The Benefits of a Year-End Review
The season is over, the year is nearly done; time to take a deep breath and kick back, right? Wrong. Now is the ideal time to gear up for a year-end review — one that will inform your Annual Golf Course Maintenance Plan for the coming year.
Why do this? Because your golf course is a living, breathing organism that is ever-changing or evolving. The agronomic plan or, more likely, the routine you’ve been following for years might have worked for you in years past, but the chances are very good that it’s not the optimum solution now. In fact, chances are your course is already showing signs that something needs to change in the year to come.
Some clubs may have an Agronomic Plan already in place to use as a starting point for reflecting on last season’s activities and their impact, but most clubs don’t. Your year-end review is the perfect opportunity to develop one. Here’s why.
By planning and plotting each element of your plan in terms of resources needed, you provide your club with the following benefits:
- More time for the superintendent — rather than trying to anticipate what to do in the coming weeks, your superintendent will have a plan to turn to, which frees him to focus more clearly on the present.
- More transparency for the board — with costs outlined, accountability is greater and management of resources easier.
- A valuable record — putting your plan in writing enables you to see where your efforts succeeded or fell short, which enables better planning for the future.
- Better and easier cost management — it’s easier to identify where costs can be cut with a detailed plan, especially when efficacy of the plan is tracked.
- A foundation for action and change — making changes on the fly is easier to do when you have a plan to work from. Keep in mind: your course is dynamic; your plan should be too.
Good for the Course, Good for the Budget, Good for the Club
Creating a solid and detailed plan for your agronomic activities and updating that plan year after year is a fairly complex process involving some detailed assessments. Your superintendent must make a disciplined effort to note the visual health progression of your turf during the growing season and the effects of any new pest pressures or weather impacts that occurred over the past year. You’ll need to do some diagnostic testing (soil physical and nutrient testing) and assess conditions accordingly.
Based on what you learn, you’ll be able to create line items in your budget for materials, labor and equipment needed. This is key. Why? Many clubs simply set aside a lump sum for agronomics/cultural activities and let their superintendents manage that budget as the year goes on. It’s a reactive rather than proactive approach and can result in some costly surprises down the line.
Standard Practice at BrightView
Creating an agronomic plan for clients is standard practice at BrightView. At the start of each year, we assess every green, tee, rough and fairway. We note what fertilizers and plant protectants were used where and to what effect. Diagnostic testing and review of cultural programs are part of the process. Armed with this information, we develop a plan.
Working in tandem with our partner clients, we create budget items for all fertilizer, plant protectants, seed and sand included in the coming year’s agronomic plan. This isn’t to say that Mother Nature may not throw a wrench in our plans — we all know she’s unpredictable — but 90 percent of the time the agronomic plans we create are followed, and to great success, and adaptations to accommodate Mother Nature are that much easier. Further, these plans are not only followed, they’re also properly budgeted for and, as a result, the club doesn’t suffer the fear of the unknown when it comes to agronomic costs.
On a macro level, we also hold annual agronomic review meetings at which all superintendents from all four national regions gather to hear the latest in product development from industry practitioners and our PhD agronomists. The superintendents also participate in an interactive forum where they present what worked and what didn’t work on their courses during the past year. For many superintendents, this is the first time they have an opportunity to share their experiences formally and the knowledge they gain is invaluable.
The Best Place to Start — the Beginning
While creating a national agronomic review might be beyond the reach of your club’s capabilities, you can still take action on creating your plan. For many courses, especially those for whom autumn is nearing, now is the ideal time to start gathering data and reviewing the successes and non-successes of the current year. Schedule a meeting with your superintendent and dive in. Just get the ball rolling and you, as well as your board, guests and members, will reap the benefits next year.