40 Tips to Reduce Golf Course Maintenance Costs

The K-State Turf faculty (Jack Fry, Steve Keeley, Rodney St. John, Megan Kennelly) brainstormed some ideas that could be used to reduce golf course maintenance costs.  With Jack as the list-master, we picked  25 ideas which are presented below (in no particular order).  In addition, golf course superintendents at the KGCSA meeting in Winfield, KS on May 17, 2011 provided additional ideas, which are also included below.

1.      Raise mowing heights (We know it’s been said, but it’s true).


2.      Let turf go dormant/less water.  Kentucky bluegrass shouldn’t be underestimated.


3.      Use test plots before you “buy in.”


4.      Calibrate sprayers and check/replace nozzles.  If your nozzles are worn, you might be spraying 10% more product than you think you are, which is 10% more money than you need to be spending on spraying.  A failed spray due to poor calibration means you gotta go spray again.  Even worse.


5.      Cut down trees to improve airflow and provide better turf quality.  Grass needs light to grow.  Will also reduce fungicide inputs (maybe).


6.      Raise mowing heights and apply appropriate N to avoid stress which can lead to some diseases (and therefore costly fungicide apps) .


7.       Send a sample to friendly local pathologist before resorting to the spray-everything-on-the-shelf option.


8.       Incorporate more natural areas on courses we don’t play.


9.       Keep the course “dry” (save water, fungicide, and the golfers will
like it, or at least they should) .


10.  Eliminate hourly employee’s overtime.


11.  Convert out of play bunkers into “waste” bunkers (no raking…..
maybe naturalize by adding some rocks and driftwood).  Eliminate bunkers if you can…they’re expensive to maintain and no fun for the golfers.


12.  Eliminate collars.


13.  Audit the irrigation system to check for uniformity of application.


14.  As shipping expenses and the price of fuel are higher, and labor expenses have been cut, consider use of more slow-release N with a relative high N content.


15.  Strip sod zoysia into your existing cool-season turf or solid sod it.


16.  Water less frequently and to the depth of the root system, and allow wilt to just begin before watering again; use soil water sensors or ET to help guide irrigation.


17.  Instead of aerifying wall-to wall, focus on areas that really need it, e.g., exit areas from cart paths, entry and exit points of green surrounds. Maybe other cultural practices could be approached the same way.


18.  Find the minimum amount of N and irrigation your course requires to maintain quality and minimize mowing.


19.  Seed , strip seed, sprig, or sod bermudagrass on fairways and tees (southern KS).


20.  Select pest-resistant grasses for newly established areas or for overseeding.


21.  If you’ve used preemerge herbicides for years, and crabgrass levels are low, consider reducing the application rate next year. Have a post product on hand as a backup.


22.  If you’re applying P, K, and/or lime, make sure your soil tests indicate it’s needed.


23.      Think carefully about fungicide program, tolerable levels, weather. Generics may be an option as components of a spray program.


24.  Hire retired folks to help.


25.  Whatever changes you make,  COMMUNICATE to the membership what it is you are doing and why.


Suggestions for Kansas Golf Course Superintendents at meeting in Winfield, Kansas on May 17, 2011.


26.  Know fuel consumption of equipment before purchasing.


27.  Spray Primo or other growth regulators to reduce mowing expenses and make equipment last longer.


28.  Roll, roll, roll.


29.  Mow fairways 2 x a week instead of 3x.


30.  Make fairways narrower.


31.  Use split shifts for labor and eliminate overtime.


32.  Allow the crew to go home on rainy days.


33.  Eliminate the intermediate rough.


34.  Use member volunteers for some labor.


35.  Change cup locations based upon the number of rounds played, not the calendar.


36.  Reduce mowing frequency.


37.  Use early order programs to reduce costs of purchases.


38.  Use lower spay volumes when applying pesticides; this results in less mixing, less fuel use, and reduced labor.


39.  Use wetting agents where needed.


40.  Use efficient mowing patterns.

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