer look at how we pulled it off, it is truly a heroic effort by the entire staff that made it happen. Chariot Run is a casino golf course in the middle of nowhere in southern Indiana. Laconia has a population of 50 people. A four-way stop with a general store on one corner is the mecca of our town. I was born and raised here and no matter where life took me, living in Laconia was always a magnet that drew me back home.
So how does a course not only survive but thrive in this unlikely environment? Conditioning, conditioning, conditioning. Take in consideration too that we are bentgrass fairways, tees and greens in the heart of the Transition Zone, and it’s even more of an accomplishment. Golfers recognized us for course conditioning. They don’t drive the 45 minutes from Louisville, Ky., for the BLT we serve. Our motto is, “if you build it, they will come.” Very original, right? But for our course it was really built on an old cornfield. We are surrounded on two sides by cornfields, one side by a cow pasture and the other side has woods and a gravel county road. This small-town charm is the exact reason for our success. People out here CARE. They take pride in their community and their job.
Ninety percent of our workforce was born and has lived in Laconia almost its entire life. Our employees have seen firsthand all the good the casino and tax revenue has done for our community. They see the golf course as an incredible asset for our small town. We talk about it a lot in our morning meetings, that we have 150-plus golfers coming out on a Tuesday to play or the fact that we had over 400 golfers the previous weekend. They are driving a long way, passing several other good courses to play Chariot Run. We strive every day to “meet and exceed customer expectations,” a standard set by our casino for customer satisfaction. After all, we too are in a customer satisfaction business.
Enough on the attitude that works for us. Now meet the guys who make it happen:
Brad Mercer, assistant superintendent. Brad grew up across the road from the 11th tee. We say he was working here from the time he could walk. He doesn’t have a turf degree, but he knows this property better than anyone. Brad’s laidback style is a nice complement to me and he rises to the occasion when there is an issue or event when going “above and beyond” is required.
Dale Babcock, mechanic. Dale has seen a few superintendents go through Chariot Run, and as he says, “he has me broke in the way he wants.” And I feel the same with him. If we need something built, he can do it. If it’s broke, he can fix it. If it needs rebuilt, he can do it. If it’s dull, he sharpens it. Back lapping isn’t a practice we use here. He’s a grinder and sending out mowers that are razor sharp day after day gives us the quality of cut we must have. Dale is a few years older than me, and I have told him that he is not allowed to retire until I do. They broke the mold when they made him. There’s no way we could find someone to replace him.
Dylan Spencer, Zach Poindexter and Trent Williams. These guys are full-time staff members who get to work year-round. Dylan has a turf degree from Western Kentucky and has served as our AIT and spray tech. He is an incredibly hard worker and will make a great superintendent someday. Zach started working part-time when he was in high school and was recently promoted to irrigation tech. He’s a soft-spoken guy who does his job, does it well and never complains. Trent is our fireball. He’s only been here a few months, but from Day 1 he showed the passion we needed to be a lead greenskeeper. Our summer staff consists of five to eight high school/college kids, and Trent made sure each pulled their weight, always challenging them in greens mowing competitions, and leading the way when bunkers washed out and had to be fixed.
Darrell Summers, Gene Bierly, Richard Crouse and Red Nalley. These four guys are my retired guys who work Monday-Friday, five hours a day. They come in and “get’er done.” The earlier the start time, the better for these guys. They mow rough, fairways, tees, stepcuts. They mow fairways and rough in less than five hours, which is huge for us. They stay ahead of play and get fairways mowed in the heat of summer before 11 a.m. Red was hired this year to cut cups every day; he said he can’t believe we pay him to do what he does.
These guys are good, they know their role, they care and take pride in their work. What more can a guy ask for? I’m truly blessed to be on a team with these guys. Everyone wants to be on a winning team and these guys are winners.
Human and mechanical equipment
By Palmer Maples Jr.
Q: What is the most important piece of equipment on a golf course?
A: The piece that is not operating at 100 percent capacity and needs repair.
A shovel with a splintered handle cIan cause damage. A worker with a blistered foot has a hard time walk-mowing a green.
Mowers are washed, greased, sharpened and height set prepared for the work they do. The employees should have the same care and maintenance as the mechanical equipment. Flu shots, diabetes checkups, wounds and cuts attended to.
How about a watermelon break on that hot afternoon of syringing greens? Working light thirty to dark thirty is not good for equipment nor men. All need repair/maintenance to perform at capacity.
Time schedules should reflect respect for time-use, both employees and equipment. When either is worn or tired, they do not operate/perform at capacity.
Just as gasoline, batteries and tires have a place in the budget, so should health checkups, scheduled time off and fun break times.
All help present a golf course that can be played by the rules of golf, so all must be cared for.Palmer Maples Jr. is a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.