Over the past 25 years, I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked by a club official, “How can I lower my expenses at my club without sacrificing quality”?

Often, my response to that question is:

  • Are you efficient in all aspects of your operation and is that communicated by you to your golf course superintendent”?
  • Do you know how to ask the right questions of the superintendent?
  • Have you done an efficiency study or a time and motion study on labor?

The time and motion study is the very beginning to a zero-based budget and when was the last time that you started again from scratch?

A zero-based budget starts with the most expensive part of the maintenance budget which is labor and the tasks that it performs. To be accurate with this information, several questions need to be answered and these are as follows:

  • How often and how long does it take to perform each function? (Example- mow greens daily, three employees takes 3 hours each to finish and this is performed 7 days per week) Greens mowing, 9 man-hours X 7 X 52 = 3276 man-hours. 3276 hours / 2080 hours per year = 1.575 people. Every task should be gone over and committed to paper to see the basic nucleus of the staff. Every task (as small as it seems) needs to be accounted for.
  • How much does my fertilizer budget cost? If you take your complete soil tests/tissue tests, the tasks become easier because you are not guessing at the analysis your using. By having the N:P: K ratios that the testing lab provided and the minor nutrients that may be included will enable the superintendent to price out what the turf needs. This can set the budget for the entire year as some of the minor inputs will change as the year progresses, but that can easily be adopted and changed to stay within the budget parameters.
  • Set an agronomic calendar to schedule pre-emergent weed and insect control and set the costs associated with these functions in house. In addition, the frequencies of aerification and topdressing should be addressed in the calendar and how much sand and supplies will be needed for each of these services.
  • The balance of the budget should be taken off historical data but adjusted to current needs. Example: Fuel costs average over the prior year not only effects the actual cost of gas, oil and diesel but also effects the ancillary items such as cost of trucking materials, the cost to make certain petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers.

Most club’s budget process will typically take last years budget and either add a “cost of living” aspect to the budget or keep it the same and continue this process year after year.

If cuts need to be made in maintenance, you should always start with challenging the golf course superintendent to find where these cuts/savings will come from and most of the time, the members or guests will never know there were changes made.
If you would like more information or a sample “Man-hour” time and motion study, just send me a note and I will be more than happy to send it to you.