Written standards that have been approved by ownership are the basis from which all programs are developed, including budgeting. It does not matter what type of golf course or club you are at ... someone is in charge and needs to be involved of drafting this policy and approving it in writing. Once approved, this policy will detail how the club wishes to have each component of the course maintained. In other words, it establishes the expectations of the club and the members.
You can break down the process into the following three steps:
- Tell me what level of standards you desire and expect (standards policy);
- Then I can develop the programs to achieve that standard (maintenance plan);
- Then I can estimate what it will cost (budget).
Put together a small committee to help put the policy together. It should consist of green committee members, BOD members, men’s golf members, women’s golf members and senior members of the staff such as the golf professional or club manager. Depending on the type of club you are at, it may include those who manage the club, whether it’s hotel, city, management group, a general manager or director of golf. I once did a standards policy that only had one person on the committee – the owner. I wanted him to sign off on his expectations for the course.
A short survey to establish what the membership or patrons want – or need – can be very valuable in establishing your standard policy. A well-worded survey will help this standards committee.
What is to be the standard for the greens (including speed), tees, fairways, bunkers, roughs and out-of-play areas? Don’t forget native areas, trees and flower beds.
This should be very detailed. Standards for greens, for example, should include mowing, rolling, topdressing, aeration/cultivation, irrigation, fertilization, hole placement and soil amendments.
What is the tolerance for weeds and other pests? This may differ with parts of the course. I would even name each weed, pest and disease, and the chemical applications needed to control them, so the committee understands what you are up against.
Once completed, it serves two roles: to give a definitive measurement tool for your work and to help you in your budget. If you budget to the standards policy and they do not like the budget, you can tell them they need to either adjust the budget or adjust the standards.
Many budgets are being cut to the point where frustrated superintendents are trying to maintain the same golf course to the same standards with less resources. And too many superintendents are losing their jobs for “not meeting the club’s expectations.” You need to understand their expectations and those approving your budget need to know what their expectations will cost so they can be approved or adjusted. Standards must adjust to the means. The best way to do that is to have a written document everyone can read, understand and buy into.
With good standards in place, upper management will have to think hard before they eliminate needed programs, rather than just changing a dollar figure in your budget. And in the process of budget review, the superintendent who develops and adheres to good standards will be seen as an able manager of the facility’s money and resources.